Monday, July 31, 2023

What's With the Piles of Ice on the Greens?

If you are a regular afternoon golfer at Sycamore Ridge, you may find yourself asking "why are there piles of ice on the greens?"  The simple answer to the question is "that's how we're watering parts of the greens."  As with most things in life (and especially in turf management) the answer is a bit more involved than that.

Let's start with the basics - grass, especially when it's mowed at greens height, needs water to stay alive.  Did you also know that too much water can be bad for greens?  When grass has too much water, it can lead to several different diseases and algae growth, all of which is bad for the health of the green.  As a maintenance staff, we are constantly working to maintain the proper balance between too much, and just enough water for the greens to be healthy and playable for golfers.

There are multiple ways to apply water to a green.  The most commonly seen are with the irrigation system (referred to as overhead sprinklers), and hoses (also known as syringing).  Overnight, the entire green will get watered using the overhead system.  This is the fastest way to cover an entire area in a small amount of time, but is the least efficient at putting water precisely where it's needed.  In the afternoons, you'll see the maintenance staff dragging hoses around to water smaller areas of the green.  This method is pretty labor intensive, and requires probing of the greens to determine where best to apply the water, but is more efficient at putting water where it's needed most.

How do you determine when and how to water the greens?  The answer to this ranges from very simple (when the grass starts turning brown), to more detailed (when the soil moisture level is too low or the surface temperature of the green is too hot).  Visual checks of the greens allow us to see if there is a problem based on the color of the grass itself.  Green is generally an indication that the turf is healthy.  Purple and brown indicate a need for water.  Although the grass may be green, it's possible that there could be a lack of moisture beneath the surface.  As mentioned previously, we use probes to help us determine the amount of moisture the soil is holding at any given point in time during the day.  If the  probe indicates that the moisture is low, we know that we need to water that particular area of the green.  

If you take a look at your home lawn, you may notice that some areas are green, and some are browning even though you're applying water regularly.  While there are scientific reasons behind that happening, we'll keep it simple and say that soil properties can vary from one area to another.  One spot may be very good at retaining moisture, a spot one inch away may not hold any moisture at all.  On putting surfaces, these areas will present themselves as small areas of dryness, or a "hot spot."  This is the reason you are seeing piles of ice on the greens.

Using the overhead system waters everything regardless of whether it's wet under the surface, or dry as a bone.  This can lead to large areas of the green becoming too wet.  Using the hoses gets us down to smaller areas of application and allows us to avoid the wetter areas, but still can be too broad of an application.  The piles of ice allow us to place water precisely where we need it.  Think of it like surgery using a chainsaw, a Bowie knife, or a scalpel.  The ice also melts over time, providing the turf a slow-release type of watering.  Ice also lowers the surface temperature of the turf.  The final benefit is that the hoses are heavy, and are no fun to drag around on the greens, so the ice eliminates the physical aspect of watering on a hot day!

So while the piles of ice can be a bit of a nuisance while you're out golfing, just know that they'll be gone in 15 minutes, and are helping to keep the putting surfaces alive and well for future rounds of golf!

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Rainy Wednesday Morning

 It has been a very dry spring at Sycamore Ridge, so the 1.5 inches of rain overnight are very welcomed.  When our only option for the turf is the irrigation system, we will always have dry spots and wet spots on the course.  Unfortunately irrigation will always have an imperfect distribution uniformity.  When it rains, the amounts in each area tend to be more uniform and we have an opportunity to do a reset when everything gets wetted.  We were definitely getting to the point where we had many wet areas on the course due to over irrigation, because we always tend to water for the benefit of the dry areas.  This kind of rain will have a beneficial impact on the course, but a negative impact on course maintenance.  Cutting of the turf will be delayed until the water has a chance to run off or soak in.  This delay will lead to taller areas of turf making play a little more difficult.  Once we get back out to cut the grass, there will be more litter from the clippings, requiring blowers to be used to spread out the clippings.

On the flip side of not being able to do some daily maintenance, we do get an opportunity to do some projects around the shop that can get neglected when we don't get rains.  This morning we are working in the shop, cleaning, organizing, and catching up on some deferred projects.  One good example is that I am taking the time to write this blog post.

After several months of delays, we are closing in on getting our mats installed for the artificial tee-line on the driving range.  These mats will generally be used for group outing warm-ups, when the range tee is very wet, and during the winter months.  An installation date has not yet been set, but the mats are finally on-site and waiting for the installation crew.  

There will be two additional fans installed on the course at number one green and number four green.  You might notice some trenches around these holes.  These trenches will be used to bury the wire for powering the fans.

Work was started yesterday to improve our area for overflow parking.  This area will be attached to the north side of our parking lot.  This area will have three inches of gravel installed and compacted, topped with three additional inches of asphalt millings installed and compacted.  This will add over a quarter of an acre to our parking lot and provide parking for an additional 35-40 cars.

Friday, March 31, 2023

Spring Aerification 2023

 What has 7,200,000 holes filled with 60 tons of sand?  The greens at Sycamore Ridge.  

On Tuesday the 28th of March, we completed our spring greens aerification for 2023.  The process has many steps to get the best possible putting conditions following aerification.  The steps are listed out below;

  • Fertilize 
  • Topdress 
  • Aerify 
  • Clean up plugs
  • Brush
  • Brush again with a finishing brush
  • Blow off any excess sand
  • Roll slowly in two directions 
  • Add nutrients to "Feed the sink"

Following aerification we will wait a few days before rolling and mowing the greens.  This time allows the sand to work into the grass so that it stays in place and is not mowed up or brought to the surface by the rollers.  Each and every one of these steps is important to the success of our aerification process.  Every superintendent has their own way of doing aerification, but this is the best process we have found for Sycamore Ridge.

This is a Youtube video about our aerification by Gripping Golf Podcast;

Monday, January 30, 2023

What's Happening on Hole 12?

 Over a year ago, the golf course was notified of a plan to widen 199th street along hole number 12.  The road project would include the removal of all of the trees that buffer between the green and the road.  A Golf Course Architect was brought in to design a plan that would create a replacement buffer that could be in place before the road construction begins.  The construction of this buffer is what's happening on hole 12.

A significant amount of fill is required for this project and is being harvested from the native grass area left of 11 green.  This material will be moved over to 12 and shaped to create mounds where trees will be planted.  The back left bunker on 12 green will get a new design so that it fits properly into the new mounding.

With the equipment on site, it was decided that now would be the right time to enlarge some of the tee boxes on 12 and 14.  The new tees should provide enough teeing ground to keep the grass in better condition. 

With good weather, the entire project should be completed in March.