Friday, May 28, 2010

A Word about our Rough

I've been asked this question a number of times recently, "When are you gonna cut the Rough?"  I understand the reason for the question, it is quite challenging at present, and I want to mention a few things regarding this area of the course.
First of all a couple facts:
  • We've had environmental conditions recently that are highly conducive to rapid turf growth; plentiful moisture a couple weeks ago (remember the 3.5 inches of rain?) followed by our recent warm temperatures. The combination results in rapid turf growth everywhere.
  •  During this period of very active growth, the rough is being mowed every day. We mow it all and then immediately start over again. It takes a few days to mow the entire rough, depending on play activity.
  • It is being mowed at the same height as always.  No higher, no lower. Why don't we mow it lower? There are a number of reasons mowing at our current height is best such as: improved wear tolerance; less susceptibility to disease, weed, and insect pests; and our general course playability intent (it's supposed to be challenging); but perhaps most important is that the root depth and density (and overall health) is greater in higher mowed turf compared to shorter mowed turf. These benefits provide a greater likelihood of the rough being healthier and more tolerant of the stresses of heat and drought and/or humidity that may occur later in the summer.
  • We are not already "Growing the rough for the Western Am." It is true that we did fertilizer the rough last fall to improve the density, promote lateral spread or "fill-in" in thin areas, reduce weed encroachment (dense turf resists growth of crabgrass and may other weeds) and insure general plant health, but this is nothing new. We fertilize many areas of the rough every fall and other parts of the rough at least every couple years. We will be growing the rough longer for the Western Am. but not until much closer to the event.  More information will be coming in a future blog regarding this and other tournament preparation issues.
  • It will soon slow it's growth rate as temperatures warm, moisture becomes less frequent (generally this happens in summer) and traffic (carts and equipment) wear it down somewhat.
Hopefully we don't have too much heat, or drought, or wear, because we do want to have healthy rough, but it is likely it will thin out as summer progresses.

One additional fact that is occurring right now and one that I feel is perhaps the greatest reason for the rough being quite tough to play out of, is the heavy seeding now in progress. Wherever one looks there is massive seed production in progress on many plants including trees and grasses alike.  Cottonwood seeds, Maple and Elm samaras (commonly called whirlybirds or helicopters), and other tree seeds are littering the course daily, making putting, mowing, (even the case of cottonwood seeds) difficult. At the same time all the grasses such as poa annua (on the greens, tees, fairways) and the bluegrass, ryegrass, and fescue (in the rough) is heavily seeding making mowing and shot-making difficult as well. It is the very tough, bristly like, fibrous seed stalk that is making the rough very difficult to hit out of. The following photos should help to illustrate my point.

 Plentiful seed production from many plant species in progress

Rough prior to mowing showing numerous seedheads

Close-up of bluegrass (rough) turf. Note erect seed stalks in center. These are much "tougher", and more fibrous than wider grass blades to sides of center stalks.  Tough seed stalks makes getting a club through turf canopy much more difficult.

 An attractive out-of-play area adjacent to #13 Championship Tee. 
Orchard Grass seedheads in foreground and Fescue in background. 

As I mentioned earlier, the current lush growth will very likely moderate as temperatures warm and moisture diminishes. This will thin out the turf stand in the rough making for easier play than at the present time. In addition the seeding phase will soon end (couple of weeks) and the tough seed stalks will wither and become much less resistive to shot-making. Thanks for your patience and I do hope you find the 36 acres of short mowed fairway, which incidentally is 15-25% more than most golf courses in our area, much more often than our present very challenging, rather aggressive rough.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Course Etiquette #2 - Refraining from "Practicing" on Course

It's an extremely busy time on the course and I'm anxious to blog about a number of items such as:
  • The Annual Skokie Bird Walk (recap from May 17th.)
  • A Fairway/Bunker drainage project on #13.
  • Tee Extension Project completion at tees #10 & #17.
  • Re-establishing our Nursery Green & Fairway between holes #7 & #8. (Fourth time now - we've done a lot of expansion over the last several years!)
  • Ongoing winter injury repair (sodding many areas now)
  • New Staff : Assistants Jacob & Ryan
  • & several course etiquette topics.
I'll eventually get to all of these items (I hope to anyway!) but after seeing what I saw this morning, while traveling the course, I felt compelled (nice way of saying I was angry or perhaps very disappointed) to write this 2nd Course Etiquette.  It's really quite simple. The course should not be used as a substitute for the driving range, or stated another way, several balls should not be dropped and hit from the same location on the course creating several divots in one area. The photo below is what I saw first thing this morning.
  Please Do Not "Practice" on the Course!

Imagine if every member dropped 5 balls, took 5 divots, and didn't bother replacing them! The disappointing fact is that this seems to be happening more often. It's not the same person as I've seen at least three different members.
If you should happen to see this "practicing" taking place, please ask the player to stop or let me know. It's only proper course etiquette!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

When it Rains, It Pour's

Although this is the slogan for the popular salt brand, Morton Salt, relates to their salts' properties (doesn't stick together in high humidity conditions) and literally does not always take place, it sure is a fitting title for today.  It rained, it poured, and left much of the course underwater!  The amount of rain that fell last night and into this morning was 2.5 inches. A 1 inch rain on Tuesday morning had already brought our soil conditions to near saturation and this 3.5 inches accumulated total, in only a few days, is just much more than our course, the East Diversion Ditch, and the North Branch of the Chicago River (which the Ditch and our course ultimately drains to) can handle. The following photos show the aftermath.

From foreground to background...Fwys No. 1, 10, and 8

No. 2 Approach and Green side Bunker

Bridge at No. 3 Tee - Water 3' higher than normal!

No. 13 Fairway

 No. 14 Approach / Fairway

Above video showing whitewater flow over cart path / drainage swale at No. 17 Tee

No. 18 Fairway

 These photos were all shot earlier today and since then many areas no longer have standing water.  Many other areas however, will need more time and may not fully drain until late tomorrow.  Thereafter soil conditions in fairways and roughs will still be saturated and/or soft for several days. Dry, warm, windy conditions would surely help matters. We seem to have at least one of these flooding events every year and I sure am hoping that this year we only have one! Looking forward to dry, firm, and fast conditions very soon!

If you are planning to come out tomorrow please call the Pro Shop in advance. I'll evaluate course conditions early in the morning and notify the Pro Shop regarding course playability.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Grassing Improvement Projects

If you've had a chance to enjoy a round or two during the past month of record temperatures (7 degrees warmer on average, each day) you have likely seen activities adjacent to #9 tee and some odd circular brown spots on #2 tee. In both cases we are replanting with more desirable grasses.

On #2 tee we have sprayed the spots of perennial ryegrass (a weed on this bentgrass / poa annua tee) and reseeded with the more desirable, more compatible, bentgrass. Perennial ryegrass has it's place, such as on our range tee and in the roughs, but it's darker green color and more rapid leaf extension rate is unattractive when it contaminates our tees or fairways. A few of our tees have a few to several spots of ryegrass (and many of our fairways do as well) and we wanted to test a Round Up & reseeding process. Round Up (a product that completely kills plants but is deactivated upon contact with the soil) was used to kill the ryegrass and since it has no residual soil effects, we sowed the desirable bentgrass seed within a few days after treatment. With light and frequent irrigation, and now more consistently warmer temperatures, we should see seed germination within a couple weeks and we'll be on our way to a more attractive, more uniform tee surface.
  Darker green Perennial ryegrass being eliminated - Bentgrass seed sowed into brown patches

Another seeding project in process is in the area to the right of #9 tee. In an earlier post I wrote about us eliminating a large grove of invasive buckthorn in this area and that our plan was to re-grass the area to Fine Fescues and native Little Blue-stem.
 Tangled mess -"buckthorn patch"- before removal this winter

Buckthorn removed, remaining plants treated to eliminate

 At the present time we have treated to eliminate the existing plant material and have begun to haul in a mix of stockpiled soil, composted scrap sod, aeration cores, stump shavings, and other debris that we have accumulated over time. We will "topdress" the area and cover the many buckthorn stumps, which have been treated with a product to prevent re-growth. We've used this same "composted" material in other tall grass, out-of-play, areas and it has worked well as a seed germination medium. Also, aside from this being a good seed medium, it's a great way to re-use or recycle material that otherwise would have to be discarded, and it save the very high price of having hauled and dumped off site.

  Our own "composted" material ready to be spread

The hauling of material will continue over the next couple days and then smoothing, sowing seed, and covering with a seed blanket will follow. Additionally, while we have left a "band" of buckthorn along the fence, to retain it's screening effect, we will be planting several containers of a taller native grass called Indiangrass, along the fence line for added screening. The Fescues will give us cover this year but the native grasses will take a few years to establish completely. When they do finally mature this should become a much more attractive area than the former "buckthorn patch" that previously existed.
I'll keep you posted as to our progress.
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