Now we turn our attention to other amenities like our tees, approaches, and fairways. Aerifying all of these areas is a standard practice at most golf courses. The last few years, we've really ramped up our cultivation and will continue to aerify frequently until we reach the quality we are looking for.
A year and a half ago, I was ready to quit aerifying fairways because the process was tearing them apart. I know what some golfers are thinking, "Of course it tears them apart, that's what I say every time you aerify."
The process is always disruptive to an extent, but the photo below shows you what I mean. The old aerifier we were using would pull up large chunks of earth even with solid tines spaced very far apart. The ground was so tight and the machine so violent that the roots could not hold the turf together and portions came up the size of softballs.
I had to send out the staff to flip over the clumps and step them down like the audience of a polo match during intermission. Some of the craters would not get patched and a depression that could harbor a ball was the result.
Now take a look at what a modern piece of equipment can do on the same soil:
We are using closer spacing, much quicker speed, and more depth than the old machine could ever handle. I usually don't promote the products or equipment we use, but the Wiedenmann aerifier has worked beyond my expectations. Hopefully, all of this shameless promotion will result in a free set of tines or a hat or something. You can't buy this kind of exposure; almost 30 hits a day (mostly my mom). Thanks for reading.
As mentioned in earlier posts, we decided not to apply pre-emergent which would have kept poa annua from germinating. This was the first year that overseeding was skipped and without some poa, many fairways would turn to mud after a few decent rains.
The eleventh fairway would be the exception and should have been maintained as clean and dormant common bermuda. The mat of turf survived the winter without a problem and the poa that grew in was an eyesore, not a benefit to play. Next winter this hole, and hopefully others will be kept poa-free throughout the year.
The eleventh fairway was sprayed with a herbicide called Revolver ® . This product kills all of the cool season grass to wipe out bermuda's competition and does so very slowly. The cool season turf will turn brown in 2-3 weeks, but will remain playable for up to 6 weeks providing plenty of time for bermuda to fill the voids.
A couple other fairways, numbers 10 and 17, just got sprayed on Monday, April 19th. Number 10 is in its third year of transition to bermuda, while 17 was sprayed for the first time last summer. In the picture below, you can see the poa annua mixed in with the bermuda. The white portions are seed head from the flowering annual bluegrass. The poa on #10 came in surprisingly thick and became a decent playing surface for our winter rounds.
I know that it is odd to have three holes as solid bermuda. Why not manage all of the fairways in the same manner? Converting to bermuda is a relatively new idea at a very old course. It takes some time to adjust players', managers', and employees' acceptance of dry playing conditions. Keeping the course as dry as possible obviously favors bermuda grass, but also results in the death of some of the poa. During this lengthy transition, there have been many brown spots and bare areas that waited for bermuda to fill in. Thin spots have reduced in size and number each year with the increased population of bermuda. Little by little, we will continue to encourage a move to a stress tolerant playing surface.
The next fairways to be converted may be number,1 which has the largest stand of hybrid bermuda and few trees shading the fairway. The 7th, 9th, and 14th holes are also good candidates. Shade patterns definitely limit the potential of bermuda and dictate our management plan.
So what is the best part of solid bermuda fairways in California's central valley?
Happy turf at 100 + degrees.
Smaller holes, proper fertilization, and exceptional weather will move us along much quicker this year. As usual, the membership has been extremely patient and supportive during the process. While all this disruption will affect your golf game for a couple of weeks, the greens will be improved for the next 6 months. About that time, we will do it again and look forward to the shorter heal time.
These pictures were taken after ten days of healing and just before my first round of golf in 3 months. The course played pretty well, but the greens were softer and bumpier than we'd like. Another week and we will be lookin' good.
The fertilizer was watered in quickly by on and off showers that stayed with us throughout the day. The recent weather patterns have been wonderful for growing turf. This past storm, the course received just over 0.6 inches which found it's way into the soil without making a mess or limiting the use of golf carts. The grass gets some much needed water, the irrigation system continues to rest while we perform our spring checkup, and the fertilizer is washed off the leaf and down to the roots.
Bert and our new employee, Ricardo, did a great job putting out this product. The only problem was the smell of the organic source, mostly chicken crap. I tried to convince both of them that the smell was that of healthy plants and vitamins for strong turf. They did not agree, but never complained. The fairways will appreciate the effort and since they did such a good job, it's their job for good. Congratulations guys!!
This 14 page document includes many graphs and tables comparing current precipitation totals with those of past years, and the driest and wettest years on record. Also, reservoirs conditions are shown compared to the average. Lake Oroville is still pretty low so let's hope our largest reservoir, the snow pack in the Sierra Nevada, is doing well. The state relies on the frozen storage system to get us through the dry summer months.
If you live in California, you should check out this link. It's great information, and pretty positive too.
Recently we had the privilege of repairing a leaky main line in the dead of winter. What a perfect opportunity to prepare for a disaster that could strike in the middle of summer. We took our time finding parts with the best price and planning the repair. By the time we finished, three of us understood the process and we have a good source for large pipe and fittings in the future.
Richard and Marvin really kicked some tail on this project. Three days in a row, they returned to the shop sore and covered in mud. The leak occurred in a low spot where ground water is only a foot below the surface. Therefore, they had to dig a dry well and pump out the hole whenever they were working on fixing things up.
Once we had the parts on site, I helped the guys get the 6 inch tapped T installed on the mainline. The next morning I needed to spread some fertilizer on the greens so I showed Richard how to complete the job on the whiteboard. He said, “I would prefer that you were out there too.” I replied, “So would I.”
The next time I heard from Richard he said, “We’re ready to turn it on.”
I checked out the work and it was downright perfect. The main was on within minutes and I slept well that night. Not because we adverted disaster and could water a dry course, after all, it was the middle of a wet winter. I was relieved to know that we can handle a mainline break with no problem at all.
I think it’s time for a victory pose!!
Our aerifier is set up with 3/8 inch quad tines which are spaced much closer than traditional aerification tines. In the photo below, you can see two rows of tines for every tine-holder resulting in 70 holes per square foot. We switched to this method three years ago and it is here to stay. By using the smaller tines at closer spacing, we can impact a greater amount of surface area and reduce healing time simultaneously. Pretty sweet.
Now for the fun part, we get to clean up the plugs. As always, the staff did a great job clearing the greens so we could continue toward the finish line. I guarantee there are some tired legs working today, I know mine are.
A final preparation before the fertilizer goes down is blowing off the greens with a walking blower. This gets any plugs that were missed and helps to open up the holes so the sand and amendments can filter in.
I only put out two products this year instead of 5 like last time. The main reason is I had to put it out myself and 2 products is plenty for one person. Also, our soil tests have been good and there are many granular fertilizers which water in well and can be applied outside of aerification.
So there you have it. A long day and a long post to explain the process. Most golfers hate aerification because it interferes with play, but trust me, there is no way we would go through all of this trouble if it wasn't necessary.
If you stare at an aerified green for long enough, a picture will develop and it looks like a great big smile. The greens are happy.
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