Friday, April 27, 2012

Hand Watering

Golfers often seem surprised to see members of the maintenance staff hand watering with a hose at times when one might think there's plenty of moisture in the soil.  There are a number of reasons why we may need to be doing this, and can't rely solely on the sprinkler system to get the job done:

·         Water Conservation--Hand watering allows us to put the water exactly where it's needed.  Soil moisture levels can vary greatly within just a couple of feet, and a sprinkler will apply the water indiscriminately to the entire area. 

·         Soil texture differences--Over one million cubic yards of material were moved during the construction of the golf course.  Picture a marble cake-like mixture beneath the surface composed of materials ranging from the densest clay to the best draining sand, then capped with a layer of topsoil as the icing.  The water retention abilities of these different soil types varies greatly.

                Greens and tees are constructed of 80% sand.  This is great for drainage, but can lead to soils that become hydrophobic, or water repellant.  If you've ever had a house plant become extremely dry and then watched the water just run off as you tried to water it, you can understand what can happen.  Hand watering is the best way to address what are called "localized dry spots."

·         Sprinkler Coverage--Our sprinkler system has heads spaced 80' apart throughout the golf course.  Sprinkler performance is never uniform, even in a test chamber, and when factors such as wind, mounds and swales are added, hand watering is a must to fill in the holes in coverage.

·         To Cool Plants That Are Under Stress--Long summer days, combined with high heat and wind, can cause a plant to stop functioning properly, resulting in wilt.  Lightly misting the air above the turf canopy can temporarily lower the temperature in this micro-climate, allowing the plant to transpire, or breath.  This type of hand watering is referred to as "syringing." 
Both a soil probe and a test instrument (which measures volumetric water content), can be used to check soil moisture.

Spring is often a time where we can allow the soil moisture level to drop, resulting in firmer conditions.  With moderate temperatures, and the plant having the longest root system of the entire year, the turf can handle this stress without concern of long-term injury.

However, allowing soils to dry out is something of a balancing act, and can create big challenges.  As mentioned above, once dried down, soils can become hydrophobic.  We recently saw a great example of this in late April.  From April 21-23 we received over 2" of rainfall...and yet, as you can see in the pictures, soil samples taken from a fairway show soil that is still so dry that it crumbles.  Clearly, if 2" of rain over 36 hours doesn't re-wet this soil, sprinklers will be of little use.    In situations like this, hand watering alone can't solve the problem, and other cultural practices must be incorporated.  Solid tine aerification is used to help create pore space by slightly heaving and fracturing the soil.  In addition, wetting agents are needed to increase water penetration into the soil, by reducing the surface tension of the water.  
This soil remains bone dry even after 2" of rainfall.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Irrigation Improvements

Last fall, we began a multi-year project of renovating the tee irrigation.  The original irrigation design had sprinklers spaced 80' apart, each of which used 45 gallons per minute.  Because of this, we were forced to irrigate a great deal of our naturalized areas in order to adequately water the tees.

The new sprinklers use less than 15 gallons per minute, and are spaced 40-45' apart.  This new layout is similar to what you might find on a course in the desert, and allows us to more accurately irrigate the tee itself, while conserving water.
The new sprinklers on #18, are able to target the tee, and not the Fescue.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Augusta...behind the scenes

There is no doubt that Augusta National is one of the most amazing golf courses in the world.  Every year, without fail, the course is flawless for the Masters.

However, using Google to zoom in on the course, you can get some idea of what's really involved:
#3, Flowering Peach, is undergoing bunker work and what appears to be fairway drainage. 
#5 looks to be getting a heavy fairway topdressing, #6 is having work done on the tee, and #16 seems to be missing its green!
 Hopefully this shows the incredible amount of work that takes place annually to have the course ready when the action starts.

Friday, April 13, 2012


The reflector is attached to the top of the flagstick.

In preparation for Opening Day, new flags and flagsticks have been put on the course. This year, we have added "Smarty" reflectors to the top of the sticks, so your range finders will be able to quickly and accurately get the yardage.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Light and Dark

For the past two years we have dealt with abnormal growth and wilt of Bentgrass on the greens and collars.  In order to try and establish a cause and effect relationship with this phenomenon, we will be leaving untreated plots on greens throughout this year.

Unfertilized turf in the foreground.
Experts still disagree about the cause of etiolated turf, but one theory is that it could be related to plant fertility.  Prior to spring aerification, we fertilized the greens to help them heal more quickly.  However, on four greens, we did not apply fertilizer to the back half.  If nothing else, this has shown the benefit of this fertilizer in helping the holes fill in.

Pitfall Traps

As you play the course this spring, you may notice some pieces of PVC piping in the bluegrass rough.  This piping has a slit cut in the top, and a bottle connected to it, in order to monitor insect activity.  By tracking the movements of insects such as the Annual Bluegrass Weevil, we can more accurately time applications of plant protectants.
With this simple trap, the bugs check in, but don't check out.

Solid Tine Aerification

One of the important cultural practices we perform on the fairways throughout the year is solid tine aerification. 

The heavy duty aerifier used for this doesn't punch a perfectly vertical hole, but goes in straight and then "kicks" the earth as it comes back out.  This slight heaving of the ground helps to fracture the soil beneath, creating increased pore space for water penetration, gas exchange, and rooting.

One of the great things about this process is that it causes minimal surface disruption. 

You have to look closely to see the aerification holes on this fairway just a couple of days after the holes were created. The golf pencil and screwdriver have been poked into these holes.