Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fall Progress Report

If you've played lately, you've probably noticed all of the mess around the course. The tees and approaches are getting shaggy, the collars are a little tall, and the fairways do not look as groomed as normal. The main reason for this lack of cleanliness is the recent sand topdressing.

The greens were aerified on September 15th and 16th and are now two weeks healed. The time between aerification and the first mowing varies from course to course depending on personal preference and the rate of growth and recovery. Personally, I do not like the turf to get too much taller than our regular playing height. If it does, we will have to adjust the mowers down between mowings to avoid injuring the plants. This time around, the greens were growing so fast that we cut them three days after punching holes. From then on we mowed everyday to keep up with growth. So what does this have to do with sand?

The topdressing absolutely destroys the blades of a mower. Each of the green mowers has a reel with 11 blades and a bedknife that completes the scissors action as the reel spins around. Each bedknife costs around $25 and must be replaced after mowing sand for a week. The reels can be sharpened and four mowers will take a full day to get back into shape. Obviously, we do not want to repeat this process more than once for each aerification. We closely monitor the amount of sand that each mower collects and decide when it is safe to put on some fresh blades. The difference is like night to day as a sharp edge will get more turf with a clean cut and leave a very crisp surface for your putting enjoyment.

The same is true with the fairway units, the tee mower, and the walk mowers used on the collars. We have to wait for the sand to settle down before we can start cutting with sharp reels.

Currently, the green mowers are sharpened, the fairway unit should be ready for tomorrow, and the tee mower is scheduled for Friday. Fall aerification and overseeding are always messy, so hopefully this helps to explain some of the time involved.
Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fairway Topdressing

On Wednesday, September 23rd, we topdressed all of the fairways with 400 tons of sand. That sounds like a lot, but it is less than 1/8 of an inch. Over time, multiple topdressings will add up to make a difference and improve the soil and playing surface. I've scheduled two of these applications for next year, one in June and one in September.

We shot a little video of the topdressing process in all of its glory. We contract Reece Spray Service to do the job with this giant green truck. This is one of the heaviest vehicles I've ever put on a fairway, but the large tires spread out the weight and keep turf damage to a minimum. Assistant Superintendent, Mike Nee is shooting the video and trying his best to keep his little finger out of the shot. I'm commentating from inside the rig as we roll down down fairway.

The whole process took five hours to complete compared to 2 weeks for the in house application.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Aerification Update

Since my last post, the staff has put over 1 million holes in the playing surface. I wasn't counting, but who's going to argue after we've aerified all the fairways, tees, and collars. Today we will focus on punching the approaches and then move on to some high traffic areas near the greens.

Another project for today is the slit-seeding of the tees. We will walk slit-seed in two directions and follow with more seed, sand, and fertilizer. This tends to be a little messy as the tees will be de-thatched during the seeding effectively accomplishing two jobs at once. This is the most extensive seeding of the tees we've attempted and I expect wonderful results.

Tomorrow, Wednesday the 23rd, we will apply over 10 tons of sand per acre on the fairways. This is the most sand we've topdressed with and will work to improve drainage, decrease worms castings, and improve fairway firmness. These positive results can take years to develop as fairway topdressing is a slow process. Even at 10 tons per acre, we are applying less than an 1/8 inch of sand. Little by little, the composition of the soil will change by a small amount. Increasing the percentage of sand, even by a small fraction, can lead to a better playing surface.

The greens have all received their first mowing since being aerified only a few days ago. The back nine was a day ahead of the front and we mowed on Saturday, after only three days of healing. We should be completely healed well before the weekend as we start to get the course back to optimum playing conditions.

As always, thank you for your patience during these messy periods that are so vital to the health of the turf. I've received nothing but compliments and understanding from the membership and the staff and I definitely notice and appreciate the support.

Happy golfing.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Another Beautiful Day

As the summer comes to an end, the golf course begins to look very needy. It's spent the last few months struggling to survive heat, traffic, drought, and salty irrigation water. Basically, the plant is spent and needs some tender loving care to get back into shape.

Unfortunately, that means it is time to punch some holes. Aerification is one of the most important practices for maintaining good turf, but is totally despised by the majority of golfers. I assure you, if we did not have to do this, we would not. Nobody on my staff is really excited about aerifying the greens because they are going to wake up the next day with worn out legs and a sore back. The greens, on the other hand, will feel like they've been reborn.

A few of us on the staff pulled two 14 hour days in row. Normally we would limit this to one long day after finishing 6 greens the night before. This time, our aerifier went down and we were forced to stretch the work into another day. Now I like my job and I'm willing to put in some long hours, but it does wear on you a little bit. Getting 'burned out' is very common among Superintendents and I think I was pretty close over the last couple of weeks.

Lucky for me, I work at a golf course which can be a very beautiful place to come to work and it is pretty difficult to be burned out when you start your day looking at this.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Drive Thru Now Open

It is my pleasure to introduce the newly opened overflow parking lot. The entrance is easily accessible as long as you're going 80 mph down Alpine. Make sure you lock up your brakes 30 yards before the stop sign and slide through the intersection. Once you've made your landing, grab your sticks out of the trunk and head out to the course. Feel free to drop a ball or two on #5 fairway and take in a few practice shots before beginning your round on #6 tee.

Of course, I'm kidding. This fine piece of automobile crashed through the fence on #5 last Wednesday after a police chase that originated on the freeway. While I have not confirmed any details, I'm told that the gentleman ran down the 6th hole, jumped the fence, and ran towards a vacant house. He posed no threat to golfers, he was not dangerous, or intelligent. I unplugged the stuck horn when I reached the car and noticed his cell phone was still on the driver's seat. That is probably something you want to take with you when leaving the scene of an accident. I overheard the Sheriffs talking about the guy's record including a few charges and current warrant which explains why he was fleeing in the first place.

I almost forgot, this is the 'Turf Page' so I better talk about some turf. We are going to seed the area where the car slid in and install a new section of fence to repair the damage. Every golf course endures some form of vandalism or property damage because it is such an appealing target. In this instance we are an innocent bystander and barely inconvenienced. However, everyone knows about the donuts that were turned on #6 green over 5 years ago. We also have tee markers and flags disappear and the occasional mess of beer cans littered on the course. Compared to other courses, we have very little vandalism because of our location. There are only a handful of houses that border the course on two holes with fence and water protecting the rest. Think of it like a castle and a mote, but watch out for hostile barbarians driving in Buick Regals.

Friday, September 4, 2009

No overseed for 2009

To overseed or not to overseed, that is the question. The answer this year is not to overseed for the good of the course and to save $30,000. In the four winters I have been here, we have always overseeded all of the fairways, tees, approaches, green surrounds, and select areas of rough. At the same time, we were trying to stimulate bermudagrass in the summer by keeping the course dry. The problem is the bermuda has to compete with a new crop of perennial ryegrass every year and cannot fill in and mature before being hit by the following winter. This leads to thin and spotty fairways during the warmer months of the year.

A second problem with overseeding is compromising the best playing weather of the year. Fall is a great season to play golf, but an overseeding program will make it much less enjoyable. Here is a summary of the cons of overseed from a golfer's standpoint.

• Course is closed for two weeks in September(one 9 each week)
• Fairways are not mowed for 3-4 weeks and become pretty long, then fairways are maintained at 1.5 inches for 2 weeks, and down to 1 inch for another 2 weeks before arriving at .75 inches
• Very wet course with afternoon irrigation during germination 4 weeks total
• Carts on path for 3 weeks after 2 week partial closure
• Summer months will thin stand of ryegrass and fairways will be spotty (like now)

During the period of grow-in that includes wet conditions and long grass, I often hear the remark, "This place is unplayable." I agree. 2 inch fairways do not offer much enjoyment. By not overseeding, course conditions will be fantastic all the way through November. Of course, there is a trade off with poor conditions to follow later in the year.

As we approach late November to December, you will see the dormant grass begin to show its brown color, but playing conditions will still be very good. Finally, in mid-December the rains will begin to impact playing conditions and there will be some muddy spots. So, continuing through the season, January and February will be the worst months to play the course. Doesn't that make more sense than ruining late September through early November with the disruption of an overseed grow-in? The last few years I've been left to wonder who we are doing this seeding for, because very few people play during the fog and rain of January and February.

Once March arrives temperatures will slowly begin to climb. The bermuda will start turning green in mid-late March, but will not do much growing for another month. This time of year is the question mark and really depends on Mother Nature. If we get a few warm days in a row, the bermuda may be jump started.

This spring I played multiple courses that used to overseed, but no longer do including Woodbridge GCC and Yolo Fliers GC. I was jealous of how great their fairways looked and how well they played. When warm temperatures arrive at an overseeded club, the water gets turned on a little earlier. An overseed really beats up the bermuda, so you have to maintain the ryegrass until the mercury really gets going. Then the painful process of transition begins and the goal is to thin the rye, stimulate the bermuda, keep the course dry, and prevent bare spots. GOOD LUCK!! It is not going to happen in Stockton because this city is in the San Joaquin Valley of California, not the desert of Arizona. Our climate does not support the type of overseed we have attempted.

In a past post about lake buffer edges, I mentioned that I get to make unpopular decisions as part of my job. While I did not make the final call on this matter, I fully support the decision to suspend the overseed program. I am sure that this is an unpopular decision with many members and I want to answer any and all of your questions regarding the impact on the course. Please do not hesitate to contact me by email.

I will be posting more updates on the overseeding debate in the future and throughout the fall, winter, and spring seasons as the bermuda and the course changes with the temperatures. So check back for those updates and if this is your first visit to the Turf Page, please take the time to look back at previous information.