Friday, December 1, 2017

Winter maintenance

Winter is quickly approaching and around this time of year I am always asked what we do in maintenance during the winter months.  This months blog will hopefully shed some light on what we do during the "off season" and how those things prepare us for a successful transition to spring.

This is the time of year when we in maintenance can take a deep breath and reflect on the previous season, celebrate our successes, and address any issues we may have had.  A great deal of time is spent planning for the next year and looking at ways we can improve upon the last season.  We attend various educational conferences to learn about new products and/or techniques being used on the golf course that can help us tackle issues that we may face here at Sycamore Ridge.  It is also the time of year when we can address other areas on the course that are sometimes difficult to address during the season.  Some of these areas could include tree and brush clearing, drainage work, and general upkeep of on course accessories.  A large part of the winter is also used for equipment maintenance.  Each piece of equipment is serviced, mowers are washed and waxed, and blades and reels are sharpened.  All of the the work and preparation that takes place over the winter months allows us to be as prepared as we can be for the challenges of the season ahead.

The winter months also bring with them a need for extra diligence on the part of the golfer to be aware of stressed areas on the golf course.  The turf will eventually go dormant and any recuperation from traffic patterns, ball marks, divots, and general wear and tear is greatly diminished.  Please help us out by fixing ball marks on the greens, filling or replacing divots and paying attention to traffic patterns as you play the course this winter and remember to take the path less traveled!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Fairway aerification

You may have noticed that we started working on fairway aerification in October.   I want to use this months blog to explain what we are doing and the benefits we hope to see.
 
Core aerification on fairways makes quite a mess of the playing surface until everything gets cleaned up.  We have core aerified all of the holes where cart traffic is not allowed onto the fairways.  By pulling the core up and then breaking the soil off of the thatch and leaving the soil on the surface, we effectively accomplish a soil topdressing of the turf.  This soil will melt into the thatch and help to firm up the playing surface.  The removal of the thatch and soil from below the surface will help improve air movements, water penetration, and reduce compaction.  We decided to do this process on the cart path only holes because cart traffic can actually help break down thatch.  Since traffic is not allowed on these fairways, this process was more important.

We are now working on doing a solid tine aerification on the fairways where golf cart traffic is allowed.  This will allow us to get the benefits of improved water penetration and reduced compaction.  As we have started this process, we have found many hard areas in the fairway where the turf pulls up due to shallow rooting caused by the compaction.  Hopefully the turf will have a better root system with reduced compaction.  As I write this blog today, we have completed three fairways on the course.  We will continue to work on this as time and weather allow until the soil freezes this winter.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Frost delays will be here soon!

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.

Image result for frost damage on turfHere 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 not cause damage.

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.


Image result for frost damage on turf
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 will get ice.


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

That was quite a little rain storm

On the night of August 22, 2017 we received nearly 9" of rain on the golf course.  There was no significant damage to the course, just a lot of silt and debris left over after the water level dropped.  The water level was completely over number two and three greens, and half way up on number four green.  This level is higher than I have seen in my 11 years at Sycamore Ridge.  The maintenance staff spent three days cleaning up the mess on holes 1-4.  This process included washing the greens, raking and blowing debris off of the fairways, Removing and replacing contaminated sand in the bunkers, and cutting up the logs that were deposited on the course by the water.  There was some heavy silt left in these fairways, which may require over-seeding to improve the turf quality.


#2 Bunkers


#2 Fairway


#3 Green


#4 fairway

The effects of this storm on our course pale in comparison to many other courses in the Kansas City metro area.  We are very fortunate that Sycamore Ridge drains out quickly and that we really had no significant damage to the course.  It will take time for everything to return to normal and for us to see zero remnants of this storm, but for now, Sycamore Ridge is in excellent condition.

All of the staff at Sycamore Ridge stepped up and helped with the clean-up after the storm.  We could not have had the course open as quickly as we did without their help.  The customers were gracious in their understanding of the situation as well.  I offer a sincere thank you to every individual employee and golfer that was impacted by this storm and the conditions it created.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Time for aerification

Here at Sycamore Ridge, we like to do at least two core aerifications every year.  The fantastic ten day forecast is going to allow us to get or second arerification done in August again this year.  This will expedite the healing of the stressed areas on the greens.  Core aerification is a necessary evil in the golf course maintenance business-- the benefits are numerous. With removal of the core, and back-filling with sand, the thatch in the green is diluted, air exchange is increased, water infiltration is improved and compaction is reduced.
As I write this blog, we are finishing up our process on the putting and chipping greens.  We do everything possible to minimize gofer impact from aerification.  A fertilizer was applied to the greens last week, and more nutrients will be applied when the holes are filled with sand.  These nutrients will help the greens heal quickly and get them smooth once again.  If weather permits, the greens on the course will be completed early next week, then they will be filled in soon after.  During the next few weeks, we will do additional rolling of the greens to help maintain smoothness.

Please be patient and understand that while this process may cause a short term inconvenience to you as a golfer, the long term benefits are important. Below is a picture of the finished putting green.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Antracnose! Now what?

      In the last few days we have identified the disease anthracnose on 8 of the putting greens at Sycamore Ridge.  I believe that we caught it relatively early in the developmental stage, and have already applied a fungicide to help prevent further spreading.  We will continue to treat with fungicide every week to ten days to to keep the disease in check.  It will take time and cooler temperatures before the disease symptoms will completely disappear.
      Anthracnose is relatively common on greens in this area,  we have had it before.  This disease may have played a role in some of the turf loss we experienced in 2016.  However, we have identified the problem sooner and will rapidly be making changes in our maintenance practices to mitigate the effects of the disease.  The work that was completed during the winter months, including clearing of trees and brush around the course was intended to help the greens survive the summer months better. The occurrence of this disease may indicate that additional work needs to be done to help reduce environmental stress on the greens.
      I chose this topic for my blog this month not only because it is painfully timely, but I want our customers to know about the changes to our maintenance practices and why we are doing them.  The greens with anthracnose are holes 1-8.  Environmentally speaking these greens have less air movement when compared to the rest.  As a result, we will be running the fans more often to keep the putting surface cooler and drier.  These greens will be rolled more often and mowed less often.  This practice will allow the plants to have more leaf surface area to help with overall plant health.  In combination with the additional fungicide applications, we will be providing the greens with small amounts of fertilizer on a regular basis, to ensure continued growth and recuperation.  Topdressing practices will need to be modified to reduce the stress caused to the turf by the sand and brush. Periodic venting of the greens will continue, to ensure that the green has adequate air exchange.



      Overall, I am hopeful that these changes will not make a noticeable difference in playing condition for our customers.  I believe that our changes in maintenance practices will help to keep the greens healthy for the rest of the summer stress period.  If you have any questions or comments, please look for me at the course.  I would love to hear from you.

For more detailed information about anthracnose, please click this link.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

What Can You Do?... Take The Path Less Traveled!

       In my 20+ years of being a Golf Course Superintendent, occasionally golfers have complained about course conditions that are directly caused by golfer traffic.  I am going to take a few minutes to get on my pulpit and talk about how golfers can have a positive impact on course conditions by simply being more aware of how they move around the course. Earlier this spring, the maintenance staff at Sycamore Ridge installed a significant amount of sod around the course immediately along the cart path.  The turf had been thinned out simply because of traffic.

       The first location that comes to my mind, is in the parking area near a tee or green.  Frequently golfers will pull two tires off of the path to get just a little closer to their destination.  When this happens over and over, the turf will die.  By keeping all four tires on the path in these areas, the turf will have a much better chance to survive.



       Next we replaced sod along the path at curves and corners around the course.  In many locations we placed yellow buttons, on the path, to get the attention of golfers and hopefully remind them to keep all four tires on the path in those areas.  This has worked in some areas, and has not in others. When a cart is on a curving path, it is human nature to take the most direct path, and hug the corners as tight as possible.  The constant traffic on theses corners, will kill the turf.  If golfers would be more diligent about keeping all four tires on the path, the turf would be in much better condition.

       Lastly, I want to address fairway entry and exit locations.  It seems as if all carts must enter and exit fairways in the exact same area, this is not true.  This creates localized compaction and the need for traffic control objects.  If cart drivers notice a heavily traveled area through the rough, they should look for a different way to get to their next shot.  Keep the cart on the path as long as possible, and depart the path at a location even to where the ball is at.  When you are ready to return to the path, take the shortest route, not just the most direct route, back to the path.  When everyone funnels back to the path at the exit posts, a compaction area is created and the turf is thinned or killed.  These practices will distribute the traffic throughout the rough between the path and fairway, providing more consistent playing conditions on the entire course.

       While these suggestions may not apply to every golf course, I know that they would apply to every course I have worked on.  While you may not think that one more time over an area will have a negative impact, when there are hundreds of "one more times", eventually the turf will reach it's limit, and die. Perhaps if you take the path less traveled, you may provide yourself with better playing conditions and card a better round.