Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Patch is Back

After dealing with Take All Patch  throughout much of the spring of 2016, it was a real bummer to see the signs of it once again a few weeks ago.  This disappointment was compounded by the fact that following last year's battle with Take All, we had taken a more proactive approach to handling this disease, and made preventative fungicide treatments last fall, using three different treatment protocols.

Take All Patch on #7 approach.

As with many root-borne turf diseases, once you see the damage to the foliage from Take All Patch, it's often too late to do anything, as the plant's root system has already been compromised.

Whenever we make any treatment to the course, we try to leave check plots to see if the treatment was effective, or not.  However, this disease is seemingly so random in nature that it's difficult to quantify what impact the fall fungicide treatments may have had.  As General Manager, Joel, pointed out, maybe the treatments actually worked well, and we'd be in a whole lot worse shape now without them.

While prevention is the key to this pathogen, we are testing a curative approach this spring, using a liquid fertilizer and wetting agent program.  We marked a small patch on #7 approach, so we can easily track whether the disease is getting worse, or if the spray has stopped it, and we start to see recovery in the Bentgrass.

Like most turf diseases, Take All Patch is only active in a fairly narrow temperature range.  Its appearance in 2017 was later into the spring than in 2016, leaving us hopeful that it will be gone sooner rather than later this summer.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Greens Aerification

The greens were aerified last Monday and Tuesday.  As we have the past few years, we went with a two step process, using hollow tines first, then following this up with the use of the Dryject system.  People often ask, why we are aerifying the greens twice, basically at the same time?

Each of these two methods of aerification has its own strengths.  While just one of the two may work well for some greens, with Laurel Creek's greens now closing in on 28 years old, we find that the two different methods complement each other, without increasing the recovery time we would see from just core aerifying.

In the case of the hollow tines, we use a very tight hole spacing to remove a significant amount of organic matter from the top few inches of the root zone.  These plugs are scooped up using a core harvester and removed.  We then apply an average of three tons of sand per green, and broom this in to fill the holes.

The next day the Dryject contractor arrives with four of his amazing machines.  This unique piece of equipment creates a very small hole on the surface, while injecting a significant amount of sand into the soil profile, at a deeper level than we can achieve with our conventional aerifier.  While this process isn't removing organic matter, it is diluting it, and providing great drainage channels into the heart of the green's root zone.

Grass growers may get a bit giddy seeing the results of the Dryject treatment, shown in the plug below.  This is exactly what the greens need to get through the upcoming summer heat.

Immediately after aerifying on Monday and Tuesday, we began using our new roller on Wednesday to smooth the greens.  At 1,500+ pounds, this is a pretty heavy piece of equipment, and the results could be seen and felt immediately.

Between the hollow tine and Dryject, we used over 170,000 pounds of sand.  Admittedly, there are times when it may appear that we were a bit heavy-handed with the sand, as you can see in the picture of #9 green below.

However, it is generally better to have too much sand than too little after this operation.  Check out the picture taken just two days later--we are actually starting to see some green in the green.  

Without question, when it comes to aerification, we stand by the old saying that you've got to break a few eggs to make an omelette.  When asked why we have to aerify the greens when they've been so good, the answer is simple:  Because we want them to continue to be among the best putting surfaces.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Sod Management

Sodding an area gives instant gratification--what was brown in the morning, is green in the afternoon.  However, there are a few things to consider when deciding whether to go with seed or sod.  This would include the area's slope, the time of year, and the amount of traffic it will face.

In executing the Golf Course Master Plan work last summer and fall, sod was the logical choice in all areas.  Of course, with sod, we're growing it in a different location from where it started--think skin graft on a person.  In a golf course situation, the turf must be able to withstand quite a bit more extreme conditions than a typical backyard which has limited traffic.  Additionally, in the case of Bentgrass sod, it will have to endure a very low height of cut.

One of the best things we can do to help this sod acclimate to its new life on the golf course is to aerify it.  This reduces the thatch level, and increases pore space, giving the roots someplace to easily move into.  Aerification will also help to alleviate layering which may exist between the original soil, and the new soil.  For the lower cut Bentgrass green surrounds, aerifying, topdressing and smoothing with a mat gives us an opportunity to remove any tiny lumps and bumps, thus preventing scalping.

We currently see a window of opportunity to aerify with good results.  The turf is actively growing, and we're not yet facing the heat of the summer.  It is time to make some holes!

Bentgrass green surrounds on #16.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Heading Off Course

For the past five years, we've used this blog to keep you informed about what is happening on the golf course.  This week we're taking a break from golf, and heading off the course to take a quick look at a different kind of "behind the scenes project" which was recently completed.

It's unlikely that too many of you have had the opportunity to visit the Clubhouse boiler room--and truth be told, you really weren't missing much.  However, during the past month, Facilities Manager, David Shoemaker, and his team have worked with a contractor to make a significant improvement to this important piece of the Clubhouse infrastructure.

The picture below was taken during the transition of water heating systems.  The two original hot water heaters and huge 500 gallon storage tank are in the foreground.

Check out the difference with the old equipment removed.  The three new, tankless hot water heaters are more energy efficient and take up a fraction of the space of the old units.  The room looks so nice, it was deemed worthy of hanging some artwork on the wall.

One small challenge during this project was the removal of the old tank.  The Clubhouse had literally been built around the 500 gallon hot water storage tank.  Without five foot wide doorways, removing this in one piece was not an option.  Sam had to remove the outside jacket from the tank, then the insulation, and was finally able to use a reciprocating saw to cut the steel into manageable pieces.

With spring in full swing, and plenty of activity going on outside, we will be back on course next week!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Back in the Bunkers

This spring, we've noticed that the sand in several of the new bunkers has not firmed up as we had expected.  Given that this is the same sand we've used in all of the previously renovated bunkers (which firmed very quickly), this has been something of a surprise, and has us looking into potential causes for the difference.

Inconsistent moisture is one potential factor here.  Obviously there is no irrigation running over the winter, and precipitation was hit and miss, with a very dry February and wet March.  While we often think of something dry as being firmer than when wet (like pasta, for example), that's not always the case.  If you've ever gone for a run on the beach, you quickly learn that the firmer sand is the wet sand, closest to the water.

In fact, for  tournament preparation, you will often see bunkers being watered by hand to keep the sand firm.  

While moisture may be playing a role, we are also revisiting how these new bunkers are being maintained.  With many of the new bunkers being smaller than the old ones, we have elected to hand rake them, instead of using a machine.  Even on the larger bunkers, where we do use the Sand Pro, the bunker faces are steeper than in the past, and we've been making sure the mechanical rake only stays on the flat portion of the bunker.

So, it's a bit ironic that we are now finding that our bunker maintenance protocol, which is designed to keep the bunkers in the best condition, may actually be contributing to the lack of sand firmness.  That is, with no machine in many of the bunkers, there's no on-going compaction.  With no machine on the steep faces, again, no compaction.  What's the answer?

Yes, we are using a Sand Pro to help compact the sand...However, this machine has no rake assembly on it, and it is the large flotation tires which are doing the packing work for us.  Last Sunday night we irrigated the green surrounds to wet the sand, and on Monday three team members spent all day checking and adjusting sand depth, and packing the sand.

This is clearly not a one and done job.  We will be looking to get back in these bunkers every couple of weeks initially, then back off as we see a change in the sand firmness.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Nesting Time

It's spring, and the time of year when we see lots of birds sitting on their nests, eagerly awaiting the arrival of their hatchlings.  As you play #14, take a look to the right of the green, and you can see a red-tailed hawk nest.

Due to the height of the nest, it's a bit difficult to get a clear view of the activity, but you may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of mom (or dad) patiently sitting. 

Below, we saw one of the proud parent looking for a meal.

Following a successful hunt, breakfast is being prepared in a nearby tree.

And while driving across the bridge on #14, we got an up close look at some serious talons,

Once again, we look at this nesting as evidence of golf and the environment working together to provide habitat for wildlife.  So watch out rabbits, squirrels and snakes--there will be more mouths to feed this spring.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Tee Time

For several years, we were only aerifying tees in August, however this has proven to be insufficient to keep up with thatch accumulation, and many of the tees have become softer than is ideal.  Therefore, in addition to our August aerification, we have added a spring coring to the cultural practices program for tees.
#9 tee, four days post aerification.

While much of last week's weather was cold and wet, we were fortunate to get a brief window when we were able to aerify tees.  Despite heavy rain just a couple of days earlier, the conditions last Monday were perfect for the process.  Temperatures were warm enough to dry the surface and allow for a quick and easy cleanup, while not stressing the turf.  We topdressed the tees, broomed the sand in, and then received another shot of rain that evening, helping to move the sand off the surface and deeper into the holes.

While it often seems that we are fighting the weather, it's truly appreciated when things go as planned.