Saturday, March 31, 2012

March's Madness

As the NCAA's March Madness wraps up this weekend so to does a month of unusual Madness for those of us in the business of golf turf maintenance. Perhaps Mad-rush might be a more apropos term given the frenetic pace we're off to this year!
Our spring tasks started very early, much earlier than usual, with greenscover removal (which were subsequently put away until next Dec. - a first in 22 years of use that I didn't recover at some point in early spring)  followed quickly thereafter by rolling, mowing, topdressing, and much more. Greens were opened as early as I can remember and, with the weather that followed being unusually mild for March, I'm sure when the numbers are tallied the golf rounds will be of record amount. For sure a bonus for golfers this year...and for our early season course work activities!

Is this good for the course though, such an early start? Are there special issues that could result? Could this mean an abnormally warm year? Of course the final answers are yet to be known but following are a few random items I've thought about recently and then some photo's of our Mad-rush this month:

- According to Cheryl Scott (NBC Meteorologist)...March will go down as warmest ever with an ave. temperature of 54deg, beating old record 46.8deg in 1945.
-Our mild winter has certainly given us limited (if any) problems related to winter diseases, and/or ice injury. After back to back years where we did have ice damage and/or crown hydration injury, it was a nice relief coming out of winter with only a couple spots of snow mold disease. 
- Early start (and relatively dry) has allowed us to accomplish much more in last three weeks than typical. All main areas of play (greens, tees, approaches, fairways, intermediate roughs, green and tee banks) have been mowed multiple times. Many rough areas have been mowed as well. Greens have been rolled several times and we are likely to have cutting height down to peak season height much earlier than normal. Will all this earlier necessary mowing and height reduction have a negative impact on rooting depth? Shorter heights>shorter roots.  
- Greens have been topdressed twice, fairways once with second app. coming soon. Overall I think this is a big bonus as whenever we can topdress during times of low stress (mild temps) its a good thing.
- Speaking of stress, a couple weeks ago we had to re-fill and pressurize the irrigation system as a few greens were already under moisture stress! It was a bit of a mad-rush to get the system going so that we could limit the stress. Shortly after we applied a wetting agent and then a timely rain washed it in nicely. A second application has already been applied as part of our bi-monthly treatment program. Irrigating and wetting agents in March...never before have I had to do this!
-Diseases, Insects, Weeds. What's going to happen? More or less? Well for sure they are present earlier and controls are needed earlier and so as I see it, it's likely we'll need more products. Much of course, depends on weather conditions this summer. Mild conditions would generally help reduce plant protectant needs while extreme conditions will definitely increase needs. Dr. Derrick Settle, CDGA Plant Pathologist has already seen Dollar Spot, Fairy Ring, Waitea Patch, in Chicagoland, all typically not seen until later in spring. I've seen Microdochium, and Waitea, which we've since treated for, and we will soon make a preventive Fairy Ring suppression application to our greens and fairways. Last year this treatment was 2nd week in May, this year... 1st week in April! Warmer soil temps mean weed seeds will germinate earlier and we had a bit of a mad-rush getting our pre-emergence application out in our tall rough areas (used mainly to control foxtail in these areas). Broadleaved weeds are already popping out too and control will be needed sooner than usual.
-Regarding insects, perhaps we'll see more since the mild winter temperature likely killed off fewer than normal. Maybe more cutworms (that overwinter as adults) will require extra control applications but if temps remain warm it's possible that gypsy moth larva will cause less damage to oak trees. The warm weather has brought out the larva but the leaves of many oaks (their food source) have yet to emerge. It's just possible that many could starve to death before their food is present. A good deal for the oaks! Time will tell.
-Our Bird Walk is May 9th this year when we have a couple really knowledgeable birders (they can identify most by just hearing their song) join members and their guests for a bird watching hike on the course. With the warm weather will their be any migrant warblers left? Fear not, the migrate based on light (day length) not temperatures. So be sure to join us on May 9th! I've seen Bluebirds, Cardinals, Chickadees, Robins, Woodpeckers, Kingfishers, Ducks, Hawks, Herons, and more and we'll likely see them on May 9th too!
-Fortunately several crew members are back and we've been able to address most of the spring preparation work, topdressing activities (listed above) and even make progress on other items such as: tee construction (4 forward tees planned), a drainage project, repairs to drain basins, landscape bed clean-up and pruning, sprinkler head and basin edging, and more. The crew certainly doesn't mind the early start to the season (except Equip. Tech Mike who would have liked a couple more weeks before needing most equipment!) but their are financial labor implications (budget could be exceeded) and, equally concerning, I'll need to be mindful of staff "burn-out" with the mad-rush pace we've begun this golf season with. Perhaps we'll balance out a little in April but I surely hope it does not come in the form of excess rainfall!

So these are a few of the things I've been thinking about lately, aside from wondering whom the Chicago Blackhawks might begin their playoff berth against, during this March Mad-rush! Here's a few photo's of the latest action on the course: Also, if you want to know what's happening on the course, just about as soon as it happens, you can follow my posts on twitter @scc1897.

 Carlos mowing Approach #4 - UN-retouched photo by the way! 
Fall applied nutrients worked very well! 

 Rolling has been alternated with mowing frequently during March Mad-rush to reallocate labor for other course activities.

 Gus and Miguel working on second (of 4 planned forward tees). 
Target completion for all is Memorial Day and we're off to a great start.

 Collection area topdressing @13. Greens have been done twice, fairways once.

Steve topdressing fairways.

 Rafa & Brandon raking out dead Cattail and other debris @18 pond.

 Prairie / Native Grass Controlled Burn. 
The pure stands of Little Blue-stem, and Indiangrass really burn nicely!

 It's a Mad-rush for a playoff spot in the NHL.  A win tonight in Nashville would be nice and would secure it!
And No these aren't my seats...pregame they allow closeup viewing before sending us up to our seats in the 300 level! I've made it to a few games and these warmups are fun to watch. Go Hawks!


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