Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Overseeding Methods

Our yearly overseeding program has drastically decreased from what it was a couple of years ago.  We used to put out over 20,000 pounds of seed and spend about $35,000 on the practice including the fertrilizer, growth regulators, and amendments to make it work.  The last two years, we've stopped seeding the fairways and primary rough.  The ryegrass we put out is limited to the tees, approaches, green surrounds, and a few lawns near the clubhouse.  Besides that, we let the poa annua come in and provide a playing surface for the golfers.  With a monthly application of iron sulfate, we keep the turf fairly green and most people can't tell the difference.  The real appeal of this change in turf management is a financial savings of $30,000 plus a reduction in course down time.  Rounds are up and so are outside tournaments.  From an agronomic standpoint, I prefer to battle poa annua rather than ryegrass when we attempt to burn it out and promote our bermudagrass.  It's been a win-win so far, and I think it's here to stay.

There are many different ways to get your ryegrass going and it can be as simple or as complicated as you like.  My favorite is the simple broadcast method that takes no time and little effort while producing great results.  The crew at Stockton Golf and Country Club taught me this simple technique of blasting out ryegrass through a fertilizer spreader and dragging it in with a metal fence.  We open up the spreader all the way and spread seed from the green collar to the rough to spruce up the green surrounds.  This is also a great method for your homelawn and is really as simple as spreading some seed and keeping enough moisture on it to germinate.

I took the above picture last weekend on #10 green surround.  This area is primarily common bermuda and would be brown once the first frost shows up.  Two weeks after broadcasting the seed, we have some thin, yellowish leaves emerging.  After a shot of fertilizer and some more time, we will have dark green turf around all the greens.

 For the tees, we used a walk-behind seeder called a Mataway.  Marvin and Richard stopped going to the gym for a few weeks and got their excercise seeding the tees in three directions.  This is a lot of work and a lot time, but the results are worth it. 

The approaches endured a much more aggressive treatment with a tractor-mounted slit seeder going in 3 directions.  This ripped out a tremendous amount of thatch and bermuda stolons.  This work should firm up the approaches and improve the drainage.  The seed will take a little while to fill in, so please be patient.

Assistant Superintendent, Rob Williams seeding on #7 approach.

Here is the result on a bermuda approach. 

Geronimo, Mario, and Ricardo cleaning up the mess and chasing after Rob.

On all the tees and approaches we follow up the slit seeding with an additional broadcast seeding and a layer of sand.  Once the sand is in place, we drag the area with a steel mat to work in the sand and smooth the surface.  Finally we hit it with some fertilizer and water it all in.  Irrigation is handled differently during germination.  Normally we will water deep and infrequent.  The seed requires the exact opposite so we will water multiple times for just a couple of minutes.

Here is #13 approach after it is all said and done.  2 weeks from now should look better.
 More updates to come in the near future.  Other projects going on include flower beds and landscape work, manually cleaning duckweed out of the ponds, renovating the native area on #2, and getting ready to embark on the new tree program which will be fun.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

2010 Ladies Invitational

This tournament is always a nice change of pace because priorities for the condition of the course are much different than most male dominated events.  Nobody is expecting or wants greens to be rolling 12 on the stimp meter.  They don't expect the course to be so dry, it is near death, making playing conditions more difficult.  They want an enjoyable round on a well kept and well decorated course.

I learned this lesson the hard way during my first Ladies Invitational.  I double cut and rolled the greens and spent more time on creating tough conditions than polishing the place for all the guests.  Next time around, I understood what was expected.  We focused on presentation and tried to make a few special spots throughout the course.  The members really are the ones who deserve the credit, spending many hours decorating the course to match the event's theme.

This year, the tournament followed a nautical theme with small sailboats as tee markers, the proshop looking like some kind of fancy golf marina, and even hand-sewn flags strung onto the flagsticks. 

I really wanted to get a few sailboats to float in the lakes and maybe one to park on the driving range tee, but I never got it done.  However, we were able to make our own with halfway decent results. 

The tournament went very well in every aspect and I think the members were proud of the course, clubhouse, staff, and their own hard work to make everything excellent.  Down in the maintenance department, we're looking forward to next time.  I wonder what the theme will be?
Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Chasing the seasonal wet spot

When I first arrived at SGCC in 2005, I remember a comment at a Green Committee meeting about the irrigation system.  It was something to the effect, that the system should be pretty well dialed in since it has been in operation for three years.  Now that it is 2010, I can honestly say that it still is not dialed in and never will be for a sustained period of time.  Irrigation is a constant battle with adjustments being made on a daily basis and we only stop tweaking the times when we can turn the whole thing off.  We are about 2 months away from that exciting transition when we'll finally record some consistent rain.
We are lucky to have single-head control with our Rain Bird irrigation system.  That means that every one of our 2500+ irrigation sprinklers and valves can be set with a tailored percentage.  This is an incredibly valuable feature that helps us manage variables on the course such as soil type, slopes, shade, elevation, and wind.  The most difficult variable at our location is shade, by far.  The shade pattern is constantly changing and so is the wet and dry spots below the trees.  An east to west fairway will be much wetter on the south side if we watered the whole area equally.  Of course we don’t, and slowly adjust times to keep moisture and firmness consistent from one side to the next.  
The thought of saving last year's settings for each month and loading them as the temperatures and seasons change is always tempting, but I’ve never had it work.  Every spring, summer, and fall is different from the previous and from the next.  This summer was much cooler than last, so loading last year’s percentages would have produced a wet course.  Also, we frequently renovate the system to improve efficiency.  Full circle heads become part, some out-of-play areas are turned off, and new stations are added for landscaped locations.  All of these changes to the system must be reflected in the central control and redoing them every time you load last year’s data seems counterproductive.  
Many of the wet spots we have this time of the year are near cartpaths, especially near tees and green surrounds.  These areas have a high percentage of sand in the profile and must be watered frequently.  Some of that irrigation hits the cartpath or runs off slopes to accumulate in traffic-compacted areas.  Cart tires are extremely attracted to these wet pockets so we try to rope them off, although very reluctantly.  I hate rope, stakes, and signs that clutter a beautiful view, but sometimes they are necessary.  
We continue to reduce wet spots on the course with a new nozzle design and will move on to some primary rough after completing fairways this season.  We will get back to raising heads that are sitting a little low and trim some tree branches that interfere with proper coverage.  We identified a few more low spots along the cartpaths and will install drains to catch the misplaced irrigation.  We have the technology to catch it, so we just need to find the time to chase the wet spot.   
Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A few pics, fall maintenance

This is some pretty dense stuff, so we'll take a little out to loosen things up.  When this soil dries, it is hard enough to break glass. I've demonstrated in the shop once or twice, but glass shards are not worth the entertainment.
The process gets a little smoother each year and so do the fairways.  Have you noticed the reduction of bumps and bounces?  Our fairway mowers have and so have their lower backs.
Sometimes things have to get worse before they get better.  This hydrophobic area lost some turf shortly after aerfication, but it will get better now that water can penetrate the soil.  Please be patient, improvement is a process.

Any guesses?  Yes, this is an obliterated cup that was painted the day before we punched the greens.  Nice pic, Rob.

Once again we used small tines and close spacing which we've been doing for three years now.  Great change for the greens and the membership.  We pull out more material and heal in a fraction of the time.

We finished in one closed day, Tuesday, after punching a few greens on Monday night after a tournament.  Long days this time of year are to be expected and the payoff is well worth the effort.

Here is Ricardo going out for the first morning mow on Monday, 6 days after punchin' the holes.  We mowed up some sand during the weekend and now we're cutting some shaggy turf.

Fairway fertilizer going out with Bert on the tractor and Ricardo flagging.  This is an organic source of fertilizer that will smell unpleasant for one short day.  A little water and the smell is gone.

Here is Richard manning the irrigation control box and putting out a small shot of water right behind the fertilizer application.

September brings quick healing and we can start to lower the mowers to get back up to speed.  This pic was 6 days after aerification, the same day as our first morning cut. 

With all this behind us we are still finishing up aerification on the approaches and some spots in the rough.  Seeding should have already been done, but a heavy dose of tournaments have filled our maintenance days and we'll have to finish things little by little.  The weather still looks good, so our limited overseeding should germinate and fill in before it gets too cool. 

As you can see, we've been busy and the blog has been quiet.  We'll keep the camera with us because there is still plenty more to share.