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

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Inter-seeding update: Part Two

You are probably aware by now that we took our inter-seeding efforts to additional weak putting surfaces on #3, #6, #12, #13 & #15 greens. It is our goal to increase the bentgrass populations on those greens.  To do nothing would serve only to build the annual bluegrass populations.  I only have to point to the complete loss of the Poa on the fourteenth green this year as proof this isn't something you would care to do.

We developed our technique through trial and error using what we knew worked best from our past regrassing efforts required to over come winter kill on greens.  We also borrowed techniques of other superintendents that have successfully gassed and regrassed their greens, most notably Jerry Kershasky's work at Westmoor CC and presently at University Ridge Golf Course. 

We modified our technique when we found our greens were too poorly rooted to withstand the aggressive pounding of the solid tines being used.  We eliminated that step as I didn't want to remove additional greens from play.  (With that said, we will address the organic matter layer that impedes drainage later in the year when the greens are deep tined.)  I know you may differ in your opinion but this doesn't look like a bad putting surface after all our renovation efforts.   

Pictured above is a deep verticut groove coupled with shallow aerification using close spaced .25" open spooned tines.  Both a groove and a pore for seed to fall into.  The cores pulled serve as a light topdressing needed to fill both the grooves and pores covering the seed.  We calculated the amount of seed needed for each green and applied one half the amount of the total seed needed after each individual operation.  The surrounding turf will assist in protecting new seedlings from mower injury.  I will go on record and tell you the hardest job I have is keeping new seedlings alive on a putting surfaces open for play.  This is due to the obvious mower mortality of immature plants unable to withstand cutting at putting green heights.  For that reason alone we will be increasing the mower height of cut on those greens to improve our chances of success. 

This is the best time of the year for greens renovation.  I will have further updates for you in the weeks ahead.  Stay tuned.  _Mk

Inter-seeding updates.

Progress report #14 & #16 greens.

....."Pea's porridge in the pot, Nine days old."  I never understood that century's old rhyme but my calendar tells me it has been nine days since we started regrassing several greens hammered by this summers record heat and drought.

Here's of photo of #14 green a mere nine days after inter-seeding.

Here's a look at #16 green just seven days after renovation.

Our efforts were finally rewarded by an extremely welcomed and timely break in the weather.  To think the stretch of 90 degree days just ended ten days ago!  August has been very kind to us weather wise and it now shows by our seeding success on those two greens.  Timely and cool rains has helped lower soil temperatures to the point of rapid germination for the Bentgrass (between 70-80 degrees) but warmer than the optimum germination temperatures for the Poa Plant.  This scenario is exactly what we wanted, Bentgrass coming in before the annual bluegrass.  Some annual bluegrass will germinate, but we have decidedly tip the scale in favor of the bent plant.  This should greatly increase these greens summer stress survival next year should it be another tough one. 

In the weeks ahead, these two greens will be pampered with fertility to help them mature and gradually cut lower to get them to spread out laterally to fill in.  As Head Pro Joe stated, "There's more grass on those greens than what we had in May."  Not quite, but I'm very encouraged by what I see popping out of the ground today.  Stay tuned.  _Mk 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Happy Birthday to a couple of Nanogenerians!

I've had this post on my mind for some time.  It was supposed to be light and whimsical.  If my math is correct, the 75th anniversary hole flag hanging on my office wall is dated 1997 so 2012 makes it the ninetieth birthday for the club.  Along for everyone of those years is your present first and fourteenth greens as they were designed by Stiles and Van Kleek, architects from Boston Massachusetts.  (A copy of the hole routing blue print as prepared by the NEPCO Engineering is dated 1927 suggests an actual age of 85.  Does anyone know?)
Your First Green.
Your Fourteenth Green.
But that was before the slow and steady decline of  the putting surface of the fourteenth green due to a multitude of factors.  As of today, this green has been shutdown for the season.  On Wednesday August 8th, the putting surface was aerified multiple times and verticut deeply all in an effort to make as much of the surface receptive to inter-seeding of Alpha bentgrass.

Why did this green decline?  The hottest, driest July in recorded history did little in keeping this green alive.

It is a fact that this is the fourth smallest green on the golf course measuring in at 2611 square feet.  (Tri City has three greens at 1700 square feet!)   This green like many on the course lack both good internal and external surface drainage.  I'm aware of two layers in this green that limit internal drainage and rooting depth.  All drainage, as was normal of greens of that age, is spilled off the front of the green.  It sits in a tight pocket ringed by trees which limits good air circulation.  Foot traffic enters the green from the left of the bunker and exits directly to the right. Our hand watering efforts were in vain as we were using river water several degrees warmer than soil temperatures.  At one time I heard the water temperature was 88 degrees warm!  It goes to show you that how the lack of snowfall this past winter influenced temperatures of the water by reducing the input of cold spring feed water into the river.   Hand watering left the soils saturated and increased base temperatures exacerbating root decline.   By my estimate, 90% of this green was composed of Poa Annua.  A shallow rooted weed that thrives under tight, moist, compacted conditions present.  As I feared, the Summer Patch pathogen was diagnosed on a disease sample submitted for testing to the Turfgrass Diagnostic Lab, UW-Madison Department of Plant Pathology.  This disease establishes itself in the root system clogging the water carring vessels. The effects of the disease isn't known until the full blown stress of summer is upon us.  Too late to save the plants now.
You can see the layer were irrigation water stops.  Were the water stops, so does the plant roots.  The roots on this green were so shallow and with temperatures commonly in the 90's, daily wilting was common by mid afternoon further stressing the plants.
I'm inserting this photo to illustrate how deep tine aerifcation perforated the heavy soils.  This channel appears to function in a limited capacity.  BTW;  This photo was taken on #14. 
Adding all the factors up, this green was doomed and had to be shut down for renovation.

(Ideally, this green with several others should be replaced with larger greens better suited for today's play and golfer expectations.)

So what did we do?

We are developing our technique as we go and is loosely based on the gassing and regrassing efforts Jerry Kershasky used in regrassing the putting greens at Westmoor CC and University Ridge Golf Course.  I also followed up with several superintendents with experience in this area.  I did not have pictures of the process as we were trying to get the seedbed prepped should the predicted rains fall.

First we punched this green with .5" solid tines as deeply as our aerifier could go. (4")  We topdressed and backfilled the open holes.  We aerified with .25" open tines set up in 2 x 5 block tine holders set at a shallow depth to create pockets of open pores for the seed to fall.  We applied half the seed prepared for this green.  We then deeply verticult to create grooves. Applied the second half of the seed.  Dragged the topdressing to cover the seed in the grooves.  Lightly raked any debris.  Rolled. Applied starter fertilizer and watered to settle the dust (and to keep the meager 10% of any turf still left alive on that green.)

Renovation of this green should be viewed as new construction and as such this putting surface will be closed for the remainder of the year and with good weather a reopening sometime late May.  The turf will need time to "knit" together before it gets hammered by daily play.  I will post further photo's of our regrassing efforts as we try to boost the bentgrass populations in several other greens on the course.

Unfortunately, this green was showing her age, but with a little luck, a timely face lift will be appreciated in the days to come.  _Mk

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Hot water heater!

It's very frustrating to come to work in the morning after an irrigation cycle to find greens looking like boiled cabbage!  Greens, instead of looking better after a boost from a drink of cool water looking much worse after a soak in the hot tub.

That's right, the temperature coming from our irrigation system is a tepid 84 degrees.
It was one Sunday afternoon in Mid July while taking soil moisture readings that I was asked if I was taking soil temperatures with my probe.  In conversation with Dr. Christy and Jerry Hassl enjoying a good cigar after their rounds of golf I learned that the water temperature in the Wisconsin River was in the mid 80's!  Not unusual but arriving much earlier in the season than normal according to their source.  This is due to low river flows. When considering the lack of snow, the extensive heat wave and drought we've encountered to date it only figures.  We began monitoring the water temperature on a weekly basis and have found it ranged from a low of 78 degrees (fifteen feet below surface levels as it entered the turbines at the Centralia Dam) to a high of 86 degrees at the craft mill.  I heard an unconfirmed report of 88 degrees as of August 3rd.  This all thanks to the warmest, driest July on record.
I never dreamt our hand watering of wilted collars would precipitate further decline of putting surfaces and is the principle reason you no longer see us out "cooling" our greens.  It can't be done when using this luke warm bath water!  With soil temperatures at 78 degrees, we found we were compromising root systems by making the soil profile warmer!  Not good for the plants, not good at all.

If you were with us in 1988 you might remember we did not struggle with our greens like we have this year when all watering was done by hand.  Then 100% of our water came from a spring feed quarry, one semi tanker load at a time!  That was a very bad year, this year by my estimation has been much worse.

Pray for a good soaker of cooling rain that lasts all day.  No wind storms please.   _Mk