Saturday, April 24, 2010

Wet End to Another Busy Week

The end of a busy work week draws to a close with some much needed rain showers. Last week's cold nights, with lows in the mid to low 30's have really stunted the growth of most turf on the golf course. While the turf itself was not damaged by the frosty conditions, its growth rate decreased to almost nothing. Fortunately, the damaged areas of fairways did not see this same decrease in growth due to the covers. The covers have retained enough heat to allow the underlying turf to grow. The golf course maintenance staff spent over 100 labor hours removing the covers on the Red Nine and mowing the turf beneath. Due to the moisture from the weekend rains, the gradual rise in temperatures this week, and the accelerated rate of growth due to the maturation of the turf plants, I anticipate removing many of the covers from both the Red and White Nines. In some cases, the area of coverage may be reduced allowing the course to be played as normal. In other areas, such as 7 White, the turf has not sufficiently matured to allow for the removal of the covers. The golf course maintenance staff will continue to tweak and address the damaged areas to encourage rapid recovery. As is usually the case, some warm weather and timely rains will be our biggest asset as we look to full recovery in these areas.

In addition to mowing beneath the covers, the golf course maintenance staff continues with regularly scheduled spring maintenance. Adjusting and troubleshooting the irrigation system to ensure proper operation is critical for future turf health. The irrigation system was pressurized in late March, the earliest day in course history. Since that point, the golf course staff has been busy verifying that each sprinkler head is fully functional and operating properly. Sprinkler heads that are not turning on, not rotating, leaking, or have clogged nozzles will lead to inconsistent turf conditions in the summer. Additionally, an inefficient irrigation system leads to wasted water, a precious natural resource. The golf course maintenance staff spends many hours each spring fine tuning the system to ensure proper function and distribution uniformity.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Stump Repair Behind 2 White

In continuing with the the implementation of the Ron Forse master plan, two large spruce trees were removed from behind 2 White green last winter. Following their removal, a large area without grass was exposed. Additionally, a small, artificial knoll remained between the areas where the two trees previously resided. In order to created a more naturalized look behind the green, the small mound was removed. The soil from hill was used to fill the other stump holes on the course. The golf course staff will regrade and sod the area on Wednesday.

Vertical Mowing Continues

The golf course maintenance staff continued with its aggressive greens maintenance this week by vertically mowing all putting surfaces. On Maintenance Monday, All 29 putting were greens were treated in this manner. Following the verticutting, all greens were topdressed with sand, swept, and then mowed. In early spring, we verticut at a depth of 1/4 inch, while later in the season we will raise the depth to 1/8 inch or less. This labor intensive process serves multiple purposes both helps to promote new growth while removing thatch and other decaying organic matter. Additionally, the small channels created by the machine allow for the topdressing sand to more readily enter the turf canopy. The combination of verticutting and sweeping stands the turfgrass leaves upright prior to mowing. The clean cut afforded by this process provides both smoother ball roll and a healthier stand of turf. This is already the second time this process has been completed in this warmer than usual spring.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Fairway Repair Update

Course conditions continue to improve following the warm temperatures and rain which we have received over the last two weeks. The recent warm tempuratures and rainfall have allowed us to begin to see the product of the many long hours the maintenance staff has logged while repairing areas damaged over the harsh winter. To date, we have seen many damaged areas respond well to the vertical mowing, fertilization, and seeding completed by the golf course maintenance staff. Areas which looked bleak only weeks ago have begun to show signs of improvement. The most severely damaged areas, those located under the covers, especially display promising signs of recovery. As you can see in the picture, the covers are serving their purpose by retaining adequate heat and moisture to foster seed germination.Areas of damaged turf without covers have seen improvement through lateral turf growth and the recovery of existing turf plants, but we have yet to see sufficient germination of the newly sewn seed. Your patience is appreciated while playing a course which contains significant portions of fairways under cover. These covers will allow us to return the course to top shape in the shortest amount of time. Once the turf has sufficiently matured and the night time temperatures are consistently over freezing, the covers will be removed.

To date the maintenance staff has focused its attention on repairing the fairways on the Red and the White nines. The overwhelming majority of initial repair work has been completed on these nines at this time. As time progresses and conditions improve, the maintenance staff will continue to revisit damaged areas for fine tuning.

In addition to our normal early-season maintenance on the golf course, the maintenance staff continues to repair the winter damage on the fairways of the Blue nine. Because these fairways are flatter, have poorer drainage, and are the lowest-lying, they have received the greatest amount of damage. This is especially true on the fairways on the 4th, 6th, and seventh holes. Significant areas of these fairways will require vertical mowing, seeding, a fertilizing, topdressing, and covering. The extent of repair is illustrated in the picture of 4 Blue. The foreground of the picture depicts areas which have been verti-cut, seeded, fertilized, and topdressed, while the background depicts the installation of the covers. Through some long days of hard work by the maintenance staff, the Blue nine will be completed by the end of the week. Our goal is to get the repair work done so that the Blue nine will be ready to play as soon as possible.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Mounds East Of 7 Red

As play resumes this Spring, you will notice the new and subtle mounding to the East of 7 Red fairway. The mounds, created last fall, were constructed with the excess fill generated while installing the cart path from 3 White green to 4 White tee, the drainage spoils on the White fairways, and aerification cores from our fall green and tee aerifaction. The dry conditions in early Spring have allowed the golf course maintenance staff to grade, seed, and mulch the mounds. The mounds were seeded with a mix of native grasses and will blend into the existing naturalized areas on the course when they fill in. Once mature, these mounds will provide a natural separation from the tee box on 2 Red and the fairway on 7 Red. As the dogwoods, which currently separate the two holes, reach the end of their useful lifespan and are removed, we will be prepared for a seamless transition.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Growth Regulators

Growth regulators are frequently applied to NSCC's turf throughout the growing season. As their name implies, these compounds are designed to slow the growth rate of the turf. In addition to reducing inputs such as labor and fuel, which are required in mowing, growth regulators also are a major component in our overall turf management program. On putting greens, growth regulators help to keep the grass "under control" providing for smoother ball roll and consistent green speeds. On fairways and tees, growth regulators promote the lateral growth of turf which promotes quicker recovery from damage such as divots. One of the most important assets growth regulators afford golf course managers is their ability to reduce the amount of seedheads which grasses, especially annual bluegrass (Poa annua), produce in the spring. Not only are the white seedheads unsightly, they also provide a very bumpy and inconsistent putting surface. By applying two different growth regulators at the same time, a synergistic affect is realized which can successfully suppress seedhead development. The lack of seedhead development promotes a true putting surface, as well as a healthy turf plant. Seedhead production requires a tremendous amount of energy by the turf plant which is already susceptible to many biotic and abiotic stresses. By suppressing seedhead development, we can lessen the workload of the plant. This energy savings translates into a healthier plant. The timing of this application is critical. We base our application timing on a computer generated model from Michigan State University together with our own site specific knowledge. Our first growth regulator application was made on Monday. We will follow with another application in three weeks to supplement the initial application.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Why Do You Use Covers?

Turf covers are one of the key elements the NSCC golf course maintenance staff is utilizing to remediate the winter damage which can be found throughout the golf course. While the temporary covers are certainly neither aesthetically pleasing nor conducive to play, they are a great tool when combatting cool spring weather. In the Spring, especially at NSCC with its close proximity to Lake Michigan, cool temperatures are prevalent and can severely hinder turfgrass establishment. Most cool season turf grasses germinate when soil temperatures are a minimum of 55 degrees for 7 to 10 days. By using the turf covers, we are able to maintain warmer soil temperatures by trapping the heat underneath the covers. In addition to insulating the turf, the covers also aid in retaining soil moisture which is also required for turfgrass establishment. The covers provide an excellent microenvironmet for seed germination and seedling growth. The use of the covers provides an average 90-95% seed germination as apposed to 60-65% when left uncovered. Once the juvenile plants have matured and the frosty nights have ended, the covers will be removed. Please avoid walking on any covered areas. Walking on these areas with golf shoes can cause the covers to tear. Ball retrievers will be placed at the largest covered areas to allow for golfers to recover their balls. Thank you for your cooperation in this matter.

Winter Damage Repair Report

Thanks to the wonderful weather, the golf course maintenance staff has had a very productive week. In addition to typical spring maintenance associated with preparing the course for opening, such as debris clean-up, bunker repair and raking, and stationing golf course furnishings, the maintenance team was able to complete a number of essential projects which will help to foster turf recovery from the winter damage the course received.

  • Greens: While the putting greens survived the winter conditions relatively well, work continued in earnest to prepare the greens for play. The putting greens have been agressively vericut in multiple directions. This vertical mowing will help to initiate new growth which will serve to both aid in recovery from the modest amount of winter damage they received, as well as to increase the rate in which last fall's aerification holes will fill in. Additionally, the greens were treated with a foliar fertilizer application and wetting agent. the combination of these products will assist the greens in retaining moisture and stimulate additional growth helping to foster an evironment conducive for recovery. Two greens , 2W and 9W, received additional work. Portions of both greens exhibited very little ability to recover without seeding. The weak portions of both these greens were seeded, sand topdressed, fertilized and covered. Once the seed germinates and the turf has adequately established to sustain the cold night temperatures, the covers will be removed.

  • Fairways: As mentioned in a previous blog entry and evident to anyone who was able to play the golf course over the last week, NSCC's fairways suffered extensive winter damage. The damage in fairways is the worst that I have seen in my tenure at NSSCC. The favorable weather of last week has allowed the NSCC maintenance staff to make great strides toward repairing the damage. On Monday, all fairways were fertilized in order to stimulate new growth. All damaged areas on the Red and White Nines have been agressively verticut with a tractor-mounted machince. The benefits of this practice are twofold. By creating slits in the soil, the allows for adequate seed/soil contact which is essential for establishment. Secondly the organic matter which cast to the surface aids in maintaining adequate soil moisture and warmth. While temporarily disruptive to play, this perceived mess will aid in turfgrass recovery. Following the vertical mowing, all damaged areas have been seeded by hand. Once seeded, the areas have been lightly topdressed with a custom sand/soil mix and treated with an additional starter fertlizer. Lastly, the most severely damaged areas, as well as the areas located in landing areas and around greens have been covered. Last week's wonderful weather has helped us in two ways. First, the warm and dry conditions have allowed the golf course staff to venture on the course with heavy equipment in order to complete the work. Secondly, the warm, sunny days have warmed the soil enough that we may see some seed germination soon. The quicker the seed germinates, the quicker the turf will establish, which will allow us to remove the covers and return the affected areas to play.

  • AN IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT FAIRWAY FIRMNESS Since we are in the process of establishing turfgrass throughout the golf course, we will be required to water more frequently than normal in Spring. Without adequate moisture, we will be unable to successfully establish the turf. Also, once the seed germinates, the juvenile plants will require adequate moisture in order to mature. Due to the turfgrass establishment process, expect the fairways to play softer than normal. Thank you for your patience in this matter.

Course Opening Schedule

Below are listed the opening dates for golf holes and practice areas:

  • Red Nine--April 1

  • North Practice Tee--April 3

  • White Nine--April 8

  • Short Game Area--April 10

  • South Practice Tee (Grass Surface)--May 1

  • Practice Green--TBD

  • Blue Nine--TBD

NOTE: The opening date of both the Practice Green and the Blue Nine are dependent upon course conditions and turf development. The practice green receives extremely heavy traffic throughout the golfing season. Prior to opening, the putting surface must adequately recover from any lingering winter damage and be able to sustain the heavy amount of foot traffic it receives. As previously mentioned, the Blue Nine fairways sustained the greatest amount of winter damage. Large portions of many fairways must be seeded and established prior to opening.