Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Just When We Had Finally Dried Out . . .

Yesterday was the first day that drought stress was evident on various tufgrass areas throughout the course since early June.  The abundance of rain in recent weeks has led to saturated soils, damaging the turfgrass root systems in many low lying areas.  These areas will be more susceptible to damage and more readily show stress for the rest of the summer.  Since the putting greens and tees are well-drained, the impact to these areas will be minimal.  Golf course maintenance staff members will use traffic control measures to carefully route traffic around these areas in the fairways and rough.  Additional care will be given to these sensitive areas in order to nurture them through the remainder of the summer.

Since the turf had begun to exhibit the above-mentioned symptoms of drought stress, irrigation was schedule for last night.  When scheduling irrigation, many factors are taken into consideration.  Each day, I review four forecasts from reputable weather services taking into account the forecasted temperature, solar radiation, humidity, dew point, and wind. This information, coupled with current turfgrass conditions and soil moisture levels, is used to determine the required amount of water.  Our computerized irrigation system allows us to customize the amount of  water that we apply to each individual green, tee, fairway, and rough area.  Even with that information, properly scheduling irrigation can be difficult.  Last night, for example, the course was showing moderate drought stress and in need of water.  The forecast for today was cool, but low humidity.  Without returning water to the turf plants, they would begin to decline and likely be in rough shape for the weekend.  Most importantly, there was between a zero and twenty percent chance of precipitation today, all of which was light rain showers at most.  Apparently that must have changed.  When I woke up this morning, a moderate rain was falling.  A strange blob of moderate rain about thirty miles wide was in the process of moving south down the Lake Michigan coast line.  Even though only a light irrigation was scheduled, the addition of the moderate rain will soften the course more than anticipated.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Golf Course Update

The golf course has received almost seven inches of rain within the last week.  As most of you realize, this is a very bad scenario for a relatively flat, poorly drained golf course that is built on heavy clay soil.  While the recent drainage additions and fairway sand topdressing has improved the course’s ability to handle rain events, the current weather pattern is simply providing too much rain for the course to handle. 

The saturated soils have made rough mowing impossible for the last week.  Our wide area rough mowers are
simply too heavy to mow in these conditions without creating ruts in the rough and getting stuck.  Staff utilized small push mowers (21” wide) to mow around all greens on Monday and lightweight 52” commercial mowers to mow around all fairway bunker complexes and tee banks.  Once last night’s rainfall soaks in, we will utilize these commercial mowers to mow a 30-35 foot wide swath around fairways—the area where the rough is thickest.  I personally attempted to begin the process this morning, but it was too wet.  This is our best option until the course dries sufficiently to accommodate the larger rough mowers

 Turfgrass Disease:
The putting greens and tees were preventatively treated with a combination of fungicides on June 16thth.  Additionally, the subsurface drainage in the greens and the elevated nature of the tees allows for quicker drying time and less opportunity for disease.  The wet conditions and standing water has proven to be a problem for applying fungicides to fairways.  We intended to treat all fairways yesterday, but were unable to due to the rain.  We plan on treating all fairways today, following junior play, unless it rains again.  This treatment will provide two weeks of coverage.  Since certain areas of fairways are untreatable due to standing water, staff will outline these areas with blue turf paint so they can be treated as soon as they dry or the water can be removed.  We are currently seeing some disease development.  The pathogen, dollar spot, thrives under our current conditions.  While visible, if treated quickly, will not significantly damage the turf.  In fact, the turf will likely grow through the infected areas within a week.  If left untreated, the effect can be more severe.  Should temperatures increase, the range of diseases increases, as does the severity.
These products will provide 14 days of control.  This will provide sufficient coverage until our next schedule application on Monday, June 30

Putting Green Quality/Performance:
Putting green health remains strong.  The subsurface drainage has allowed the greens to remain playable and relatively firm given the wet weather.  During times of stress, such as our current wet period, the goal of putting green management becomes preserving the health of the greens rather than pushing ball roll speeds.  Since mowing and excessive rolling under wet conditions can cause scalping and turf loss, management will remain conservative until the weather breaks.  Once normal weather patterns return, staff will intensify maintenance practices to improve performance.  The combination of an abundance of both Monday outings and rainy days has made critical practices such as vertical mowing and sand applications difficult.  My goal is to “vent”, topdress, and spray the greens on Monday.  This will improve gas exchange within the soil, firm up the putting surfaces, and protect them from turf diseases.

Golf Cart Accessibility:
The golf course maintenance staff is well aware that cart access has been very limited during the current wet
period.  In fact, maintenance staff access has been limited as well.  On most days, green and tee mowers have been walked around the course to prevent turf damage.  Cart accessibility is evaluated on a day by day and hour by hour basis.  As soon as the course dries, carts will be allowed.  Medical carts access will continue to be treated much more liberally.

After last week’s heavy rains, the bunkers were in as bad of condition as I have seen.  Staff worked hard to
pump water from all the traps and return sand to the high faces from where it had washed.  The entire project took all staff members two full days to complete.  Expect inconsistent sand consistent as much of the sand has been moved during the repair process.  Staff will continue to pump and repair traps as needed.  If heavy rains are forecast, the staff may not repair bunkers until the rain has ended.

Future Outlook:

To date, the course has handled the wet weather well.  Relatively cool temperatures have been the key.  Should temperatures increase to 80’s or 90’s while the course remains saturated, the risk for turf loss will increase.  As stated earlier the quantity and severity of turf pathogens dramatically increase, as does the potential for turf loss in areas where standing water remains.  We are not the only club dealing with this situation, every club in the area is facing the same challenges.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Course Happening During Another Wet and Cold Week

The cold and wet weather continued this week, frustrating both golfers and maintenance team members alike.  After nearly six months of winter weather, residents of southeastern Wisconsin and its turgrass could use some warmer temperatures.  Fortunately, the course did survive the winter with only very isolated patches of damaged turf, unlike courses throughout many other parts of the country.  Even though the weather has been less than ideal, the maintenance staff has been busy preparing the course for the golf season.  While course access has been limited to walking due to continued wet conditions, we have utilized our time to prepare other areas of the course so that we can dedicate our entire team to course conditioning practices and mowing once we finally dry out.

9 White Green
 The White Nine putting greens were aerified on May 5th.  Unfortunately the cold day and night temperatures have hampered their recovery.  It is unlikely that the greens will completely recover by its reopening on Memorial Day Weekend.  Should this be the case, the pro shop will route the 18 hole golf course from the Red Nine to the Blue Nine, leaving the White Nine as the "family" nine until the aerification holes have completely filled in.

Blue Nine Bathroom Water Suppply
 As many members have noted, the course bathrooms on the Blue Nine have not yet opened for the season.  Upon pressurizing the water supply to the bathroom, a leak was discovered.  Since we had no drawings from the initial construction and well installation, golf course staff was tasked to excavate the site to determine the cause of the leak.  After an extensive investigation, we determined the cause of the leak was an old buried air tank.  A new tank has been purchased and installed, and the water supply has been reconnected.  The bathrooms are now again in working order.  Staff will repair the work site next week.  Hats of to Bob and Ricky for their hard work on this project.

Since course access has been limited, staff has continued knocking off punch list items in preparation for Memorial Day.  All bunkers on the Red and Blue Nines were edged.  The White Nine bunkers will be edged next week.  The seeded stump holes have finally germinated, in large part due to the insulating covers.  We will remove the covers and hand mow all forty-five of these areas in the coming week.  While we will apply a broadleaf herbicide to the entire rough next week, we were able to sneak out and treat all bunker edges with a combination of post and preemergent control.  It is no secret to most homeowners that the past winter was very hard on most evergreen trees and shrubs.  Due to the extensive damage, many plants at the club's main entrance were replaced under the guidance of staff horticulturist Susie Jushka.
Bunker Edging
Seed Germination

Broadleaf and Preemergent Control 

Plant Installation at Club Entrance
Be prepared for a soggy golf course and thick rough this weekend.  Due to the saturated soil, we have been unable to send out our mowers to cut the rough.  Should conditions allow, we will begin mowing the rough over the weekend.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

2014 Course Opening and Conditions

We are pleased to announce that the 2014 golf season has officially arrived at North Shore Country Club.  The golf course has come through the winter in great shape and will only improve as temperatures increase.  The practice tee will open today, Wednesday, from the artificial surface only. Both the Red and White courses will open in their regular format on Friday, April 11th at noon.  Currently the golf course will be available for walking only.  Future cart accessibility will be evaluated on a daily basis and relayed to the Pro Shop. 

Over the past two weeks the golf course maintenance staff has been busy.  Initially upon snow melt, team members walked the entire course raking debris in to piles.  Over the past two days, staff has removed most debris from the Red and White Nines.  Currently, the golf course maintenance staff is curren working to repair and rake the bunkers.  Prior to opening on Friday, staff will mow all putting greens for the first time.

If you are fortunate to play the course over the next couple weeks, you will likely notice that the pond on 3 Red is lacking water.  Over the extremely cold winter, over two feet of ice formed on the pond.  The thick layer of ice placed more pressure than normal on the stand pipe that serves as an outflow and drain for the pond.  The pressure of the ice actually damaged the valve at the bottom of the pond.  Next week, we will repair the valve and fill the pond once again.  Please refrain from walking on the exposed edges of the pond. Not only is it dangerous, it could also damage the pond.

Lastly, I wanted  pass along a photo from the sixth fairway on Red Nine.  You will notice the brown circles of turf leading up the through the middle of the fairway.  At first glance I thought that it was disease.  Upon closer inspection the damage was caused from snowshoes walking the course over the winter.  Even though we had ample snowfall, the compressed snow turned to ice, causing the damage.  This picture truly shows how fragile turf is, even in the winter months.  The damage is superficial and the turf will quickly recover with the onset of warmer temperatures.

Friday, March 21, 2014

First Glimpse At Turf Conditions

1 White Green From Rear
7 Red Green From Rear
The warmer temperatures over the last few weeks have provided us an opportunity to finally view turf conditions below what had been a thick blanket of snow.  While I was confident that the turf was well insulated and protected from the cold weather, I was pleased to see that my prediction was accurate and the golf course putting surfaces have handled the winter well and are in great condition.  Avoiding any freeze/thaw cycles and winter rain certainly played a key roll in the turf's condition, as ice formation was minimal over the winter.  In past years when we have seen significant winter damage, major ice accumulation had occurred and remained for an extended period of time.

8 White Green From Year
 Over the last few days I have walked the entire course and viewed each green.  While a couple of greens still remain snow covered.  The majority are clear of snow and appear very healthy.  As seen from the clubhouse, the putting surfaces appear unnaturally green compared to their surroundings.  This green color is not due to any photosynthetic activity, rather the dark coloration is due to the pigments that were applied in conjunction with our late fall plant protectants.  These products provide protection against cold weather fungi, which if left untreated, can be devastating to the turf over the winter.  Even though these snow molds are clearly visible in home lawns throughout the area and untreated rough on the course, the preventative products applied last fall have kept all greens, tees, and fairways free from these pathogens.  We will likely make follow-up applications of dark pigments over the course of the spring to foster growth. The dark color of the pigment will allow for greater absorption of solar radiation, leading to an earlier green-up and leaf growth.

8 White Right Side
Even though most turf appeared very healthy, there were a few areas of concern.  One example is pictured on the right.  The right side of 8 White green appears mottled.  The light brown patches are annual bluegrass, Poa annua.  Poa is much less hardy than its more desirable counterpart, creeping bentgrass.  Due to its questionable appearance, samples were taken from this green and brought indoors for further examination.  After watering and warmth, all turf on the sample responded by growing and turning green.  Based on this sample, I anticipate the brown patches of turf to be mostly superficial.  With the onset of warmer temperatures and a resumption of maintenance practices, I expect the putting surfaces to quickly outgrow any imperfections.

8 White Sample From Right Side

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Snow. Turf's Great Blanket Offers Protection From Polar Vortex

The recent frigid temperatures and bone-chilling winds have made the words "polar vortex" as common place as "apple pie" throughout almost the entire United States. While temperatures below -25 degrees F and wind chills more than twice as cold can wreak havoc on cars and prove deadly for humans, they also can be extremely damaging for turfgrass.  The cells within certain varieties of golf course turf may even rupture due to freezing when temperatures fall to such dangerous lows.  Fortunately, the vast majority of turf at NSCC has been insulated with a thick blanket of snow since early December.  Even though monitoring turf conditions below the snow cover is not possible, our in-ground moisture meters give us an inclination of what is happening to the turf.  Not only do our moisture meters measure moisture levels, they also measure soil temperatures.  The graph below depicts soil temperatures since January 1.  Each line on the graph represents one individual green:

  • The top yellow line is the 7 White green
  • The second orange line is practice green
  • The third yellow line is 2 White green
  • The bottom brown line is 1 White green.
As you can see, the top three lines represent the three greens with the heaviest snow cover.  This snow cover acts as a blanket, offering the turf sufficient insulation.  Notice that there is only a minor drop in soil temperatures over the period of extreme cold that we have just encountered.

The bottom line represents 1 White green.  While covered in snow, the elevated and open nature of the green allows for more wind and blowing snow minimizing the extend of insulation.  Because of this reduced level of insulation, the soil temperatures rise and fall more frequently.  Even taking these temperature fluctuations into account, the turf on 1 White green is still very healthy as there has been sufficient insulation to prevent any severe damage at this point.

Over the course of the winter, members often ask how the course is doing.  I feel strongly that a heavy snow cover is the turf's best insulator and protector.  The use of soil technology provides a graphic which explains why this is true.