Thursday, November 1, 2012

Turn Four

I've always felt that when the Oak leaves fell we were coming out of turn four heading for the finish line and to the checkered flag of yet another golf season.  As of today, fairways have been treated with protective snow mold protectants and we've just finished de-watering the irrigation system.  Soon our attention will turn to finishing up snow mold applications to greens and green banks.  Sanding to protect the turfs crowns from winter dessication and greens roped off to prevent cross country ski damage will take another day or two to complete.  Minor details like removing golf course accessories are left to finish before our attention turns to removing the 90 plus dead trees known standing on the course.

Recent weather patterns of bitter overnight lows and their duration coupled with low daytime highs brought about discussion of course closure.  We're starting to see frost lasting well into the afternoon on teeing and putting surfaces not to mention any portion of the course that is under shade.  The frost is migrating into the soil to a depth of an inch as I write this.  With the 15 day weather forecast of much the same, my recommendation to close the course for the season was approved by the green and executive committees.  The last day for golf will be Sunday November 4th, 2012.

Bull's Eye has seen back to back years of winter injury on putting greens.  Cold spring weather has minimized inter-seeding recovery success and summers of excessive heat has taken toll in its own right.  It is never more important than now to close the course before inflicting greater wounds through play and mechanical injury.  I've often questioned at what point is the use leaf blowers/Sweepers to clean playing surfaces over semi frozen turf creating turf losses only seen the following spring.

The golf season of 2012 was as rough if not worse than 2011 from my perspective.  It'll be nice to sit down after we've put both courses to bed and compare both years weather wise. Notes will be compared, stuff that didn't work will be abandoned and what worked reinforced with changes made to mitigate turf loss in the future.  That's called planning and before you know it, the green flag will drop and another golf season will be heading into turn one.  With climate change I pray that the backstretch is a lot better than the two previous circuits around the sun.  _Mk

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Prepping Greens for a Better Tomorrow.

Bull's Eye putting surfaces were "deep tined" for the first time since 2005 choosing to use Champion Greens from Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin.  This is my first experience working with them and from this experience I would use them again.  Seven total hours to "tine" twenty greens.  (ED Note:  Tri City greens were not deep tined this year and will serve as our check.)  I've always considered deep tining to be a drainage event more so than an aerification event, but this time around I'm asking for deeper and better rooting of the plants on our greens as the primary benefit.  Rooting should continue well into the winter until the point in time the soil freezes up.

Greens were "tined" to a depth of 8 inches to facilitate air and water movement into and through the soil profile.  I've noted a slight layer build up I believe came as a result of winter killed turf that occurred both winters of 2004 and 2005.

Taking advantage of open "tine" holes and the need for additional sand incorporation, greens were spiked with one half inch solid tines using our greens aerifier.  Our second aerification of the year was all but cancelled due to the massive interseeding of greens undertaken the first weeks of August.

I wasn't sure we could pull this aerification off as I had a complement of six men counting myself on hand to both clean up a messy golf course after a weekends worth of leaf drop and the requirement to fill jobs like topdressing, dragging and rolling.  All operations that go with any aerification event.

I volunteered to "man" the aerifier as a change of pace as I've become tired of the multiple trips to and from the sand silo from past seasons to topdress greens. Stupid me!  Eight straight hours of walking backwards and my cramping feet reminded me that I was no longer 24!  I did manage to complete 16 of twenty greens, not a bad days work.  I estimated I walked "backwards" over 16 miles!  My legs and feet felt like mush!

Note on putting green conditions.  We were unable to roll greens due to mechanical breakdown.  Greens will be rolled as soon as the unit is repaired and back in service.  Secondly, greens finished Tuesday morning could not be "dragged" to incorporate sand as light shower passed making the sand wet. (Wet sand "bridges" and will not fall to the bottom of the hole when trying to fill it.)  Lastly, as top growth for most part ceased, the majority of the topdressing present on the surface will be left there to serve as a winter protective blanket.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Maintenance Alert: Greens!

All putting greens on the Bull's Eye Course will be "Deep Tined" using a Verti Drain starting Monday October 22, 2012.  It is our goal to puncture several layers in the greens soil profile to foster better surface/internal water drainage and oxygen/carbon dioxide exchange.  All factors that inhibit rooting depth.

Greens will be closed while they are being worked on, rolled and reopened for play.  Greens will once again be taken out of play as we work on back filling open holes with topdressing sands.  All 20 greens on your course will be treated with select greens "punched" twice to maximize soil modification.

The verti-draining process will take approximately 12 hours to complete, however back filling of holes with topdressing is a slow and tedious process and will take hopefully no more than three days to complete.  Green surfaces must be completely dry for us to work the sand back into the holes.

The last time our greens were deep tined was in 2005.  Here is a picture of a deep tine hole filled with sand that no longer functions effectively as it is cut off from the surface.  Normally you would find turf roots filling this column.  Channels cut to the surface will greatly assist in surface drainage hopefully minimizing our exposure to surface waters that caused substantial winter kill to our putting green the past two winters.  This is just the first step of many that we should be doing to guard against turf loss.  Thanks for your patience.  _Mk

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Ready or not?

Almost ten weeks to the day #14 green was closed for renovation I've reopened her for play. It's amazing what six years worth of "normal" fertility can do to push a grow-in.  Please be advised that this green will look and putt differently for the remainder of this golfing season when compared to the others.  First the leaf texture will be coarse. This is due to all the extra fertility. The plants are "juiced-up" all fat and sassy!  Secondly, this green will putt a little slower as we will be taking it into winter at Tri-City greens height of cut to promote deeper rooting of the new turf.  Enjoy.  _Mk

Here's a reminder of what she looked like after a weeks worth of pounding from tournament golf, outings, excessive heat and drought.  Not much grass but did stimp 25 feet.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Winding down.

Six weeks ago I posted this picture of full greens mower baskets after mowing or "harvesting" grass after cutting a single green! (8/30/2012.)

The turf was "juiced" on fertility and under no growth regulation.  I posted this photo to demonstrate the rate of plant growth between daily mowing's and to explain the negative effects growth has on putting green speeds.  The plant was easily doubling its height of cut in 24 hours.  Plant growth was needed to push putting green recovery after a record shattering year of heat and drought we fought this trough this year.

Today, my baskets looked like this after "harvesting" just one green. (10/11/12.)

It is safe to say that the growing season is at an end.  The lack of growth signals a shift in greens grooming practices that favor rolling over mowing or days of doing neither.  The lack of growth is a signal to me that the time is right to start making preventative snow mold applications to the golf course.  Why?  Because expensive plant protectant chemicals are not removed from the leaf blade they were meant to protect by mowing.  So be forewarned that the course will be closed from time to time for us to make those applications.  (All products need to dry to be effective and safe.)

Speaking of "it's that time of year" as our growing season winds down I happened to notice the Forsythia by the club house blooming!  Yes blooming on October 11th, 2012.

Notice the purple of the foliage caused by frost!  The weather has had the better of me all year and has left the plants confused as well.  Do you suppose, in the light of climate change, I should be making pre-emergant Crabgrass applications before the blossoms fall?  Just wondering.  _Mk

Garbage time

Heading out onto the course after a night filled with cold Northwest winds, it always amazes me how we go from this;

to this in 5 to 6 hours!  A course playable and free of debris.  No more "Leaf Rule!"

And a woods that looks like this;

to this!  It all happens because we have good equipment and operators!

There will be little trouble locating your ball and playing a shot from there.  It wasn't that long ago that the leaves were "swept" up and hauled to a burn pile that grew to the size of a fairly large house for disposal. Today we blow leaves into the woods and mulch in place.  This practice saves both time (labor) and fuel.  The recycled leaves are good for the trees and the environment.  Pure pine needle straw is used to mulch the many pine stands we have.  If you have played recently you may have noticed the piles.
But when the ill Northwest winds blow, your course can go from clean to this in 10 minutes!
When it raining leaves (if you listen carefully, it does sound like rain,) it does not pay to keep chasing the same leaf across the course, we cut our loses and focus on something else.  Enjoy your course.  _Mk

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

"True Colors"

October 2nd, 2012. 

Dear Members:

Fall is just about every one's favorite time of year.  Enjoy the beauty of your course!  _Mk


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Third time a charm?

Your Sixteenth green will be the death of me yet!  This is what I was greeted with Tuesday morning after learning of the damage and its cause.  Our blower, when cleaning off leaves from putting surfaces actually lifted sod from a section of sixteen green that to date refuses to root!  This sod actually "shattered" along the slicer lines of the spiker and holes from the needle tine aerifications performed on this problem area to encourage rooting.  If you read my post "I'm back"  (one post back) I explained some of the problems we were facing with our June sodding that died as a result of lack of surface drainage.  We knew the problem needed to be addressed, we just didn't know when.  Well the question of "When" became "Now!"

The result above was the straw that broke the camels back, enough was enough.  It was time to tear this section out and reestablish grade for positive surface drainage while we still have time before the leaves fall in earnest.  In other words, restore the original contours as best we could.  Both greens mix and sod were ordered that afternoon as our inventories were exhausted.  Below is a photo essay of just a few steps used in an effort to fix this problem once and for all.  (A permanent solution to this greens problems would be the belching of black diesel smoke coming from the engine of a D-9 dozer!)

Wednesday morning your green section staff began removing the weak section of the green.

The section of putting green removed for repair was approximately 12' wide by 83' long.  All totaled, 996 square feet of putting surface was removed for renewal.

To restore grade we fashioned a "scrid" board and "struck" this area just as you would do in a concrete pour making sure all low pockets were no where to be found.  We also shot grade with our level and used a digital carpenters level to determine slope.  Unfortunately due to this greens design and construction, 100% of all free water drains to the front at a slope of 1.6 percent.

The subsoil is now prepped for the sod that would be delivered Thursday morning. 

The sod is Alpha bentgrass grown on Sandy Loam soils at Heath Farms near Plainfield, Wisconsin.  It is of some note, but Heath Farms grows sod for Miller Park, Lambeau Field and Soldiers Field to drop a few names.

This area will be topdressed and slowly lowered to putting green height in the weeks to come.  Above you can see the topdressing filling the seams of the sod to prevent dessication and die back.  This area will be treated as ground under repair.  Move your ball to the nearest point of relief no closer to the hole and play away.  This photo was taken at Noon and you can see the shadows of a few trees that will be removed later this fall as weather permits to increase light penetration and a better growing environment heading into the future. _Mk

Friday, September 14, 2012

"I'm Back!"

Just in time for a beautiful weekend weather wise, your #16th green has been reopened for play approximately six weeks to the day it was shutdown for renovation.  While some of the scars are obvious, it is still healthier than say for example your #12 green.  We will continue to maintain the temporary green in the fairway for the next two weeks as we evaluate the putting turfs ability to hold up to traffic.  Anticipate closures from time to time as we give this green time to rest.  Pin placements will be kept mostly in the center of the green where the turf is the healthiest.  Red/Blue pin depths should be calculated as a white pin for distance.

The green will be misshaped for a while as we try to manufacture a way to drain the spots sodded last spring.  Sod was laid to grade as best we could but we soon discovered that it lays in a trough that collects water.  The surface drainage of the original turf was lost.  This was observed soon after a heavy rainfall event of late that the water ponded where the sod was placed. Compounding the problem is the fact the water now sits perched above a muck subsoil where it is very slow to drain away. 

Roots fail to penetrate the heavy Muck subsoil.
This better explains to me why the sod died this summer.  Roots need oxygen and excess moisture be it from hand watering or overhead sprinklers just poached the roots.  This is yet another example why I prefer seeding over sodding.  Don't get me wrong, sodding is great for new construction where you can easily see and correct drainage flaws before hand.

This is how I looked this spring coming out of winter.  Now look at the first photo again.  I've come a long way baby!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

It's been a Busy Week!

News, notes and musings of maintenance activities for the week of September 10th, 2012.

Monday: September 10th.

Fairways  were sprayed to clean up Dollar Spot that is very aggressive at this time of year and what appears to be Brown Patch working.  The weather has been just warm and wet enough to see Brown Patch, but cooler drier days ahead will take care of this disease environmentally. 

Secondary work included spiking and inter-seeding of weakened areas of putting green turf.  This is our last chance to work seed into the ground to expect good germination and growth as warmer soil temperatures offset cooler nighttime lows. Those areas were also topdressed by hand.  Topdressing will protect the crowns and any juvenile plants trying to fill the voids.  Your problem greens, #3, 6, 12, 15, (14 & 16) were fertilized once more.  Just when the surge of growth from the late August application was finally tapering off, (we could mow more than one green before emptying our buckets,) we feed them once more!  We are pushing those greens to fill in as much as possible before the cooler weather of fall puts an end to top growth.  There is no growth regulation (PGR's) in place and the greens are doubling their height of cut daily!  You can tell instantly if you skipped cutting an area or if your mowing overlap is incorrect. 

You can easily see the difference in height of cut between turf cut today and the clean-up pass that wasn't made due to the rains of last night and this morning.

What do Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa and BE greens have in common?  They are juiced!  This is the most fertility these greens have seen over the past five years and by the growth, it shows.

Tuesday: September 11th.

The Nursery green was prepped for seeding.  100% of the sod from this green was moved to other greens around the course.  (Editors Note:  Later this month I will discuss sodding in greater detail.)  This green has served us well as a test green to evaluate newer bendgrass cultivars to see if they have a home here on your course.  One half this green will be seeded to Alpha and the other half to an experimental variety called V-8.  We aborted seeding this green Tuesday afternoon as 20-30 MPH winds would have made seeding difficult.

Speaking of Tuesday afternoon, has anyone but me noticed each and every golf outing or tournament we've hosted has air temperatures above 86 degrees?  For crying out loud it's September already!

Wednesday: September 12th.

Tri City greens were aerified for the second time this year.  This aerification is two weeks later this year than what has been scheduled in the past.  That's because our attention is on Bull Eye greens.  I've always maintained that you can add a weeks healing time for every week of delay when putting off aerification past Labor Day.  We'll see as our timing couldn't have been more perfect as we were blessed with a slow .3" soaker overnight.  It is very, very rare to mow greens the day after aerification and NOT fill your buckets with just sand!   Mowing was no worse than cutting after an application of topdressing.  Also I don't know what it is but aerification of Tri City greens flows like clockwork.  While we use the same recipe, aerification of BECC greens seems like a death march as the guys get tired and fatigued.  Maybe it has to due with the size of greens over there and the guys see a real progress and an end in sight.  Or maybe it's due to practice.

After aerification, the nursery green was seeded, fertilized, hand raked and dimpled with sand pro tires.  As I mention earlier, we are running short of time but hope to have this green germinated and up before the first frost can damage it.  If that is accomplished there should be just enough time for seedlings to establish (six weeks) and harden off for winter before the days become too short and cold.

And it's only Wednesday.  _Mk

Friday, September 7, 2012

Simple Math

(Editors Note:  I ran across this "draft" blog from earlier this summer that was never posted.  Recently I had a conversation with a fellow member that followed similar tracks.  So better late than never, circa July 2012.  _Mk)

A member at Tri City posed an interesting question earlier this week as to why we weren't watering more to keep the grass greener.  His comment got me thinking about the limitations of our present irrigation system during periods of extreme heat and drought.  (July was the hottest and driest on record.)

We have all been there.  You can just picture that stretch of I-75 near Chattanooga Tennessee when you just pass by that poor trucker straining to make grade while other trucks seem to effortlessly pull their load past the slow poke.  Ever wonder why?  The answer is horsepower.  The same holds true when it comes to irrigation pumps and I'll explain why.

Our pump station has a capacity of 1500 gallons of water per minute the product of three 50 horse powered motors and pumps.  (Remember this pump station is shared with Tri City.)

Our current system is set up to water "wall to wall" and is set to deliver .14" of an inch of water to greens, tees, fairways, approaches, green banks and roughs if I run it at 100% daily.

.14" x 7 days/week = .98" per week taking nine hours to complete the cycle.  Our water window is 9 PM to 6 AM to avoid maintenance and play as much as possible.

In my book the perfect irrigation system would be able to complete the cycle in six hours and I'll explain why.

During one stretch in Mid July of this year our average ET loss was .28" per day!  ET stands for Evapotransporation.  In a nutshell, it is the amount of soil moisture lost to the atmosphere by evaporating from the soil or trans located through the plant for cooling.  Factors like temperature, relative humidity, solar radiation and wind speed among others determine ET.

So if I wanted to replace the moisture lost on high ET days say .28" per day, I would have to double our systems output to replace that what was lost.  200% x .14" = .28"  Doubling the output also doubles the time.  200% x 9 = 18 hours would now be required to irrigate the golf course to replace what was lost in just one day!  String several days like these in a row and you can see how quickly we fall behind without the help of timely beneficial rains.  That is why irrigation systems are called "supplemental."  They are supposed to supplement what Mother Nature doesn't deliver.

Now why on earth would I want a system to deliver .14" in a six hour day you ask?  Simple math.  Because if I had to double my irrigation output, in this scenario twelve hours, I would rather water between the hours of 8 PM to 8 AM.  The disruption to play and maintenance would be lessened greatly.  I don't know how many golf courses would like to have their course irrigated between 8 PM and 2 PM daily leaving a six hour window of time to play without water flying overhead somewhere.

We do the best we can with what we've got.  There's no other way.  _MK

Waste not, Want not, but....

Your green section staff spent many hours over the past two weeks meticulously sodding sections of putting green and collars in an effort to "use up" the remaining sod on our nursery green as we need to rebuild it.

This job has to be completed now as the window of opportunity needed to regrass will be lost after the first few frosty nights.  Textbook recommendations usually peg the best dates for cool season grass establishment between August 15 and September 15.  Sodding was done with some worry as I never care to lay sod when temperatures were hoovering near 90 as they were several days earlier this week.

Use it or loose it was our mantra as our goal to have this green striped and seeded by the Seventh of September was not meet as an all day soaking rain prevented this.  I'll take the rain as it has been a couple of weeks since we last saw any beneficial moisture.  As a foot note, we have expanded our nursery green by an additional 800 square feet plus or minus.  We may have to purchase additional sod as the new turf will not be ready for harvesting early next spring.

On the 30th of August when the weatherman predicted near 100 degree day the guys spent the morning on their hands and knees hand picking weeds on several tees.  Easy work when temperatures are that extreme.  Here's a look at just a portion of their productivity.  More next week. _Mk

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Iris Morgan Abts

An Iris up until one week ago was nothing more than a flower to me but that all changed when my oldest daughter called to inform us we were Grand parents for the second time.  God blessed our family with a baby daughter named Iris.

Grandpa, Iris, Grandma, and big brother Felix.
Mom and daughter are doing well.  Grandpa is feeling a little bit older by the day.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Tidbits Part Two....

The grounds crew has been busy this week inter-seeding weakened areas on several greens for the second time this fall.

Slowly over the next two weeks greens height of cut will be slowly lowered to our Fall/Winter maintenance height of cut for the purpose of plant health.   It has been frustrating to maintain three separate heights of green cut but it is necessary to give seedlings a chance at survival on those greens we chose to renovate and still keep in play.  Speaking of greens, we are going to evaluate #16 in three weeks time to see if there is enough "knitting" of the turf to reopen it once again this season.  Today that green is being cut at .25" and once we take it down to "Tri City height" we will have a better handle on how thin the putting surface is and whether or not to keep it closed.  Your patience will be rewarded.  #14 continues to balk at our regrassing efforts and doesn't like being topdressed, sprayed, fertilized or inter-seeded.  You look at it "cross-eyed" and I swear it turns yellow but I do see progress down there.

Speaking of greens they have been fertilized to promote seedling growth and filling.  Greens are no longer under any form of growth regulation and it shows.  While the picture above shows "full buckets" and this I might add was the material I picked up after cutting just one green clearly demonstrates how warm weather and moisture equals grass growth.  For the record when the plant growth is held in check we can mow all eighteen greens dumping our baskets once each nine greens.  Greens mower operators know instantly if they "skipped" an area as they could literally trip over the hedge row of uncut turf.

Some sections were sodded in an effort to "use up" all available sod from our nursery green.  Time is running out and we need to rebuild this green in the next week or so to make sure we have mature enough turf in place to survive the winter months ahead.  This is the most sod I've harvested for repairs to putting greens that I've had to do in the combined tenure of my career here.

Friday, August 24, 2012


Just some this or that while listening to the rain spatter on the shops rooftop overhead as a light band of showers pass through the area.

It's been a mere sixteen days since #14 green was renovated and inter-seeded,  (fourteen days on #16) and in my professional opinion, the results have been spectacular in that short of time.  In fact those two greens were cut for the first time Wednesday.

Speaking of mowing the temporary greens are being cut at "Tri City Height" with a regular greens mower. Greens inter-seeded/renovated are also being cut with this mower to guard against new seedling mortality caused by mowing.  All greens are being cut one day and rolled only the next day to aid recovery in areas thinned by the loss of annual bluegrasses.  Green speeds are no part of my maintenance goals as our focus must be on putting green health.  Excessive fertility, mowing heights of cut and high moisture levels required for seed germination has put a temporary hold on that.  I've been told the inner "birdie" circle has been popular.

By the way we stimped the temporary green and it was rolling 8'.  Not bad for a section of fairway turf.  For your information, temporary surfaces are being mowed, rolled and topdressed on a regular maintenance schedule.

The photo above shows some of the success we've seen to date with our renovation efforts.  Look closely and you will see seed germination in the deep verticut channels (looking from bottom to top) and the success we had with the aerifier pockets. (moving from lower right to the 2 o'clock position in the photo.)  Our timing for this type of work is perfect as the vast majority of new growth is bentgrass over the weaker annual bluegrass plant that failed again miserably under this summers record heat and drought.

Speaking of aerification, I overheard two members commenting on the aerification.  Please do not confuse our renovation as an aerification event!  While we used our greens aerifier to open up the greens for inter-seeding, it was done at an extremely shallow depth for seeding and did nothing to remove the layer of organic matter in the greens profile, not to mention the deeper hard pan layer that impedes internal drainage.

We will be touching up a few more greens next week and addressing thin areas which are common for newly renovated stands.  I'm fearful the large section of turf on fifteen that was trampled underfoot during the weeks long worth of tournament play may have to be replaced by sod.  I'll know more in the next few days. 

Speaking of the next few days, greens renovated will be syringed with short 3 minute pulses of water, typically one revolution of the sprinkler head as needed, more on sunny windy drier days.  Please pardon the interruption, but the sprinklers will turn off for the most part as you reach the green.

Thank you for your patience and understanding.  _Mk