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.