Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Net Replacement on #6

Earlier this year, a wind storm damaged the barrier net along the 6th hole. Several poles were cracked and one even fell over. Since the poles were around 50 years old, the golf course decided to replace entire netting system with new poles. The old net was taken down and the new net put up very quickly on July 17th and 18th. Below are some before and after pictures of the project.

Broken pole after wind storm
Old pole cracked at the bottom
Setting the new poles

Netting system installation in progress
New net system complete

New net system complete
 And here is a group of juvenile raccoons having fun prowling around:

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Grinding Reels

One of the many jobs golf course maintenance departments perform over the winter is reconditioning and sharpening mowers. Reel mower cutting units require a lot of maintenance to get through a year, and over the winter we try to get them back to "factory specs" -- or as close as possible.  It is a time-consuming job, but very necessary to keep the machines cutting through the growing season.

At Sugar Creek, our grinders are very old and "low tech" but they get the job done. As near as I can tell, the maintenance department has spent a grand total of $800 on used grinding equipment over the last 40 years. We have a Neary 500 spin-grinder from the 1980's and a Neary bedknife grinder from the same period. In addition, we have a Peerless 1300 sharpener from probably the 1960's. We normally relief grind with the Peerless, then spin grind with the Neary 500.

Peerless 1300 Manual
Our John Deere manual contains this relief grinding diagram:

From John Deere 2500B Manual

A perfect "double relief grind" as in this diagram is difficult to achieve with our equipment, so we use the Toro specification of a 30 degree single relief grind. Either one performs just as well. In the European literature, they often use the term "blade thinning" interchangeably with "relief grinding," and I think that describes perfectly the main benefit of relief grinding. According to the research, specifically Toro's, the best quality of cut results from sharp edges with "light contact" between the bed knife and reel blade. Light contact is much easier to achieve with less surface area making contact. Relief grinding, or blade thinning, achieves this and also makes keeping the edges sharp through backlapping much more effective.

This year, we tried something new: a Bernhard Rapid Relief grinder. As you can see from the manual cover above, the Peerless sharpener takes up a lot of floor space. With space at a premium in the shop, I wanted to see if a smaller tool could replace the old Peerless grinder. It turns out, the short answer for us, a 9-hole golf course with a total of 17 reels to grind, is "yes;" the long answer is "yes -- but it is quite a bit slower and a little less precise than a full size relief grinder." I'm still not sure if I will get rid of the old Peerless, but this little tool has me thinking about it.

Here is the Rapid Relief:

Berhard Rapid Relief

The rail attaches to the bedknife with strong magnets. On some reels, the front roller has to be taken off. On these reels, we had to remove the groomer to make space for the wheel. This was an extra step but the groomer gear boxes needed inspection and cleaning any way. Once you have the setup parallel and adjusted correctly, you have to get the feel down.

It takes some practice to get consistent results. The first reels we did were fairway reels and they did not come out "perfect" but they were completely adequate. Once we got to the greens mower reels, though, the results were just about as good as we could achieve with the old Peerless grinder -- but quite a bit slower. It took dozens of passes with the abrasive wheel to take off the required material. These greens mower reels took about 45 minutes each. I did take off a lot of material because they had lost almost all of their relief from the previous year. This unit is not really intended to be a shop's only relief grinder. It is more meant to touch up or restore relief to blades during the season. For a small shop like ours, though, it can get the job done.

Bernhard Rapid Relief in action

After the restoring relief to the blade, the spin grinder is used to sharpen the reel and ensure that it is a perfect cylinder. It would be nice if this Neary spin grinder had a relief grinder attachment, but it is a spin-grind only model that we purchased used about 15 years ago. It is in good shape and works perfectly but it is a single purpose grinder at this point. I would love to find a used relief head that could be retrofitted to this unit.

Neary 500 spin grinder

Here is a close-up of the spin-grinding process:

See Time to Grind and Reel Grinding Complete for more on reel grinding.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Kubota Mower Repair

We had another complicated repair to make recently on the Kubota front mower used to mow slopes and uneven terrain with a flexible Lastec deck. It is an important machine as our other mowers with flat decks scalp the turf around the greens, tees, and bunkers. The machine was leaking fluid from a gasket on the hydrostatic transmission (HST). Normally, gasket changes are not that difficult, but on this machine the bolts needed to remove the transmission housing are located inside the tractor. The only way to access them is to separate the tractor completely and remove the transmission.

Here are some interesting pictures from the process:

Kubota F3060 after separating engine frame from front axle

Hydrostatic transmission rear view

After more cleaning and disassembly

Inside of the tractor after removing transmission - amazingly clean for a 16 year old machine.

Inside of hydrostatic transmission

HST cylinder block - This little thing is what makes the mower move!

Reassembled with new gasket, o-rings, and seals
 The mower is now back together and working. Older machines are always an adventure. When I was researching this repair, I did not find much on the internet related to it. Luckily, I did have the workshop manual for this piece of equipment which was a pretty good guide. I share these photos because, first, they are pretty neat to look at (if you like machines), and, second, they might help another grounds crew or mechanic needing to do a similar repair.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Parking lot patching

Yesterday was a busy day. We winterized the irrigation system with a large compressor which is used to blow the water out of the pipes and sprinklers with air. This is crucial to ensure freezing temperatures do not damage the system over the winter. For the past several years, we have used a 825 cfm compressor which does an excellent job in around 4 hours. It used to take all day with a 375 cfm model. Getting the job done quickly was especially helpful yesterday because we are still open for golf and we were able to finish before most golfers came out to play.

At the same time, we also had a contractor patching the most worn area of the parking lot. One area in particular of the roughly 40-year-old asphalt needed to be replaced as it had been worn away by flowing water and plowing. The result is a great improvement, although the parking lot has other areas of concern and some underlying base and drainage issues that will need to be corrected in the future. This partial and relatively inexpensive repair makes an immediate improvement for winter banquets and next year's golf season.

Step 1. Grinding the worn asphalt

Step 2. Removal and prepping the base

Step 3. Asphalt installed in 1.5 inch layers

Step 4. Final compaction
The area will also be re-striped to match the existing parking bays.

For comparison, below is the area before the patching. Over the past several years, the spent, old surface layer of asphalt was gradually washed away by water or plowed away with snow removal. The Midwest is particularly hard on asphalt due to our weather -- frequent freezing and thawing and often frequent winter precipitation that requires removal. Once an area is compromised, it usually deteriorates quickly.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Cart Path Repairs

Last week, 4 areas of crumbling asphalt cart path were repaved to make our paths more comfortable and safe for riding carts and walking traffic.  More pictures are posted to our Facebook page and website.  Below are some before and after pictures from the project:

Area behind #1 Green - Before

Behind #1 Green - After

Area left of #1 Green - Before

Left of #1 Green - After

5th Hole Green - Before

#5 After

Path by #3 Tee - Before

#3 After

Friday, October 7, 2016

Fence Repair on #7

The next step of our renovations around the driving range is nearly complete.  Before the Emerald Ash Borer, this area was packed with buckthorn and ash trees.  Removing the invasive species and dead ash trees has been a costly and time-consuming process.  First, the buckthorn had to be removed to allow access to the fence and the ash trees.  Second, the fence was cut and rolled up to allow the removal of the 75-foot-tall ash trees.  Third, around 160 ash trees were removed around the range by the Village of Villa Park's tree crew.  Fourth, the area around the back tee on #7 had to be renovated to allow cart access, improve drainage, and repair damage from the tree removal. Fifth, the stumps were ground and leveled. During these steps, several improvements to drainage, grading, and turf were made. The sixth step is repairing the chain link fence that was rolled up to allow access to the trees.  This is a tedious process that involves weaving the panels back together and stretching them down the line. 

Below you can see Gary weaving one of the last panels together:

With the fence back together, we can start adding the finishing touches.  Grass will be planted up to the fence on the golf course side.  On the driving range side, a mix of narrow-growing shrubs and trees will be planted in the future. Very few species are suitable for this area because we do not want them to grow into the driving range net or hang out too far and block the tee on #7.  We will also avoid planting a monoculture (meaning all one species of plant) to reduce large-scale losses to a species-specific pest in the future.

For reference, here is a photo of the area in 2013 as the ash trees were dying.  This is after a lot of buchthorn removal had already taken place. The concrete in the foreground is a piece of curb removed from the fairway bunker on #6 while we were renovating the bunkers that year:

Here is the same area from another angle:

The area looks quite different now, but from the perspective of the game of golf it is arguably better as the branches do not knock down tee shots and less time is lost looking for lost balls. Also, the trees and buckthorn in the area required a lot of maintenance and trimming even before the trees died, and they were causing damage to the driving range net.  While we would much rather have not had to remove the trees, we now have a fresh start in this area and can intentionally plan it to be more sustainable in the future.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Fairway mower wheel repair

On Tuesday, the left wheel on the fairway mower looked crooked.  I was really hoping the lug bolts were just loose, but no such luck.  We have an interesting repair in front of us. The frame cracked on the wheel motor mount. 

Cracked frame
There is supposed to be a wheel there!
 A new front axle frame assembly is about $2500 plus many hours of labor.  We are going to try repairing the mount before going that direction.  After cutting out the paper thin rusted frame and grinding, I think we have something we can work with: 

Clamping up the new motor mount
New pieces of metal added to strengthen frame
Reinforced the top

Side view

Finished repair
The fairway mower is back in action and everything worked fine. I'm fairly confident the wheel motor mount is now stronger than it was new. Our fairway mower double cut the fairways today to catch up on the grass growth since last Thursday. We have had a lot of rain in the past week and the fairways were getting very long.  They are now back to normal height.

On a happier note, I had a visitor last week!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Stump grinding

This week, we ground about 200 stumps around the golf course.  Many of them were here along the 7th hole and the driving range. After we fill in the holes, we can put the fence back together and start beautifying this area that was once filled with Ash trees taken by the Emerald Ash Borer:


Also, the new seed and cart path behind 7 tee are looking good:

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