Friday, August 11, 2017

Thatch Control in Greens

Earlier this week the grounds staff completed a mini-tine aeration on the greens.  I call the process mini because often when the superintendent says the "A" word, golfers get concerned, and I wanted to convey the minimal effect the process will have on the playability of the greens during the project.  The small diameter of these tines allows for minimal disruption of the surface while still benefiting the turf.  As you can see from the picture above, quite a bit of organic material was removed from the greens.  Once the cores were pulled, they were blown off the putting surface and a heavy application of sand was added.  Once the sand was brushed in and rolled, the surface is very playable.  The finished product is shown in the picture below.

Each year, during the summer, the Bentgrass on our greens tends to accumulate excessive amounts of thatch.  Excessive thatch leads to a softer, less true surface that is more prone to ball marks, imperfections and disease pressure.  This shallow, mini-tine aeration has become another tool for our team to use to maintain firm conditions.  The tines do a great job of physically removing some of the thatch, while brushing the topdressing sand into the holes further dilutes the thatch in the top inch of the soil.  Reducing organic matter by replacing it with sand will allow us to maintain a consistently smoother, firmer surface.

Cart Path Extension at #18 Green

For many years, the area along the cart path at #18 green has been an issue.  Not only is it an eye sore, but years of shade and compaction from cart traffic have caused the Bermuda to thin.  The exposed soil eroded away and exposed the sandstone rocks beneath, creating a rocky mess.  As you can see from the picture on the right, this isn't a good last impression.  The other issue we have is the staff at Bailey Ranch has difficulty getting through this area while people are parked at the green due to a combination of the creek on the left side and the rocky uneven edge along the path.  The only option is to drive in the surround near the green which isn't ideal.

The plan to address this issue is to expand the current cart path from 6 feet to 12 feet and add curbing.  Adding the extra width will give golfers a safe place to park while on the green and will allow staff members through more easily.  As you finish your round, you'll notice the area along the cart path on #18 has been dug out in preparation for concrete.  The next steps will be to add a 2" layer of rock as a base, install concrete forms, and then pour the concrete.  Our friends in the Streets Division at the City of Owasso Public Works Department have graciously agreed to help us with this project as the scope of concrete work is beyond what us "grass growers" can handle.  With this in mind, we are somewhat at the mercy of their schedule as to when they can come complete the work.  The last time we spoke, they indicated they will try to pour the path some time in the next few weeks.

We ask for your patience and understanding while we work to make these improvements to the area.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Summer Cultivation of Bermuda

Although summer hasn't officially begun yet, the hot weather pattern has already set in and in response, the Bermuda throughout the golf course has begun to grow aggressively.  Once Bermuda begins to grow aggressively, it is time to begin cultural practices such as core aeration and slicing.  These practices alleviate compaction from cart traffic and maintenance equipment, improve soil oxygen and allow for deeper rooting.

Last Tuesday the staff began both solid-tine slicing fairways and core aerating tees.  As stated above, both of these practices will help alleviate compaction and help irrigation penetrate into the soil.  However, solid-tining does not remove any excessive thatch that might have accumulated.  We currently do not have the proper equipment to pull a core on fairways so this is the next best thing.  Once the fairway is sliced, it is mowed and all debris is blown into the rough.  The surface that remains is very playable.  The brown turf immediately around each slice mark is temporary and the turf will recover in a week or so.

The staff was also busy pulling a core on tees.  This process inherently creates more of a mess and requires more staff to clean up and get ready for play.  As you can see from the picture on the right, quite a bit of soil and thatch is brought up to the surface.  Once all the cores have been pulled, a drag mat is used to separate the soil from the thatch.  The soil reincorporates into the turf while the thatch is easily blown off using backpack blowers.  This process, although messy and inconvenient, is vital to the long term healthy of our Bermuda tees.  Without this process, our tees would be thin, discolored and would not meet the expectations of our golfers.

Cart Traffic Control

It's been about four months since we started painting red cart traffic lines in front of greens complexes, and I am encouraged to see so many people helping us keep carts away from greens.  To be honest, I wasn't sure how successful painting lines on the ground would be, but so far it seems to be a big help.  Signs are easier to see while you are playing but they have some down side.  They aren't cheap to purchase and they often get damaged and need replacing.  They also need to be moved by the mowing crew.  Painting the lines is convenient because it doesn't interfere with routine maintenance practices such as mowing.

Our intention for the lines is to keep compaction to a minimum and maintain the best turf quality in our greens complexes.  The grounds staff appreciates your cooperation with this program and look forward to seeing you on the course!

Monday, June 12, 2017

DryJect on Greens

This past Thursday, Robert Main with Turfgrass Solutions was on site to conduct another DryJect application to the greens.  This is the second consecutive year that we've asked Robert to come out to complete the process on the greens.  Last year, I wrote about how the machine works and the benefits that can be expected.  For those interested, that information can be found here.  One of the biggest benefits of the process is how playable the greens are immediately afterwards.  Typically after a core aeration, the greens are not very playable for a week or so.  The DryJect process actually makes the greens firmer, instead of softer, which gives the grounds department the ability to keep them faster and smoother than a traditional aeration.  The dime-sized marks that are left behind will heal in within the next 7-10 days.  As always, we appreciate your patience while we recover from the project.  If you have any questions about this, or any other topic, feel free to contact me.  Thank you.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Thatch Removal on Greens

Memorial Day weekend has come and gone.  The weather was perfect all weekend and the golf course was packed with hundreds of people enjoying themselves.  Based on the feedback I recieved over the weekend from golfers, the condition of the greens surpassed expectations.  It was nice to be validated and that all the hard work the staff has put into the golf course over the past few weeks has been noticed.  With the busy holiday weekend behind us, our focus switches to cultural practices on greens to ensure they stay firm and healthy through the summer months.

With this in mind, the grounds staff is performing a core aeration on greens.  Don't be alarmed, the tines we are using are very small and the debris created is easily cleaned up.  Once the green has been cored, a thin layer of sand is incorporated into the holes.  As you can see from the picture at the bottom right, the surface is very playable immediately after the process.

This coring physically removes the troublesome thatch and allows the topdressing sand someplace to go.  The improved oxygen content and reduction in surface compaction should allow the Bentgrass to be as healthy as possible leading into another hot Oklahoma summer.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Sod Work on Misc. Collars

This week, the grounds staff added new sod to a few miscellanous areas in the green surrounds on #2, #3, #10, #12 and #13.  A few of these areas came out of winter a little too thin and some of these areas were not level and needed redone.  One spot in particular, the area behind #3 green, had numerous sunken spots from years of gopher damage.  

Similar to previous sod projects, these areas will be marked ground under repair and we ask that everyone stay off the sod for the next few weeks.  Once the sod is rooted in, the soil underneath will stabilize and the sod will be ready for foot traffic.  After the sod gets established and starts to grow, the staff will begin lowering the height of cut down to it's eventual .4" cutting height.  

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Course Update for March/April

March and April are always exciting months for the Grounds Department.  We begin hiring and training seasonal staff, the weather begins to warm up, and the golf course begins to wake up from its winter slumber.  This year, the weather has been somewhat upside down.  March started out warm and dry and April ended up being cooler with a considerable amount of rain.  The picture above was taken during early March and you can see the weather caused the Bermuda to green up very early in the season.  During this time, certain maintenance activities are done to prepare the golf course for the season.  In mid-March, the staff completed our annual bunker audit.  This is done each spring, before the golf season kicks off, to ensure the sand depth in each bunker is within specifications.  Keeping the bunker sand depth consistent creates consistent playing conditions from one bunker to the next.  The staff also completed our first greens fertilizer application one week prior to greens aeration.  We've found that applying Nitrogen before aeration always does a good job of waking the Bentgrass from dormancy and forces it to grow aggressively.  The aggressive growth is key to a fast recovery from core aeration. Greens aeration was completed during the third week of March, right after the Rogers State Invitational.  As usual, the staff did an amazing job and the greens were aerated ahead of schedule and the finished product turned out great.  The weather in mid-March was very mild, almost hot, with a record 92 degrees on March 20th.  This hot weather caused our Bermuda to jump out of dormancy quickly and the tees, fairways and surrounds greened up considerably over the second half of March.  As March came to a close, we were pretty pleased with where the condition of the golf course was.  The picture below and to the left was taken mid-March and the picture to the right was 14 days later.

The weather in early April was similar to the end of March.  Then the spring rain season began and the temperature dropped.  Over the past several weeks, the golf course has received over 10 inches of rain.  The cloudy, cool weather coupled with this much rain has had a negative impact on our Bermuda.  The turf quality throughout the course actually decreased in April compared to March.  Recently, we've seen some moderate amounts of disease on portions of our fairways that are a direct result from the amount of rain we've received.  This disease is more of a nuisance than anything, but does temporarily affect the quality of our fairways until the plant can recover when warm, drier weather sets in.  You can see in this picture of #10 fairway that the improved Bermuda in the foreground is unaffected and healthy, while the common Bermuda uphill has been thinned out due to the disease.  The pictures below give a closer look of both grasses.  This seems to happen every spring, to some degree, and isn't a cause for concern, especially since the weather looks like it will turn warmer and drier starting next week.  Once some warm weather, and sunlight, hit the Bermuda, it should recover quickly over the next few weeks.

Maintaining the bunkers has been a challenge over the past few weeks.  Any rainfall event over .75" causes our bunkers to wash out and our staff has to spend the next day putting them back together.  You can see, from the picture to the right, what happens when we get several inches of rain at once.  This requires a lot of shoveling and raking to get them back into acceptable condition.  I'm very proud of our staff for showing the diligence and resiliency needed to keep up with these bunkers during this time of year.  Through out this rainy few weeks, the bunkers have been in great shape and are a testament to their hard work.

Lastly, you may or may not notice, as you drive the cart paths during your next round, but the staff spent some time last week grinding some of the high spots out of the cart paths.  Over the years, as soil moves, some of the cart path cracks had raised up and have caused a rough ride.  Grinding off these high spots proved to be a cost effective way to solve this problem.  Wrangling these machines all day for two days was a lot of work and the staff did a great job getting the project done.

It appears that the unstable weather pattern may be breaking down, which should allow the staff to get into a bit of a rhythm regarding routine weekly maintenance such as mowing and other activities.  As the Bermuda begins active growth in May, the condition of the golf course will improve and we are excited to begin a busy summer season!  See you on the course!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Spring Greens Aeration

I recently wrote a post about spring lawn care that can be found here.  One of the most important processes that we complete each spring is core aeration on our putting greens.  This process is critical to the long term health and sustainability of our most valuable asset.  This year, aeration of the front nine greens is scheduled for Wednesday March 22nd and the back nine greens are scheduled for Thursday March 23rd.  Please note that each set of nine holes will be closed for play during the scheduled work and the full 18 holes should be open back up for play on Friday March 24th.  We realize that aeration is disruptive and never a popular process.  We appreciate your patience during this process and, over the next few weeks, while the turf recovers.