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Covid Practice Plans (Green Building -- please tell me I'm not nuts!)


DShepley

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So, Covid has me crazy and I figure we will be on some type of social distancing program for at least another month up here in South Western Ontario. We live on 1.5 acres of property and I have always wanted to build a golf green. The other day my wife suggested that now is the time and suggested a spot in the corner of the yard which is currently occupied partly by an over grown flower bed that we have never had the energy to do anything with. I have a friend who works for a shop that provides maintenance to Toro fleets and he hooked me up with a great deal on a Toro Greensmaster 1000, ($250CAD), and he even ground the reel and put a new bed knife on it.

So....today was raining and I had art class with my daughters; while they coloured away, I got busy designing my first crack at the putting green. Apart from the mower I just brought home, I also have a 9hp rear tine roto-tiller, a sub compact Kubota with a loader bucket and backhoe and a 48" yard roller to use as construction tools. I expect that with what I have on hand, I can build this for decently low input costs....I'll have to buy sand to amend my soil once I strip the sod, and I'll have to buy a good quality creeping bent grass, (holy smokes, this stuff is expensive compared to regular seed, about $400CAD / 25lb bag). I'll also have to bury a waterline from my house so I can run a sprinkler.

My first draft is a 1400 square foot beauty with a greenside bunker. (Please tell me I'm not a crazy loon!!!). My yard is quite large, (pictured), and is about 235 feet wide with my house set back 180 feet from the road. On a diagonal from where the green would be set, (highlighted in the Google image), I could hit about an 80 yard approach. There are several other areas from 60 yards and in. I have a fibrebuilt hitting pad that I plan to set into a portable stance mat, (likely plywood covered with carpet), that I can move around the yard to save ruining the lawn.

My thought is that if I can't get the green to a speed where it putts well, I can at least build a really fun short game area. There is also a ditch that is between the green and road which sits about 3 feet lower than the green level, (the bunker would be built into this slope to be slightly lower than the putting surface). Does anyone have experience doing anything like this? Apart from telling me it's a horrible idea, (you are unlikely to break my resolve in this time of pandemic), is there anything I should watch out for?

 

Apologies if this is the wrong forum to post this, I didn't know where it best fit.

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I admire your initiative and agree that the worst you can get is a real nice practice area. Speaking with your greenskeeper may help you with understanding whatever drainage, if any, be advantageous in keeping the green viable.

Best wishes for success with your new golf journey.

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Thanks! I have a few friends who are superintendents in the area and have been given some good advice. I'm excited to try it out. As for drainage, in the Google maps photo, the ugly light brown patch is the remnants from excavating the field tile that runs through the yard so we could clear it of roots. The entire yard drains well and never keeps any wet spots. I'll post pictures of my progress as I work through it.

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I’ll look forward to seeing your progress. I believe this can be a truly rewarding exercise. It’ll give you opportunities to share it with your family and select friends. Of course, there’s always something very special in the satisfaction that comes with the experience, challenges overcome and success when you will proudly know..... “I built that”.

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My one suggestion would be to check with a knowledgable tree expert first as you appear to have a few trees near your planned project, and the roots could potentially undermine your green. Our very expensive project was ruined within 2 years by roots growing underneath the surface. With some trees the roots will continue to grow even after you cut them down.

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Yes, for sure. There is a maple tree and a small Scotch Pine, (we aren't overly attached to either one and they eventually will need pruned for the power lines). The other two small tree looking things are small flowering shrubs, (also could be moved). My lawn grows there quite well there now so hopefully that is a good sign. Thanks for the tip! Did you build a green?

 

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Nice green! I expect it will become incredibly time consuming but I don't mind having something to obsess about. Are you happy with the 777 bent grass? I just ordered a mix from a friend who works at Plant Products called Selectus Pro and it is a blend of 777 bent, MacDonald Bent, and Flagstick Bent. It was what their turf people suggested for my application. 10 on the stimp is very impressive for a backyard green. What type of gauge do you have to adjust the height on your Toro 1000? I'm totally new to this but hoping to catch on quick.

 

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I wish I had your enthusiasm but I'm older. However, even in my younger years that would be way too much of a commitment for me. I probably would have opted for an artificial green. Right now I'm putting in overtime getting a vegetable garden growing and it's becoming less fun every day. Especially when I realize each carrot and radish will end up costing $13.00 each.

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We have a giant vegetable garden as well that my wife mostly manages. It is about 50' x 50' and it's great to have produce all summer, (especially canning your own salsa!), and fresh potatoes. My 80 yard tee shot will actually be straight over the vegetable garden and they will be 'stroke and distance' for sure! Also, love the Homestar Runner avatar!

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Nice. I may have to call in favour to the super at my home course. After I seed, I will need to gradually reduce the height of cut down to the final. I anticipate needing to lower it a few times through the fill in process. Is this how you built your green, or did you cut at 0.125 right from the first cutting? Thanks for letting me ask all these questions!

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Maple could be a problem. Need to check if roots will continue to grow even after you cut it down. We built a green a few years ago and it was ruined within 2 years. Also having persistent problem with moss in spite of multiple applications of moss and weed killer.At least we can still practice chipping. See these sad pics. Hope you have better luck.

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Ripper212 that’s awfully kind, thank you.

Dshepley it was originally built to 1/2 USGA specs, then got pythium and got wiped out. Was then sodded with an older bent, called center cut. The past three years has been inter seeded with 007 then 777.

the height of cut should start at 1/2 inch then walked down slowly.

you will need a fungicide program

you will need to treat for damping off as the seed germinates.

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Good info thanks. I haven't started digging yet but plan to flag out the area and make and adjustments to my plan in the coming days. I also am searching with local aggregate dealers to find the best deal on about 9 cubic yards of coarse bedding sand to mix in with my topsoil. I may amend it further with some peat moss as well before shaping and seeding. A greenskeeper friend has offered up a drop seeder when I'm ready to get going.

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So, got anxious today and first put flags in the lawn to get a sense of scale. Not surprisingly, it turns out that my eyes were slightly bigger than my stomach when I penciled out the 1400 sq ft drawing, (SURPRISE!!). I made a scaled down version, (basically cut a bit of depth out, (8' or so), when looking from the front and kept the width. The results are the green being about 50' at it's widest and about 30' at it's deepest. I'll have to sketch it out on graph paper again to estimate the square footage. Also, the flags weren't doing it for me, so I hauled the mower out and knocked it down so I could get a better idea. If seeing the shape of a golf green in your yard doesn't brighten up your day, I don't know much else that will! Now, the only real adjustment I might make is to make the front left area slightly bigger. I'm also thinking about building a grass bunker in the front cut out. The sand bunker will be in the back right, (where the rock is in the disgusting flower bed). The shrubs on the back left will be taken out or trimmed way back so I have room to turn the mower around.

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On this green site? There is a field tile that runs directly under it and a natural fall towards the ditch at the road. There aren't any spots in the entire yard that get standing water, everything either surface drains or drains through tile. I have a Kubota Sub Compact tractor with industrial tires that I use to mow my lawn and it doesn't leave any damage even this time of year.

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What would the yearly cost be? Equipment, maintenance, supplies etc.. Because, I just went looking at turf putting greens and they cost 15-20 a sq. ft. Is there a discernible difference?

 

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At the size I am planning on building, an artificial set up would cost between $18000-$25000 based on $15-$20 / sq ft. I don't know what the break even point is compared to maintenance because I am only building one now. I'm not certain what it will cost me per year to run a natural green and everyone will differ based on disease resistance, climate, size, turf quality, etc. I can tell you that I spent $250CAD on my Toro 1000 greens mower, have spent $400CAD on a bag of bent grass seed and will need to buy about 8 yards of sand to mix with my soil which will cost me about another $200CAD. A tiny bit of perforated tile and a couple bags of pea gravel to build a french drain for my bunker and sand for the bunker, maybe another $200? I already own all of the landscaping equipment I need to shape the green, (tractor with backhoe and loader, rear tine tiller, roller), and a local superintendent friend has offered use of his drop seeder when I'm ready to go. I have to bury a water line so I can get water to it and I think have found a line on some garden hose for free that just needs the ends replaced and I might be able to get away with two rotary sprinklers for about $40, that I can run in series. So, adding that all up, I will spend around $1500CAD on materials for my 1250 sq ft green. At this rate, it would take years to break even on an artificial green unless you placed a value on your time, (dcrocketman above mentioned he averages about 5hrs per week tending to his green). I'm sure there will be incidental costs and unexpected costs associated with maintaining the green but my thought pattern, (admittedly naive), is that if I can't get the green speeds to a good putting standard, I could always maintain it a bit higher for short game practice, and....if all else fails, it's only grass and I can probably sell the mower for more than I paid. The benefit is that I think we will be on a social distancing program of some sort for at least another month before returning to working from our office, and I have the time and desire and quite honestly need the distraction.

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The mower was a steal, I have a friend who works for a Toro fleet service company and he pieced one together. He put some parts on it from their spare parts bin and he only thing that doesn't work is the parking brake, (which I don't need really but could probably be fixed pretty easily). The reel has plenty of wear left and he ground it for me, and the bed knife is nearly new. He told me his boss wanted $800-$900 for the mower but he told him it was for a friend and he needed to give me a deal, (I'll take the guy a case of beer as a thank you). I'm sure my bunker will end up not being used as much, but I do have lots of room and a spot that is close to a ditch so I have pretty easy access for drainage. The fungicides and pesticides are really the unknown cost factor though. So far I'm having lots of fun researching online for tips, (turns out there isn't a lot of info, most links are for artificial greens). I've also decided that I need to get a push lawn roller, since I won't be able to drive my tractor over the green with my 48" tow behind. So I expect another $120 for an 18"x20" roller. From what I've read, you can get pretty favourable putting speeds by rolling and frequent top dressing without the need to cut every day, (depending on growth of course). One study showed that this even reduced disease as the grass wasn't as stressed from frequent cutting. I also was in touch with a gravel pit that is about 4 miles from my house and was pleased to find that the 10 ton of gravel I need will only cost me about $90 t0 be delivered. This is course bedding sand to mix with my soil. One question, can I use this sand for top dressing as well? I imagine it's advisable to top dress with the same sand as your soil mix? If so I will order more so I have a stockpile of top dressing. Thanks again for all your input, I'll be stripping sod and shaping hopefully by next weekend and will post pictures.

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