We developed this blog to provide golf course maintenance information to our members. From projects, small and large, to updates on course conditions, we want to provide as much information as possible. Although we hope this blog answers all of the pertinent questions regarding our operation, we always welcome more personalized dialogue. If you have questions beyond the information found on this blog, feel free to contact our golf course superintendent, Trevor Hedgepeth.



Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Winter Practice Area Maintence

Every winter we limit practice on certain areas which include; main practice tee, short game fairway, back tee and par 3 practice area.  These areas close following Thanksgiving and reopen shortly after spring aerification.  Doing this allows for divot recovery and gives the turf a break from new injury.  This time period also allows us to do other necessary maintenance.

While these areas are closed Kinloch’s maintenance staff are doing practices such as; verticutting, core aerifying, and topdressing.  These processes help to improve playability of our practice areas throughout the season, and allow for great conditions upon reopening all facilities in the spring.  The timing of these practices allow for all our focus of spring aerification to be on the course. 

We are also using this time period to convert the Par 3 practice green to a true putting surface.  Over the last month we have stripped all the sod from the target green, and have used it for sodding out collars contaminated with rye grass.  We have recently installed three different varieties of bentgrass sod; L-93, A1-A4, and 007 on the target green.  Kinloch’s greens are currently L-93, while A1-A-4, and 007 are popular newer cultivars of bentgrass.  We will be using this area as a test plot to see how the newer cultivars react to our environment and maintenance practices.  This green will also now resemble the playability of the greens on the golf course and will allow for realistic reaction to pitch shots and full wedge shots. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Update on Ryegrass Project

We have been diligently working on removing the ryegrass from the collars this Fall.  We have dedicated four to five crew members each afternoon to complete this task.  We have replaced about three thousand square feet of contaminated areas with clean bentgrass.  This will be an on-going task for our team each year, but not to this extreme amount.  As we finish this project, we wanted to give everyone a visual of what we have been removing. In the photograph below, the darker blades of grass represent the rye grass that we strive to eradicate, thus enhancing play-ability and aesthetics.

A sod cutter was used to remove large areas and a cup cutter to more precisely remove smaller areas.  In the below picture a sod cutter was used to remove the contaminated area and prepared for new bentgrass.  In the second picture below, the bentgrass was added.  By the Spring season you will not see the seams of the sod when the bentgrass starts to grow more aggressively.

Now that we are finishing up with removing sod from the par 3 green, we will be replacing the green with new varieties of bentgrass. By doing this, we can stay on the cutting edge of different varieties and decide which is the best for how we manage greens.  Sorry for the disruption, and look forward to seeing you on the course.
Justin Hunt 
Asst. Superintendent 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Late Fall Deep Tine and Vertical Mowing

One of the characteristics that we want to achieve when it comes to fairway maintenance is firm/fast surface conditions. During the spring and fall, these conditions are not overly difficult to provide. During the shoulder seasons, the bent grass doesn't need as much water and the humidity is much lower than say July or August. However, it is our goal to keep the fairways as firm as possible regardless of the season. We cannot control the grass's need for water during the summer, but we can control its access to that water. Grass accesses water through the soil via its root system. If we can help the water infiltrate deeper into the soil and enhance the rooting of the turf, the grass becomes much more drought tolerant during the height of summer. If the grass is more drought tolerant, we can throw less irrigation making the fairway conditions firmer and faster. 

Below, you can see two pictures of our deep tine operation. Deep tine is a form of solid tine aeration where we punch a 3/4" hole, 7-8" into the fairway sub-soil. This hole is large enough and deep enough that it lasts in the soil for a very long time. The pocket or channel that is created allows for plentiful amounts of oxygen and gas exchange. This oxygen and gas exchange encourages advantageous rooting. As we stated above, the deeper the roots, the more accessible the moisture and the less irrigation we are required to use. Also, this fracture makes the fairway surface more permeable so that more rain water is captured within the soil profile as opposed to traditional run-off. 

Aside from deep tining the fairways, we also verti-cut the fairways during the late fall. Thatch accumulation can be problematic from a disease, insect and water infiltration perspective. So, at the end of each season, we remove the thatch through mechanical means. If the fairways have less thatch, they remain firmer and more receptive to water and nutrients.

Our process begins with a double deep tine. Following the deep tine, we verti-cut the fairways and vacuum the clippings. Following a bit of hand work and blowing, we mow the fairways with our baskets attached to remove any miscellaneous debris. 

Once the fairway is mowed, we return for a final blow and the finished product is a fairly undisturbed playing surface.

We are very sensitive to members and the disruption these types of practices can create. We understand that although it is very late in the fall season, people can still find great days to play golf. Having said that, late fall appears to be the best time to accomplish these practices. Member play is much lighter than September - November and the grass is still growing. Because the grass is still growing, we can achieve some advantageous rooting. Waiting until January or February may be too late to see any real benefit from the deep tine holes. Furthermore, we core aerify and top dress during our March aeration so time becomes a major concern. 

At the end of the day, we will continue to be sensitive to disruption on the course. However, we remain confident that practices such as these allow us to have great conditions even when its hot and humid. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Frost Delays - What's The Big Deal?

As we roll into November, morning frost will become an ongoing annoyance to both our members and our maintenance team. Frost delays deliver a double penalty when it comes to starting times:

1. Our maintenance team is delayed from working on the turf.
2. Our maintenance team needs lead time once work can begin.

So, a 30 minute frost delay, which doesn't allow work to begin until, let's say 8:00, really means a 90 minute frost delay for our golfers. Currently, we begin work at 7:00 and our first tee time is 8:30. This means that we have a 90 minute head start on our first group. At Kinloch, our goal is not just to "get through" set-up, but address every detail in a way that ensures optimum playing conditions for the first group and beyond. So, if we have a baby frost that keeps us off of the turf until 7:30 or so, we can't open the first tee until at least 9:00. If a baby frost is finished by 7:30, golfers arriving for their morning time may not even see the frost as they are invited to immediately hit balls at the practice area. Then they are told, you will have a 30 minute delay this morning. "But wait, I don't even see frost." Although correct, there remains lead time that is necessary for a thorough morning set-up, thus the delay.

So what is the big deal when it comes to frosty turf? Plant cells, like most living organisms, are comprised of mostly water. When the temperatures get cold enough and frost sets up on the grass, plant cells become frozen. If these cells are forced to conform to downward pressure from foot traffic or equipment, the cells ability to absorb the pressure is gone and the cell literally breaks. As the cells break, they lose functionality and die. As the cells die, plant tissue dies and thus you have the dark blue/black coloration of the grass. In certain frosts, plant cells my not actually freeze and plant death will not occur. However, we cannot be certain to which degree the cells are "frosted" and can never take a chance. So, if there is evidenced of frozen dew, we must assume that the plant cells are too rigid for traffic and halt all traffic until that frozen material melts back into normal dew.

From the USGA's Charles White:

"Frost on the grass blades tells us that the water inside the leaves is frozen. Remember that water is the primary component of plant tissue. When this water is frozen, traffic on the turf causes the ice crystals in the cells to puncture through the cell walls, killing the plant tissue. Little damage is done to the crowns (growing points) or roots if only a light frost appears; however, when the frost is heavy, cell disruption may occur at the crown, thus killing the entire plant. Frost damage symptoms include white to light tan leaves where traffic has passed. "

One thing is for certain, we don't want to hold golf up anymore than our members or our professional staff. But, in the months ahead, frost delays will be a reality. We hope this blog helps you to understand "What's the big deal?"

Monday, October 13, 2014

Rye Grass Plug and Sod Project

Throughout the season, the rye-grass intermediate cuts give our grassing schemes an extra pop. From the color and density of the rye, to the break in transition from fairway to primary rough, there is no question that our first cut is one of our defining characteristics. Although rye is a beautiful turf, it is very sensitive to the heat and stress of summer. Accordingly, each fall, we identify injured areas and over-seed our intermediate cuts with a new edition of perennial rye-grass seed. Unfortunately, sometimes that seed finds its way onto our bentgrass collars and germinates. Over time, clumps of rye-grass persist and the collars around the greens can look ragged. 

This fall, we have made it a priority to eradicate any rye-grass found within our collars. There are herbicides that will take the rye out of the bent, but these chemicals can be toxic to the bent-grass. Thus, we have embarked on a plug and sod strategy. 

Using our cup-cutters and sod stripper, our maintenance team will begin moving the misplaced rye-grass to our par 3 green at the practice area. This green was chosen because the underlying soil is consistent with our putting greens and the turf on top is maintained at collar height. Once we have moved all of the rye, we will re-sod the par 3 green to pure bent grass. This strategy allows us to move the rye at our own pace without the pressure of doing all of the collars at one time. Although the plugging work near the greens can be a nuisance, we promise to be as quick and efficient as possible. Once the work is completed this fall, our collars will be pure bent and not have the clumps of rye that stand out throughout the season. Thanks in advance for your patience as we eradicate the unwanted rye. In the end, we know that our rye-grass intermediates are important to the conditions and play-ability of Kinloch.... so long as the rye isn't growing in the wrong place. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Striping with a Purpose

At Kinloch, our operators are trained to "burn" stripes into our tees, fairways and approaches. On fairways and approaches, we have two directions that we mow. Mowing in these directions creates a cross-hatch or diamond pattern in the turf. While there is no question that these mowing patterns enhance our aesthetic value, we mow stripes for other reasons too. For example, on our tee boxes, we stripe the turf in only one direction. We do this so that the golfer has a point of reference when hitting a golf shot.

As you can see in the photo above, our 14th tee box is striped directly towards the center of the 14th green. Although the stripes are nice to look at, these stripes are more about directing the golfer's stance than aesthetics. 

Over time, due to operator error or heavy dew restricting visibility, our tee stripes can get crooked or improperly aligned. So, during our aeration closures, we take the time to re-set our tee lines. 

As you can see in the photo above, twice per year, we mark new center lines on our tees. If you look at the picture closely, you can see that we have run a straight line through both tee boxes. Over the next 6-4 cuttings, the tee lines will not only remain straight and oriented toward the "A" landing area, but all of the tees will be in sync with each other. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Venting Greens

Root zone management is one of the most important objectives when growing cool season grass in the transition zone. As summer heat and humidity build-in through June, July and August, a grass plant's photosynthetic potential lessens and its need to respire increases.

Photosynthesis is the process whereby a green plant builds simple sugars using CO2, H2O and Sunlight. These simple sugars, or carbohydrates, are the building blocks for all plant parts. Aside from anchoring a plant to the ground, roots uptake moisture and nutrients. As roots die off, new roots are developed using carbohydrates. Going back to the opening paragraph, carbohydrate production (photosynthesis) lessens in the summer. Therefore, it becomes very important to protect the existing root mass.

Oxygen is very important to root-zone health. Aside from its chemical role in metabolic processes, oxygen is less dense than water so if a root zone is well aerated, it doesn't get as hot as a saturated root zone. Bent grass roots begin dying when soil temperatures eclipse 85 degrees Fahrenheit, so maintaining a well-aerated root zone is crucial. Also, as the grass canopy becomes more compacted due to rolling and mowing, gas exchange slows dramatically. Although CO2 is pivotal in carbohydrate production, an over abundance of CO2 in the root-zone can become toxic.

So, we know that oxygen is important to root health because: (1) it plays a role in plant metabolism; (2) it displaces water in the macro-pore space which keeps the soil from scalding the plant and (3) it displaces built-up CO2, which can be toxic to bent grass roots. We also know that golfers expect firm, fast greens no matter the season. To mitigate the combination of Mother Nature and golfer expectations, superintendents have various ways to vent the putting surfaces. Venting can occur through spiking, tining, air injection and water injection. For our purposes, we utilize mechanical spiking and tining.

At least twice per month beginning after Memorial Day, we needle tine our greens. We either use an 8 or 5 mm tine that is driven approximately 3" down on 1.5" x 1.5" centers. This process creates small holes in the surface of the green. This process is unobtrusive to golfers while limiting compaction, encouraging gas exchange, aiding in water infiltration and allowing the soil to dry down more uniformly.  It is impossible to have healthy, sustainable grass without a great root-zone. Needle tining greens is a great tool that helps us maintain adequate rooting throughout the heat of summer.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Oscillating Fans

One of the best tools that a grass grower possesses is oscillating fans situated near putting green surfaces.

Do you ever wonder why the healthiest greens are those perched on a hill or sitting near a lake?

The reason is air flow. When we get hot, we sweat. The perspiration released onto the surface of our skin helps to cool us. If we didn't sweat, we would die due to heat stress. Grass plants are no different. When grass plants get hot, they release water droplets through tiny openings in the leaves. (stomata) As wind passes by, the leaf surface is cooled and the plants internal temperature is regulated. However, plants obey osmotic principles above all else. For a plant cell to release water, there must be less water outside the cell than within. In the summertime, humidity builds over the putting green. If there is no wind due to the green's micro-environment, that humidity becomes a blanket of sorts. With all that moisture in the air, the plant has nowhere to release water droplets. If the plant cannot release water droplets, it begins to overheat and eventually die. Furthermore, plants that retain moisture in their leaves pull less moisture from the rootzone. Too much moisture in the rootzone creates anaerobic conditions that lead to root death and potentially wet wilt. The moral of the story is that plants need to sweat. (evapo-transpire) On sites where natural air flow is limited, oscillating fans are unbelievably useful. By providing the environment with consistent breezes, humidity cannot build into a thermal blanket. Without excess humidity, the air surrounding the plant tissue has less water than within the plant tissue and sweating can commence. This allows the plant to stay cooler and not fall victim to heat stress. Not to mention the plant pulls more water from the rootzone thus leaving more pore space available for oxygen. All in all, oscillating fans are a very good tool for today's superintendent.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Fertilizing for Endurance Not Growth

The middle of May marks a shift in our approach towards plant fertility. In the earlier part of the growing season, we are trying to get the plant to grow and move by enhancing photosynthetic potential. We accomplish this by applying Nitrogen, Magnesium, Iron and Phosphorous. Nitrogen, in particular, is a major component in chlorophyll production and the establishment of proteins. By giving the plant more Nitrogen (in combination with Iron, Magnesium, Sulfur, etc.) the plant can produce more chlorophyll and thus build more carbohydrates through photosynthesis. As the weather gets warmer, the plants photosynthetic potential lessens as its respiration rates increase. Effectively, the plant begins a net-negative carbohydrate production cycle. Because Nitrogen makes a plant grow and growing expends carbohydrates, we want the plant to "settle down" during the hot, humid stretches of summer. We "settle" the plant down by restricting N fertility while continuing our PGR programs. Although Nitrogen fertility is reduced in preparation for the summer months, plant fertility does continue. However, the type of fertility is what changes. In the latter spring and throughout the summer, our fertility plan centers on Calcium, Potassium and Micros. Calcium is a strength mineral that plays a major role in cell strength. If cell walls are strong, grass plants can endure more stress. Potassium helps regulate water movement and helps the plant maintain turgor pressure. Turgor pressure allows the plant to stand more vertical and thus absorb traffic better. Micros are essential nutrients that you may liken to vitamins. Put all of these minerals together and you have a fertility program designed to endure. Once we start seeing the cooler temperatures of the fall season, growth and recovery become the objective and Nitrogen is re-introduced to the program.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Grooming Turf

Grooming turf is an especially important maintenance practice. Over time, bent grass leaves will tend to "lay over" and grow in a more horizontal habit. In this prostrate position, it is easier for the mower to pass over the leaf tissue without actually cutting the length of the turf. As this trend continues, the plant is forced to supply more energy to these "leggy" leaves and thus these leaves get longer, fatter and lay over even more. Over time, plant density and ball roll are adversely affected. Grooming is the process wherein mechanical blades spinning downward pick-up the laid over leaves so that the bed knife can clip the plant closer to the crown. The crown of the plant is the control center and from the crown comes the distribution of energy. If the leaves are cropped tighter there is less leaf tissue demanding energy and the crown of the plant can re-allocate its resources to new nodes and tillers. This process creates a denser, tighter turf that is healthier and more suitable for consistent ball roll.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

What is dry-ject?

Over time, bent grass putting surfaces develop an organic layer. Before we go any further, lets define an organic layer versus a thatch layer. Although a thatch layer can become quite deep, say 1.5-2", thatch on a well managed surface is much more shallow. Thatch is indigestible plant parts composed of lignin. Thatch is different from an organic layer because it is not decomposed easily by microbes in the soil. Frequent topdressing, core aerifying and verti-cutting are great tools to reduce thatch. An organic layer is generally deeper than thatch and it is composed of digestible plant parts, minerals and humus. Although there are many benefits to a good organic layer (mineralization, crown protection, etc.) it can become a barrier to gas exchange, oxygen diffusion and it can become easily saturated leading to anaerobic soil conditions. Topdressing greens is a great way to mitigate an over-accumulation of organic material, but topdressing is mostly confined to the upper surface of the root-zone. In fact, sporadic topdressing can lead to a layering effect that sometimes resembles tiramisu.

Introduce dry-ject. Dry-ject is a process where sand can be injected into the root zone on 2"x3" centers. The dry-ject operator can target a specific depth depending on the organic layer in question, Dry-ject deposits a small pocket of sand at each entry point. This pocket of sand allows the grass a fresh, aerobic opening to drive roots and this pocket also allows for great water infiltration. The good news is that all of the benefits of the organic layer are left in tact while the physical properties of sand are introduced to an otherwise stagnant medium. In fact, the organic material is pushed further into the profile. Over time, that organic is more easily diluted and the minerals remain in the root-zone.  Dry-ject allows the superintendent to enjoy the best of both worlds.

Friday, March 14, 2014

One of the biggest keys to Kinloch's success over the years has been the organization, record keeping and planning that is done during the off-season.  This off-season has seen much of the same preparation.  Every year we meet and breakdown the programs from the previous year.  We discuss what worked or did not work, and what we can be done to get better the next year.   We put all of the information discussed in the meeting into our programs and plan the entire upcoming year.  These plans include fertility, chemical application, topdressing, growth regulator programs, cultivation programs, aerification schedules, small projects, capital projects, and many more.  

A snapshot of the spreadsheets created this winter

Once all of the programs have been vetted and revised.  We layout our maintenance calendar for the year.  We place three months’ worth of our programs on the whiteboard calendars in our conference room.  This is where we meet every day during the season to discuss and plan our days.

March and April Maintenance Calendars.

May Maintenance Calendar.  Member-Guest is only 62 days away.

This whiteboard is where we layout out staff assignments for the day
We know in the golf business there are so many variables that can alter our plans on the spot.  Having these plans and programs in place, and a daily part of our operation allows us to make quick informed decisions when a plan needs to be modified.  We believe this part of our program has been integral in the success of Kinloch's maintenance staff success.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

One of the biggest challenges when managing cool season grass in an area like RIC is saturated turf during hot and humid stretches in the summer months. Aside from play-ability concerns, saturated turf can become dead turf as temperatures heat the soil water and directly kill the crown of the plant. If not direct injury from scald, saturated turf can die indirectly from anaerobic conditions (wet wilt) and disease. Not to mention, saturated turf cannot support mower traffic without the risk of rutting and tearing.

Below are some examples of that damage:

Over the years, Kinloch's maintenance team has prided itself on identifying wet areas and installing sub-surface drainage during the off-season. This off-season is no different. We have targeted areas on 3 and 8 fairways and the roughs near 16 tee. Below are some pictures of our most current drainage project at the bottom of 3 fairway.

So we start by lifting the sod. Then we locate our low areas with a transit. From there we trench our lines. Once the lines are trenched and cleaned up, we add a layer of gravel, followed by 4" slit pipe, followed by some more gravel and then the trench is capped with porous sand. The idea is that as the water begins to rush toward the lows, these subsurface lines capture the flow and direct the water off of the fairway and into the adjacent native area. The goal is to keep the area from ever saturating thus leading to more playable and healthy turf. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Thatch Management on Kinloch Greens

The putting quality at Kinloch is highly correlated with our thatch management. As grass plants progress through their natural life-cycle, older leaf and root material dies and new plant components emerge. An organic build-up of these materials leads to a thatch/organic layer just below the turf canopy. This layer can become soft and "spongy." Aside from the agronomic problems that are presented by an over-accumulation of thatch, play-ability suffers as well. When you think of it intuitively, imagine rolling a golf ball across a sponge. The friction of the ball "sitting" in the sponge layer will reduce speeds much more than lets say, that same golf ball rolling across a firm pool table. So, as long as grass is growing, thatch will try to accumulate. In response to this natural phenomenon, we have implemented a frequent, but light topdressing program. This program is not to be confused with our bi-annual top-dressings during each aeration. Think of those applications as modifications and think of this program as routine maintenance. By applying light doses of sand in conjunction with the plant's growth rate, we always stay one step ahead of thatch accumulations. We apply this sand through push spreaders as to avoid inconsistent rates and the weight of bigger machines.

Aside from the ball roll and thatch reduction benefits, this routine incorporation of sand will always maintain our air-filled porosity in the root zone. We also know that these routine applications will not adversely affect ball roll on the day of an application. Although often negatively stereotyped, a light and frequent topdressing program is a major key to surface quality.  

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Incorporation of New Sand in the Tees

Over the next few years, the maintenance staff at Kinloch will be incorporating new sand into the tee and fairway surfaces.  The course was originally built and subsequently amended with a gray sand.  While this sand provided firm conditions and great nutrient retention, it has become increasingly fine and we have decided to discontinue use.  Therefore, the management team researched new sands that will blend well with the current rootzone.  After finding a sand with the right particle size and uniformity, we began the process of amending the current tee surfaces.

Rather than just applying the new sand on top of the older sand layer, which could cause water bridging, we wanted to incorporate it into the current rootzone. To do this, we begin by poking holes in the tee surface with solid tines.  These half inch holes will allow the new sand to penetrate into the existing sand mixture. Shown below is the process.

The surface is then topdressed with the new sand and, using our new Sweep-and-Fill, swept into the holes.  This new equipment has provided us the ability to incorporate the new sand without disrupting playing conditions.

The above process allows the sand to be incorporated into the existing surface, rather than just layered on top of the current rootzone.  This process, along with yearly aerifications, will allow us to completely amend the tees and fairways with the new sand.  Golfers can expect to see firmer conditions and healthier turf due to better surface drainage.