Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Happy New Year?

Things were challenging for everyone in 2020.  I thought about blogging on the difficulties that the year has thrust upon us.  After thinking about it, I realized that looking back would not do any good.  I want to keep it simple following this year that has been everything but simple.

I sincerely hope that each and everyone of you has a wonderful 2021.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Cart Path Only


    As the image above demonstrates, the cart path at Sycamore Ridge is wide enough for two carts to pass while keeping all eight tires on the path.  This knowledge is going to become very important over the next few months.  As most of you know, the majority of courses in the Kansas City golf market have zoysia grass tees and fairways.  The zoysia goes dormant and brown in the winter months.  When this happens, most courses restrict cart traffic to the path to help protect the grass.  Creeping bentgrass, the primary grass in the fairways at Sycamore Ridge, as well as fescue, and bluegrass, are only different in the fact that they do not turn as brown as zoysia when they go dormant.  All grasses, in this region, stop growing during the winter months and go dormant.  Because of this, management at Sycamore Ridge has decided to restrict carts to the path only for the next few months.  The desired goal for this move is to prevent additional damage to the traffic stressed areas throughout  the course.  This sacrifice will create better playing conditions around the course in the spring.

    This time of year, we also begin removing some tees from the course.  The black and yellow tee markers will be removed soon.  If you normally play from either of these tee boxes, feel free to continue doing so.  We are removing the tee markers to reduce the time spent on maintenance moving tees through the winter months, and keep the markers from killing any grass underneath them.

    A significant amount of sod was installed on the course last month.  It is rooting down nicely, and should look great in the spring.  I really appreciate the care that you have taken to keep traffic off of these sodded areas, this will pay dividends in the long run.

    The maintenance staff is looking forward to a very productive winter with more irrigation installation, several tees will be enlarged, tree removal, and brush clearing, all of this is being done to provide you with the best playing conditions.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

October Snow

It's the end of October and we have already had our first measurable snowfall of the season!  Despite the early brush of winter weather, the more seasonable fall temperatures will return soon and that means we can get back to work on some needed rejuvenation projects around the golf course.  We experienced a huge surge in rounds this season and while it is great to see so many people out enjoying the golf course, all of that extra traffic really took its toll on some of the more sensitive areas of the golf course.  Cart and foot traffic combined with late summer heat and drought really stressed some of the higher traffic areas of the course.  The seeding of tees and fairways is already underway and will continue in the weeks ahead.  With the cooler temperatures and wetter weather, we should really start seeing some germination where seed has already been planted.  Sod will be needed to fix some of the worst areas where seeding would not address the issues in a timely manner.  We have already begun work in some of these areas.  The exit area of the fairway on hole number one was sodded last week.  We also laid sod around the the greenside bunker.        

The new sod around this bunker will fix a bare area that resulted in contamination of the sand with soil.  We can now remove the contaminated sand and replace it with fresh white sand returning it to its original condition and greatly improving the appearance of the bunker complex around the green.  We did similar sod work along the first bunker on hole number 2 as well as along the cart path separating the first and second fairways.

The mainline leak on hole number 3 has been fixed and sod has been laid.  We backfilled along the top of the hillside on hole 3 and replaced sod in this area as well.

The walk up areas leading to the white and blue tee boxes were also stripped of weak turf and sodded with fresh fescue fixing the washed out areas along the cart path and really improving the look of these areas.

We also replaced sod around the greenside bunker on hole five and along the cart path next to the black and blue tee boxes on hole 6.  The walk on to the green on hole 16 was also completely stripped,  leveled and sodded.

Overall, 7 pallets of sod were laid last week and that is just the beginning of our plans this fall.  We have sub-contracted with an outside company who will come in and address some larger areas that will need soil and sod work.  This work will be underway very soon and is going to make huge improvements to areas that have needed attention for the past few years.  Having this work subcontracted will allow our maintenance staff to focus on other areas of the golf course.  Fall is a busy time here at Sycamore Ridge but it will be an exciting time for us all.  We can't wait for you to see all the improvements we will be making so STAY TUNED!

Friday, October 2, 2020

Frost Delay Already????

Today is October 2nd, and the course had its firs frost delay this morning.  This has to be as early a frost as I can remember in my years as a golf course superintendent.  This creates a perfect opportunity to once again discuss why we delay play when we have frost on the grass.  It really is quite simple, when there is frost on a blade of grass, and you apply traffic to that grass, the edges of the frost will puncture the cell wall of the grass and kill all of the cells.  If the crown of the grass is punctured, the entire plant will die.

As we get to November, we will shift our stating tee to number ten everyday.  The back nine always becomes ready to play much faster than the front nine. The sun exposure is much quicker on the back nine, plus the lower elevation on the front nine are the reasons for this.  The colder morning will require that we move our first tee time later to minimize delays caused by the frost.  We do all of this to prevent damage to the grass that can happen as easily as someone walking on it.

We do everything we can to minimize your inconvenience as golfers, and realize that your time is valuable.  So please know that we will always get you on the course as soon as it is safe for the grass.

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.