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.

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