Friday, April 29, 2011

The Queen is a Golfer

For those who set their alarm early, boiled the kettle for a cup of tea and settled in to watch the Royal Wedding you may have seen the Queen lean over to Prince Philip and say "I'd rather be golfing". Now we can't be certain that's what see said but we did get a phone call at 7:12am inquiring if the Queen would be able to play Whitevale today. At first we said "NO" the tee sheet is full but we recanted and gave the Queen a tee time.

Now we admit to not being avid followers of the Royal Family but looking at this picture of the Queen with Tony, I think we got played. For the record, she shot a 48! Not bad!

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Every now and then I will hear on the evening news about a stock that had significantly increase in value over the last week, or even over a few days. And I always think, Man, if I had only known I could have invested in that and had a nice return! Wouldn't we all like some insider information on something that would benefit us, if even not for a large financial gain? Well I have some information. Some BIG information! And I'm going to share it with you. I don't think I am breaking any laws which would get me into trouble, but I might upset some of our members who will want to keep this all to themselves! I really don't have much time at all to get into much detail because we are so busy with everything we are trying to accomplish with only days before the first tee time on Wednesday. You alone will have to decide if you keep this all to yourself, or share it with others.
But, here it is

This golf course is going to be in mid June conditions for opening day!

After the nightmare we all endured last year, this course is in better condition than I have ever seen in April. Just look at this. You recognize this, it's the 5th green. This photo was taken at 2pm on Thursday April 14th!

Don't be concerned with the sod you can see, we are finishing up the repairs to the collar after excavating out all the heavy clay last fall. All the sod will be complete and in place before the end of today. And this, the 7th green also taken photo taken at 1:30pm.

And below, the 10th green. Although this picture is not from today. It was taken on Wednesday. Ya, I know, the lines look a little squiggly, but that's just because we are training new staff to mow greens.

I don't have time to post pictures of all 18 greens, but all I can say is.............more of the same conditions on all of them! Now the rough is not quite starting to grow yet, so it still looks a little brown, but the rest of the property............WOW! If the rain they are calling for on Saturday is a warm rain out of the Gulf of Mexico, the grass is going to explode out of the ground. So here it is, if you have been waiting to play a round or two before setting up any golf with guests..................DON'T......... Call your guests and invite them out NOW! With the opening date pushed back to the 20th, you only have 11 golfing days in April. TRUST ME!! Don't wait to see it for yourself! Book your tee time now and WOW your guests with your course conditions this spring. And if there is a chance you have a friend who was thinking about joining, but thought they should wait until the end of May or early June for the course to come them NOW................and tell them to call Alex before word gets out and prices jump - because the will! DON'T SAY I DIDN'T TELL YOU!

Friday, April 8, 2011


Hello members of Whitevale Golf Club. My name is Hugh Jazz and I’m a new member of the Turf Department this year. I’m super excited about working at a private club for the year and thought I would chronicle my experiences. Being a little tech savvy, I’ve been able to decode the elaborate Whitevale firewall and will be posting my updates on the Blog. (Editors and managers don’t try and figure out how I can break in, I’ve been doing this for some time and you’ll just get frustrated). Warning, these posting are unedited and sometimes may not be flattering but I really wanted to journal what life is like on the Turf Department. So enjoy!!

Day 1.

Arrived thinking what a great job this is going to be hanging around outdoors, getting fresh air, and working on my tan. Superintendent Blair Rennie welcomed the new hires, congratulated us on being selected to join the team and told us that the six of us were selected out of over 100 applicants. (Really? Over 100? Kind of hard to believe, but then he shows us the pile of resumes. Wow, feeling kind of special.) Then he informs us there are high expectations for all of us. We will be expected to work safely, while attaining adequate productivity with the highest quality in everything we do. What? So now I’m expected to actually work? At this point we were matched up with an experienced team member and sent out to different assignments. On the way onto the course I’m shocked at what I see. I thought this was a private club with high quality. Everywhere I look there are branches down, sand and gravel all over the driveway, as well as the parking lots and paths. Leaves and pine cones are scattered everywhere. I spent the rest of the day picking debris out of bunkers. Pine cones, stones, leaves, sticks, garbage. At one point we were sent back to a bunker that had a few small stones we missed. “NOT GOOD ENOUGH” barks Rennie; it all has to be removed! After about an hour and a half, I suggest to the person I’m working with, “let’s go get a coffee”. He looks at me for a brief moment and starts laughing. “Coffee?” he chuckles, “You ain’t worked long or hard enuff to deserve a break” While working and moving from trap to trap I was able to get these photos.

One of the greens tarps was just removed moments ago.

What appears to be mature men raking and picking up sticks and pine cones from the fairways and rough areas.

Day 2 through 5

Sore back from being bent over all day in the traps, or “Bunkers” as Rennie calls them. Exact same as day 1, picking debris out of bunkers. God almighty, how long does this go on? One minute I’m stifling hot, four minutes later the temperature drops and I’m freezing. Thought this was going to be an easy job. Finally, day 5, finished to the last “bunker” on the 18th hole. Can’t wait to move on to bigger jobs. I ask Rennie at the end of the day, “Now we are done bunkers, what will I get to do next?” All the “rookies” (as they call us) wait quietly for an answer, while all the experienced staff start laughing. “You’ll see tomorrow” is all Rennie answers. As we all head toward the door he adds, “Nice work this week gang, things are taking shape” Saturday and Sunday, can’t hardly get off the couch I’m so sore. Blisters on my fingers make typing difficult.

Monday morning, week two.

I’m looking forward to driving a tractor or something. Rennie and his assistant Kyle are meeting just outside the lunch room when I arrive. As they come in, Kyle gives some direction to some of the experienced staff and off they go to do God knows what. “Hollywood” Rennie calls, “Take Jenn, Matt, Dana, Steve, Hugh and Andrew, start at 1, leave any drainage issues exposed, do everything but add sand”! I have no clue what direction he has just given, but “Hollywood” seems un-phased by the lack of detail directed towards him. Thinking we are going to learn something new about drainage installation I’m excited. The one they call “Hollywood” directs us to get shovels, rakes, a tool they call an edger, buckets, and off we go. Moments later we arrive at the first green. And Hollywood starts poking around in the bunker with a shovel. “OK gang, as he gestures with his hands, this area is contaminated, shovel it out, this areas is washed down, shovel this sand up, this area is too thick, move 2 inches of sand off here, and over to there. “WAIT” I say. “I thought we were done bunkers”. “NO” says Hollywood. “You just removed all the contaminants that Mother Nature blew in during the winter. Now we need to remove contaminated sand, check the drainage, move sand back onto the faces, adjust the sand depths so all areas are an even 4 inches deep and edge them. Any drainage that the frost has pushed up, or any bunkers with too little sand will be finished later”. About two hours later I sneak off to pee in the bush and snap this photo of the crew in one of the bunkers.

While moving from hole to hole I see other new employees being taught to mow greens. I’ve been stuck in the bunkers and haven’t learned this job yet.

I see another employee working on installing interlock by one of the tees.

I pass by a big loud machine grinding stumps into saw dust. A small crew follows behind, picking up the spilled debris and adding soil into the hole. At other times I can hear the buzz of a chainsaw. Another man is repairing a broken fence post. Range mats are being pressure washed, and another is painting some wood slats. (Which I find out later are something called “hazard stakes”) Talking to Kyle at lunch I’m shocked to find out that this crew has about 130 acres of golf course, parking areas, driveways, driving range and so on to clean up and prep for opening day. Think I’m starting to have a little more appreciation to the task at hand.

Date, unknown, sometime in the second week.

One day just flows into the next, with seemingly no off time between days. My back hurts, I have blisters on hands and feet which are constantly throbbing. My feet are wet, and I have sand in my mouth and eyes. I hear rumours the opening date is now official. Wednesday April 20th. Unless “Large Marge” says differently mumbles Rennie. Who the heck is Large Marge I ask one of the other rookies? He shrugs his shoulders and gives a little whimper of pain, “Maybe its Rennie’s wife.” We arrive back to the lunch room at the end of the day and on the large white board that dons the wall, we find “T minus 8 days” written on it. “Is there a space shuttle launch?” is all my brain can think, later realizing that meant 8 days left before opening day. Starting to wonder how all this work is going to get completed. Other things I’m witnessing, tarps that were neatly folded up beside some of the greens are being brought in. Water coolers are being scrubbed with soap and water. Delivery trucks are in and out all day, although I have no idea what they may be dropping off. Ball washers are being dismantled, cleaned, some parts are being replaced and rebuilt.

Later on in week #2

Can’t get onto the course because of frost. Awesome, I’m a little tired, can handle playing some euchre, drinking some coffee with the crew. As I make my way to the coffee station I hear Mickey (Mickey has been at Whitevale as long as anyone I assume) “Hugh, lets go”. Lets go? I was planning on putting my feet up and having a coffer. Before I know it I’m out in the cold morning air, cleaning up sand and gravel on the paved roads, parking lots and cart paths. Well at least I’m not back in one of those bloody bunkers. The next morning the frost stopped us once again from getting on the course. So Kyle said there would be training for all staff on WHMIS. Well I know what that is, it stands for Workplace Hazardous Material Information System. I did my WHMIS training only 3 months ago. So I approached Kyle to tell him I didn’t need this training. Sorry he says. Just because you were trained by another employer does not mean it counts here. By law we must train all staff, and redo the training each year for all returning employees. Ahhhh really – that seems like a silly law.

Later, after the frost is up and we are done the training, I see the irrigation system running. Now its clear to me Rennie has no clue what he’s doing. We had rain only two days ago, he tells us every morning how much damage can be done if we don’t drive on paths because it’s so wet, and now he’s running irrigation on an already saturated golf course! How did this guy get this job?

Over lunch breaks another employees mentions out loud the same thought about the irrigation running while things are so wet. Little did anyone of us know Rennie was within ears shot talking to the Equipment Manager, Scott. “We are not running irrigation”, he says, “we are pressurizing and testing the system to see if there are any pipe breaks or issues with the heads. The freeze thaw cycle can be very damaging to all components, and the only way to see what damage may need to be repaired is to turn it on. If you we going to prepare for a car race, would you wait to test the car and see if it was set up properly until the morning of the race?” He barely gets the last word out of his mouth when a voice comes over the radio. “Blair come in, we’ve got a leak down here at 5 green” “That’s Murphy’s voice” I think to myself Rennie barely flinches. Shouldn’t he be panicking? Why isn’t he running to take care of this problem? A voice quickly comes over the radio. “I’m on it”. “Kyle’s voice” I think to myself. Rennie just stands there, listening. A minute later we hear, “OK, got it sectioned. No real damage to the turf. Think it’s a broken swing joint on the back right head”. And then another voice. “I’m heading back to the shop for the sod cutter and shovels”. “That’s Mick” I think to myself. This is strange. Rennie’s not giving orders, these guys know exactly what to do. They all just reacted to the situation.

Less than two hours later we are passing near the 5th green. I have to go see how many people are working on this irrigation issue. But to my surprise, no one’s there. But the area is neatly dug up, most of the soil piled gently on a piece of plywood to keep it off the grass, and the damaged pipe is already been cut out.

The next morning as I go by the same area and as if magic the pipe is all repaired, I never saw anyone there, yet it’s all back together.

Later that day I finally see a large piece of equipment on the course. A big tractor! I go in for a closer look to see what is being done. This tractor has huge tires, wider than any I have ever seen, that must cause some damage to the grass! Anyway, on the back is a huge brush, gently turning in the opposite direction the tractor is travelling in. “What the heck is this about” I wonder. As I get close I can see exactly what it’s doing. It is tearing out a whole lot of dead leaves from the turf, leaving the greener healthy grass behind. I can actually see the grass standing up after it has been bruised allowing the sun to better penetrate the healthy portion of the turf. And it is also moving lighter debris like pine needles and small twigs off the fairway. This is leaving the fairway extremely clean, and doing so much faster than a crew of workers could. All that is left is a neat windrow of debris to be picked up with a shovel and rake.

As the tractor leaves for another fairway, a mower shows up and begins mowing. Then it occurs to me, all these jobs I have been a part of or have witnessed are moving like an assembly line! But instead of the workers standing in one place waiting for a part to come to them, its the workers that move from place to place doing a specific task, allowing someone else to come in behind them to get the next job completed.

It’s been two weeks since I started and I have to say I’ve actually learned a lot in that time. I still haven’t driven a tractor yet. In fact I haven’t even driven a golf cart, I’m always the passenger. I’m excited about seeing how the job gets done when members are golfing but that will be April 20th. Unless Mrs. Rennie says something I guess.