Welcome to my blog!
It is my intention to give the readers a better understanding of what we do to maintain The Farms Country Club's 18 hole championship golf course and grounds.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Aerifying Greens Complete! We Started Months Ago... We Finally Finished!

OK... We finished the process of aerifying, overseeding and topdressing greens on Thursday, but the planning started months ago. Year-long turf health balanced with consistently outstanding playability means everyone is going to have to give in periodically. You can't have one without the other. The proverbial tightrope. I won't bore you with the long-term info that most are not interested in. Let's keep them healthy, improve them and get them back to normal ASAP!
I predict a strong finish!

Let's talk in terms of the last two weeks.

  • I cant wait to aerify, overseed and topdress the greens! Tough weather, compaction, overseed, etc. etc.
  • Two weeks to go we are making sure all equipment is ready, starting to pray for good weather, transition greens by increasing fertilizer and reducing growth regulator. The plan is to have the fertilizer kicking in as the growth regulator is "petering out". A delicate balance when you consider the golf calendar and uncontrollable weather.
  • I want the holes to close up in two weeks and be smooth (requiring a total of $7,000 worth of sand including thatchy approaches), but I don't want the holes to close so fast I don't get a good seed catch (more desirable creeping bentgrass).
    • We invest a lot in the annual August aerification and overseeding project. Time, money, sacrifice short-term playability of other areas of the course, basically everything we've got to help turf that survived summer stresses, improve summer-thinned turf with overseeding and more importantly start our preparations for this winter's and next summer's stress periods. Yes, we start now!
    • Our goal from now on is to improve our finely managed turfgrass areas to withstand upcoming stresses while balancing the playability our members are accustomed to and deservedly expect.
Long story short: It rained, it was cloudy, it was sunny, it was foggy... We finished on Thursday and we even snuck a mowing in on Friday afternoon. They look good! They will only get better! Especially if the annual overseeding takes, turf continues to heal and the members think the course is playing like Augusta by the eighth of September.

We got this!

Give me a call for the long version which comes with more technical references while reducing the ratio of questions to answers depending upon the humor level of the member asking and the relationship within the above mentioned quandaries which can be presented through a possibly anticipated dialogue and the answers I may respond with which is entirely dependent upon the above mentioned but not limited to... as if their really were any questions?

Greens will be good in two weeks! Have Fun!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

USGA August Northeast Update!

“Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!”
By David A. Oatis, director, Northeast Region
August 21, 2013

In mid-July, soil temperatures at a 3-inch depth were regularly found to be 90°F to 95°F (left) while turfgrass canopy temperatures ranged from 90°F to 105°F (right). Significant root dieback occurred and cool-season turfgrasses simply cannot withstand temperatures this high for an extended period of time.
Every year has its challenges, and the weather presents many of them. Much of the stress turfgrass faced this year occurred early in the season. Heavy rains were experienced in June and early July, and oppressive and near record-setting heat made the rest of July even tougher. No golf course escaped those extremes unscathed. The damage was obvious at many golf facilities as turf was lost. However, even those that didn’t lose turf were affected. Turfgrass root systems shrank dramatically, and it was difficult to find annual bluegrass root systems that were more than an inch deep. 

Fortunately, the weather has been mild since July and turf health has rebounded. Root systems still are extremely short, but thinned areas have begun to fill in, and turf that was teetering on the brink of collapse is recovering. To say that we “dodged a bullet” is an understatement. A more typical stretch of stressful weather in August would likely have triggered massive turf loss throughout the region because turf at many golf facilities was very close to the edge. 

With the stress of July in our rearview mirror, many have already aerated, and many more will do so in the next week or two. Assuming the weather is not too stressful, and thus far August has been a perfect month for aerating, turf that is aerated now should recover quickly because of warm, but not excessively hot, temperatures and longer days. Recovery is much slower later in the fall. To be sure, August aeration can be risky. Stressful weather combined with weak turf and aggressive cultivation practices can cause damage. However, if the turf is healthy enough to withstand it and the weather cooperates, August aeration can produce better turf conditions and an undisturbed schedule for fall golf. It also can provide a great opportunity to get new and improved bentgrasses established in old greens. 

There are a few things to watch for right now as we are still not completely out of the woods yet regarding stressful weather conditions: 
  • Continue to manage water carefully and use your best employees for this crucial job. Remember, if the root systems are an inch deep, soil moisture at the 2-inch depth is inaccessible to the plant. Turf with shortened root systems will need more frequent and lighter applications of water, but the goal should be to keep soil moisture levels lower overall by not overwatering.
  • Remember that moisture loss can be quite low when dew points and humidity levels are high, so extra irrigation and syringing is not necessarily needed just because “it’s hot.”
  • Watch out for high sky, low humidity days. With weak turf and weaker root systems, this is a weather pattern that can wreak havoc. Normal syringing techniques may not be sufficient if we experience this type of weather, so be prepared with more frequent hand-watering should this occur.
  • Plugging bentgrass into weakened areas makes the most sense right now, and 3-inch diameter turf pluggers work very well for this purpose. Smaller plugs are less obvious and less objectionable than traditional 4.25-inch diameter plugs. Plus, smaller turf plugs can be placed much faster and are easier to level than large plugs.

There are distinct patterns of stress and turf damage at many golf facilities and, as usual, it is the pocketed greens at most courses that are the weakest. This clearly illustrates the impact poor growing environments, namely inadequate airflow and sunlight exposure, can have on turf performance. Not surprisingly, this is another season where the value of fans to generate air movement is being demonstrated in numerous locations. Fans cool the turf canopy and allow it to dry which goes a long way toward reducing fungal disease activity. Using an infrared thermometer during Turf Advisory Service visits, turf canopies are regularly 6°F to 8°F cooler (or more) than adjacent turf without the airflow of a fan. As you plan for next year, and if you have greens that performed poorly this year from inadequate airflow, strongly consider adding more fans to your equipment inventory. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

USGA Green Section Update August 7th!

Skinned Knees And Bruised Elbows
By Jim Skorulski, senior agronomist, Northeast Region

August 7, 2013

“Skinned knees and bruised elbows, but no broken bones” was the clever response provided by Michael Luccini, golf course superintendent at Franklin Country Club in Franklin, Mass., when asked about the condition of the golf course following the brutal stretch of weather experienced in the Northeast region in June and July. Most golf facilities in the region experienced some bumps and bruises and others broken bones during the stretch of hot and humid weather that followed heavy rains – a perfect recipe for cool-season turf failure.

Many parts of the region experienced soil and canopy temperatures well above 90°F during the day without much relief at night. Damage from high temperatures has been common to turf in the Northeast, including scald, wet wilt, Pythium and brown patch disease, foliar anthracnose, dollar spot and summer patch diseases. The inability to topdress during the hot months of June and July resulted in puffy turf conditions on putting greens. As bentgrass turf became more succulent and putting surfaces softer, the turf became more susceptible to mower scalping and traffic damage. Greens located in stagnant environments suffered the most as did poorly drained areas and anywhere flooding occurred. Golf facilities with heavy cart traffic and busy outing schedules in June and July also experienced considerable turf damage. Fairways and roughs with excessive thatch or rough areas composed of creeping bentgrass and annual bluegrass (Poa annua) did not hold up well through this subtropical weather pattern.

What are some things we should learn from the summer of 2013?

• Deferred maintenance is not a formula for long-term success. Just think how much better things might be right now had the drainage project been completed, the trees removed, the fairway and rough aerification programs maintained, poor quality roughs regrassed, and the problematic greens rebuilt? Sometimes it takes the perfect storm of events like those of the summer of 2013 before this message hits home.

• More is not always better. This was especially true with nitrogen applications. High rates of controlled-released granular fertilizers did what they were intended to do in wet soils at a high temperature: they released nitrogen. This was sometimes to the detriment of the turf.

• Fans really work well where they are needed. Obtaining fans in July was like trying to find an air conditioner. Good luck. Seriously though, the new generations of fans are powerful, quiet, effective and a must for areas where natural air circulation is limited.

• Mowing over wet, saturated soils in mid-summer is never good. Sometimes it has to be done, but if a mowing can be skipped it may just allow you to live and fight another day. That can be said for cart traffic as well.

• Large tournaments or outings are best scheduled outside of July if at all possible. Prepping for a big event during extremely stressful weather is asking for problems. It is also much harder for the staff to syringe and take other protective measures during such events or when the golf course is at full play.

• Crabgrass really does well in the heat and preemergence herbicides just do not hold up as long with hot, wet soil conditions.

• Mother Nature remains the boss. We have more tools than ever to manage golf courses and we do it better than ever, most of the time. When the weather becomes truly difficult, the best we might do is to just ride it out. Defense wins championships as the saying goes, and good offense takes the pressure off the defense. It is a balancing act to be sure.

Fortunately, as quickly as the tropical-like rains and heat arrived, they have been displaced with cooler and drier air. The break in the weather has even produced some good overseeding results that did not seem likely several weeks ago. We are certainly not out of the woods yet, especially given the weakened condition of the turf and the possibility that weather patterns could change back to summer heat just as quickly. Nonetheless, we will take this break and hope it continues into mid-August when we all anticipate better growing conditions, shorter days and cooler nights.

So, if you are one of the fortunate ones to only experience some skinned knees and bruises this summer, I would say you are doing a lot of things right. If not, it is time to reevaluate the practices in place and reconsider the investments that will allow the turf to better survive extreme weather conditions without completely sacrificing playing conditions.