Friday, August 30, 2019

Course Update

Greens held up well through the sweltering heat of our aeration last week.  The task was very difficult given the conditions, but the staff knocked it out of the park.  The heat meant that we had to be very cautious in our topdressing and brushing steps to avoid damaging the turf.  It took us a little longer than we'd like, but the end result was well worth it.  We appreciate your patience and willingness to give us the time we needed to get it done the right way.   Greens are now 10-11 days into recovery and they are getting visibly better by the day.  Soon we will ease the height of cut down and they will roll much faster and truer.  

The mass exodus of staff leaving for school is now complete.  We had a tremendous group of kids this year and miss them in a big way now.  In the old days we had a much larger full time staff so the shoulder seasons were not so tough.  Today, we are down to just myself, Ryan, Mike, Alan, Ginny, and Rich.  A small team of seasonal staff members has been hired over the past few weeks to help us out and we are grateful they chose Fawn Lake.  They will be here until sometime in late November.  There is a lot of training underway as everything is brand new for them.  We are still searching for good people, but the competition is stiff and the applicant pool is small.  Labor will remain our biggest challenge for some time I have a feeling.  

As of today, we are down to one irrigation pump.  We generally operate with two, but one of them has died.  The submersible motors that we use typically give us 5-6 years so we anticipated that this would be the year to replace the older of the two.  We replaced one of them in 2017 and it is likely that one will need to be replaced in 2022, if not 2021.  It's uncanny how predictable this issue is.  We'll cross our fingers for good weather and good fortune with the one pump we do have.  The replacement motor will hopefully be installed within the next 7-10 days.  We just limped through a different ailment in July that rendered one pump down for a week.  It's very stressful....which is why I'm typing this on a Friday night when I should be relaxing with friends and family.  

A recent USGA Green Section Update explains our situation perfectly.

Don't Sleep On Tees...USGA Update

The late summer heat took a toll on tees.  When greens demand more and more of our resources, tees often get less than they deserve.  We know they need more, but in tight times they suffer.  In a nutshell they need more aeration and better irrigation coverage.  Tees are built on several inches of sand and the entire tee complex (bentgrass tee and fescue tee surround/slope) is irrigated with a single row of heads.  An impossible dilemma to overcome with our situation is how to properly irrigate the tee complex.  When the fescue growing in native clay is irrigated with the same zone that a bentgrass tee growing in sand is tied to, there is no way to satisfy both situations.  If we give the tee complex enough water to keep the fescue alive, we likely overwater the bentgrass.  If we water to make the bentgrass happy,  the fescue dies.  We combat this by using a team of guys with hoses in order to save water and get it where it's needed most.  If mother nature dumps a mid afternoon storm on us when it's 95 degrees....things go south.  We will be working to squeeze in a few aerations between now and spring in the hopes of firming up tees and getting them to function better.  Aeration won't solve the irrigation issue, but it may make us more durable when heat and humidity crank up.  

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Aeration Reminder

August 19-21 (Monday-Wednesday) we will be aerating the greens with 1/2" diameter coring tines and back filling the holes with sand.  The course will be closed those three days.  We'll do a practice run on the chipping green sometime this week in order to determine what settings to use with the aerator and topdressing.  Hole depth, hole spacing, and sand quantity will need to be figured out before we start on the 19th.

This date was chosen in an effort to improve the chances for a quick recovery and to give the greens relief sooner than the mid September dates of the past.  Summer is tough on old bentgrass greens and having to limp through 3-4 more weeks of summer weather before aerating is difficult.  This date also means we have more staff to help with the process since some of the college kids have not gone back to school yet.  Lastly, it frees us up to focus on repairing the fescue rough at a better time of year.  Last year you'll recall that rains came in early September and didn't stop until October.  Greens continued to suffer through that month and were extremely weak when the sun finally popped out again.  Aeration is a huge step in keeping greens healthy, but the process itself can be tough on greens.  They need to be durable enough to withstand all the steps of aerating.  The only downside to this year's aeration date is the likelihood for hot weather.  We may have to stop the process at mid-day to avoid damaging the greens in the peak of the heat.  Brushing in topdressing sand is abrasive to the turf and that's not something we want to do in the hottest part of the day.  If it's hot, we might need all three days to finish.  If we can knock out the hole punching and topdressing in two days, then we'll use the third day to do more brushing, rolling, and fine tuning to get all the holes full of sand.  The more attention to detail we can give it, the faster it will recover.

Greens aeration is vital to the health of the club's most valuable asset.  Thank you for your patience and understanding during the process.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Early August Update

Our battle against nematodes and related disease issues on greens is going well.  It seems as if we have gotten over the worst of it and are looking much better.  The health of a few greens could have been categorized as "critical" and I had concerns that recovery may not happen until the fall weather arrived.  We have one more treatment to make for nematodes and will have to monitor greens very closely for the next month.  Aeration is quickly approaching and it will give us a much needed boost.  

Cicada killer wasps are more numerous than ever before.  Multiple greens are affected and some, like 13, are full of them.  We've been treating their holes with insecticide and swatting them out of the air with badminton racquets, but they continue to wreak havoc.  Last week we took about 20 plugs off the edge of 13 green and tried to repair the damage they'd done.  The next day there were probably 15 new burrows.  We have never had this many and they have never hung around for this long so it's been frustrating. 



We swapped plugs from the edge of 13 green to all the cicada killer holes. 

We have had our hands full with irrigation issues since Jimmy retired in early May.  Recently we suffered a broken pump mount out in the lake.  This put one of our two pumps out of commission for two weeks during the sweltering heat.  With a hot and dry July, it was a bad time to be at half speed with our ability to move water.  In addition to the pump issues, we've had a flurry of routine headaches like broken heads, faulty wiring, and satellite issues.  Satellites are the boxes you see on every hole.  There is a lot going on inside those things and they are showing their age. 

Irrigation head on 7, among many others, needed some TLC
Bean supervised
Alex tried to stretch a 100' hose too far.  This was in front of 18 green
about 45 minutes before the shotgun start last Saturday.  

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Tough Weekend for Grass

These conditions are brutal for golfers, staff, and the golf course.  The staff has been amazing this summer and especially over the last few days.  Ryan Funkhouser (Assistant Supt.), John Gordon, Alex Johnson, Andrew Sexton, and Richard Davis have braved the heat from sunrise to late afternoon scouting greens and tees for any signs of stress.  Even with all our efforts we expect to see some damage from this heat.  We can add water with hoses to areas that are dry, but we are powerless to keep temperatures from rising.  Greens that are in pockets surrounded by trees and/or in low lying areas will suffer the most.  Lack of air movement makes it impossible for evaporative cooling to keep the turf canopy from overheating.  You've probably seen fans on greens at other courses and may have wondered what they were for.   This weekend would be a great time for us to have a few fans.  We'll bounce back from whatever setbacks we suffer this weekend.  It's just a tough time for bentgrass and those of us who grow it.  

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Timely USGA Note

From the USGA: Summer on the Golf Course...What to Expect

For the next few days the course will be under a great deal of stress from the weather.  For some time we've been managing things in a defensive mode to avoid as much self inflicted damage as possible.  We have raised mowing heights slightly on greens, tees, and roughs.  We are also parking the rough mowers at 10:30-11:00 each day in an effort to avoid too much turf stress.  The guys have been instructed to steer clear of any wilted turf and are only leaving the path if absolutely necessary.  Anything we can control in an effort to save turf is being done.

In addition to all that we are doing as a staff, it's possible that we will also ask golf carts to stay on the paths in the afternoons over the next few days.  We've done this on rare occasions when conditions are extreme.  The forecast looks like it may warrant doing that again this weekend.  Stay tuned to your email for updates.  Thank you in advance for your understanding and cooperation!

Very High Lows

Weather forecasts are warning people to stay inside over the next few days.  Extremely high temperatures are coming.  We'll be out in the middle of it trying to keep bentgrass alive.  The biggest challenge is not so much the high temperatures, but the low temperatures.  We'd love to see something in the 60s at sunrise, but it looks like we'll be in the mid to high 70s instead.  The soil temperatures will remain well above optimum bentgrass growing numbers.  Roots won't be functioning well, if at all, and the symptoms will likely appear on the surface soon.  Afternoon thunderstorms like the one we had yesterday around 4:30 do not help us believe it or not.  Wet soil holds the heat and keeps the soil from cooling back down to a reasonable level.  We can't dry the soil out or change the temperatures, but we can add water with hoses when things are dry.  When soil is wet, highs are pushing 100, and lows are barely below 80 it's a helpless feeling.  It's tough to watch and we will likely come out of this stretch with some visible damage.  Relief is not that far away as next week's forecast calls for mid 60s overnight and more reasonable highs in the 80s.  Additionally,
major relief is coming on August 19th when we aerate.  This is about a month earlier than the past 10 years and will hopefully result in much better fall conditions.  It's hard to hang on to struggling bentgrass for an entire month at the end of summer.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Welcome Back Summer Pests

Summer is cranking at full throttle now and so are many of the pest problems that we face each year.

Weeds like yellow nutsedge, kyllinga, and goosegrass are easy to find.  We've made great strides in our quest to eliminate goosegrass, but it still pops up in high traffic areas along cart paths.  It's under attack as we speak.  Sedges and kyllinga are also major headaches that we are battling at the moment.

Bugs like annual bluegrass weevils were a big issue for the first time last year.  This year we've managed to keep them at bay so far, but they are relentless and can't be ignored.  Cicada killer wasps are an annual visitor that most of you have seen and perhaps run from on occasion.  They are the large burrowing wasps that leave piles of soil on the greens, tees, and bunker edges.  They don't sting, but are intimidating and a big nuisance.

New for this year are nematodes.  These are parasites that feed on roots.  Weak roots from nematode damage will result in very poor heat tolerance, increased disease pressure, and a host of other problems that can result in dead turf.  Symptoms of poor turf vigor have been evident recently so we sent samples to a lab earlier last Monday.  Friday the results came back and revealed very high populations of several different plant parasitic nematodes.   We treated last night and are crossing our fingers that it will alleviate the issue.  Roots are the key for survival in the heat so it's important for us to do all we can to keep them happy. 

Fairway aeration went well last week with only a few hiccups.  The ground was very hard in some places and the machines bounced around a lot.  This caused some of the turf to heave in places.  It is a good example of why we should do this every year.  If we skip a year like we did last year, the ground gets so hard that the machines don't function properly.

Aerators in action last Monday
Hard ground made it difficult to get a clean result.
When the machines bounced out of the ground the turf heaved up.