Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Drainage Project under Cart Path on #1

As part of our continuing effort to improve drainage on the 1st hole, the maintenance crew repaired a drain under the cart path.  Last fall, we added some lines by the sandtrap on the right (Click here for more on that project).  This year, we are fixing the bottleneck under the cart path on the left.  Many years ago, the addition of the cart path interrupted surface flow to the creek and crushed a couple 4-inch drain lines.  The one functioning 4-inch line in this low spot is not capable of collecting and moving all the water to the other side of the path. 

Here is a picture of the problem area:

After some investigation we found that the line was partially crushed slowing down drainage.  At the time this picture was taken, the rest of the course was dry and it had not rained or snowed for days.

We could feel an obstruction under the path with a hose, so we decided to cut the path and fix the problem:

Here we start excavating the drain line.  The curve in the line is the result of going around a large rock that we eventually removed: 

We decided to replace the pipe with a section of 6-inch solid PVC that we had on hand from another project a few years ago.  To do this, we had to make the trench deeper and dig holes for 2 large catch basins.

Here is the structure we installed before backfilling:

And after some backfilling:

This is the first step in the project.  Now that we have a good route under the cart path, we can run drain lines to it to dry up the area.  Before, we had no way to drain the water to a lower point.

Obviously, the area still needs to be finished and seeded.  I will post a "finished" picture below once the grass starts growing (looks like we are going back to freezing temps for a while) . . .

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Golf Course Management Blogging World

I just ran across a great resource for anyone interested in golf course management and maintenance.  Golf Course Management Blogging World will save me the trouble of having to search for all of the blogs out there and "Follow" them.  Not only does the site list a lot of resources, but it contains a snippet from the blogs' latest post.  Thanks to whoever put this together -- I couldn't find the author mentioned.  This will save me a lot of time.  Instead of making sure I'm following all these blogs with a newsreader, I'll just check this site.

There are two other handy lists of golf blogs that I use frequently.  They are a great source of real world information about golf course maintenance and management.  Do you want to know how greens are maintained at various courses?  Wondering about course conditions in a certain region of the country?  Ever think "How did they do that"?  I know I have.  These sites are a great place to find the answer.

 BASF Turf Talk's "Blogs We Like" is a very complete list of superintendent blogs.  I have clicked through it many times and learned something every time. 
Golf Course Industry magazine's "Blog Central" also contains links to a wide variety of golf course related blogs from superintendents, architects, and builders.

Thanks to all of these sites for including Sugar Creek!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Frost Season 2011

Did it snow?  No.  Just frost.
With the start of the 2011 season comes the usual early season frost delays.  While I know many golfers are looking forward to playing their first round today, there will be a lengthy frost delay.

Click here for more information and a video about frost delays.

When we have to delay play due to frost at Sugar Creek, we place signs around the putting green and clubhouse to alert golfers of the condition.

In order to prevent damage to the turf, play is delayed until the first two greens are frost free.  Playing on frosted turf results in damage to the plants in the shape of footprints. 

Click here for pictures of frost damage.

If you watched golf this winter, you may remember the Phoenix Open in Scottsdale, Arizona this February won by Mark Wilson .  Frost delays forced the PGA tournament to finish on Monday instead of Sunday.  The frost delays were unusual for Arizona, but we are very familiar with them in the Chicago area.  The winner of the tournament, Mark Wilson, is from Wisconsin and lives in Illinois.  Could his familiarity with cold mornings and frost delays have given him an edge over others in the field?

Dealing with frost delays takes a lot of patience from golfers and staff.  As always, we appreciate the understanding of golfers while we wait for the frost to lift.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Turf Notes: Annual Bluegrass and Winter Hardiness

Compared to last year, it looks like we will have only limited areas of winterkill this spring.  In 2010, a long period of snow cover and a long period of freezing and thawing of ice sheets resulted in a lot of lost annual bluegrass (Poa annua).  We sodded the worst areas and slit seeded the rest.  For pictures from 2010, see "7th Fairway- Update."  
Sodding areas of the 6th fairway in 2010
If you see any strange patterns or lines in the fairways this March or April, it may be areas sodded with bentgrass in 2010.  Pictures like the ones below really illustrate the weaknesses of annual bluegrass compared to creeping bentgrass or Kentucky bluegrass. 

Bentgrass sod design on 6 fairway

Another square on 6 fairway from 2010

Creeping bent on the left -- Annual bluegrass on the right

Large square sodded in 2010
These areas have 2 problems that go together: poor drainage (they are naturally low and almost flat) and poor turf species.  While it will take a combination of approaches to improve these areas of the fairways, I am glad to see that bentgrass is capable of surviving the winter in these difficult spots.  It shows that keeping up with our current strategies will improve these areas in the long term.

Right now, you can really see the contrast between different grass species and their reaction to cold temperatures.  Unfortunately, most of the brown areas around our sod from 2010 will green up with warmer temperatures.  I say "unfortunately" because it would be a lot easier to get rid of annual bluegrass if it would die off and stay dead.  Its persistance is amazing.  It will die in a heartbeat in the winter and summer and re-germinate just as fast in the spring and fall.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Golf Course is Open

With the rising temperatures, golfers have started coming out in increasing numbers.  We had our first significant amount of rounds on Sunday.  This week looks to be a good one for golf. 

If you would like to golf, we are open and the course is looking and playing well for this time of year.  The maintenance crew has been busy cleaning greens, tees, and fairways and finishing our winter tree work.  The grass isn't growing yet, but it looks like spring is just around the corner.

You can always check availability or make tee times at our website (Click here).

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Soil Temperatures Since 2005

Over the winter, I had the opportunity to gather and analyze some climate data from the past decade.  One chart in particular I thought interesting enough to share with the golf and turf community.  The following chart summarizes average soil temperature at a 4-inch depth from 2005-2010.  It confirms what superintendents and golfers already know: 2009 was an unusually favorable year for cool-season turf, and 2010 unusually unfavorable.  

Click on image for a larger view

The peaks of the trendlines are about 5 degrees apart.  That is a huge difference, especially considering that our major turf species prefer soil temperatures well under 70 degrees.  A trend of average soil temperature over 75 degrees is a difficult summer, especially for Poa annua.

I fully admit that I produced this chart to put my mind at ease!  2010 was my second year as a superintendent and I needed some scientific confirmation:  Yes, there was something very different about 2010 -- and it doesn't happen every year.  The take-away message of 2010 for me:  Superintendents have to work to make improvements during those "easier" years to get as much turf as possible through those tough years.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Thawing and Freezing

Since the snow has mostly melted, we have been assessing the health of our turf coming out of winter.  Last year, I wrote about the factors that influence turf health coming out of winter in Good or Bad Winter for Turf and A Long, Difficult Winter for Turf.  As it turned out, we had to do a lot seeding and sodding last April to repair ice damage in the fairways.  After a tough summer in 2010, it would be nice to have favorable conditions for turf growth this spring.

Like most golf courses, we have a few areas that tend to weaken or die over the winter.  About every other year, the 7th fairway exhibits significant ice damage.  My theory is that this ice damage is caused by crown hydration of mostly Poa annua during freeze/thaw cycles.  During our last thaw after the first of the year, the grass plants appeared healthy.  While it is difficult to assess health during the winter, ice damaged plants often take on a mushy, soupy texture due to their ruptured cell walls.  This month's freezing and thawing are starting to concern golf course superintendents, but I am still hoping we will have less damage than last year when the ice didn't melt until the middle of March.

On February 28th, the fairways were covered in ice after a heavy rain.  Luckily most of the ice has melted and drained overnight.

Here are two spots we are watching closely:

Draining areas on 7 fairway

Melting ice on 6 fairway
In 2010, we tried to improve the drainage in these areas and re-seeded them with creeping bentgrass.  Because bentgrass has a greater tolerance for ice cover and cold temperatures than Poa annua, we are hoping to see less ice damage this year in the places where the bentgrass took.  More improvements will need to be made to drain these areas more quickly, but planting a hardier species should help these areas survive the winter in the meantime.

Besides these areas, the turf is looking good after a snowy February.  Our newly planted tees are looking healthy and the greens are free of snow mold.
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