Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Week after Aerification : Update

For the last few days, a low pressure system has been swirling over Chicagoland.  At Sugar Creek, we have had around 3 inches of rain in total.  Not all at once, though, but in six hour soakers spaced about 12 hours apart.  Wonderful!  Believe it or not, these are very busy weeks for a maintenance crew -- in a different way than usual.  We have not been able to mow fairways, but we have been able to mow everythings else very slowly.  Sand traps have been a constant battle.  In weather like this, we pump them just to give us a shot at drying them faster after it stops raining.  Since you never know when will be the last shower for the week, sometimes we pump them only to have them fill up again.  That's just the chance you take.

On a positive note, the greens have healed quickly from aerification last week.  After one week's time, they now look like this:
1 Week after Aerification
Close-up of #1 Green
They will be putting nicely once they get a chance to dry out a little.

Flooded bunkers have been common this week:

This is Gary's third time pumping traps this week.  You can also see him pulling weeds while he waits for the double sump pump arrangement to do its job.  Great job, Gary!
Gary's daily ritual : Pumping and weeding!
The last problem areas are filling in with slit seeding and aerification:
5 Tee slit seeding
The 5th tee has always been challenging to grow.  It is affected by morning shade, hard subsoil, and heavy use.  Being a short hole, divots are often very large and numerous.  We ask that players refrain from practicing, or taking multiple shots, on this tee for obvious reasons:
Divots on 5 tee
Divots taken during the course of regular play are necessary, but these divots were not between the tee blocks and are probably from just one golfer "practicing".  Ouch.

Looks like we may have one more sprinkle before a nice dry week!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Aerifying Day 2011

It's that time of year again!  The greens at Sugar Creek were aerified on September 21 with a deep tine machine that loosens up the ground up to 8 inches deep.  Aerifying is essential to the long term health of a green.  Here are a few pictures of the process.

We started spreading sand before the deep tine machine this year.  This helped it dry out before brushing.  Here is the deep tine machine on the first green:

Topdressing the greens:

In this photo, you can see the brush in action on the 5th green and the tractor aerifying the 7th green:

After brushing as much sand as possible into the holes, we used some custom built brush reels on the old greens mower.  These reels have a bedknife set to a little under our usual height of cut.  Brushes then come around to pick up extra sand and debris and collect it in the baskets.  These brush reels help to create a puttable surface:

After the first day, the greens look something like this area:

We try hard not to over-sand them even if all the holes aren't full to the top. It is easy to add more sand later but very difficult to get rid of too much.  After testing many spots, the holes almost never interfer with putting after we roll the greens out.  At least in my opinion, excessive sand is more difficult to putt on and can delay recovery. 

At the end of the process, we used a pull behind roller to smooth out any bumps.  One of the difficulties of dealing with recently aerified greens is dew in the morning.  The next two mornings were too dewy to mow or roll the greens without making them clumpy and unputtable.  Instead, we will be brushing and mowing them in the afternoon after they have dried out. 

They are putting smoothly and especially in the dry afternoon are almost too fast.  Some golfers even told me they loved putting them the afternoon after they were done.  Others said they liked the challenge of the different speed.  I hear a rumor that some golfers are not big fans of aerification, but I haven't run into them yet . . .  Well, maybe one or two!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Summer of 2011 : Seeding Fairways

Meteorological summer is over and it has definitely cooled off in the Chicago area -- just barely dipped under 50 last night in many areas.  The last month has been a busy one at many golf courses in the area struggling to recover from late July's rain and heat.  Luckily, August was not extreme: 1.1 degrees F over normal and about average rainfall.  This meant that it was possible to get seed to grow in fairway areas.

In the last 5 weeks, we experimented with several methods of seeding and aerification in the fairways.  We used a slicing knives several times in an attempt to break through the thatch into soil.  This worked in some spots.  We also used an Aera-vator with a seeder to spike seed and cultivate areas.  Other areas we used a Ryan Mataway slit seeder.  All three methods worked to one extent or another.  The trick is to get seed-to-soil contact without making the situation worse or delaying recovery. 

Seed growing in aeravator holes
Some of the plants you see are not new seed.  Most of these areas in our fairways are composed of annual bluegrass, or Poa annua, an annual grass with lots of seed in the ground.  It is very aggressive in spring and fall, but often dies in summer.  In some of these areas, our new seed may have gotten started early enough to establish before the annual fall resurgance of Poa annua.  In others, Poa will likely take back over. 

You can identify Poa annua by its bunch-type growth, yellow-green color, and "boat-shaped" tip:

Annual blugrass boat shaped tip
Annual bluegrass is not exactly what we want to see because it is the species that died in the first place, but it is turf and you can play golf on it!  There isn't any way to stop it without stopping our new seed also, so superintendents have to constantly manage it. 

About three weeks ago, we slit-seeded the first fairway and it is starting to fill in:
First Fairway slit seeding

It is easier to see the fuzzy new grass with dew on it
Finally, an area on 7 fairway that suffered from water damage needed more aggressive tactics.  Using an Aeravator, rake, and roller, we essentially cultivated and seeded the area around this drain:

 The seed germinated very quickly and is doing well.  If you click on the image, you can see them more easily:

Seedlings on 7 Fairway
Many other areas have already recovered from early August and the rest are filling in quickly.  September has really been a nice month!

6th Hole

1st Green

Update September 22, 2011:  Seedlings are really filling in on our fairways.  The renovated area on the 7th fairway now looks like this:
7 fairway
Overall, we have had a lot of success this year replacing pesky Poa annua with bentgrass and bluegrass.  Hopefully these seedlings will toughen up before winter and make great turf next year!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...