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...