Monday, July 1, 2019

A Look Through the Superintendents Eyes

Half of 2019 is already gone.  Today is July 1, and the golf course looks fantastic.  On the surface that is.  The grass at this moment is green and lush nearly everywhere.  The tides, they are a changing!!!  The weather has finally switched to a hot, humid, dry pattern.  I am sure that it will change again.  To be a successful superintendent, it is important to look beyond the surface and see what is going on below ground.  I am seeing several changes that have recently started here at Sycamore Ridge. 

The first change, is in moisture levels.  Now that the frequency of precipitation has declined, we are relying on the irrigation system to supply the required water for the turf to survive.  Each day I see new areas of turf that are stressed due to lack of moisture.  Unfortunately, the perfect irrigation system has not been created.  The staff constantly monitors the course and adjusts the system to provide the right amount of water to a given area.  The problems become visible after multiple irrigation cycles.  Some areas receive more than enough water and become overly wet, and other areas get dry and the grass goes into dormancy and possibly dies.  This is a never ending battle when the irrigation system is used frequently.  I know that the longer we rely on the irrigation system, we will see more and more dry areas, along with more wet areas.  Nothing is as efficient as natural rainfall.

The second thing that I have seen is a flush of growth on the greens, tees, and fairways.  While we have not applied any significant amount of nitrogen to theses areas recently, in the last week, the daily growth rate has nearly doubled.  This growth is caused by microbial activity.  When soil temperatures increase, so does the microbial activity in the soil.  These microbes break down organic matter in the soil and release nitrogen.  While there has been a recent spike in the nitrogen levels, this should level out over the next few weeks and become manageable.  In the short term, this will cause additional clipping litter in the fairways, and slower greens. 

The final change that I have notices has been the formation of a black layer in the root zone of the greens.  This is isolated to the lower, wetter areas.  This black layer is caused by anaerobic conditions in the soil.  The heavy spring rains are the cause of this problem.  The soil is unable to breathe, and gasses get trapped, causing a rotten egg smell below the surface.  We will be addressing this problem by venting the greens with a small solid tine aerification.  This process will create channels for the gasses to escape and oxygen to enter. 

One last side note for the homeowners that treat your own yard.  July 4th is the standard deadline for preventive insecticide application to control white grubs.  This needs to be applied and effectively watered in by July 4th to provide the best control for these root feeders.  Be sure to read the label and follow all instructions carefully.

As always, if you have any questions, please ask.

Monday, June 3, 2019


May 2019 was the wettest May in history, and the third wettest month ever.  I believe that we had carts off of the path for parts of three or four days last month.  I am seeing water seeping out of areas that I haven't seen before in the twelve years that I have worked here.  I am nearly sick of it. I know that the golfers are tired of keeping the carts on the path.

June is starting out similarly.  An afternoon shower on June 1st, dumped nearly an inch of rain on the course, and put the carts back on the path.  Today is Monday June 3rd, and we have the carts off of the path to start the day.  Unfortunately, rain is in the forecast for seven of the next ten days.

While I do enjoy getting to TORTURE the golfers by making it "Cart Path Only" on the course, I do not enjoy how that focuses all of the cart traffic damage along the path.  As a group with more than one cart plays down each hole, the carts tend to leap-frog down the path.  As each cart passes the other, two or more tires tend to track out through the turf.  With the wet conditions on this and probably all golf course, this can cause significant rutting and damage along the path.

The wonderful thing about Sycamore Ridge, is that when we did our renovation in 2014/15, we put in these fantastic concrete cart paths.  All of the path is 8' wide.  This width allows for two carts to pass on the path, while keeping all of the tires on the concrete.  This requires some care and patience from both drivers.  If the driver in the front cart pulls as close to the edge with two tires, yet keeps them on the path, the driver that needs to leap-frog can slowly and carefully pass the front cart while keeping all of the tires on the path.  This should not be done at full speed, that would be very dangerous.

I greatly appreciate the fact that all of the golfers continue to come out to the course and muck through the wet conditions to play this great game.  The weather has not been kind to you or us.  These wet conditions and the impact from traffic can continue to have effects that could be visible for seasons to come.  That is why I ask yet another favor from our golfing public; please take extra care when the conditions are wet to ensure that every last blade of turf has the best possible chance to survive.  You just never know when your ball may land in an area that has been rutted up and the grass is dead.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Why do we have creeping bentgrass fairways?

Most of the golf courses in the Kansas City metro area have zoysiagrass fairways.  Over the years, I have been asked many times, "wouldn't you rather have zoysia instead of bentgrass fairways?"  Much of the time, I think that I would.  Zoysia is much more heat and drought tolerant than bentgrass.  The disease pressure on zoysia is pretty much limited to just one disease, and only during the fall to spring time-frame.  Weed control is much easier on zoysia, just spray it with Round-up when it is dormant, and you control all of the winter annual weeds.  With a timely application of pre-emergent herbicide, zoysia should stay pretty clean all year.  It really sounds like the perfect grass for tees and fairways in this region.

I have been growing creeping bentgrass on tees and fairways for 19 of my 23 years as a Golf Course Superintendent now.  I am really comfortable with it.  It has its strengths and its weaknesses.  I am really struggling with some of those weaknesses these days, but that is a story for another blog post. 

The fairways here at Sycamore Ridge, are in really great shape today.  They are green, and lush.  Many of the zoysia courses on the other hand, are realizing how much of their zoysia was killed this winter.  With the excess moisture and prolonged cold temperatures, the zoysia is simply dead in many wet areas.  I have not personally seen any of this turf loss, but have heard that most courses will be replacing a lot of areas with sod.  The zoysia in this area is Meyer Zoysia, a variety that is very slow to spread, and impossible to seed.  Sod is really the only viable way to establish it. 

My purpose is not to make light of the situation faced by my fellow superintendents. 
There is not a single thing that they could have done to prevent this from happening.  However, with the challenges faced when growing bentgrass, it is important to remember that the grass on the other side of the fence is not always greener.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Spring Has Arrived!

It is hard to believe that in just my last post, I was lamenting whether or not winter would ever end, and now we have finished spring aerification.  Winter has ended, and things are full steam ahead on the golf course maintenance side.  We have been put behind schedule on several projects due to the harsh winter, and we are working hard to get back on track to finish these up.  The irrigation system has been pressurized, and tees, greens, and fairways are being mowed.

I have been the Golf Course Superintendent at Sycamore Ridge for 12 years now.  My first spring aerification in 2007 was a deep tine aerification.  This process allows us to get much deeper into the sand root zone and break up compaction below the surface.  This is what we did again this week, for the first time since 2007.  When we are changing cups or working below the surface of the green, we can tell that there is a compaction layer that is difficult for the roots to penetrate.  We were able to borrow a machine that allowed us to poke holes down to nearly seven inches, and get a little kick at the bottom to shatter that compaction.  Our normal aerification only penetrates 4 to 5 inches, and can create that compaction just below that line.  Hopefully, we will see deeper rooting on the greens this spring as a result of this aerification.

As is our normal process, we sanded the greens before poking the holes.  The sand was then allowed to dry and brushed into the holes to fill them up.  After brushing, any excess sand is blown off of the green and it is rolled and a new cup installed.  This time, I feel that the process produced a fantastic end result.  The majority of the holes were completely filled, and the greens were firm and smooth afterwards. The post aerification healing time should be very short, and we will have great greens again in a matter of days.

The weather may be cooling off over the next few days, and that will not help.  The rains we got yesterday and again today will help to wash the sand into the profile and speed up the healing process.

I am very excited for the 2019 golf maintenance season at Sycamore Ridge.  I feel that with the support of ownership, we are positioned to have a fantastic year on the course.

One last quick reminder for those of you that do your own home lawn care... your pre-emergent weed control should be applied and watered in before April 15th.  Just remember that you cannot seed again until fall if you make this application, but it is the best way to keep out crabgrass and other summer weeds.

As always, feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Will Winter Ever End?????

In the current forecast, I see a change for the better, with temperatures rising closer to normal.  Unfortunately, I also see some regular precipitation.  Everyone at the golf course is anxious for spring to arrive.  We are looking forward to getting back to a routine on maintenance work and seeing the friendly golfers out on the course.

So far it has been a brutal winter with very few golfing days.  We have had to chip more ice off of the cart path this winter than has been done in the previous 11 winters combined.  The ground is wet, and will be wet for a long time to come.  As temperatures rise, and the frost comes out of the ground, moisture will come with it.

With all of the snow this winter, there are areas covered with Snow Mold.  This is a disease that  attacks turf when it is covered with snow for a prolonged period of time.
Snow Mold

In my years, I have seen Snow Mold several times, but never like this year.  Normally, it is simply superficial, and grows back rather quickly.  I certainly hope that is the case again this year.

The temperature is a balmy 10 degrees as I write this post.  It is weird to think that we are already making arrangements for our spring aerification that is scheduled for three weeks from today.  The greens have a long way to go to be ready for aerification.

The winter has been so harsh, that many of the scheduled projects have been delayed.  As the temperatures rise, we will work to finish up what has been started, and hopefully have time to get a few more done.

I am sure that all of you have cabin fever, and are anxious to get back on the course.  Hopefully this will happen soon, and we can all enjoy a long, pleasant spring.  To get you excited, I will leave you with this picture of number 10 green, taken on a warm summer day.  See you all soon!!!!!

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Yoga and Golf

As each year passes, I constantly look back in time and think about how my life has evolved.  I remember fondly the days when I was in my peak physical condition.  However, time, poor eating habits, and reduced physical activities have taken a toll on my body.  In early 2017 I found myself constantly needing to see the chiropractor, just to get through work each week.  I was spending a small fortune on these visits, and knew that they were only a temporary fix for the root problem.  I knew that something must be done to improve my physical health.  Every time that I tried to start a new exercise program, I found myself in more pain, making it impossible to continue what I had started.  My wife had been attending yoga classes at a studio in Olathe, and I had witnessed firsthand the benefits of yoga on the human body.  I had always believed that yoga was for girls.  I WAS WRONG!!!! 

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

The thought of going to a yoga class, having never been to one, was a scary step in my life.  The intimidation of being in class with people that have practiced yoga for years, knowing that I will look like an out of shape old man, was a fear that was not easy to overcome.  The studio that my wife attends, Surya Yoga at 151st and Mur-Len in Olathe, has a beginner series of yoga classes that ultimately broke down my fears.  Annie Trotta, the owner of the studio, teaches these classes.  Annie does an outstanding job of methodically introducing new students of all ages to the practice of yoga.  She explains how the body works, and how it changes over time.  She teaches the students the language of yoga, the various poses, and their names.  She points out how all people are different, and that the postures that they are able to achieve are different.  Long story short, this beginner series of yoga classes changed my life.  This series of classes gave me the confidence to attend yoga practice
on a regular basis.  I have built muscle, reduced fat, increased core strength, improved physical posture, reduced physical pain, stronger mental health, and yes, I believe that it has improved my golf game.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

I will never play golf professionally.  I rarely do it for fun.  When I do play golf now, I hurt less, I hit the ball straighter, and I feel much better after the round is done.  Golf is a one sided sport.  This means that you use the same muscles on one side of your body for each shot.  Yoga has a symmetry to it that helps to mitigate the asymmetry, and possible physical injury, caused by golf.  Yoga may not be the way to add 20 yards to your drive, but your range of motion will improve.  There are certain types of yoga classes that will help a golf game more than others.  Classes with slow movements, including static positions, and extension poses, are the best for golf.  These isometric poses will improve core stability, and a slow pace will allow you to detect muscular imbalances.  Bikram and Vinyasa classes have their own merits but may do less to improve your golf game.

Knowing that my audience is primarily men, I want to help you to overcome your fears of taking a yoga class.  First, you need to remember that all individuals are different, men and women move differently.  In a yoga class, do not compare yourself to anyone else.  They are not looking at you and judging you.  Second, each and every person in that class had to start somewhere.  It is likely that they started right where you are.  It will not take long for you to see and feel the changes to your body from yoga.  Know your body, know your limitations. Push yourself, but do it carefully. 

My reasons for starting yoga are my own.  I was not looking to improve my golf game.  I wanted to improve my quality of life.  This has definitely happened for me.  I have been practicing yoga for nine months now.  I enjoy each and every class I attend.  When I have back pain, or stress, I long to go to a class.  I enjoy it so much, that I have shifted priorities in my life to ensure that I have time to practice.  If you talk to the people that know me, you will understand that I have become a "Yoga Junkie".  I regularly talk about my personal experiences in each class, and I constantly try to figure out when I can get my next class.  I still focus on the Level I classes.  I feel the best after those.  The relaxation and physical benefits are euphoric for me. 

If you are looking for a better you and a better golf game in 2019, I encourage you to explore the world of yoga.  Surya Yoga has two different sessions of the 8 week beginner series classes that start the week of January 7th.  One of them is on Monday evenings from 5:45 to 6:45, the other is Wednesday mornings from 11:00 to Noon.  If you take this series of classes, you will know if yoga is for you.  Annie will teach you what you need to know to feel comfortable moving into one of the regular classes.  Each and every teacher that I have experienced at this studio has been excellent.  If there is a studio that is more convenient for you, check them out.  I am sure that the benefits you will see will be measurable. 

I hope that you had a wonderful 2018, and I wish you a healthy and prosperous 2019.



Saturday, December 1, 2018

Wild Winter Weather

It is only December 1st today, and it has already been quite a winter.  We have had two snow events that have closed the course for several days.  The cold temperatures have really kept the players off of the course.  Last nights rainfall did a good job of clearing the snow from the course, but with more rain today followed by a week of 30 degree days,  good weather for golfing is still a ways off.  This weather has had a negative impact on our ability to work on many of the scheduled fall projects.  Fall fertilization as well as chemical applications have been postponed until things dry out enough that we can get equipment onto the course.  The construction of the small wall at the end of the first fairway on seven, was completed.  The weather has delayed the sod work that must be done to finish the project.  A picture of the completed wall is below.  The sod work will need to wait until the weather allows for sod to be cut, moved, and watered.

 Because the weather has not allowed for much work on the the course, we have started making a new style of traffic control devices that will replace the little wooden blocks that have been used on the course in the past.  These will take the place of the little blocks, but serve the same purpose.

Hopefully, the weather will not continue to be a bad through the winter.  We definitely enjoy the normal warm weather breaks where we get to see all of the golfers out enjoying the results of the work we do.  I hope I see all of you soon.