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.
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!