Friday, August 29, 2014

Guess Who's Celebrating a Birthday?

It's hard to believe, but Labor Day weekend marks 25 years since the first holes at Laurel Creek were completed.  #6 and #13 (or #15 and #4 as they were known then) were the first greens seeded.
#13 green, now 25 years old.

And as we celebrate Labor Day, consider the amount of labor that went into building the golf course.  1.3 million cubic yards of material were moved during construction.  That may be a difficult number to visualize, so try thinking of it this way.  1.3 million cubic yards would equal a wall of dirt with these dimensions:  3' high x 3' wide x 739 miles long!

Friday, August 22, 2014

60 Second Soil

After several long days, the fairway aerification process is now complete.  We often say that the actual aerification is the easy part--it's the cleanup that takes so much time and effort.

The first trick after the cores are pulled is to time the processing of them just right.  Dave Oatis, Director of the Northeast Region of the USGA Green Section, once commented that we have "60 second soil."  He was referring to the very narrow window of opportunity when aerification plugs are neither too wet nor too dry.  If we start working the fairway a bit soon, we end up with mud, mashed into the turf.  However, if we're a minute too late, the plugs dry into something you could make pottery out of, and won't break up.

Aerification plugs on #1 fairway, starting to dry.

Not surprisingly, the amount of time it takes for the cores to dry will vary greatly, based on the time of day, and weather conditions.   As they lose moisture, they lighten in color, and we prepare for the processing phase of the operation.  For this, we use an old fairway mower equipped with verticut units, which chop the plugs.  The machine also tows a heavy drag mat, that further separates the soil from the thatch.

Mike is processing cores on #18 fairway. 

 After dragging, the thatch is picked up and hauled away.  The final step is blowing, using both a tractor-mounted blower, and several backpack blowers.  This part of the process is very labor-intensive, but the end result is a clean fairway which will heal quickly.

Thatch removal and blowing on #18.
#18 fairway the day after aerification.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Greens Aerification

The greens were aerified on Monday using 1/2" tines.  This is a slightly larger tine size than we've used the past few times, therefore the healing process will be a bit longer.  However, by going with this bigger tine now, we will not need to do another aerification until next year. 

In order to fill the holes, an average of 7,000 pounds of sand was used per green.  Some timely rain during the week has done a nice job of working this into the turf canopy, and cool nights will aid in the healing process.
A good dew pattern in the morning is a sign of healthy turf, on the road to recovery from aerification.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Thanks, George

Last week, one of our long time employees, George Raff, passed away.  George worked the past 14 years at Laurel Creek. 

During the growing season, George's primary job was mowing rough.  In that capacity,  George operated our largest and loudest piece of mowing equipment.  Yet, in all of the years he worked here, we never received a single complaint that he was disturbing anyone during their round.

If you think back, and can't really recall seeing George mowing the rough, he would undoubtedly be proud.  George knew what areas grow faster than others, and how to avoid play while still being productive. 

He truly did an amazing job of reducing the amount of hand work that needs to be done thanks to his ability to operate the mower with surgical precision.  By efficiently managing his time, and being able to work unsupervised, George was a tremendous asset to the Club, and from both a personal and professional level, he will be sorely missed.

George possessed a rare combination of great work ethic, dedication and professionalism.  For all you gave to the Club, George, we say, "Thank you."

George, striping the left side of #1.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Low Maintenance?

Over the last several years, many golf courses have established "no mow" naturalized areas in an effort to reduce expenses, as well as to increase the environmental benefits a golf course can have.  Having wrestled with issues in our Fescue areas for years, I would say that the question as to whether or not these areas can achieve both of these goals is certainly debatable.

With regard to naturalized areas being "low maintenance," it sure doesn't seem like it.  Weeds are an on-going battle in these areas, and have to be dealt with throughout the growing season.  In the picture below, there are four different weeds amidst the Fescue. 

For each of these, a different selective herbicide would be used to control the undesirable plant.  With the weeds being scattered throughout the area, it would be wasteful to make a blanket application of herbicides.  Therefore, we may need to make four separate applications, each targeting a specific kind of weed.

These applications will have to be made with anything from a one quart spray bottle, to a mop, to a hose and nozzle.  Sound labor intensive?  It is.

You may wonder why we don't just drive through the areas with a sprayer and use a boom for the application.  In the summer, driving through these areas will have a lasting impact--and not a good one.  Not only will driving crush the Fescue seedheads, but it can actually kill the Fescue we're trying to grow.  Secondly, as mentioned above, the weeds are scattered, thus making an application with a boom type sprayer will waste material, and unnecessarily use herbicide.

This sounds like a lot of time and effort.  How does it compare to the "higher maintenance" Bluegrass Rough?  Well, the Bluegrass does have to be cut one or two times per week.  However, this task can be handled by one person. 

As far as weed issues, in contrast to the Fescue, the vast majority of the golf course's Bluegrass Rough requires no post-emergent herbicide treatment throughout the entire year.

So, do these naturalized areas live up to the name "low maintenance," and are they environmentally better than an area that gets mown on a regular basis?  Despite the need for frequent weed treatment, these areas do provide excellent habitat for wildlife, and slow run-off even more than closely mown turf.  

However, from our experience, the low maintenance moniker for naturalized areas gets a thumbs down.  At the end of the day, if given a choice of which turf to maintain, the Bluegrass Rough is much easier, and in many ways, it is actually the lower maintenance area.