Friday, March 19, 2010

Golf Course Condition and Opening

The snow has melted and the golf season is soon approaching. At this time of the year I am frequently asked two questions: "How's the course?" and "When will we open?". As one would expect these two questions are linked together as the decision of opening the course is dependent upon the condition of the turf and soil. I will give a brief answer to the questions below.

How's the course?
  • Greens--Overall the greens survived the winter well, exhibiting no signs of fungal activity and minimal winter damage. Snow was removed from the greens which contained extensive ice cover (8W,9W,6B,7B,8B,9B,PG) on March 3 and 4. A few areas on these greens have exhibit signs of injury, but not to the extent that we have witnessed in the past. We will continue with our usual spring cultural practices, such as aggressive vertical mowing, and supplement with additional fertilizer in order to foster growth and recovery.
  • Tees--The tees are in outstanding condition following winter. I have yet to see a tee that exhibits any sign of winter damage or fungal activity.
  • Fairways--As is usually the case, the fairways at NSCC are most susceptible to winter damage. Because NSCC's topography is relatively flat, the potential exists that any snow melt or rain can accumulate and refreeze on low-lying fairway areas. This winter proved to be no exception. During a warm stretch in mid-January, we received .75" of rain which melted and additional 8" of snow cover. The unfrozen, standing water conditions lasted for two days before lower temperatures created sheets of ice. Over this time the water penetrated the crowns, or growing points, of the turfgrass plants. The rapid freezing damaged plant cells in the crowns. The ice cover that followed put additional stress on the damaged turfgrass plants. The amount of damage varies throughout the golf course, with the Blue nine sustaining the greatest amount of damage. The NSCC golf course maintenance staff will be repairing these areas as soon as the course dries sufficiently to allow for equipment access. Damaged areas will be seeded, fertilized, and covered to facilitate recovery. Be sure to visit to blog in the near future for an update on the repair work.

When will the golf course open?

In order to open frost must leave the ground, the soil in fairways, tees, and green must dry enough to support foot traffic without causing damage, and the greens must be growing sufficiently to survive the wear which it receives from play. Opening prematurely, can negatively impact course conditions for the remainder of the season. Due to NSCC's close proximity to Lake Michigan, the above mentioned criteria for opening will often be met at a later date than our inland neighbors. Historically, NSCC has opened around April 1.

What is the opening schedule?

  • The Red nine will open first.
  • The White nine will open second. Originally, the White nine was scheduled to open on May 1 in order to give the golf course maintenance staff the ability to fine tune last fall's reconstruction work. Fairway conditions on the Blue nine will force us to open the White nine second. All course work, including stump hole filling and seeding will be completed as soon as possible.
  • The Blue nine will open last. The extensive repair work required on the Blue nine will limit the playability of the fairways. Large areas of delicate seedlings that are protected by insulating covers will not be conducive for play. The opening date for the Blue nine is dependent upon the spring weather and the progressive of the repair work.
  • The practice range is currently open. Be sure to check with pro shop to verify this should we receive any rain.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What Do You Do In The Winter? Final Installment

Recent weather trends indicate that our spring thaw has arrived. Last week's warm and sunny days have initiated the melt of 2010. The putting greens that were cleared by the golf course maintenance staff are now completely free of ice and snow. Following the current rainy stretch and predicted warm temperatures, I expect most of the golf course will be free of snow by next week. On the whole, the greens appear to be healthy. A few greens, namely 9W, 9B, and the practice green, exhibit varying degrees of winter damage. Once the course dries out and the remainder of the snow and ice melts, we will be able to better determine the condition of all putting greens and other playing surfaces. Be sure to check back next week for an updated post on course conditions.

This week, the golf course maintenance staff will put the finishing touches on winter maintenance projects. Equipment and cutting unit maintenance continues on schedule. Other staff members are close to finishing the refurbishment of all golf course accessories and furnishings. In order to provide the NSCC membership with a fresh look each year, all benches, ballwashers, waste receptacles, and tee signs are refinished annually. Each of these items must first be sanded and washed prior to painting. This essential and time consuming process is necessary so that our golf course furnishings do not detract from the natural beauty of the golf course. Also, the annual refurbishment of our on-course accessories has allowed NSCC to utilize the same equipment for almost 20 years. By extending the useful life of these accessories, the grounds staff has minimized the overall financial impact that would be required to replace these furnishings. Now, more than ever, this financial responsibility serves our club well due to the economic recession we currently face.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Ice Removal From Greens

Whether to remove ice from covered greens in northern climates is never an easy decision for golf course managers. Besides being a labor intesive activity, one must first decide whether the removal of ice is warranted. In some cases, ice removal can actually physically damage the underlying turf. In the case of NSCC, further examination of the putting green turf samples removed on 2/17 revealed mostly favorable results; however, one example (9 Blue) indicated that the potential for ice damage did exist. The time that NSCC's turf can remain healthy below ice coverage had been met. Last week, golf course maintenance staff members took a detailed sample of all greens in order to ascertain the extent and depth of ice on all greens. In most cases ice coverage was minimal. A handful of greens, 8White, 9White, 9Blue, 6Blue, and 8Blue did did display extensive ice coverage. We zeroed in on these greens as our targets for ice removal. In addition, the practice green has historically proven to be susceptible to ice damage.

In order to effectively remove the ice, the weather must first cooperate. Both warmer temperatures and sunshine are necessary for ice removal. Both were predicted to be abundant this week. The process for removing ice is relatively straight forward. First, the snow must be removed from the greens. In this case, the work was completed by grounds staff using snow blowers in order to minimize turf damage. In other cases trucks and skid-steer loaders have been used, but due to the varied depths of ice and levels of coverage this was not deemed to be an option. Once the majority of snow is removed, the remaing crumbs and chunks of snow are removed by hand with shovels. Once the green is cleared of snow, a light topdressing of sand is applied. This sand is the same sand that we use throughout the growing season for topdressing with one exception. The sand used for ice removal has been dyed black. The black sand helps to attract and retain the sun's heat, increasing the rate by which the ice melts. Following the melting of the ice, the excess water and ice that remain will be removed by hand. By taking these steps, the NSCC golf course staff aims to provide the best possible conditions once the course opens. Following are pictures of the process:

Snow Removal From 9 Blue

Black Topdressing Sand

Ice Covered With Black Sand

Black Sand Application