Friday, December 7, 2012

Wrapping up the Greens for the year!

With Christmas and the traditional annual wrapping that occurs during this time of year just around the corner, we're beginning a different kind of wrapping on the course, that is Greens Covering. Yes, the time has come to "put the greens to bed for a long winter's nap! This practice, that we've done for 23 years now, is happening a few days ahead of normal, but with the forecast indicating cold settling in next week, it's now the right time.

Covering has provided several important benefits over the years including:
  • Protection against a potentially open (little snow cover), windy winter period that could severely desiccate and injure the greens.
  • Protection against damage from geese, wildlife, snowshoe walkers, and cross country skiers when traffic on frosted and frozen greens could otherwise lead to damage.
  • Ability to aerate (with larger, deeper aeration equipment) much later into the fall / early winter period without concern of leaving large open holes exposed to potential desiccation. Covers minimize this concern.
  • Enhancement of early spring shoot growth and greening and the ability to get greens in top form ahead of normal.  
  • Enhancement of spring root growth and development as, in the spring, the covers will raise the soil temperature of the greens, thawing them earlier (if they do freeze), and bringing optimum temperature for root growth (50-65 deg) earlier.
 The covers we use (permeable) certainly do not solve all potential winter issues. They are porous and so will allow water (from rain or snow melt) to infiltrate and this can of course freeze. So they do not prevent ice damage issues should environmental conditions become favorable for ice accumulation. They do not prevent winter snow mold diseases such as Microdochium Patch or Typhula Blight (Pink and Gray Snow Mold) and other potential winter diseases.

They also require a good bit of manpower to install in early winter and then again in spring when we may have years where we have to perform what I call, "The Cover Shuffle". This is when the warm days in spring may come sporadically and briefly and are then followed by sharp temperatures drops. We have to manage the temperatures so as to not let too much early spring growth to occur too soon, and also not uncover them too early and cause a fallback in the progress (enhanced growth, greening) made to that point. Therefore we may pull them off for brief periods, then put them back on if temperatures so dictate and this "Cover Shuffle" may happen a few times in early spring. Last year was ideal. We pulled them off for the first time on March 13th and we didn't have to recover at all. This was certainly an exception to normal!
Floating a cover into place on #16 green
It takes about a day and a half for 6 crew to install on all greens and several tees. Staples placed every 5-6 feet around cover perimeter

Overall though, the benefits have outweighed the negative aspects and for our mixed stand of bentgrass and perennial poa annua, the covers have performed rather well. They are indeed not for every course as each has it's own unique needs. Courses with the newer improved varieties of bentgrasses would likely not want to use covers. Courses that aerate much earlier than we do (allowing time for the green surfaces to heal) would perhaps not have the need to protect the surfaces. Remote courses would perhaps not have wildlife and/or skiers to protect against. Again, every course has it's own unique needs.

And so today the greens close. They have recently been deep tine aerated, sand topdressed, treated with snow mold disease prevention products, fed with a late season nutrient blend, and are now covered. It's bedtime! For those diehard players that may want to play on nice days during the next few months,   temporary cups are in place in the approach areas. Hoping for a nice winter's nap for the greens!

All wrapped up!

Now that most of our project work is completed (or at least for this year) I soon hope to put together a blog recapping our last several week's activity including; bridge renovation, range tee expansion and re-sodding, chipping area expansion, and more. I've tweeted about all of these projects but for those whom would rather read the blog instead of follow twitter, I'll recap soon.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Fall Projects - Fairway Expansion

With the dog days of August past, and Labor Day's Club Championship "in the books", it's now time we turn our attention to various late summer / fall tasks as well as a few more involved projects.
We began the task of aeration, on the greens, on Tuesday after Labor Day. We used a small diameter, closely spaced, solid tine, which left only minimal surface disruption which today, Friday, three days later, is barely visible. We performed this task to relieve compaction from the twelve days of straight rolling, as well as to provide several other important benefits such as; to improve air movement and gas exchange from the rootzone; provide avenues for new root growth; and to plant new seed in any areas that were thin from the summers many stresses. This isn't the last time we will do this aeration work, this season, as plans are to use a slightly larger diameter tine in early Oct. and then a larger tine yet in mid to late Oct. I'll keep you posted as to when these tasks will be addressed as we get a little closer to Oct.

In the coming weeks we'll also be performing other maint. tasks, some of which are done regularly throughout the year (like greens topdressing every two weeks) and others, performed during these cooler, less busy, post Labor Day period, such as tee aeration, and fairway aeration and sand topdressing. Additionally, our fall project list includes: Fairway Expansion, Green Surround Repair, Rough Improvement - Bentgrass Control & Overseeding, Chipping Area Leveling and Expansion, and a bit later on, Bridge Reconstruction. I'll cover all of these projects in this blog (periodically) as we work on them, and will Tweet activity several times daily so if you're inclined follow me on Twitter @scc1897.

We've actually started three of the above projects but at this time I just want to address the Fairway Expansion work we have done on Hole #11 and started on hole #4.

When we did our course restoration back in 1999-2001, Fairway Repositioning and Expansion was one of the objectives of our Architect, Ron Prichard. We repositioned several and added about 1 1/2 acres of fairway turf. At the time this was all purchased bentgrass sod, and as an aside, it looked noticeably different from our mixed bentgrass/poa annua turf, for many years. Cost was quite high and so many areas did not get the expansion that Ron originally envisioned. And I do think his thoughts have since evolved to where he feels more of this expansion would benefit, as well as challenge, players of all levels. Our plan at that time was to cut most of the proposed expansion areas, which includes areas close to the front sides or leading edges of bunkers, as well as the areas behind or the shoulder areas behind bunkers, as intermediate rough and plan to eventually convert these areas to fairway turf over time. Many areas have since been addressed in this manner and include #3 left side, #4 near approach bunkers, #7 near bunker on left and at green, #8 near bunker rt. side near green, and #9 in approach area. All of these expansion areas generally open up options for different routes of fairway play and some likely make players think a bit more before hitting too close to certain bunkers that perhaps now a ball might not have as large an area of rough in front which formerly may have helped stop a ball from entering. These expanded areas may give a bit more relief to a wayward shot but might also bring tall rough a little close into play. Where the back shoulders of bunkers have been converted to fairway turf, a ball that challenges a bunker (which may be a more direct line to the green) and successfully clears it, is now "rewarded" with a nice roll further down the fairway rather than hanging up and stopping in the taller rough. Basic Risk / Reward at it's finest!

Several Expansion Areas remain throughout the course and you can see where we will eventually convert by looking at the width of the intermediate or short grass rough surrounding the fairways. Eventually we will have just a single width mower pass of 5' or less surrounding all fairways, except for a few areas at beginning of fairways such as #2. The wider areas toward the inside of the fairways will be converted from intermediate bluegrass/ryegrass to our own fairway turf of bentgrass/poa annua.

Back in 1999 I grew an entire 10,000 sg. ft. nursery (it's in the area between 7&8...been reestablished 2 more times since for green expansions and fairway repairs) from aeration cores collected from the greens. It's a simple and effective plant propagation technique that I had used twenty years prior to establish new bentgrass tees at a former golf course I managed. I actually had learned that this technique worked as a grounds crew worker at a country club during the summer of my college years. We had some damaged areas on the fairways and so we aerated healthy areas, collected cores, and spread and tamped them into the damaged areas. In a short time we were mowing and the damage was soon recovered. Since this time I've used this same technique to establish more nursery greens, ultimately used to expand nearly all of our greens over time, as well as to establish the entire greens of #5 and #11. It is high successful and aside from being relatively quick, it's inexpensive, and most importantly, the resulting turf is an exact match of the turf species in the "donor" area. In other words the turf in the expansions will look the same, perform the same (for better or worse), play the same as the original green or, in this case, fairway area. Using new seed or new sod, aside from taking longer to establish -seed, or costly significantly more money - sod, will most certainly yield a surface dissimilar to our existing fairway surfaces.

Our work on  #11 Fairway Expansion (in photos) follows:
 Wide intermediate rough behind cross bunkers at #11
Sod removal begins and all quality sod is used in other course locations where needed.

 Expansion closer to green (photo looking from #11 Green back).

 Area with majority of sod removed.

 One of the the recipient areas of intermediate sod, alongside cart path behind #11 Green.

 With sod removed we run aerator several times to loosen soil in prep for receiving cores.

Aerating the fairway area adjacent to expansion area.

 Collecting cores using snow shovels.

 Spreading thin layer of cores (2-3 cores thick) in aerated, fertilized area.

 "Dimpling" cores into surface with "knobby" tires of bunker rake machine (also not show was small amount of bentgrass seed dropped prior to dimpling process) to insure good soil contact, followed by a thorough watering.

 Roped off and ready to begin establishment.

 Close-up of cores and seed beginning to sprout less than a week later!

 About 10 days after planting. Beginning to show nice progress.

 Close-up of first area planted. Day 16 

 First mowing, 16 days after planting. Area looks like fully established from this short distance but will be a few more weeks before fully established and play is allowed. Great progress though!

 Next area underway is at first bunker on right side of hole #4
Fairway will be expanded and brought up higher on back shoulder.

 Sod removed and soil prepared.

 First area of cores in place, seeded, and dimpled.

Since this last picture was taken we have had a few days of rain causing the bare soil area to become too wet on surface to continue this work. We will resume early next week and complete this right side area and then follow with the left side bunker area directly opposite area shown in this above photo. Several other areas will still remain for this expansion work. We would like to expand another area or two but a few other projects are underway which will soon take precedence as the prime turf growing season wanes including; Green Surround Repair (replacement of damaged and/or multiple turf species contamination surrounding the Green surfaces, #11 and #13 already completed), Rough Improvement (controlling bentgrass contamination and overseeding) and Expansion and Leveling of the Chipping Area.  More on all of these projects very soon. Keep close tabs by following on Twitter @scc1897.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Summer's Intensity Yields

To begin, Yes this is long overdue! I suppose I could say it's been one of those very difficult summers where I had very little time to spend on my computer, and I would be entirely accurate. In fact I could say that I'm quite sure I spent less time in my office than in any summer ever in the past, and the various piles of magazines and product info. pamphlets stacked throughout my office, that I've yet to read, are a daily reminder! It was a summer where it was much easier to communicate using Twitter, where I could send a picture and a brief note daily or more often. Over 400 times to be exact and most related to course activities. So those that follow me or check in here in the Twitter section have kept up to date with course happenings this summer.

It was for sure a record setting year. One of the earliest starts to the season that I can remember, and of course we all know most of the story with 43 days of temperatures over 90 degrees (and counting) and a half dozen of which were over 100! This is certainly abnormal and well above the desirable range of our cool season turf species of creeping bentgrass, poa annua, bluegrass, fescue, and ryegrass. And, if high temperature stress wasn't enough, a serious lack of rainfall added additional stress and required nearly constant monitoring and frequent (much more so than I've experienced in the past) syringing, to cool the turf and prevent permanent wilt and turf loss. Too many times I watched turf go from green, well hydrated, in the humid mornings, to purple, and early stages of wilt, in the dry, windy afternoons. Also, Murphy's Law was in effect as it seemed to happen even more often on Saturday's and Sunday's when the course was full of players making my syringing processes even more challenging and mentally stressful! We do try very hard, all the time, to provide firm play conditions, and regulating irrigation is common in this effort. As such, having to rapidly move about the course, syringing to prevent wilt and turf loss, is certainly not something new. This year, however, it seemed like we were chasing wilt nearly every weekend!

It was a nerve-racking year indeed but as we headed into the second week of August relief came in the form of both rain and cooler temperatures. And, although we've had a few more hot, humid days since earlier in Aug., the intensity is shorter with waning day length, lower overnight temperatures, and thus far occasional rainfall. We're now entering the optimum time for restoring turf health and density though a variety of cultural practices such as fertilization, aeration, topdressing, seeding, or sodding. We've already begun many of these practices and after Labor Day more such activities will intensify. Fortunately, we survived the summer quite well but some areas do need some expanded work, mostly rough areas, and right now we are beginning to address these areas (seeding / sodding) and will continue into the fall. I'll try to blog more often as we perform these various tasks and projects such as fairway expansion, green surround sod replacement where needed, test area bentgrass control and overseeding in rough areas, and likely a few other projects.   

Some Summer Recap photos and comments follow:
Saw this about 6 times this summer. 6 TOO MANY!

 The summer began with a little pond wall repair project at #12 tee! Old tiebacks gave way and wall collapsed into pond 

  After excavation of soil and lots of unexpected concrete blocks old steel was righted and cut off at water level

New steel channels being locked together and vibrated into soil

 Installing new and improved tiebacks

 Finished product. Today area grassed but heavy weed encroachment may require additional grassing work this fall

 While we were at it with excavator on site we pulled tilted outcrop stone from west side, added new support beams and gravel, then reset level

 Finished product on west side. Today fully grassed with quality fine fescue.

As work was undertaken on the pond wall repair, 4 forward tees were constructed and opened in early June

Several cart paths were renovated. Old fabric and loose brick chips was removed and replaced with new crushed red granite.

New path to No. 3 Forward Tee

Renovated path at Half Way House. New material stays in place much better and is less dusty than former crushed brick material.

New routing of path at #18 Tee, now runs through tall grass instead of directly in front of tee. No traffic in front of tee now eliminates worn unsightly area.

Finished product with repositioned tall rough and re-routed path

Right about this time, the 4th of July (and the 5th), temperatures exceed 100 degrees and from that time forward temperatures remained above normal for about six weeks. Moisture deficit was firmly in place by this time too, actually since much earlier in spring. 

Saw this sign in a business and thought, regarding the weather challenges this year, 'Isn't this the Truth'!
There was lots of it every morning!

This was a common sight this year and thankfully we have an outstanding irrigation system that allows us to keep conditions as dry and firm as possible, for playability sake, and yet provide "rescue" syringing and watering, in a rapid manner, to prevent serious turf damage and loss.

When we keep it dry, and the humidity suddenly drops, turf can purple showing signs of wilt.

If we don't get water on it quickly (such as on a Sat. afternoon when the course if full of players and we're desperately trying to syringe and cool off all fairways but we don't get to all areas in time), at the early wilt stage, cart traffic will crush plant cells, causing destruction and turf loss. Fortunately this was the only area this happened, at beginning of fairway on #17.

We battled plenty of disease this year as well, Summer Patch, Brown Patch, Dollar Spot, Fairy Ring and others...we saw them all at one point or another.

Fortunately, Pythium, one of the most rapid and destructive turf diseases (common in hot, wet, conditions) was kept well controlled through plant protectants (dry weather helped too) but still found it's way onto the range tee, an area that is watered frequently to germinate seed planted each night.

Speaking of wet, we did have a few wet moments this year...climbing into the water to attach lines to remove a cart that was driven into the pond at #12...

and a Jeep that found it's way into the ditch at #13 tee.

 Both vehicles...

Successfully extracted and both drivers, fortunately, uninjured...but likely to drive a bit safer in the future!

 We though we might have to employ our SCC Grounds Crew constructed SCC 'Kon Tiki' for above extractions, but it was ultimately used only for it's intended purpose, the Hampton's Party.

Jazz Band getting ready for their float trip.

Before crowd showed the ducks enjoyed a little evening music.

 The stress...and response (more hand watering) continued through approx. Aug. 9-10 when we received some quality rainfall (slow, steady) and temperatures began to fall to more reasonable levels.

With the summers intensity now behind us we're focusing on repairing a few areas...fortunately only a few! Through aeration, spiking, seeding, and /or sod patching where necessary.

A nice seed germination 'catch' on a worn, thin spot in the green expansion area on #13.

As I mentioned earlier, we are now in the period of repair, recovery, maintenance, and improvement on many turf areas through aeration, seeding, topdressing, core planting, sodding, and more. Essentially, it's planting time! I hope to blog a bit more frequently now that I have a bit more time to spend in front of the computer but I'd still much rather be out on the course tweeting tasks and improvement progress on a daily basis! Follow me on Twitter @scc1897 or check back here on the blog often and view my tweets in the Twitter section. Happy Labor Day to All! 

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