Friday, December 27, 2013

Behind the Scenes

Depending on when you play your round at Laurel Creek, you may seldom see any of the dedicated staff who tend the grounds.  In an effort to minimize disruption to you, they arrive in the dark day in and day out, and are often stealth-like in their approach to carrying out their assignments.

At this time of year, we show our appreciation for their efforts with our annual kielbasa cookout.  This year's weather forced the festivities to be moved indoors, but everyone had a great time, and nobody left hungry!

So the next time you catch a glimpse of the folks who are typically working behind the scenes, please take a second to thank them for the work they do--it will certainly be appreciated.
Some of the crew enjoying a Holiday feast.

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Christmas Cart Conundrum

Christmas has yet to arrive, and we've already experienced four snow events this December, and some bone-chilling temperatures.  Warmer weather this weekend is certainly welcome, however there is some concern for the turf during these freeze-thaw cycles. 

In the past three weeks, we've received the equivalent of three inches of rain, so the frozen soil is holding a great deal of moisture.  The trouble can occur as things begin to warm up, since the first area to thaw out is at the surface.  With frozen ground below, the water near the surface can't percolate into the frozen ground beneath.  As seen in the picture, as the snow melts, water often just runs across the surface.

What happens if golf carts are allowed on these areas too soon?  The turf may experience shearing of the roots from mechanical injury, as if a sod cutter had been used on it. 
So please understand that if carts aren't permitted at times during the winter, we're not trying to be Grinch-like.  To the contrary--we're protecting the course for the long run, so you will have the in-season conditions you want. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Planning Time

We are often asked, "What do you do in the winter?"  Typically, there are a number of outdoor projects which we undertake this time of year, including drainage, bunker work, sodding, pruning, and even  replacing bridge decking.

However, one of the most important winter projects we tackle takes place indoors.  This is the detailed operational planning for the upcoming year.  We will review prior years' procedures, look at what worked well, areas that need improvement, and make adjustments going forward.

One of the best sources of information we have for planning, comes from attending turf conferences such as the New Jersey Green Expo, which was held this week.  University researchers from as far away as North Carolina, Michigan, and Rhode Island presented information to attendees this year.  Some of the topics they covered included management of Fine Fescue areas, Bacterial Wilt on putting greens, and control options for the Annual Bluegrass Weevil.

Having the opportunity to discuss these important subjects with the experts, as well as other golf course managers, often provides some of the key new tips, tricks, and techniques which we will incorporate into our operation next year. 
Endophytes in Fine Fescues--exciting stuff for some of us!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Getting a Jump on 2014

While the grass is not requiring much mowing right now, there are still a number of important jobs that are taking place to care for the golf course turf.  One of these is the application of the pre-emergent herbicide for 2014.  That’s right, we are applying material now that will control weeds such as crabgrass and goosegrass next summer.

Traditionally, this application would be made in the spring, prior to crabgrass germination.  However, when springtime arrives, it often feels as if we have 1,000 tasks that all must be done at the same time.  The herbicide we use for crab and goosegrass control needs to be applied to all areas of the course except the greens.  This is quite a time-consuming job, as we use both a tractor-mounted spreader and several hand spreaders.
So, what’s the advantage of making this application in late fall, instead of waiting until the spring?  With cooler temperatures now, and less traffic on the course, we can focus on carefully applying this material.  And, we can check this big job off our “to do” list next spring—which means we’ll only have 999 things left to take care of!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Weevil Update

In the beginning of November, two entomologists from Rutgers visited several golf courses, including Laurel Creek, to collect over-wintering Annual Bluegrass Weevils.  The purpose of their research was to determine the level of resistance these insects have to a commonly used class of insecticide.

While the researchers didn't gather as many weevils here as they would have liked, they did head back to the lab with enough adults to test.  Unfortunately, the results of their testing confirmed resistance. 

What this implies is that we now have one less tool in the toolbox to use in the war on weevils.  A good deal of time and effort during the winter is spent in reviewing the prior year's agronomic plan, and making adjustments for the upcoming year.  Clearly, reevaluating available control options for the weevil, and developing a new strategy for the 2014 season will be included in this process.
At 1/8" in length, it's hard to believe that the larva of ABW can cause so much damage to turf.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Sand Check

Following the major renovation project earlier this year on #7 bunker, we have received many nice comments about the condition of this hazard.  Obviously the goal is to keep this bunker playing well for many years to come.  To this end, one of the on-going tasks that we now do periodically, is check the bunker for sand depth uniformity.

As you can see in the photo, one crew member is using a probe to check depth at various locations.  When thin or heavy areas of sand are located, he marks these, and a second crew member uses the plow on the bunker rake to redistribute the sand.

How does sand get moved?  There are actually a number of causes for sand movement within a bunker, including rain, wind, golf shots, and the mechanical rake.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Very Dry Fall

With much cooler temperatures, you probably don't notice it as much now as you would during the summer, but we have had very little rain lately.  Several times this fall, the weather forecast has called for rain, yet it has amounted to little more than a brief shower.  During the past five weeks, we've recorded a mere 0.35" of precipitation. 

Fortunately, this is a time of year when turf doesn't require a whole lot of moisture replenishment.  Still, with the irrigation system shut down for the year, we could use a good soaking rain to make sure the plants aren't going into winter under stress.

One concern if it doesn't rain before winter sets in is desiccation.  This can occur when the plant is subjected to drying from winds.  Although relatively rare in this climate, desiccation would most likely occur on one of two areas at Laurel Creek:  On our sand-based greens, or on exposed fairway mounds.

Once again rain is in the forecast, however at this point we'll believe it when we see it.  So, if you haven't had your home irrigation system shut down yet, consider giving your lawn a good soaking before it is winterized.
Severe mounds, such as this on #6, would be more likely than swales to suffer from desiccation.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Lots O' Leaves

It is a great time of year.  Course conditions are typically good, there's few turf pests to be concerned about, and the trees look beautiful as the leaves change color.  However, we all know what eventually happens to all of those pretty leaves--they end up on the ground.
The trees provide a beautiful backdrop.

While Laurel Creek definitely wouldn't be considered a parkland style of golf course, we do have plenty of large trees around the Clubhouse, as well as trees lining half of the holes on the course: #8, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18.  And once all of those leaves start coming down, it's a full time job to keep up with them. 
The first job of the day is to clear the greens of leaves prior to mowing.
This week we had several employees doing nothing but leaf removal.  At a time of the year when our staff size is much less than during the summer, it can be difficult to keep up with the cleanup.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Weevil Watch--Important, Hands-On Research

Over the past several years, the Annual Bluegrass Weevil has become one of the most troublesome turfgrass insects that golf courses in our region have to deal with.  One concern is that these little guys may be developing resistance to a type of insecticide, known as synthetic pyrethroids. 

This is similar to what we often hear from the medical community with resistant strains of bacterial infections, where commonly used antibiotics no longer effectively knock out the bugs.

Researchers from Rutgers are collecting over-wintering weevils from several golf courses to determine the extent of resistance that truly exists.  On Wednesday, two entomologists from Rutgers were on site to collect weevils from areas where we traditionally see damage.

This study is important because it provides real world information that can be used in planning how to best control this insect in the future. 
The back of #18 green.  Turf samples are placed in warm water in order to have the weevils float.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Tee Irrigation Project Review

The tee irrigation project which started in 2011 has been a great success.  Previously, the sprinklers used to water tees were high volume, and spaced 80 feet apart, leading to a lot of unnecessary watering of the Fescue.  These have been replaced by sprinklers which use about 70% less water and are spaced only 40-45 feet apart.  The result is much more precise irrigation capability, and a significant reduction in water use.
Closely spaced, low volume sprinklers, accurately deliver water to the teeing ground.
For example, during an irrigation cycle where the average run time for each sprinkler is 24 minutes, we are using approximately 3,000 gallons less water per set of tees--that's over 50,000 gallons less for the entire course.

In addition to water savings, the new design has greatly reduced the need for hand watering tees, freeing up employees to focus on other areas of the course.

Due to varying micro-climates, there's still some fine tuning to be done with arc adjustments and run times, but the new sprinklers are proving to be a great improvement over the original design.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Groundhog Day?

Here we go again.  First it was the aerial attack of the herons on the greens, followed soon thereafter by a foraging fox digging in the putting surface, and now what?  None other than a dastardly deer has assaulted the greens.


Yes, this is the time of year when deer start scampering about on a regular basis.  But once again we ask of them:  Anywhere but on the greens, please.  Paranoia is setting in as it's beginning to feel as if all of the wonderful woodland creatures have decided to gang up on us.
One thing is for sure, if groundhogs (or gophers) start tunneling in the greens, we're going to have to call in some expert help...

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Just Another Average Year?

When dealing with the weather on a daily basis, one quickly learns that what is considered "average" actually seems to be the exception rather than the rule.  For example, in looking at rainfall for the six month period of April-September this year, things were hardly typical:
  • April and May total 4.75" 
  • June and July total 23.25" 
  • August and September total 4.95"
How do these numbers compare to average?  The excessive rainfall of June and July was almost 300% of normal.  However, these two months were bookended by April and May at only 65% of average, and August and September at 68% of average precipitation. 

Similar to the peaks and valleys in rainfall, so too the temperatures rarely seem to be average.  Some unseasonably cool days in September were quickly followed by a full week of highs in the 80's in the beginning of October.  How does this affect things?

While temperature swings in the fall may not seem like a big deal, it does once again have an impact on the maintenance operation by forcing us to redirect labor from one activity to another.  And at a time when we have already significantly reduced our staff size from the summertime high, the need for just an extra fairway mowing (which takes 24 man hours) makes a big difference.

Yet, there is no choice but to go with the flow when Mother Nature is calling the shots. This may mean adjusting labor priorities from hand watering one day, to pushing sand and pumping bunkers the next.  The key is not to stress over what we can't control, and try to take it all in stride.

Often times our memories of the weather last as long as remembering what we ate for dinner the night before.  So, a few years from now, we may think back to 2013, and remember it as just an "average" weather year.
Mowing in the rain is not ideal for the turf or equipment operator, but sometimes it has to be done.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Say Hello to Joe

October is a great month for grass growing.  With moderate daytime temperatures, cool nights, and timely rainfall, we can really push the turf, and provide some of the best conditions of the year on the course.  However, somebody forgot to tell Mother Nature that fall is here, and we're now experiencing temperatures well above average--what many are referring to as "Augtober." 

We've also gone two weeks without any rain, leading to some of the driest conditions we've seen all year.  Irrigation systems in this part of the country were designed to supplement rainfall, not replace it.  So during periods of no precipitation, we do a lot of hand watering to makeup for any deficiencies in our sprinkler coverage.

Hand watering may not sound like a difficult job, but when performed properly, it is something of an art form.  And there is nobody better at hand watering than one of our longtime employees, Joe Honnig.  With over 20 years of experience at Laurel Creek, Joe probably knows what spots will dry out first without even checking.  However, he goes out every day equipped with an array of tools to make sure the job gets done efficiently.
The water wagon is ready for action.

What do you need besides a hose when watering?  Well, here is some of the equipment that Joe has on his cart:
  • A traditional soil probe and an electronic moisture meter
  • An electric hose reel so he can quickly wind up the 125' of 1" hose
  • Different nozzles to use for hand watering and syringing turf
  • Quick disconnect adapters for hooking into snap valves and sprinklers
  • A screw gun for quickly disassembling sprinklers
  • A wetting agent injection system that allows him to meter how much wetting agent is applied
One of the more difficult aspects of Joe's job (besides dragging a hose with a 120 psi of water pressure) is the need to work on greens, and try to avoid interfering with play.  If Joe is working on an area, he's definitely there to prevent turf problems.  So, please allow him to finish-up, and if you have the chance, say hello to Joe.
Joe, checking soil moisture.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

We'll Try (Almost) Anything Once

Cart path entrances are one of the most difficult areas to maintain a healthy stand of turfgrass.  These spots are commonly referred to as "pinch points" since all of the cart traffic is funneled into a very narrow area, often resulting in some bare ground.

#11 green's cart path entrance is one of the spots that shows wear the worst.  We keep the area to the right of this path entrance roped in order to have the green surrounds in good shape.  And unless you have a cart with pontoons, there's no way to get cart traffic to enter the path at different points on the left.
So, we've pretty well defined the problem.  Now what about a solution?  Well, there have been several products that have come and gone over the years that were supposed to reduce wear on the turf in these high traffic areas.  The latest of these possible solutions is called, "Coverlawn, EZ Hybrid Turf." 

As you play #11, you'll definitely notice the material which has been installed near the cart path entrance.  While it currently looks more like artificial than natural turf, we're hoping that will change in a few weeks.  Prior to placing the Coverlawn material on the surface, we aerified and seeded the area beneath it.  This is where the "hybrid" part comes in.  With any luck, the natural grass will grow through the honeycomb of the Coverlawn material, creating something that looks like real grass.  The benefit of using the synthetic material is that it is supposed to take much of the wear and tear, instead of the grass growing within it.

If nothing else, Thor believes the EZ Hybrid material is quite comfortable.

Will it work?  That's a great question, and the reason why we're installing it on only one area for now.  If it still resembles the Brady Bunch lawn next summer, it's probably not a good fit for the long run.  However, if it works as advertised, we'll try it in some other areas.

Not the lawn we're hoping for.

Friday, September 20, 2013

We Love Our Wildlife, But...Part Two

When we recently discussed the damage that the Great Blue Herons have been inflicting upon the greens, there was no desire to have this turn into an on-going series.  However, over the past couple of weeks one of the course's other residents has decided to have some "fun" on the putting surfaces.
Two spots on #6 were dug up Tuesday and Wednesday night.

We have spotted a red fox digging in the bunkers on several early mornings.  Based on the footprints and damage, it's a safe bet that this is the culprit digging holes in the greens. 

In the bunkers, the fox acts more like a cat than a dog, as he will play with a vole he has caught, throwing it up in the air, then eventually burying it in the bunker.  Apparently foxes dig both to find and bury food.  Whichever our fox is interested in doing, we'd really appreciate it if he would choose any place other than a green.
Our camera-shy fox heading into the wetlands on #12.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Not More Weevils!

After a few warm days this week, it looks like we might be heading into some welcome fall weather.  Cooler temperatures will give us some good root-growing weather for the turf, and fewer pests to be concerned least that's how it's supposed to work.

For several years we've been battling the Annual Bluegrass Weevil, which favors damaging Poa Annua (given their name, that makes sense) over Bentgrass, and usually lays its eggs in collar height turf.  These little guys are now considered by many to be the greatest insect pest in the northeast.  Their first damage often shows itself in late spring, and by this time of year, there are no longer well-defined generations of the weevils.  That is, you can find them in all phases of development--eggs, larvae, pupae, and adults--making control especially difficult.

As mentioned, they typically cause problems on collar height turf, leaving the putting surface alone.  However, it looks like several of the weevils overcame the challenges of egg-laying in greens height turf, as we're now finding larvae in the middle of greens.  Why would this happen now?

It's quite possible that the days immediately following greens aerification gave the weevils the opportunity they were waiting for.  During that period we skip mowing for a couple of days and raise the height of cut, allowing adult weevils to happily traverse the putting surface without fear of a mower sweeping them up.

While it's unlikely that there will be a great deal of damage to the putting surface at this time of year, it still makes sense to treat for them.  After all, any weevils that are taken out now, won't be around to lay eggs in the spring.

The legless larvae are the size of a grain of rice.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

We Love Our Wildlife, But...

Over the years, we've witnessed the course's Great Blue Herons consume fish, frogs, mice, and even a muskrat.  It is wonderful to have these large majestic birds reside on the course--however, there can be a downside.

It seems that whatever the Herons have been eating recently, it has a high burn potential.  Just as a dog can cause yellow spots on your lawn, so too the herons can really do a number on greens height turf.  Due to their proximity to the lakes, greens #5, 8, and 11 have all required repair in several areas this summer.

Plugs from our nursery will be used to repair this large spot on #8.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Approach Topdressing

During our annual August fairway aerification, we treat the approaches differently than the rest of the fairway.  On most of the fairway acreage, the aerification plugs are chopped  and dragged to separate the soil from the thatch.  The thatch is then collected and removed, while the soil is dragged back into the holes.

However, on the approaches, the whole aerification plug is picked up and removed.  The approach is then topdressed with sand, which is broomed into the holes.  The long-term goal of this process is to help in firming up the approaches.

Sand is being applied to #2 approach.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Transformer

This past winter we replaced our 1990 backhoe with a smaller, more versatile machine.  Throughout most of the year it functions as a front-end loader and backhoe.  However, during aerification time, when we need every piece of equipment available for clean-up duty, the new Kubota quickly transforms to a standard utility tractor.
Our "fully assembled" tractor-loader-backhoe.


The front bucket and backhoe have been dropped off, and a PTO blower installed.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Aerification Update

We had two days this week scheduled for aerification, and given this year's weather, it should have come as no surprise that it rained on both of those days.

Monday morning we started aerifying greens, and by mid-day things were rolling along smoothly--until the skies opened up around 1:00, for about 15 minutes.  At that time, we had greens in every different phase of the operation.  What does that mean?

Here are the steps we take during the August aerification:
  • Greens are aerified.
  • Plugs are blown in around the edges.
  • Plugs are removed and any clumps are blown from putting surface.
  • Sand is applied.
  • Sand is broomed into the holes.
  • Green is a given a final blowing.
So, at the time it started raining, a few greens had all of these steps completed, while most were in some different stage, and others weren't even aerified yet.  The result was something of a mess.  Wet plugs aren't the easiest thing to cleanly remove, and as it got later in the day, some of the plugs that had been rained on began to dry and stick to the green's surface--this was not  a lot of fun. 

The rain also played havoc on getting the right amount of sand applied.  Some sand was nicely washed into the holes, other sand moved across the green from the rain, and in other areas it "bridged" on top of the holes.  It felt like Goldilocks again, with some greens looking like there was too much sand, others too little, and some just right.

On Tuesday we were ready to move on to tees...but Mother Nature had other plans in store for the morning.  After making a go of it on a handful of tees in the morning, thunder and lightning chased us off the course.  By the time the rain stopped it was too wet to even attempt pulling cores.

We ended the week with great weather and got started on a couple of fairways.  If nothing else, the rain earlier in the week ushered in some cool nights which should help the greens heal quickly.

Three days after aerification, the greens are starting to fill in.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Fescue Trial

As you play #8, you'll see a section of Fescue that's been mown closely and is now roped off.  For those who often find themselves spending time looking for a ball in this area, the bad news is that this won't stay short forever.  So, what's going on?
Excess organic matter is raked up and removed from #8.
This location is being used as a trial area for a different variety of Fescue.  In a few weeks, this small patch of Fescue is going to be reseeded using a variety of Hard Fescue known as  Aurora Gold.  Prior to seeding, we will make multiple applications of Roundup to make sure we are starting with a weed free area.

The goal is to establish Fescue that meets the goals of being penal, while still allowing a ball to be found and advanced.

A dye is added to the Roundup so we can see that there is thorough coverage.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Tee Irrigation Update

If you've been on the course lately, you probably saw lots of activity around the tees.  Our irrigation contractor is doing a great job of quickly and efficiently installing the new sprinklers and piping.

Unlike the older sprinklers which were spaced 80' apart, the new layout is using spacing from 30'-45' so we may more accurately place the water where needed.  We are also using HDPE piping instead of PVC.  With HDPE, sections of pipe and fittings are fused together, creating a monolithic system, which virtually eliminates the chance of leaks.

We apologize for any inconvenience, and will try to minimize the impact to players by relocating the tee markers on the hole the contractor is working on.
With a large crew, the tee irrigation project is moving along quickly.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Practice Tee Plan

While droughts aren't great for golf course conditions, they at least allow us to control the water which is supplied to the turf--and that definitely hasn't been the case this summer.  The upper practice tee, which was much improved in 2012, and came into this spring as healthy as ever, has suffered due to the heat and unprecedented rainfall. 

Over the last couple of months, we have spent an extraordinary amount of time and effort in deep tine aerifying, seeding, and spraying this area...with poor results.  With plenty of heat, almost twelve inches of rain in June, and over nine inches so far in July, it appears that rice would have had a better chance of successful establishment than our cool season turf.

So, what's the answer?  Well, it would be easy to say that this summer's weather is just an anomaly, the upper tee was good in 2012, and we don't make any changes going forward.  However, it feels like record weather events are more the rule than the exception, so it seems prudent to plan for the worst, and hope for the best growing conditions.  Looking at the lower tee, it would appear that the answer to the upper tee's woes is right in front of us:  Bermudagrass.  Yes, the upper tee receives more care than almost any other area of the golf course, and is struggling, while the lower tee requires less attention than any area, and looks outstanding.

With that in mind, we have experimented with establishing some of the lower tee's Patriot Bermudagrass on the upper tee by spreading pieces of divots collected from the lower tee across a bare area of the upper tee.  As you can see in the photo, the Bermudagrass is thriving on the upper tee.  Earlier this week we aerified a portion of the lower tee and spread the plugs across the upper tee.  While this might not be the fastest way of introducing Bermudagrass to the upper tee, it will be interesting to see how much Bermuda takes hold in the next couple of months.

A patch of Bermudagrass on the upper tee.

Because the Bermudagrass is only growing aggressively about five months of the year in our climate, once established on the upper tee, it will be overseeded to allow use of the upper tee during the spring and fall.  By next summer, the upper tee will be ready for the heat.
The lower tee's  Bermudagrass is thriving.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Tired Turf and Holes

The recent weather has been really tough on the turf.  Too much water in June, followed by extreme heat (and high nighttime temperatures) leave the grass feeling stressed.  Add some insects and lots of disease pressure, and it's like Rocky trying to take punch after punch from Apollo Creed.

Not surprisingly, the tougher the growing environment, the tougher it is on the turf.  Due to the growth of vegetation over the years, the right half of #18 green is "pocketed."  There is little air movement, and no morning sunlight. 

Patches of stressed turf aren't usually something to be proud of.  However, this is more about what is healthy than what is not. When people ask why we have to aerify, hopefully this picture tells the hole...uh, whole story.
Aerification holes make a clear difference in this patch of turf

Friday, July 12, 2013

Poa in the Summer Sun

As discussed in the previous post, saturated conditions and heat are not a good combination for turf roots.  And, when you're talking about a plant like Poa Annua, which is known for having a very short root system, last week's weather really stressed this turf on several of the greens. 

We had absolutely soaked conditions on Thursday, July 4, and for the most part, there was still plenty of moisture in the ground over the weekend.  However, with sand-based greens, the upper few inches can dry down relatively quickly, and having moisture a few inches below the surface doesn't help a plant like Poa, whose roots may only extend an inch or two.  The end result is a need to keep the upper region of the soil profile moist in order for the Poa to survive the heat of the summer.

You might say that Poa suffers from the Goldilocks syndrome.  Too wet or too dry won't make the grade, and when you're mowing at 0.10", it's often just a razor thin line between the two with this picky plant.
Primarily Poa greens, such as #17, often need to be nursed through the summer heat.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Rain Rain Go Away

To say that June's weather was unusual would be an understatement.  A cool start to the month turned into day after day of rain.  For the 31 day period from June 3-July 3, the golf course received 13.95" of precipitation.  That sounds like a lot, but what's it really mean?

Well, 13.95" of rain equals 90 million gallons of water falling on course property.  If you add the runoff from the surrounding residential area, that number is significantly higher.  However, 90 million may be a difficult figure to visualize, so here's another way of looking at it:
  • Every individual acre received the equivalent of 12,200 gallons of water each and every day for the 31 day period.

By July 3, we had rain 10 out of 11 days, and conditions were "soupy."  During this time the impact of every maintenance practice from spraying to mowing was carefully reviewed.  With the threat of showers every day, it was often difficult to know if postponing an activity to the following day would lead to better conditions, or possibly worse.

As previously discussed, during June the grounds crew traded watering hoses for bunker rakes and shovels.  Heavy rain events obviously have a short-term impact, but can also lead to long-term bunker issues as well, since these downpours often cause sand contamination.

Other concerns with this weather pattern include allowing traffic on saturated turf as this can cause damage to soil structure, compaction, and loss of roots.  Add high temperatures to saturated soils and it can be a really bad combination, potentially resulting in "wet wilt" or "scald."

One of the areas that got hurt the worst by all of the rains is the upper practice tee.  Standing water and new seedlings don't work well, and despite a preventative spray program on this area, we suffered some turf loss.  We have now used our large, deep tine aerifier on this area to improve drainage, and will follow-up with aggressive over-seeding.

On a positive note, it was nice to see that our on-going drainage work made a big difference in our ability to get both the mowers and carts back on the course after the storms.  One thing is for sure, when the weather is involved, there are no two years alike. 
Ah, memories of June, 2013...

Friday, June 28, 2013

Laurel Creek Residents

As you probably see during your time on the course, Laurel Creek is home to a wide array of animal life.  With nesting hawks, deer, turtles, muskrats, and fish among our residents, there's little doubt that a golf course can provide a great home for wildlife.  We are proud to have been able to maintain our status as an Audubon Certified Cooperative Sanctuary since 2002.

It's always nice when somebody is kind enough to pose for a few pictures. 
This fellow appears to be smiling for the camera.

Somebody else striking a pose.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Fast Fill

In any facet of our operation, we are only as fast as the slowest part.  When it comes to using our sprayers, that bottleneck often is the time it takes to put water in the tank.  Yes, filling a 300 gallon sprayer with the city water supply on our mix and load pad at the maintenance building is painstakingly slow.

For spraying purposes, the irrigation water quality is as good as, if not better than the municipal water supply.  Therefore, it was just a matter of finding a way to make use of the irrigation system.  This spring we constructed a fill area at the pump station located in the maintenance building compound.

We went from a fill rate of 12 gallons per minute from the city water, to over 120 gallons per minute from the pump station.  Now, the spray technician will quickly fill the sprayer to around 250 gallons of water, then head across the parking lot to finish adding the wetting agent, fertilizer, or plant protectants to the tank--a real time saver.


So, why is this important?  We are always looking for ways to make our operation run more efficiently, and increase productivity.  Often, this means trying to accomplish as many tasks as possible prior to play.  Once we have to stop for a group of golfers, we will usually fall behind, and can spend the rest of the day at a lower productivity level than if we were able to stay in front of play.  When things work well, we get more done, and we aren't in the way of our members as they try to enjoy their time on the course.  In other words, it's a true "win-win."

Friday, June 14, 2013

Back to Bunkers

Since the completion of #7 bunker we had a few minor storms, but not a real "gully washer."  However, there is almost a sure-fire way to produce some heavy rains:  Member-Guest weekend. 

Yes, the Member-Guest arrived, and along with it, so did the rains.  We totaled 3.50" from the storm on Friday, another 2.20" this past Monday, and 1.20" on Thursday.  That's just under 7" of rain in less than one week. 

Words can't fully describe the condition of the bunkers after each of these storms, so we'll let the images speak for themselves. 

The washouts on these bunkers on #9 were typical.
A plow was needed to push sand back in place on almost every bunker.

Thor was the only one enjoying the second bunker pumping of the week.

#7 was a different story, as hardly a grain of sand moved.


Yes, the bunker on #7 was the one bright spot amidst the mess.  The porous asphalt base both drained well, and held the sand in place.  With no pumping, plowing, or extra hand raking required, this was a huge labor saver.

Friday, June 7, 2013


Someone recently asked, "What is topdressing?"  When we use this term, we are referring to the application of sand to the surface of the turf. 

Following greens aerification, this will be done to fill the aerification holes.  Depending on the type of aerification that was performed, we may use as much as 100,000 to 150,000 pounds of sand on the greens.

However, we also do a very light topdressing in-season.  Typically, every two weeks, we will use a total of 5,000 pounds of sand on the greens.  This quantity is so small that after a couple of spins of the sprinkler, the sand has been moved into the turf canopy and can't be seen.

This light topdressing is done regularly for a couple of reasons.  First, the sand aids in the goal of continually diluting the organic matter that is being formed.  Secondly, the sand particles smooth the putting surface by filling in the tiny voids between the leaves on the surface.
A dusting of sand is applied to the greens every two weeks.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Brown Means Dry?

There are currently some patches of discolored Bentgrass on the tees and fairways.  So, does that mean the soil is dry?  While off-color turf certainly may be dry, there are several other possible causes as well.  This would include dormancy, insect damage, or a turf disease. 

This last option is the cause of what we're presently seeing on the Bentgrass.  Specifically, this is a root-borne pathogen called Take-All Patch.  While we've had this disease show up to some extent each spring, this year there appears to be a larger area affected than in the past.  As with most turf diseases, Take-All Patch thrives in a relatively narrow temperature range--when it's really cold or really hot, you typically won't see any damage.  The most likely reason for greater disease activity this year is the prolonged period of below average soil temperatures we've experienced this spring. 

The good news is that while Take-All Patch may temporarily discolor the turf, it rarely lives up to its name.

Discolored turf caused by cool and moist soil conditions, not hot and dry.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Slow to Grow

The below average temperatures have made for good grass growing weather this spring.  However, we do have one area that needs some heat:  the lower practice tee. 

With many nights in the 40's this past month, the warm-season Bermudagrass is taking its time greening up.  Fortunately, changes in the maintenance and setup of the upper tee have allowed members to hit from this area for almost two straight months, with plenty of good grass remaining.

Although the Memorial Day weekend weather isn't going to feel like the unofficial start of summer, we expect to be able to start using the lower tee next week.
Cold temperatures have made for some slow growing Bermudagrass on the lower tee.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Toll of Traffic

One of the more challenging parts of the golf course to maintain are the approaches to the greens.  The mowers and rollers turn here coming off the greens, and the fairway mowers have to turn here as they near the green.  This spring, with below average temperatures, the Bentgrass has been slow to grow, leading to longer than normal recovery from traffic injury.

Interestingly, Merion's Director of Golf Course Operations, Matt Schaffer, indicated that because of the compaction they experience, the approaches were the one area that would be core aerified this spring, prior to The US Open.

Even with smooth tires, equipment causes wear and tear on the turf.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Yet More Bunker News

Last week was supposed to be the final post discussing bunkers, but we had heavy showers on both Wednesday and Thursday of this week.  So, what does a rainstorm have to do with bunkers, you ask?

Well, as previously mentioned, one of the benefits of the porous asphalt we used to line #7's bunker, is that the coarse texture of the asphalt helps to keep the sand from moving during heavy rains.  Thursday morning, everyone was asking, "How did #7 hold up?"

In a word, the answer is great!  An inspection of the bunker following Thursday morning's storm revealed no sand movement at all.  Granted, we had one inch of rain between Wednesday and Thursday morning, not a true "gully washer."  But are the results good thus far?  Definitely.
It looks so good, you almost want to land in it...well, almost.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Bored by Bunkers?

Well, we're not exactly bored with bunker work, but as we enter May and the grass is finally growing, it's time to take a break from the project work we've been focused on. 

However, one last project that we felt had to get done was cleaning out the practice bunker at the range.  With many a ball having been hit out of here each year, we were finding that drain stone had been exposed and contaminated the sand.  In relatively short order, the guys removed the old sand, cleaned the edges of the bunker, checked the drainage, and installed new sand.
New sand being installed at the driving range.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Nearing the End

After hauling and spreading 250 tons of sand (that's 500,000 pounds), the bunker on #7 is close to complete, and the tees have been reopened.

This was a major project for us to undertake in April.  While the cool weather may not have been the greatest for play, it did allow us to work on the bunker at a time we'd typically be focused on other tasks.

Over the next couple of weeks, we'll continue to compact the sand, recheck sand depth levels, and cleanup any edge work on the bunker.

Friday, April 19, 2013

#7 Bunker...Part Two

Two weeks ago we discussed the re-building of the bunker on #7.  At that time, the prep work of removing old sand, grading, and drainage was well underway.  So far, this sounds like a pretty ordinary project, right?
Well, things quickly changed this week as we began to install asphalt in the bunker.  Yes, we are using porous asphalt as a liner in the base of the bunker.  This innovative idea, referred to as the Matrix Bunker System, was developed by Dan Meersman, the Director of Grounds at Philadelphia Cricket Club.

The asphalt remains porous because it contains fewer small particles, and is not compacted with a heavy roller.  Once it cools, water will flow freely to the drain lines.  And there's little doubt that the asphalt will provide a great barrier against contamination from rocks below.

No,this isn't the overflow parking for Club events.  However, the site of asphalt in the bunker surprised both golfers and motorists this week.