Welcome to my blog! My intention is to give you a more detailed, "behind the scenes" look at what the maintenance department does to take care of The Farms Country Club's private, 18-hole championship golf course. Enjoy!

Divot Day 2013!


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A Late Start To The Golf Season Presents Its Challenges!

I'm guessing I'm not the only superintendent with a lengthy "To Do" list. April is always a busy month, but this year the pressure is magnified due to the late start. In a normal season, we are at least on the course in March cleaning up the debris from winter.
We started working the course the second week of April this year. The ground was still frozen in week one. By week three we were knee deep in green aerification, overseeding and topdressing. Throw in the fact that we had to prepare the course for play by putting supplies out, mow fine turf areas and try to get sixty-two bunkers playable for Opening Day on April eighteenth shows we are stretched thin.

What players notice:

  • Cups, tee markers and pins
  • Water coolers, ballwashers, trash receptacles, litter caddies, benches, hazard markers and bunkers prepped including rakes
  • Branches, twigs, leaves and debris
  • Cleanup of wood chips and stump grinding debris from winter tree work
  • Landscape bed cleanup and pruning
  • Mowing and rolling greens
  • Mowing tees, fairways, first cut and rough
  • Aerification of greens (extra time needed because more intense this Spring)
  • ETC...
What players don't notice but is vital to our season's success:
  • Additional, intensive overseeding and topdressing of winter damaged areas on greens
  • Spraying of greens twice so far for Poa Annua seedhead control, fertilizers, Annual Bluegrass Weevil and wetting agent
  • Spraying fairways and tees for Poa Annua seedhead control, Annual Bluegrass Weevil and crabgrass preventative
  • Irrigation system fired up and fix all normal springtime problems
  • Staff hiring and training
  • ETC...
This is a minor glimpse at my list of things to do, which at last glance, is near fifty items. It obviously changes daily. I can't emphasize enough the importance of the items you don't see. It is critical that their timing trumps some things that are visible to the players right away. What you don't see today would be visible soon and playability and turf health would suffer long after.

The course opened for the first time, with carts, on April eleventh. Seventeen days ago. During that time we had six days with varying degrees of rain and five frost delays. 

Yes, I'm trying to paint a picture. We are working hard to get the course in prime shape! Trust me when I say... We Care!

Thank you for your patience!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Golf Course Update! What You Need To Know...

The extreme winter conditions certainly put the turfgrass to the test. We still have remnants of snow here and there but it is mostly gone. There is a layer of frost at approximately six inches deep. The frost layer depth is important to know because turfgrass roots are frozen in it. Traffic on the surface causes shifting and shears roots off (obviously detrimental). I am optimistic that this will cease to be an issue in the next couple days. We are expecting warm temperatures and rain. The ten day forecast looks great once we get past Friday.
On to the good stuff! There is quite a bit of snow mold disease in our rough and on fairways. It looks ugly but it will be fine. A couple of mowings and a little growth and it will heal on its own. There is no snow mold on any greens or tees because plant protectants are applied before winter sets in.

Snow mold on banks of #2 green

Snow mold on banks of #6 green

Snow mold in a fairway
How are the greens???
For the most part we don't see much damage. Assessment of turf damage is always tricky. Our best method of discovery is to take sample plugs from the WORST looking areas on greens and bring them into the maintenance facility. The samples are labeled and placed under heat lamps forcing them to break dormancy. Another indication is to actually smell the samples and see if they have a "swampy" odor which would indicate anoxic (lack of oxygen) conditions. We did not notice that odor. 
We are seeing some isolated damage but the photos below give you a better picture. I am pleased with results and don't see large scale damage at this point. We never know exactly what we have until turf breaks dormancy naturally on the course.

Green samples day #1

Tray on left has 3 days under the lamps and tray on right is after 6 days
If we do have damage, we are prepared to aerify and overseed accordingly. Thankfully, we are scheduled to do our normal aerification beginning Monday, April 13th. Remember, the course will be closed Monday and Tuesday while we are working.
No one is more excited than I to get the season going. Aerification is incredibly important, especially after such a turf-stressing winter.
Please take the time to click on the links below to get a better understanding of the importance of aerification...

Saturday, January 31, 2015

What Blizzard? One Foot of Snow! More on The Way!

We are expecting another six to twelve inches on Monday.
The truth is that we have had a great winter so far. We had frozen ground which allowed us to traverse the course for our annual tree work. We accomplished our goals.

Now we have a protective, insulating blanket of snow on our fine turf areas. The best part is there is no ice beneath the snow! The deep blanket of snow is actually a blessing because it protects the fine turf areas from dramatic temperature changes and potential desiccation.

We may have to plow the white fluffy stuff off the parking lots, but I’ll take that any day!

We are expecting another six plus inches on early Monday, but that only fortifies our protection from the deep freeze that is forecasted.

The next hurdle will be how we come out of the deep freeze as Spring approaches. I am hoping that as the snow melts we don’t form ice layers directly on our green surfaces. More importantly is the hope that when the snow is gone, we don’t see several days of warm temperatures, then a severe drop in temperature. That is a critical time for us.

We usually are “holding our breath” in early March. The snow is gone and we have a few days in a row when temperatures hit the forties. Then we get a dramatic drop in temperature that goes into the “teens”. This is when our turf on greens is most vulnerable.

The warm days tell the plant to start growing and imbibe water as if Spring is here. A following cold-snap can cause what is called crown hydration injury. This damage is most severe on greens that are predominately Poa Annua. Our greens are very susceptible to this damage.

Basically, the Poa Annua hydrates with moisture and the following freezing causes ice crystals to form and rupture the cells in the crown (heart) of the plant.

Understand, we constantly try to reduce the Poa Annua population and increase creeping bentgrass percentages. We are slowly winning the war!

I am being generous when I say our average Poa Annua percentage on greens is over fifty percent! Five years ago I would have said seventy percent!

Our adoption of the plan of a slow transition to increase creeping bentgrass populations through less aggressive measures has served us well. Overseeding genetically superior creeping bentgrass varieties, at proper aerification times, and the use of plant growth regulators which effect Poa Annua more than the desirable creeping bentgrass varieties has been integral and successful. We also stress the Poa via cultural maintenance practices like allowing it to wilt during summer stress and allowing insects, which only effect Poa Annua, to feed until we reach an agronomic threshold (the point at which you, as a player, notice damage and it effects your enjoyment and playability of the course).

Creeping bentgrass has a much more sustainable and genetically deeper root system than Poa Annua during summer months.

Ultimately, creeping bentgrass has less “enemies” than Poa Annua. Our agricultural program, in all accounts, is designed to continually increase creeping bentgrass populations without reducing playability yet reducing immediate and future maintenance costs.

We manipulate our turf management strategies, in detail, down to every micro climate, in an effort to gain ground every year. This means we look at every individual green, tee and fairway on an individual basis and formulate our management plan.

In my ideal world, the snow and ground frost will be gone by the second week of March leaving me with dry ground conditions so I can hit the ground running. I just can’t wait!!!