Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Beauty of Dormant Turf

On this dreary winter day, the light brown bermuda on the 11th fairway is the brightest part of the course. This is the first year we've kept the poa annua from filling in this fairway and so far, so good. I have heard a few positive comments and no complaints on this new look. As far as playability, the brown turf offers just as good of a lie as the green stuff. By the end of the winter, worm castings and traffic might increase the percentage of mud to grass, but the thatch mat should keep some turf above the soil line.

The photo to the right was taken just yesterday after we recorded over 2 inches of the rain during this past winter storm. There is still the slightest tinge of green from a distance and individual green blades here and there if you look very closely. Last year, we had some areas greening up as early as February as I reported in a 2/23/10 entry. If that is the case this year, then we only have two months of dormancy to go.

Next year we will expand the program to include season long dormant turf on #10 and possibly #17. Each year it will get a little better as we increase the bermuda population and improve the drainage. The real benefit of warm season turf is the summer months when keeping ryegrass and annual bluegrass in top condition is extremely difficult and time consuming. The bermuda will welcome 100 degree heat and provide a consistent and dry playing surface with no thin or diseased portions.
Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tree Program: One Week Tally

The Green Committee introduced our new tree program only one week ago and already, we have received 89 donations for a total of $13,350.  I am truly amazed at the rapid and complete support of the membership.  With these funds, a new account will be formed to be put directly towards the Tree Program.  Our first load of trees has arrived and planting will begin whenever the rain subsides.

While each member was not able to pick out a specific tree to donate, each tree will be assigned to the sponsoring party.  I will send each contributor a letter with a photo of your tree and a map of where it is located.  Please be patient during this random drawing because it will take a while to plant so many trees. 

Congratulations to the Green Committee and Dr. Weldon Hess for this great idea.  I think it is very obvious that SGCC's members are more than happy to contribute their time, effort, and dollars to the good of the golf course.  As I've said before, these changes will impact the aesthetics and playability of Stockton GCC for many, many years and we could not have done it without you.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Soft and soggy winter conditions

Yes, it's that time of year.  'Cart paths only' is a common term and ball roll in the fairways has screeched to a halt.  This winter is predicted to be drier than average, but so far, we are in line for the wettest winter on record.  Take a look at this link showing a graph of the current year precipitation compared to previous wet/dry/average years.

The effect on the golf course is constant wet conditions because the tight soils and proximity to ground water limits the ability to firm up.  We worked on a drain yesterday and our connection point had ground water just 18 inches below the surface.  However, this is just part of the problem.

The other limiting factor is the fog.  If it isn't raining it is usually fogging.  I doubt that is a correct term, but it should be.  We've actually been recording precipitation at our weather station on foggy days.  Take a look at this cart path which was fogged on while we prepared the course in the morning.

The staff has been busy cleaning up the leaves without use of the larger equipment like tractor mounted blowers or our tow-behind sweeper.  The process is slow and time consuming, but it has to end eventually, doesn't it?  The sycamores are finished dropping leaves, the beech and zelkova are nearly done, and the ash and nut trees are about halfway there, with the fruitless pear (in the photo above) dropping all of their leaves within the last few days. 

With a substantial amount of rain expected over the next week, we are biting the bullet and mowing turf that should be left to dry.  This will result in some tire streaks and smearing of worm castings.  However, if we don't get the turf cut today and tomorrow, then we may not get our next opportunity for two weeks or more. 

On lighter and drier note, the greens are still rolling fine.  There is a lot to be said for proper drainage which our greens have.  So battle your way to the putting surface through the soft and the wet.  Once you're there, you'll have some solid ground to roll towards the hole.
Saturday, December 11, 2010

Tree Program: Trees for sale and going fast

On Tuesday, December 7th, Stockton Golf and Country Club held their Annual Election Meeting and introduced the Tree Removal and Planting Program to the membership.  Maps for both Phase I and Phase II were on display for members' review and a sign up sheet for tree donations was also available.  After the Tree Program was described in detail, the floor was open to donations and WOW!!!  The members came forward quickly, racking up the total to 33 trees within 15 minutes.

Cost per tree is $150 which includes tree cost plus delivery, tree removal, stump grinding, staking, and architectural fees.  Other costs (non-replanting removals and labor) will be absorbed in the Maintenance Department's tree budget.  The first load of trees is on the way and hopefully, if Mother Nature cooperates, we will begin some plantings next week. 

The goal of the program is obviously to improve and maintain the forested look of the golf course with mature and viable trees.  We also aim to recoup expenses with member donations and it looks like the program will be a huge success.  All of the members are part owners of the property and what better way to take ownership than sponsoring a tree that will be part of the club for many, many years. 

A huge thanks to the membership for stepping up and paying for this major improvement.  To date, we are up to 45 tree donations and more keep rolling in daily.  If you have any questions about the program, don't hesitate to send an email or call the office.

Check back often as I will update our progress on the tree program quite frequently. Future posts will include profiles on the trees being planted, updates on current course work, and explanations of design strategies.  Finally, for those of you checking the blog for the first time; take a look at the archive that includes over 120 short articles about golf course maintenance and Stockton GCC.
Friday, December 3, 2010


Tis the season for frost delays, yet another necessary evil in golf course management.  Last week, including a very busy Black Friday, the course was hit with long frost delays day after day with play starting at 8:30 or later.  Your understanding is much appreciated as we monitor the conditions and try to get you golfing as soon as possible.

Occasionally, we will work through the frost in the areas that have not been deeply frozen.  The greens are always the last portion to frost and also, the last to thaw out.  The maintenance staff might be working on changing cups or even mowing greens during a frost delay.  They've been trained to examine the turf before entering an area to avoid damage.

Last week, I think I encouraged working through the frost more than I should have.  We had a recap of the degrees of frost during our morning meeting.  The temperature continued to drop from that point on and the course had some hard frost here, some soft frost there, and no frost in many spots.  Eventually, we had to redirect our mowers to the portions of turf that were still workable.

Here is what happens when traffic meets frosted turf:
Notice how the tee is not damaged, however, the surrounding turf is black with tire tracks.  The taller turf, mowed at 1.5 inches will freeze well before the 1/2 inch turf on the tee.  The cold air surrounds each blade in a looser canopy and the cells freeze.  When feet or vehicles compress the turf, it breaks instead of bending.  That is the crunch you hear on frosted turf and the reason we have to wait to release play on a very cold morning. 

This occurred back on November 24th and we were back to all green turf by the 27th.  The individual plants were not frozen all the way to the crown.  The tips were killed, but the grass grew out of the damage with no lasting effects. 

The begonias were not so lucky: