Monday, September 23, 2013

Fall - 'Clippings'

 This is a copy of my 'Clippings' article that will be published in our Club's Newsletter, Skokie News, in Oct.  For those members whom follow me on Twitter or this Blog this is an earlier view of the course activities in progress or planned for this fall.
Autumn is upon us. It’s the time when temperatures are still warm and mild during the day (great for more golf), cooler at night, leaves begin to change colors, football kicks off, our Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks drop the puck again, and typically a perfect time for course special maintenance work and projects. The mild days are optimum for: seeding, core planting, and/ or sodding tasks; help to speed aeration of greens, tees, and fairways; help recovery of any thinned worn turf from summer’s heat, drought or traffic; and are generally much more pleasant to work in! It’s as busy a time as any for us on the grounds as the following list shows:

Busy Fall Time…
-          Mowing is still a daily process on greens, alternated days on tees & approaches and front nine / back nine fairways, and also bunkers are raked daily, but now we usually have leaves and/or nuts to blow/remove prior to this.
-          Rough is still actively growing (and with the recent rainfall it has had a recent flush of growth) so frequent mowing remains but now many areas will need daily blowing and leave mulching.
-          Special maintenance task work increases at this time: Aeration and core re-incorporation on tees has been done and a second treatment is planned for mid – Oct. Small, solid tine aeration of greens, followed by sand topdressing was performed Sept. 23 and a larger, deeper, solid tine aeration session is planned for late Oct. Fairway work includes sand topdressing (perhaps twice this fall) followed by solid tine aeration and brushing tasks to cleanup and incorporate the sand. I’ve written about the important benefits of aeration and topdressing in past ‘Clippings’ but as a reminder they include:

Solid Tine Aeration - (Sand was applied before aeration)- No cores or plugs to remove or pulverize, or play through, or pick up mud from. Only a hole is created which achieves most of the same benefits as that of core aeration. 
           The benefits of aeration include:
·         Creates space for new root growth.
·         Improves oxygen movement into the soil, and plant and soil microbe by-product gas movement, out of the soil.
·         Improves water movement into the soil, capturing rainfall and reducing run-off.
·         Improves nutrient movement into the soil and provides ideal time to apply deficient nutrients or plant protectant products and/or other desirable soil amendments.
·         Severs plant parts, which in turn initiates new growth thereby improving plant density.
·         Overall promotes a healthier, more drought tolerant turfgrass stand.

Fairway Topdressing – Several applications are applied each year but heavier amounts are applied prior to fall solid tine aeration sessions.

     The benefits of topdressing include: 
·         Improves surface firmness and ball roll qualities (sand topdressing)
·         Improves surface drainage over time as repeated applications build a modest layer of porous rootzone material compared to existing heavy clay soil material (sand topdressing)
·         Smooths the surfaces, filling in minor depressions.
·         Dilutes (with sand topdressing) and helps decompose (with soil topdressing from reincorporated cores) thatch material or the biomass of plant parts just beneath the turf surface improving mowing quality and reducing disease activity.
·         Reduces soil compaction which in turn helps root growth and plant heath- (sand topdressing)
·         May help reduce excessive earthworm populations (reducing annoying casts) - (sand topdressing)
·         Divot recovery may be enhanced as divots may become shallower and therefore below ground roots less disturbed leading to faster divot fill-in.
·         In time cart use will be restricted less as the sand will prevent mud tracks and compaction concerns (driving on wet ground) will be reduced.

As you can see there are several important benefits to aeration and topdressing practices and I hope that you’ll agree that the inconvenience these may temporarily create are well worth the benefit to our turf quality and playability characteristics. Thank you for your understanding! We’re really striving to achieve firmer surfaces (drier, improved ball roll, better footing) in as little time as possible in spite of our heavier clay and/or organic soils (which tend to hold moisture – sometimes too much – the exact reason we are amending with sand) but fairway topdressing is a long term process and improvements will occur gradually.  We are clearly seeing benefits already and we continually look at tools and products that might help us speed these improvements. One such tool we recently tested was a high speed verti-cutting unit (verti-cutting equipment has been available for years but speed of use was limited until now) which mechanically slices through the surface organic mat, removing some of it and creating a slit which we can then quickly incorporate sand into. We tested it on a few of our fairways with higher organic matter content and we’re curious to see the response. 

Trying / testing a demo rapid Verticutter to physically remove some excessive organic matter and improve incorporation of  sand into the turf surface. Could become a good tool for aiding our program to provide faster, firmer fairway surfaces.

back to Busy Fall Time…

-          Special / On-going / New Projects increase at this time too including:
o      On-going Fairway Expansion Project on several fairways in front of and behind several bunkers as we have done on holes 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 16, 18. Last we worked on hole 4 (rt. side 1st bunker) and 11 (in front of and behind group of 3 cross bunkers). This year we are expanding the left side 1st bunker on hole 4, and the area beyond the left side 1st bunker on hole 3.

 Fairway Expansion work (Hole 4, 1st Fwy Bunker Left) in progress using cores from adjacent fairway (& seed too) to open narrow portion and “tie” bunker closer to fairway.

Fairway Expansion across fwy from above photo. Planted last year using same technique which resulted in a nearly imperceptible (and very low cost) expansion.   

o       Bunker Face Restoration – after 14 years some bunker faces have accumulated excess sand (from activity that has blasted sand out and onto the faces) and maintaining turf quality on some of these has become very difficult due to droughty conditions that have followed. Our plan is to remove the turf, remove the excess sand (in some areas we have measured as much as 8-9” of excess sand) and plant new sod on these faces. We will plant fescue sod (similar to that which is on all other bunkers) with its characteristic thin, wiry leaves. We did this same process on the chipping green bunker last fall.

Bunker face - front of #15 green will be one of a few planned for restoration this fall 

o     Bentgrass Control in Rough Areas – Last year we tested a new herbicide which is showing excellent selectivity with the control of bentgrass in our mixed bluegrass/ryegrass/fescue rough. Bentgrass is the preferred turf on greens, tees, and fairways but at our rough height of 2¼ - 2½ inches it becomes gnarly, matted, diseased, and very difficult to hit a ball out of. The product Tenacity  has shown great results and we have expanded our treatments in several areas. You can’t miss where we have applied it as it turns the bentgrass white, bleaching the chlorophyll, which without will eventually cause the plants to die of starvation.  Overseeding with a bluegrass / ryegrass seed blend follows the second of 3 or more necessary treatments.

Expanded Treatments to control bentgrass in certain rough areas are underway. Bluegrass present is tolerant and a bluegrass/ryegrass seed mixture will be planted as well.
o      Bunker Design Modification planned for three bunkers – This fall we plan to modify the shape and size of the two approach bunkers on #16, and the one first, small, fairway bunker on the right side #7. Plans are to turn the bunkers (more consistent with our other cross bunkers) and enlarge them enough (front to back) so that more room is available to address and play a ball out of them. The right side bunker will turn more across line of play and the left side will become shorter and turned as well. There will be more fairway area to roll a ball between them, as some of existing rough will be reduced, and the distance from sand to sand between them will also be slightly increased.  Additionally, the large Bur Oak on the right side, and 2-3 smaller White Oak trees on the left, will be removed to provide a more open view of the green from the tees. 
      More information will be forthcoming as plans are finalized and our Golf Course Architect, Ron Prichard visits (late Sept.) and finalizes drawings. Construction is planned for mid-late Oct. with the bunkers ready for play in late spring 2014.

I'll keep you posted on this and all work progress. Remember you can always read nearly daily information about course activities and projects on the course, and see many more photographs, by following me on Twitter @scc1897 or check in on this Blog see my Twitter feed.

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