Monday, August 3, 2020

Steps Toward Healing

As we approach cooler temperatures and shorter days, the maintenance staff begins to take steps to heal the course, and prepare it for future golf rounds.  Over the next few weeks you will see sodding on greens, seeding of tees, fairways, and rough, and even aerification.  These projects can be disruptive to golfers, but are necessary to keep the course playable year round.

 The greens that were sodded last year, have stayed relatively healthy all season long, except for the large areas of sod.  Our first project will be to get these areas replaced with new sod again.  This year we will pull out some of the existing root zone mix and replace it with new.  Many tests have been run to identify the problem with these areas but no answer has been found.  Hopefully if we replace this sod earlier than normal, we can get it to establish better roots that will keep it alive longer.

We have tentative aerification dates for August 12 & 13.  Weather will be the deciding factor on those dates.  Our fallback dates are September 8 & 9.  Seeding will get started as soon as time allows.  Fall is the best time for over-seeding because of warm soil temperatures which help the seed to germinate more quickly.

Please forgive any disruption to your golf game as we work to keep the course playable for future rounds of golf.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Root Pruning

On May first, we had a sub-contractor come out to Sycamore Ridge and go around the course pruning the roots along most of the tree lines.  We have wanted to have this process done for a while now,  as we are seeing more and more roots surfacing in our turf areas on the course.  As you can see in the photo, the process did not cause a lot of disruption to the course.  Several areas of stress near the tree lines had been observed, and this should at least reduce the moisture consumption from the trees at the surface.  Two blades sliced into the ground, cutting all roots to a depth of 10 inches.  By reducing the moisture drawn from the soil by the trees, this should help to reduce stress on the turf.  I will be watching these areas closely as the season progresses to see if I can see a difference where the roots were pruned.  I am hopeful that I will be able to take a picture to show the line, demonstrating the benefits.

As the heart of the season is approaching, and things are starting to normalize, we are trying several new things on the course to help the grass survive the summer.  Please stay tuned to my blog, and I will update you on what we are trying, and how it is working.  If you see different things happening around the course, feel free to stop me and ask what and why.  I always enjoy taking the time to explain the reasoning behind anything we do.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Factors Influencing Green Speed

There are many factors that influence ball speed on putting greens.  At any given time one factor can have a greater influence than another, and then in a short amount of time, the impact could reverse, or change entirely.  As a golf course superintendent, I have control over a few of the factors.  I can influence a few other, and some of them I have zero influence on.

First, let me talk about the ones that I have control over.  Mowing height, and frequency, rolling frequency, topdressing, and irrigation are the things that are on this list.  I choose to maintain my mowing height at the same height all year long.  we cut our greens at .125" (1/8 inch).  I have found over the years, that this is a pretty reasonable height to maintain the health of these greens year round.  The frequency of mowing will change based on the growth rate of the grass.  If the greens are growing rapidly, we may need to mow every day.  During the winter months, we might not cut them for weeks or even months.  During an average week in the spring, summer, and fall, we will alternate days with mowing and rolling.  Topdressing and irrigation are done on an as needed basis.  The weather, and growth rate of the turf impact the amount and frequency of these practices. 

Second, let me talk about the factors that I can influence.  Fertility, and growth rate, fall into this category.  I can influence these things chemically.  I can apply more fertilizer, using quickly available sources or slowly available sources.  Generally I like to fertilize my greens frequently, using a very light rate, of a predictably releasing product.  This is called "spoon feeding."  This helps to maintain a healthy growth rate without starving the turf or causing it to grow rapidly.  I can influence the growth rate chemically as well.  Plant growth regulators are somewhat effective, and somewhat predictable in slowing down the growth rate of grass.  These products are used when factors that I have no control over begin to have too much influence.  Generally a growth regulator will not speed up ball roll, but rather keep it more consistent from morning until evening.

Lastly are the things that I have zero control over.  Air temperature, soil temperature, rainfall, sun angle, day length, humidity, and clouds are the most important factors that I cannot control or influence.  This is the longest list, and frequently, one or more of these factors has the greatest influence on your green speed from one day to the next.  On any given day, rainfall, high humidity, clouds, and low air temperature can slow down the speed of the greens.  Just the same, no rain, low humidity, and high temperatures on a sunny day can speed up the greens.  Day length and sun angle speed up the greens, every year in late September.  In June and July, when the soil temperatures are highest, soil microbes become active and release nutrients locked up in the soil, and the resulting turf growth, slows down the ball roll.

The bottom line to all of this is that any golf course superintendent, has a limited ability to significantly control the speed of their greens.  The work that we do on our greens from day to day remains pretty consistent. The factors that we have zero control over, can play a very big roll in changing the speed of the greens on any given day.

On a lighter note, I hope that all of you home lawners have applied your spring pre-emergent herbicide to control crabgrass and goosegrass.  If you haven't, feel free to talk to me.  There is still an option that can be used in the next two weeks that will provide good results.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Cutting greens in February... What will this year bring????

I have been a superintendent for 24 years now, and I have never been motivated to cut the greens in the month of February.  Until this year!  A stretch of moderate weather is required before I even think about it.  This year the stars aligned, and we are in the middle of a very mild stretch of warm weather.  The greens were rolled and mowed late last week.  There was a significant improvement in the smoothness of the greens and of course some improvement in the speed.

The forecast for the next 10 days continues to indicate temperatures above average.  These warmer temperatures will wake the grass from its winters slumber, and get things growing.  I see the potential for an early green-up and that the greens will require regular cuttings before long.  Most likely another one before the end of this week.

What could this possibly indicate for the rest of the year???  I have absolutely no Idea!!!  The career path I have chosen, has taught me time and time again, that nothing is predictable when it come to the weather and growing grass.  We will continue to roll with the punches and do whatever is best for the golf course when the time is right.

As the weather warms up, it is always exciting to see the golfers return to the course.  Not many years ago, we would have over 200 players on a single day only 4-6 times a year.  Just this last weekend, we had over 400 golfers come out to play.  What this indicates to me is the need to be prepared for additional golfers through the 2020 season.  With that in mind, we have been looking for ways to improve the course to accommodate additional players and ensure that everyone has an enjoyable experience.  I have already identified some tees that will be enlarged to create more teeing areas to spread the traffic out.

I hope that everyone has a fantastic golf season in 2020.

Monday, December 9, 2019

New Golf Carts

We have recently traded in our old golf carts for a new fleet.  The new Platinum colored EZGO RXV Elite with lithium ion batteries will bring more enjoyment and comfort to the golfers playing at Sycamore Ridge.  Each cart has an upgraded comfort seat, USB charging port, rain canopy, cooler, and an improved dashboard with more storage and better cup holders.

There are many other benefits to this cart that the average golfer will not realize.  These carts are powered by lithium ion batteries which are 275 pounds lighter than standard lead acid batteries, require zero maintenance, charge in half the time, last longer on a full charge, and are guaranteed for five years.

When you play your next round of golf, check them out, and enjoy the new ride.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Reasons for frost delays

I am recycling an old post, but this time of year, it is always good to explain the reasons behind frost delays.

When grass has a layer of frost on it, any sort of traffic can cause turf damage.  The damage is caused when the sharp edges of the frost is forced through the cell wall of the plant, causing death of that cell.  If only leaf cells are damaged, the result is unsightly, but not death of the plant.  If enough of the cells in the crown of the plant are killed, the entire plant is dead.  This is why we have frost delays.

Here at Sycamore Ridge, you will find that a frost delay will impact the front nine more than the back nine.  This is because of the elevation changes and wind exposure.  It may be 40 degrees on the thermometer of you car, but down in the low lying areas of the golf course, the colder air will pool and form frost.  Frost is less prevalent on a breezy morning, because the wind helps mix the warmer air with the colder air.  Frost can become most severe just after sunrise.  This is because the sun heats up the upper atmosphere first, forcing the colder air down to ground level.  Once the frost has formed, we keep all traffic off of the frosty grass, including maintenance, until it warms up enough to melt the frost and not cause damage.

Image result for frost damage on turf
As we start to get frost on a daily basis, we will change the starting hole to number ten.  With fewer low areas, more wind exposure, and less trees to cause shade, the back nine always defrosts faster.

Once it is safe to have traffic on the grass, the maintenance staff will begin preparing the course for play.  This may add time to the delay the golfers experience.  We will always work toward keeping the frost delay as minimal as possible while protecting the turf to ensure the best possible playing conditions.

Can you just run the sprinklers to melt the frost?  NO! you cannot.  If the temperature is low enough to form the frost, if you add water from the sprinklers, you can get ice. While ice generally causes less damage than frost, there is still potential for turf injury.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Goodbye to Summer

Summer 2019 has finally come to an end.  Fall is here, and the course can now take a well deserved rest from the challenges that this past summer has thrown at it.  Some people think that a wet summer like we have had should make for an easy year on the course.  Unfortunately with the extra moisture comes other problems.  Excessive moisture and a lack of wind this year has caused more disease than I have seen in the previous 12 years combined.  The pre-emergent weed control efficacy washed away early, and we have a significant amount of weed contamination over the course.  My grub control was also  impacted by the rain, and we had more grubs than I have ever had before.  In my 23 years as a golf course superintendent, I have never been so excited to put a summer behind me as I am this year.  The last 10 weeks have been some of the most difficult weeks I have ever experienced on a job.

Fall seeding is complete.  We finally have had a time with enough timely moisture to get the seed growing and keep it alive.  We will see the benefits of this heading into next spring.  The amount of seeding that was done this fall is significantly less than in previous years.  This is a benefit of the wet summer that we had.

We have sodded out the worst areas on the greens and it will take some time and effort to get these areas smooth and ready for play.  There are still some thin areas on the greens that should disappear quickly.

Every year brings a fresh set of challenges to growing grass on a golf course.  While I am excited to see the summer of 2019 in my rear view mirror, I have certainly learned a few things.  I will improve on my practices.  I vow to do better in the future.  I will take a deep breath for a moment, and gear up, because the leaves are starting to fall and it is time to get ready for what comes next.