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