Friday, July 27, 2012

Bermudagrass...Better than Advertised For Summer Practice!

There’s always a little apprehension when you’re the first one to try something new.  So, even though the research told us that the use of Bermudagrass on the lower practice tee was the way to go, we had our fingers crossed this spring as we waited for it to green-up.  However, after putting it to the test during the past couple of months, we can say that the wait was worth it, and the Bermudagrass is living up to its reputation. 

There are several benefits to this grass when compared to the cool season grass on the upper tee.  First, and foremost, the Bermudagrass loves the hot weather...and we’ve certainly had plenty of that this summer.  Secondly, in contrast to the upper tee, the Bermudagrass tee takes nothing more than the sand divot mix to fill in the divots.  Lastly, Bermudagrass isn’t susceptible to many of the turf diseases that cool season grasses are.  To date, only one fungicide application has been made to the lower tee all season.

As we enter August, it’s great to still have some quality turf for members to hit from on the upper tee as well.  Clearly, the Bermudagrass has helped us here, by taking the majority of use during the week.  By only using the upper tee a couple of days each week, we’re able to give that cool season turf more time to recover.

The question you might be asking is, if this Bermudagrass is so great, why don’t we use it on the upper tee as well?  There are a couple of reasons why we are limited to using Bermudagrass on the lower tee.  While this turf thrives in the heat of the summer, it won’t recover from heavy use in the spring and fall.  Secondly, while this variety of Bermudagrass is cold tolerant, it can be hurt by shade, and this would be a problem for the upper tee during the winter months.

The upper tee’s cool season grasses will do best in spring and fall, so come October, we will reverse the use pattern, and hit the majority of balls from the upper tee.

So for trying something new, Bermudagrass was the way to go for great summer practice… living up to its reputation and even better than advertised for summer practice.
Conversion to Bermudagrass on the lower tee has benefited the upper tee as well.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Backing Off...Slightly

When the temperatures are below 85 degrees, we can push the greens further.   Double cutting greens and irrigating less to keep the greens firm and fast can be done safely with moderate weather conditions.  But, as the temperatures and humidity keep climbing, it's time to back least slightly.

We are still mowing the greens seven days per week, rolling them six days, and closely monitoring conditions to push things when we can.  However, this summer has already had more than its share of 90+ degree days, and we're still in July. 

Cool season turf has the shortest root system of the entire year in the month of August, so we need to keep the turf going for the next six weeks, until we start to get some consistently cooler days and nights.

This week we came close to 100 degrees, and under these extreme temperatures, the highly maintained turf can lose its ability to function just as people do.  Despite this, we were still able to provide an average green speed of 10' 7" on Wednesday and Thursday.
Cooler temperatures and rain at the end of the week provided some relief, but brought with it a new set of issues, since mowing wet greens can lead to scalping and the unappetizing "grass soup."

Mowing wet greens can cause mechanical injury to the turf.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Golf Course Goldilocks Syndrome

It is during the periods of little or no rainfall that we obviously must rely on the irrigation system to help maintain the health of the turf.  In the past three weeks (from June 22-July 13), we have received a mere 0.35" of rain.  With the above average temperatures we've dealt with, that is less moisture than the turf will use or lose in two days.

There is no substitute for a good rain event.  Even the best sprinklers in a test facility operate with a less than perfect “uniformity of distribution.”  Outside of the lab, wind, in particular, will play havoc with a sprinkler’s coverage.  Add to this the affect on drying of different soil types, as well as runoff from slopes into swales, and it isn’t surprising that there is variation in moisture levels on the course.

Our irrigation system was designed in the 1980's, and in this part of the country, systems are generally just a supplement to regular rainfall.  Therefore, when we do have these periods when we are relying exclusively on irrigation, it can be a bit like Goldilocks:  This spot is too dry, this spot is too wet, and this spot is just right. 

We make every effort to balance both the playability and the long-term condition of the golf course.  In addition to the automatic irrigation, we devote a significant amount of labor to hand watering in the summer, as well as the use of portable roller base sprinklers to help fill in the gaps of coverage.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

"Those Dirty Rings..."

Several of the greens have dark rings on them, caused by Fairy Ring disease.  These fungi are from the Basidiomycetes class, of which there are over 300 different types.  There can be several visible signs of the fungi at work:  a dark green circle caused by a release of nitrogen in the soil, mushrooms may form on the turf surface, or the fungi may damage the turf roots causing the perimeter of the ring to turn brown. 

Fungicides labeled for the control of this fungus have been applied.  However, these rings are persistent, and with the low fertility regimen we have the greens on this year, the rings really stand out.

While the rings aren't necessarily just around the collar, maybe we should consider trying some "Wisk":

Dark green rings caused by Fairy Ring disease.