Sunday, August 17, 2014

August 2014

Mild temperatures have sent turf growth into overdrive early this year.  It has almost felt like September many days.  After rain early this week, it has been difficult keeping up with the bluegrass rough.  It is loving the cool soil temperatures and sunshine.  This is perfect weather for the maintenance pratices we have scheduled for the next week: topdressing, brushing, and grooming greens and tees.  In the next couple weeks, we may also aerify tees a little earlier than normal to remove some thatch and firm up the surface. 

Here is what it looks like this week:

1st Hole
#7 fairway, which had a rough winter and spring, has had a great summer:

#7 Fairway

Here is #8, a 250 yard par 4.  You can go for the green, but watch out!  That is a deep bunker right in front of the green.  Even worse -- go over the green and you roll down the hill leaving you with a very difficult wedge shot to keep it on the green.  It really is best to play it short of the bunker and stay below the hole going into the green.  Next time I play, I'll try to listen to my own advice and keep the woods in the bag!

#8 at Sugar Creek

Sunday, July 27, 2014

July 2014: On the course

After a lot of rain in early July, the last couple weeks have been beautiful.  We are especially grateful for the moderate temperatures this year since the harsh winter left us with weaker turf than usual.  The National Weather Service is predicting a similarly mild August with average rainfall which should equate to great conditions for golf.

Below is the putting green on June 27th.  I am often asked about the ornamental grasses you can see in the background along the first tee.  They are Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster'.

Early mornings have been beautiful lately:

5 Green

4th Hole

Karl changing cups on the 4th green

Below is the 9th hole and clubhouse.  On the left you can see some of the Ash trees that were killed by the Emerald Ash Borer over the last year.  For more on this destructive insect see here.

The renovated bunkers are performing very well.  Improved drainage, new sand, and a sod "face" have greatly improved this sand trap on the first green.  A small amount of rain used to wash this trap out and make it unplayable. Now it is playable hours after a strong thunderstorm.
Even the infamous 7th fairway has been cooperating this year after starting out more than 50% dead.  So far, we have not experienced the deadly combination of excessive rainfall, high heat, and solar radiation that damaged this floodplain fairway in 2010 and 2011.
7th Fairway enjoying 2014

And finally . . . Safety first!  Two junior greenkeepers try on bump caps before inspecting the course:


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Drainage Repairs

When it is too wet to mow fairways, one of our favorite pastimes is finding and fixing old drain lines.  There are very few in the fairways so we have been finding the ones that are there and testing them.

We just found the old lines on the 4th fairway.  The good news is that the 4 inch line going to the creek works!  The bad news is that the rest of the system is thin 2 inch spiral corrugated tube that is not flowing.  It is crushed in many places.  There is a good reason 4 inch is the standard size.

2 inch drain line

In a situation like this we will get the system working as well as it can and install a catch basin here.  At least the 4 inch line heading off toward the top of the picture will take water and the pea gravel around the 2 inch lines is collecting some water.  In the future, reinstalling 4 inch lines in this area would help dry it out more quickly after heavy rain.  At least now we have a better idea what is here to work with.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Spring 2014 Turf Recovery in Pictures

The winter of 2013-2014 was tough on turf.   The cold temperatures and snowfall lead to a lot of dead Poa. Many golf courses were left with large areas of dead turf that had to be seeded, sodded, or otherwise coaxed back into playable shape.  At Sugar Creek, the rough, greens, and most tees survived the winter fine but the fairways are another story.  In areas of shady floodplain, solid layers of ice sometimes a foot thick formed and eventually suffocated the Poa annua that calls these areas home.  After a lot of aerifying (3 times), slit-seeding, levelling, watering, and sodding, the fairways were almost 100% filled in by the end of May.  I'll be the first to admit that Mother Nature did most of the work -- we can't do anything without the right temperatures, moisture levels, and sunlight to grow plants -- but we significantly sped up the process and made some progress against Poa.

Here are some pictures from the last 3 months that dramatically illustrate the recovery:

7 Fairway - April 12, 2014
Here you can see some of the creeping bentgrass we have been able to get growing after the floods in 2010 and 2013 (and the heat wave in 2012).  Everything green in the fairway is bentgrass. Everything brown is Poa annua. 

7 Fairway - April 12, 2014

7 Fairway after slit-seeding  - April 25, 2014
Below you can see the fairway filling in with new seedlings.  We wish they were all bentgrass seedlings, but many are coming from the dormant Poa annua seedbank in the soil.  At this point, you take what you can get!

7 Fairway filling in - May 30, 2014
And below is now.  You can tell we had moderate temps and a lot of rain recently!

7 Fairway - June 27, 2014
7 Fairway from the reverse angle:

The first fairway suffered similar damage but not as extensive.  As an experiment, we slit-seeded T-1 creeping bentgrass when it was still very cold at the end of March and had seed coming up in April.  It filled in quickly after that.

Slit-seeding germination - April 25, 2014
These photos were taken of the 1st fairway toward the tee:

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Bug Spray Harms Turf

It's that time of year again!

I have received a few questions about the mysterious patches of light tan turf that appeared over the weekend.  This is one turf problem that has a simple explanation:  Whenever the weather is muggy and buggy, we experience an outbreak of "bug spray disease."  Most golfers do not know that their insect repellent will harm turf, especially when directed at legs and ankles.  The overspray usually leaves a pattern of a green footprint or footprints surrounded by straw-colored injured turf. 

The solution to this problem is to spray legs and ankles on a cart path or other non-turf surface where the overspray will not contact grass.  Depending on conditions and the amount of spray on the grass, these spots usually recover in 1-4 weeks.  In extreme cases, though, they can result in the death of the patch of turf. 
Bug spray injury on a tee with a footprint in the center

Bug spray injury on a green collar

Can you see the footprint?

 Hopefully these pictures will help us all remember to use bug spray on the cart path.  I know it has slipped my mind in the middle of a mosquito attack.  Next time you golf on a buggy day, please help us educate others about the cause of the mysterious green footprint disease.
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