Sunday, December 10, 2017

New Jersey Turf Expo

The New Jersey Turf Expo took place this week, which included three days of education sessions, with speakers from as far away as New Zealand.  Given the scope of this conference, hearing Laurel Creek mentioned twice was definitely a surprise.

During the USGA's discussion on Water Conservation, it was nice to see the Club recognized as an example for Best Management Practices.

However, the second picture wasn't one of our favorites.  While Rich Buckley, Director of the Plant Diagnostic Laboratory at Rutgers, was reviewing turf disease issues of 2017, the audience was shown a great picture of Take-All Patch...from Laurel Creek. 

While it's never fun to see your dead grass on the screen, this was actually a positive event, as it sparked some conversations with other turf managers who have been dealing with Take-All.  In addition to learning from researchers, sharing information with peers is often a great way to find out what works well.

Events such as the New Jersey Turf Expo truly show that Mother Nature is far from static.  There are certainly challenges in course management today, which we didn't see 10 or 15 years ago.  Staying on top of issues such as Annual Bluegrass Weevils, False Green Kyllinga, and fungicide resistance is critical to being able to provide consistent playing conditions.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Finally finishing Fescue

One of the on-going issues in our Fescue, is the density of these areas.  That is, even when we keep the Fescue weed free, the topsoil holds moisture and nutrients, often causing these areas to become super thick.  This is especially true in a year like 2017, when there was ample rainfall throughout the season.

More often than not, when we see golf courses with a nice, thin, wispy stand of Fine Fescue, we also find this grass growing in some sandier soil.  As luck would have it, the excess material being excavated for the Clubhouse expansion is really sandy.

As they say, one man's trash is another man's treasure, so after hauling several hundred loads of this sandy material to #7/13, the material was graded, and mixed into the soil beneath.

This week, the sod arrived, and the guys made quick work of installing it.  At one acre, this was a big project to undertake with most of the seasonal employees no longer here to help.  The team did a great job, installing 20 pallets of sod on Wednesday morning by 9:15 a.m.

It's unusual for us to still have the irrigation system charged in the beginning of December.  However, with temperatures well above average for this time of year, we decided to wait until the sod was here, and we could give it one good soaking before blowing out the system.  While you won't see much foliar growth over the next few months, the sod will root well over the winter.

For what is often referred to as a "low maintenance area," there was a whole lot of labor involved in the preparation of the area between #7 and #13.  We have already received many positive comments from golfers, and are confident that the finished product will look great in the spring.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Take-All Trials

We have talked about Take-All Patch way too much over the past couple of years.  We often see the symptoms on tees and fairways in the late spring, and as with many patch diseases, by the time you see symptoms on the foliage, the damage is already done.

So, while it may be getting cold outside, and potential Take-All problems are over six months away, now is the time to try to prevent it.  This fall, we are making two preventative applications of a combination of fungicides.

As the old turf adage goes, Mother Nature doesn't work in straight lines.  By leaving clearly defined treated and untreated areas side by side, we should easily be able to see if the preventative fungicides got the job done.  Take-All can be hit or miss from year to year, so had we made wall to wall applications without check plots, we might not know if any reduction in disease severity was due to the spray or other factors such as the weather. 

So, now we wait for half a year to see if the spray worked.  While nobody will shed a tear if we find zero Take-All on the entire golf course next year, it will be helpful to know if this is a solid weapon in preventing the disease in the future.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Grind Time

Obviously, one of the most critical parts of the golf course operation is having mowers which cut properly.  While a homeowner's lawn may be cut with a rotary mower at 2", the greens are maintained with reel mowers, often set as low as 1/10".  When you are cutting this tight, there is little margin for error.  Height adjustments are made to the thousandth of an inch, and every mower is checked after each use.

As we are about to enter the season when mowers are overhauled by equipment technicians, the timing was perfect for us to host a seminar on the subject of reel maintenance.  This event, sponsored by Turf Equipment and Supply Company gave instructor Jim Nedin a chance to go into the topic in detail with a small group of local technicians. 

The morning session was spent in the classroom, discussing the theory of best practices for reel setup, along with common causes of improper cutting.  To maintain a precise, clean cut, there are many factors which need to be taken into consideration.  A technician needs to be aware of reel diameter, number of blades on a reel, bedknife options, and roller options. 

Then the afternoon session gave the group the chance to watch Jim as he gave a hands-on demonstration.  With a walking greensmower costing close to what a Nissan Versa does, proper care is a must.

We were happy to open our doors for this event.  It was a great opportunity for individuals to learn, while sharing their thoughts and experiences with others.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Big Break

Irrigation leaks are never any fun, and when the pipe size is 8", you can expect a big hole will be needed to make the repair.  Such was the case a week ago, when suddenly, up from the ground came a significant amount of water.

In situations like this, digging carefully is mandatory.  We not only don't want to rip the pipe out of the ground, but we also need to avoid damaging the myriad wires which run alongside the pipe.

Step two in this surgical procedure was cutting out the old tee.  Virtually none of the irrigation pipe on the golf course is glued together.  Instead it is pushed together using belled end pipe with gaskets.  Therefore, it is primarily the weight of the soil which holds the pipe in place.  However, where fittings such as tees and elbows are installed, concrete thrust blocks were poured to prevent the pipe from moving.  As you can see below, the concrete thrust block came out with the tee.

Once we had the tee out, we could finally see exactly where the problem was.  The ductile iron tee corroded to the point that its rubber gasket blew out.  Similar to a car's tire separating from the rim, once the gasket's seal was broken, water was able to freely escape the pipe.

When repairing pipes we no longer have the room to push pipe into a new fitting.  In a situation like this, some type of repair coupling is used.  There are many different kinds, but on the recommendation of an experienced irrigation contractor, we chose a repair coupling which was new to us.  One of the advantages to this model, is that there is only a single bolt to tighten on each end.  This may not sound like a big deal, but inevitably, tightening bolts on the bottom of a pipe in a muddy hole, is less than ideal.  One bolt, situated on top of the pipe is a big improvement.

Once the repair couplings were in place, we poured our own thrust blocks to prevent any possible pipe movement, and the couplings themselves are wrapped in plastic.  This way, should the repair ever need to be dug up, we won't have to be chipping concrete off the couplings.  The finished product may not look beautiful, but it is effective.

Again, these main line repairs are never a party.  However, to look at the glass as half full, the pipe wasn't eight feet deep, the wires were looped around the existing fitting giving us plenty of room to work, and it took place in November, not July!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

How much rain?

One week ago, from Sunday to Monday, we had the largest rain event of the year, totaling 3.7".  Although this may pale in comparison to what some areas of the country have had to deal with, it still is a quantity that may be difficult to wrap your head around.

So, let's take a look at what 3.7" of rain really means to the course.  There are 27,154 gallons of water per acre inch.  When we multiply this by 3.7" you find that each acre received 100,470 gallons of water.  While the golf course property itself is 237 acres, when we include the surrounding residential area that drains onto the course, we come up with 477 acres.

So, how much water did the golf course have to deal with, either directly, or indirectly with this storm?  Try this number on for size: 477 acres X 100,470 gallons per acre = 47,924,094

That's right, almost 48 million gallons of water were handled by the golf course.  At 8.34 pounds per gallon, that's just under 400,000,000 pounds of water.

Had we asked Dr. Evil this question, it seems unlikely that his answer would have even been close.

Where did this hefty amount of water go?  Obviously, a good bit is absorbed into the soil.  The balance of the water is channeled into our extensive storm sewer system, where it fills the lakes on the course.  Once the ponds and lakes reach capacity, they will overflow into one of two tributaries of the Rancocas Creek, and from there, it is a short trip to the Delaware River.

The great news is that despite all of this rain, we were open with carts less than 24 hours after it stopped.  The golf course had a large drainage system installed when constructed, and we have continued to augment the drainage over the years.  At times like this, the payoff of having a good drainage system, which allows quick access to the course, is clear.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Fescue Renovation Update

Last month (see, Project Time), we discussed the upcoming renovation to the Fescue between #7 and 13.  Since then, we have made several applications of selective herbicides, for control of both broadleaf and grassy weeds.  Lo and behold, after one mowing, we now find that there is still some very good Fine Fescue in parts of this area.

On a small scale, this is good evidence that, given enough time and effort, once established, we can maintain a pretty pure stand of Fine Fescue.  Again, the keys are time and effort--"low maintenance" is definitely a misnomer.

With several applications of selective herbicides complete, we have separated the wheat from the chaff (or the Fescue from the weeds).  Parts of this space which have too little Fescue, and require sodding, can now be easily identified.

In these locations, an application of a non-selective herbicide was made recently.  As you can see below, a green tracker dye was used when applying the non-selective herbicide in order to see what sections were sprayed.

The story will continue next month as we prepare for a few tractor trailer loads of sod.