Thursday, July 28, 2011


It's 6:45 AM.  I'm just about ready to give the all clear sign to the crew as we haven't seen or heard any lightning for the past half hour when suddenly we are startled by a flash of cool blue light and a loud bang of a lightning bolt striking the course.  The guys in the shop began to laugh.  (Expletive Deleted.)  Men that's not funny, we've just taken a direct strike to the irrigation system.  Better watch the irrigation system pressure gauge because if it drops, "we've got a problem Houston" because power to the satellites is off and nothing should be running!  Arrrgh!  System pressure dropping like a stone.  Got to run the gauntlet to see where the break is, already praying that it's not the six or eight inch mains.  If it is a lateral I can isolate that hole from the rest of the course, but if it's a mainline, we're screwed!  The system could be down for days.  Front nine clear.  Bank nine......#16......SOB!  Cannot be sure if it is a lateral or main at this time but the already too wet swale on sixteen is full of water.  Make a mad dash to the pump house to turn off pump(s).  Whew, only one pump running, it's only a lateral BUT how many feet of irrigation piping has been ruptured by the bolt?
My leak was bigger, but not as bad as the one found today in your club house.
A bolt of light or was it sound shock waves that blew the doors right off the controller!

Charred mess!
The tree that was struck wasn't even the tallest tree in the vicinity!
Did the old cast iron pipe serve as lightnings point to ground?
Carnage!  No autopsy needed here.
Heads with damaged solenoids marked for repair.
I've replaced a ton of fuses over the years, but none this black!  Some disintegrated!
The nature of electrical disaster is that we'll chase system glitches for the next few weeks, months as other components weakened by the surge finally fail. 

Dear Lord, when I get to heaven can I kick Ma Nature in the tail?  Enjoy your weekend!  _Mk

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Heat Stress + Moisture = Turf Loss?


This ominous message greeted us last Friday and everyday since and doesn't look like abating anytime soon.

Its not a question of turf loss, it's a question of "how much" turf will be lost before this is over with.

The golf course is a powder keg for disease development as all three conditions for disease development are present.  First, there is a susceptible host fourteen days into a 21 day fungicide treatment schedule.  Second, free moisture and extremely humid air that prevents drying and thirdly pathogens present in the environment.

My tour of the golf course revealed up to three major diseases running unchecked on the golf course with a fourth and most destructive Pythium seen but not confirmed.  Below are pictures of diseased fairway turf.
Dollar Spot chewing its way into the canopy.
Brown Patch.  You can barely make out the smoke ring.
Not a disease, Cottonwood seed.
Turf doesn't die in straight lines.  Pythium?  Definitely Anthracnose!
Pythium starts low in the turf canopy.
This got me thinking of all the ways we lose turf during summer stress.  Here are just a few examples.
Tree's competing with turf for moisture.
Hydrophobic soils.
Malfunctioning sprinkler heads.
So what are we doing to minimize turf losses on your golf course.   First we prepared fairway turf for the stress of summer by aerifying earlier this spring and we are hoping our calendar based spray schedule will carry us through stressful times. Secondly, as we were unable to complete greens aerification due to excessive heat, greens were "vented" to allow for air exchange in the soil root zone.  Third, where we have control over moisture, sprinklers in all wet areas have been turned off or irrigation time reduced.  Greens are being hand watered to apply water to only where it is needed.  Greens are being monitored for moisture levels and disease development.  The sprayers are standing ready to roll on short notice.  Maintenance practices that cause plant stress have been curtailed until more favorable weather conditions return.

Lets pray for cooler days ahead.  _Mk

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Jury Duty

After living in Wood County for twenty six years, the long arm of the law finally caught up with me and served me with a summons to serve as a juror.  As an American, this is always something I've wanted to do as a part of my civil duty.  I'm honored, nervous and excited to be a part of the process and pray we as jurors don't have to solve anything like the Casey Antony trail.

C'mon Man!

Come on man!  The last time I checked our play schedule there wasn't a high stakes US Open like golf championship being played here.  Even in a match I would bet your competitor would grant you relief in some form.

Divot on our seventh green collar.

There are several areas on the course that are now too close to adjacent landing areas, such as the eleven green, where I've noted large divots almost on the putting surface. 

Technology has replaced the need for swing skill mechanics IMHO. 

What ever happened to "care for the course," be it yours or one you are visiting? Move the ball for pete's sake, its only a game.  With a drive this errant, I doubt moving the ball a couple of feet to the left would greatly affect the outcome of the second shot.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Seeding vs. Sod

I've been asked why I don't resod the winter damaged sections on our sixteenth green (and others) using the sod that we are growing on our nursery green?  After all, it is a nursery green, right!

My quick and simple answer is this; the soil used to construct the top two inches of that putting green is to put it mildly, very poor.  So poor in fact that I don't care to move it to out onto the course creating a second more visible problem for myself.

Large area of hydrophobic soil.

This green would look this way after a weeks worth of steady day long rains as the soil rejects water.
Our nursery green was established to observe and evaluate two of the newer varieties of bentgrass T1 and Alpha (T2) circa 2004.  The old putting surface was removed and greens mix was purchased from a local supplier to fill the void left after sod removal.  This greens mix was also being evaluated for future construction needs.  As you can tell by the photo's the soil has very round properties (unstable) and did not hold moisture (hydrophobic) during periods of summer stress.  This green is managed exactly the same as her twenty sister greens on the course.
So naturally, I didn't want to give you a putting surfaces on the course with patches of hydrophobic mottled looking weakened turf.

It is our plan to rebuild this green once the club climbs out of this recession. _Mk

Salt in the wound.

The weather man promised an eighty percent chance of "Strong Thunderstorms" early afternoon.  Predicted precipitation in La Crosse at 3.5 inches with our area in excess of an inch.  With approaching storm clouds to the west, thinking mother nature would be there to help wash nutrients into the soil, a half rate of "off brand" fertilizer was applied to the winter damaged areas of our putting greens.  Nutrients that would be used by the turf to promote faster recovery.  And having been "burned" by mother nature too many times in the past as storms have a nasty habit of splitting near Lake Pettenwell, a quick three minute irrigation syringe cycle was used to move the product off the leaf.  And what do we get?

Speckled Brown spots where fertilizer pellets burned the turf.
While it was "off brand" fertilizer that caused the injury see in the photo, to be fair, an application of "top shelf" name brand fertilizer caused burn to the same area two weeks later when a 60% chance of rain never materialized after a squall line of heavy rain on radar just thirty minutes two our west fizzled.

There are times I wonder why I have any hair left on my head!  Jeez. _Mk

In Self Defense

You know it's "buggy" out there in the wild when the operators cup holder is used to hold a can of "Off" for self defense.

While the mosquitoes aren't bad, it's the knats, Black and Deer flies that carry you away!  _Mk

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Pump house down!

Last Friday nights storm with strong winds took down more than trees on the golf course, it took down our pumps!  Arriving at the course to survey the damage and to map out our clean up strategies, I soon learned after our 96 degree day on Friday our course went unirrigated last night.  No pumps means no water!  Arrgh!  Not good as little to no rain was recorded and another 90 degree day with strong winds and aridly dry air was in store.

You'll remember this storm had an impressive squall line on radar that passed through the area leaving most of central Wisconsin in the dark.  I remember it all too well as my homes interior temperature of 93 degrees matched that of outdoors.  The small window air conditioner used to "cool" the upstairs master bedroom and I use that term politely, was silent.  Not so cool!

A quick trip to the pump house confirmed the loss of power.  A quick call to the power company was greeted with "we'll put you on the list."  Oh boy I thought, how long would the wait be and I remember thinking "we're sure to lose some turf today" as most playing surfaces are being managed on the firm and dry side.  The linesmen from Water Works and Light were very fast in their response to reconnect us, but it was too late to run a course wide syringe program on greens, tees and fairways as the first nine holes of play was full on this busy holiday weekend.  We'll just have to take our lumps!  Just like the USGA's new mantra, "brown is the new green."  (How's that working for you?)

I returned to the course during the mid afternoon heat to survey course conditions and to manage the irrigation systems nightly watering program.  With water hose in hand I set out and what I found didn't surprise me as I found myself hand watering or syringing 16 of 19 greens in an attempt to keep the wilt in check on collars and putting surfaces.  I was in no hurry to rush home as I had a rack of Baby Back Ribs slowly roasting in the oven just waiting for their final touch on the charcoal grill. 

I had forgotten how peaceful the sound of water droplets falling on low cut turf was especially when you could bounce around between play.  I remembered my lessons and observations learned by hand watering greens and how I coin the phrase "watering to keep wet areas dry" when trying to teach others the art of hand watering.

I've seen the after effects of wilt knowing full well some area's would respond to the gift of moisture while others would go off color yellow.  I've always maintained it's better to have lost turf to moisture stress than to see it drown to death.  Moisture stressed turf goes dormant and will recover when favorable conditions return, dead turf does but it usually comes back as Poa.

Nor did it surprise me to see newly formed patches of hydrophobic soils now appear in my turf grass stands.  When you water at 60% of ET, there isn't a great margin of error there so the loss of one nights irrigation cycle sets you behind the eight ball.  To correct areas of hydrophobicity, a curative rate of wetting agents was applied.  Once again we are praying that predicted rains will materialize and Mother Nature will help us this time to wash the product into the soil were it is needed to do the job.  But I'm not betting she does her part.

Oh, by the way, the ribs were great!  I'm working on a wet/dry rub combo that delivers a nice crunch when eaten.  Grilling a turkey breast tonight... Later