Sunday, August 28, 2016

More Than Just A Weather Issue

The fight to survive continues, but I wanted to add some photos to clarify that weather isn't our only foe. Some heavy morning shade issues on several greens as well as some design features that concentrate foot traffic are the common denominators among all our troubled areas.  Areas that have both heavy morning shade as well as concentrated wear are the worst looking areas.  When May is saturated and the temperatures ramp up in June, July, and August the added stress of foot traffic and shade can send turf packing.

A green like 11 (pictured below) has no bunkers to concentrate foot traffic, the path is a long way from the green allowing for even more dispersion of on/off traffic, and it is in full sun as soon as the sun rises.  Not surprisingly we have very good turf throughout number 11.  The chipping green is the same way.  It gets almost zero foot traffic.

Conversely, number 8 (pictured below) is in full shade well into the morning, almost all the on/off traffic crosses the back middle of the green, and the contours of the green limit the number of pin placements.  In fact two of the six placements are on the back portion of the green where all the on/off traffic crosses.  So regardless of where the pin is located the back portion of the green gets traffic.  It also stays in full shade until 10:00 each morning and gets full sun during the hottest part of the day.  Not surprisingly this is one of our weakest greens. 12 is the same way.   A chainsaw would be our best friend in several places although some of the problem trees are not on our property.  The trees are 23 years older than they were when the course was built and they've grown a lot.  

The two pictures below are of 12 green.  The trees to the east side of this green (right side of each picture) need to come down.  Also, much like the 8th hole pictured above, most all of the entry/exit foot traffic comes across the back middle of the green.  Morning shade plus the bulk of all foot traffic each day = Weak Turf.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Break Time is Over

The first few days of the week offered a much needed break from the heat.  Night time temperatures finally getting into the 60s was a big help. Unfortunately the next week to ten days looks painful....

Roots on greens and tees are very shallow and therefore require a lot of babysitting.  Greens are softer, as is always the case in August.  If our bentgrass was a person it would be in ICU.  We're going to be ok, but for now things are minute to minute.  Some very nice courses nearby have gone as far as closing temporarily in order to protect the greens from further damage.  No visitors in ICU.  I'm hoping that the oppressive heat keeps the traffic to a minimum during these next few stressful days.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Timely Updates from the USGA

We continue to play defense in our quest to make it through August.  It looks like we are going to catch a break with the weather next week.

Here two recent USGA Updates focusing on this situation...

The Marathon Continues 
AUGUST 5, 2016   
By Addison Barden, agronomist, Northeast Region

"Underlying issues, such as a poor growing environment or lack of internal drainage, have caused turf decline this summer."

Back To The Basics
AUGUST 19, 2016   
By Paul Jacobs, agronomist, Northeast Region and 
Adam Moeller, director, Green Section Education

"Extreme heat and high canopy temperatures forced superintendents to adjust maintenance practices and emphasize water management."

Monday, August 15, 2016

August Golf Course Update

This could be a copy and paste of our last update, but many of the same issues exist.  Here is a rundown of where things stand.....

Summer Stress For Bentgrass

Extreme heat coupled with some late afternoon storms has made the soil in greens and tees unsuitable for bentgrass. Soil retains more heat when it's wet so, if it rains during the hottest part of the day, the soil stays warm all night.  The humidity has remained high throughout most days which prevents the soil from drying down.  Soil temperatures have hovered at or above what bentgrass can tolerate for the past two weeks and the current forecast shows no relief soon.  We turned off the sprinkler heads to greens a few weeks ago.  The areas that dry up between rains have been watered by hand with hoses.  It's very labor intensive, but it is the only way to avoid overwatering areas that do not need water.  The only living roots are near the surface and therefore we find ourselves handwatering all day everyday in order to keep little infant roots alive.  Night time temperatures need to fall below 70 degrees consistently and rains need to stay away until that happens.  On the bright side, the zoysia grass could not be happier.  

For those looking for more scientific explanations....

Recent Report From Virginia Tech's Turf Team regarding the current situation in Virginia

Understanding Wet Wilt from 2005, but perfect for what we are facing

Summer Staff Heads Back To School

Friday, July 29, 2016

Long Overdue Update

It's been a long time since I updated our site and the list of things to share is far too long for one post.  I'll hit the major topics briefly and get back into a steady pace of updates from this point forward.

  • We had a very bumpy May with all the rain and then suffered a big blow with the loss of our Equipment Manager, Gene Thompson.  Gene, as I shared via email to the membership, passed away suddenly on June 9th.  He took great care of our valuable equipment fleet and was a pleasure to work with.  His absence has been very difficult both personally and professionally for all of us that work with him.  We've come to appreciate even more just how important he was to our operation.  
  • Filling Gene's shoes will be difficult to say the least. After a month of searching and interviews we are excited to say that we found a great person to help us. Mike Campbell comes to us from Hidden Valley Country Club in Salem, VA. He moved his family (wife and young daughter) here to be part of our team.   Please join me in making Mike feel welcome.  Feel free to swing by the shop at some point to meet him.  

Late July Golf Course Update


The past three weeks have been extremely stressful to the golf course.  While the zoysia grass in the fairways enjoys the heat, the rest of the golf course is looking forward to October.  Greens are holding up well, but the past week in particular has been deadly to other cool season turf.  The air temperature, and more importantly the soil temperatures, have gone beyond what cool season turf (bentgrass, fescue, bluegrass) can tolerate. 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

What To Expect With All This Rain

The staff has been very patient and willing to juggle their personal lives to accommodate the extreme weather we've faced.  I can't thank them enough as without their extra effort, I'm not sure we'd have a golf course to play. 

Last Sunday evening we pulled staff together for some mowing despite conditions that would normally be considered too wet.  We knew Monday was going to be a better day, but we had a 144 players showing up for a 9:00 shotgun start and weren't going to be able to mow for 6 hours (yes it took them 6 hours to play 18 holes).  We also knew that more rain was coming Tuesday and the course would be even wetter then.  So Sunday evening, early Monday morning, and again late Monday until almost 8PM we got the rough, fairways, tees, and approaches mowed.  We made a mess, but kept the grass at a manageable height.  We got through the course again with mowers Wednesday evening until late Friday in advance of the storms that washed us out of Saturday and Sunday.  At this point we are just trying to keep things under control.  Turf is struggling with disease, greatly delayed weed control applications have allowed some weeds to get a head start, roots are sitting in water, and bunkers are a wreck.  We've been using push mowers to mow green surrounds, tee slopes, and other areas where large mowers are unable to go.