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 1, 2015

Annual Reminder: Off-Season Deep Tine and Vertical Mowing Has Begun

One of our top golf course maintenance goals is to provide firm fairway surfaces throughout the growing season. To accomplish this goal, there are many "behind the scenes" practices that must be consistently executed. Two of theses practices that are key to our fairway conditioning is deep tine aeration and vertical mowing. Before we get into a description of these practices, let's address a question that may be going through your mind as you read this blog.

1. With 2+ weeks of course closure for aeration (spring and fall) why do we disturb the playing surfaces while open?

Following the Thanksgiving Holiday, daily play at KGC slows tremendously. So, although disturbing the surfaces, this pocket of time represents the best balance between slow play and actively growing (albeit much slower) grass. Secondly, the disruption is mostly aesthetic and not functional. In other words, the shot off of the fairway is not terribly compromised during these processes. And finally, but most importantly, we do not have the time to get these practices done in March and its too hot in mid-to late August. During our March aeration, we hollow-core aerate and top dress the entire property and that alone takes all of our efforts during Spring Aeration.

So, as you read the description and benefits of these practices, please understand that we are cognizant of the disruption and will pace ourselves so that only 1-2 fairways will be disturbed at a time. As always, we appreciate your support as we try to make KGC better each season.

Deep Tine Aeration 

This process is a form of solid tine aeration. There are no plugs or cores; only a "punched hole." What makes this operation unique and crucial is the depth of the hole. This particular machine is able to puncture the turf to a depth of 6-8" at a diameter of 3/4". Furthermore, the machine is designed to "kick" as the tines go in and out of the soil. This "kicking" fractures the soil creating additional pore space between the visible holes. The end result is that we are able to promote deeper, denser rooting. Deeper, denser rooting allows the plant to survive drier conditions. So in the summer months, the plant requires less irrigation to make it through the hot days. This in turn allows us to promote firmness throughout the driest stretches of summer. 

Vertical Mowing 

This process is designed to remove thatch. Thatch is the by-product of growing grass and is comprised of dead and decaying plant material. Although soil microbes help to decompose thatch, there is a plant protein called lignin that is very difficult for "bugs" to digest. Over time, this lignous material builds upon itself until you are left with a soft, spongy layer called thatch. Aside from creating a sponge effect on the surface, thatch can be a breeding ground for insects and disease. Vertical mowing uses special blades to go down into the canopy at a depth of 1/2" and mechanically pull-out and remove thatch. The aftermath is continuous channels 1.5" apart that are 1/2" deep. As we beat back back the thatch through vertical mowing, core aeration and sand top-dressing, we increase water and nutrient efficiency while reducing the sponginess of thatch itself.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Summer Aeration - 2015

Now that we have re-opened the golf course, it is time to recap our 2015 summer aeration. We will cover each playing surface and discuss: What we did, Where we are and What is next. I hope this information helps you understand our process and gives you some clarity with regards to course conditions and the ongoing recovery.

I. Greens 

What we did.... Every green was deep tine aerated on 3" centers at a depth of 7". We used 1/2" tines to punch the hole. Our deep tine process creates deep channels which encourage drainage, air porosity and ultimately, deeper rooting. Following the deep tine, we core aerated on 1.5" centers at a depth of 2.5". We used 3/8" hollow tines to pull the core. Our core aeration is designed to remove organic material, firm the surface and provide much needed gas exchange within the rootzone. Once deep-tined and cored, the greens were top dressed with 35 tons of sand. To put that in perspective, 35 tons equals 400 lbs. of sand per 1000 square feet of putting surface. After dragging the sand evenly into the open holes, we rolled the greens in 3 different directions to correct the heaving brought on by the process. Once relatively smooth, we applied Gypsum, Potassium and Magnesium to the greens and then watered those products into the rootzone. Each of these products were selected based on soil testing that was conducted just prior to the process.

Where we are.... Following several additional rollings, we began mowing the greens at .125". The greens look great and recovery is going well.

What is next.... Although pleased with the process and looking forward to to the long term benefits, our next objective is returning to championship play-ability. The single, greatest limiting factor to aggressive maintenance is the presence of sand near and around the canopy. The stress from abrasion is a major concern and with potential heat in September, we must be careful not to push the greens too hard, too fast. So throughout the first 4-5 days after reopening, we will single cut the greens each morning at a relatively conservative height of cut. Once the turf has sufficiently grown through the sand and the risk of abrasion has abated, we will lower heights and begin our more traditional practices such as rolling, double-cutting, grooming and brushing. I would rather not give a specific time-table for the transition between recovery and performance, but I am comfortable saying that we will move as fast as the putting surfaces allow.

II. Fairways/Approaches/Tees

What we did...Due to the heat of August and the length of our March aeration, we decided not to pull a core on any surface other than greens. However, the top-dressing program that was started here, long before my time, remains one of the best management practices for this golf course. Knowing that we want to top-dress during this closure, it is imperative that we introduce the sand to the rootzone so that air-filled pockets are created. These pockets lead to vigorous rooting and the long-term sustainability of our fairways while not relying on so much irrigation. To incorporate the sand, the fairways and approaches were solid tined on 2.5" centers to a depth of 3". We punched these holes with 5/8" solid tines. Once the holes were created we top dressed over 600 tons of sand. This volume of sand translates to 500 lbs. of sand per 1000 square feet of playing surface. Once the sand was swept into the holes, we applied over 60 tons of gypsum to the entire property. Aside from providing calcium to the plant, gypsum does wonders in loosening tight soils so that over time, your rootzone becomes more and more permeable. Permeability leads to rooting which in turn leads to sustainability. Following some irrigation to wash in the gypsum, all surfaces were mowed in two directions and any left over debris was blown into the roughs.

One caveat on what was done, although nearly identical processes, the tee boxes were verti-cut prior to punching and sanding. The tees have a susceptibility to thatch and due to their flat orientation, we can verti-cut these surfaces safely while helping to promote firmness.

Where we are.... On the tees, approaches and fairways, conditions are returning to normal pretty quickly. Most of the sand has migrated beneath the canopy and regular mowing will resume next week.

What is next.... The big objective with these surfaces is getting back to our spring-time heights of cut. We will step these grasses down over the next 3-4 weeks with our target being the Member-Member in late September. Other than the holes needing to fully recover, these surfaces should be very playable right now and only improve as fall weather moves in.

III. Roughs and Intermediates 

What we did.... Similar to the other playing surfaces, we choose to disrupt these areas as little as possible during the heat of summer. We did spread gypsum on all of these areas and we solid tined the entire intermediate cut of rough. We did some solid tining in the roughs, but only in areas where we wanted good seed to soil contact. Following the punching and gypsum, we over-seeded any thin areas throughout the course.

Where we are... All of the seed is down and we will now water as much as possible to bring on germination. I would expect some unusually squishy areas throughout the course as we are trying to promote seedling development. Overall, though, we are mowing these surfaces on a normal rotation and they shouldn't seem much different than before the process started.

What is next.... After the new seed emerges, the roughs should look really nice by the third week in September. In late fall, we will apply some organic fertilizer to "feed the soil."

IV. Summary

The overall process was fantastic and we are hopeful that the fruits of our labor will be evidenced by a fantastic fall season. As always, I'd like to thank the membership for their support of these much needed practices. Play-ability is at the top of our list and we will do our best to get you back to traditional conditions sooner than later.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Mid-Summer Update

August 4th marks the 45th day of summer which means that as I write this update on August 5th, we are on the downhill side of summer. Of course, as I write this, it is 93 degrees and fairly humid so it certainly doesn't feel like fall weather is upon us. Aside from the illusion that plant stresses are fading away, the middle of summer does provide the opportunity for a golf course update.

I. Putting Surfaces - As of now, the putting surfaces are in solid condition. (knock on wood) We have good density and performance has been acceptable. We will continue to keep the greens as dry and lean as possible so that they can withstand the stresses related to heat, humidity and compaction. Since the 1st of May, we have rolled the greens on a daily basis and are pleased that they have withstood the traffic. Once fall weather truly returns, we will begin programs aimed at conditioning the texture of the turf. We must continue to promote more upright growth, thinner leaf blades and a firm surface. All of these things not only contribute to long-term plant health, but allow for great putting performance on a daily basis.

II. Tee Boxes - Similar to the greens, the tee boxes are holding up fairly well. We do have some stressed turf on 2 or 3 tee boxes, but by and large, the tees remain dense and tight. The challenge with the tees is moisture management. Because our tees are built on a sand profile, their receptivity to saturation is fairly high. Although the easy answer would be to limit the irrigation on the tees, the issue is a bit more complicated because the sprinkler heads that water the tees also water the surrounding roughs. We cannot allow the roughs to get too dry or we will begin losing turf to drought stress. So, we water the tees in a way to balance the needs of both the bent grass surfaces and the surrounding fescue/blue-grass.

III. Fairways and Approaches - The fairways and approaches are in excellent condition for early August. Density and play-ability remain very good and although fairly firm, we have had very little turf loss due to wilting. Our hand-watering crews have been outstanding this summer and their efforts have allowed us to forego large quantities of over-head irrigation while maintaining plant health. We do have some patchy wilt damage on a few fairways, but overall, our playing surfaces are in great shape. (knock on wood again)

IV. Roughs - There is no question that our roughs have been and continue to be our biggest challenge through this point of the summer. On a scale of 1-10, I might give us a 6.5-7 on the condition of our roughs. Between disease (brown patch and summer patch), drought and insect damage (BTA Grubs), we are battling our roughs. We irrigate the roughs as much as we can and we are constantly spraying pesticides to deal with the various issues. Most of the damage in our roughs will heal on its own as better weather moves in. For the areas that do not recover, we will be over-seeding selected areas during our fall aeration. (Aug 17-26) Either way, we expect that our roughs will be in excellent condition by the 2nd week of September.

V. Intermediate Cuts - Similar to the roughs, our intermediate cuts have been challenging this summer. Although I remain a fan of the perennial Rye-grass due to its color, texture and density, there is no question that it is one of the weakest cool season grasses for our climate. Having said that, this fall, we will be inter-seeding tall fescue and blue-grass into our intermediates. We will do this seeding in late August and after a month or so of germination, will come back with another dose of perennial rye-grass seed. The concept is to have all 3 grasses growing in these areas and that over-time, this blend will give us a balance between aesthetics and plant health. The rye is just too good for 9 months out of the year to go in a different direction. However, our goal will be to create a hybrid stand of grasses that give us color, definition and more sustainability in late June - early September.

VI. Summary - I am always hesitant to be happy with our performance. Things can change in a matter of days so I prefer to remain focused on what we could do to get better. Having said that, the golf course is handling the summer well and if we can maintain our current conditions, I do believe that we are in a great position for a spectacular fall.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Hand Watering Season is Here

"You can't come back from wet, you can come back from dry, but not wet." A very good agronomist and trusted consultant, Joel Simmons, gave me this advice last fall. Not only do I believe in this principle, but I think it may be the most important principle with respect to managing low-cut bent-grass through hot/humid conditions.

USGA greens are built on sand so that the green will: (1) drain well; (2) resist compaction and (3) provide a nice balance between air and water porosity. In other words, USGA greens are designed o hold just enough water to achieve field capacity, but not enough water to remain saturated for extended periods.

Saturated soil adversely affects grass by increasing heat retention, reducing gas exchange and most importantly, by minimizing the amount of oxygen that otherwise may reside in the pore space of the profile.

Heat retention occurs because water is denser than air so when it heats up, it stays hotter longer. When wet soil stays hot for an extended period of time, scald occurs. In putting greens, you typically do not see the scald damage at the canopy/crown level because infiltration rates help water get past the surface. However, in profiles that hold moisture, or in areas of greens that remain wet (low-lying areas), the scald occurs within the root-zone. Once the roots go, the leafy tissue above ground is sure to follow suit.

Although scald is a major concern, the deprivation of oxygen may be tantamount to a green's failure/survival during hot/humid stretches of the summer. Oxygen assists the plant in metabolizing food. For example, in the absence of oxygen, the plant struggles to trans-locate magnesium. As an essential component of chlorophyll, the reduction in usable magnesium leads to a decrease in photosynthesis which in turn results in a reduction of structural carbohydrates. Without carbohydrates, the plant can't build parts and decline ensues.

So, between heat retention and the deprivation of oxygen, water management becomes extremely important to the success of bent grass putting greens. Although, irrigation systems have become even more sophisticated, they remain fairly indiscriminate in terms of where water is or is not applied. For example, say that I have a green that stays very dry on the front crown, but very wet in a low-lying swale. Over-head irrigation may be ideal for the dry crown area, but may lead to over-saturation in the back of the green. Going back to the opening quote, "we can always come back from dry." In other words, in this situation, we choose to manage the green with daily hand-watering so that the crown stays hydrated while the low-lying area can dry down properly. In this way, we micro-manage the surface so that no area stays too wet.

This management style is widely adopted by the turf industry and although strides have been made in areas like wetting agents, irrigation control, fans and sub-air, I am not sure we will ever see the day that hand-watering is not an integral part of any successful turf management program.

Typically, we spend the morning checking the moisture levels of the greens. We have established thresholds and if the moisture is below those thresholds, we water those specific areas. We prefer the morning hours because the heat of the day isn't on top of us and by mid-afternoon, the applied water has had a chance to drain off. In the afternoon, we check the greens for active wilt and apply water where obvious wilt symptoms are occurring.

The last sentence brings us to the main point of this post. We recognize that employees hand-watering in the middle of the day can be a nuisance. As such, we try very hard to stay out of the way, work in backwards rotations and appreciate the golf experience of every member and guest. However, to maintain the greens as dry as possible, in an attempt to enhance play ability and  practice good agronomy, we must hand water throughout the day. It is a necessary evil for the summer months.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Bermuda Grass Suppression

Over the next few months, we will be actively spraying common Bermuda Grass that has moved into our desired turf areas. We have common Bermuda infestations in almost every playing surface (fairways, roughs and intermediates) with the exception of our tees and greens. Although these infestations are sporadic and not terribly bad at this point, we must maintain a vigilant herbicide program to not only keep the Bermuda in check, but also to achieve complete eradication.

Up until a few years ago, there were not many herbicide alternatives for Bermuda control in cool-season grasses. Fortunately, a herbicide called Pylex hit the market about 4 years ago. Pylex, which interferes with photosynthesis by disrupting chlorophyll production, will suppress and eventually kill Bermuda that is growing in cool season grass. The rates are extraordinarily low.... for example, in bent grass areas, we are applying Pylex at .5 ounces per acre. That is 1/2 of an ounce over 40,000+ square feet of grass. Nonetheless, this product works very well with minimal downside. The only downside is the aesthetic color of the suppressed Bermuda and surrounding bent.

As you can see in the picture above, because Pylex disrupts chlorophyll, the plant turns white once sprayed. Many times, you cannot even see the Bermuda until we have sprayed it and once the white blotches begin appearing in areas across the property, many members may wonder, "What is going on?"

We can mix another broad leaf herbicide, Turflon, with the Pylex to reduce the whitening. However, half of the battle is to accurately locate the Bermuda infestations, so on our first application, I leave the Turflon out so that the Bermuda is easily located for additional applications.

So, if you begin to notice any white patches across the property, please know that it is our Bermuda grass program kicking off for 2015.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Spring Project Update

We have had a really nice spring thus far as the grass is waking up and aeration recovery accelerates. We have also returned to our regular maintenance practices, including: mowing, edging, rolling and mulching. In conjunction with our seasonal routine, we have also been busy wrapping up various projects across the golf course.

#11 creek was re-shaped, rocked and grassed to tall fescue on the green's side and fine fescue on the opposite side. The fine fescue has been installed since this photo was taken.

An over-grown native area to the front right of the 3rd tee complex was reclaimed and re-grassed to fine fescue. 

A 007, bent-grass tee was installed adjacent to the firepit. 

The hillside to the left of the 6th fairway was reclaimed and grassed to fine fescue. 

A 007, bent-grass tee was re-installed along the dam. Golfers now have a 185 yard tee shot across the pond to the 19th green.  

The native area to the left of the 15th fairway was re-installed to fine fescues. 

The pond edge near the third green was stripped and re-grassed to low-mow bluegrass. We did this project to remove the bent-grass contamination, but also to enhance the pond view from the landing areas and putting surface. The bluegrass has been installed since this photo was taken. 

The tree-line to the left rear of the 4th green was set-back 25 yards to increase sunlight and airflow to the putting surface. In place of the existing tree-line, we installed fine fescues. 

The ninth approach was expanded to the right and rear of the green. We installed 007, bent-grass for this project. 

The landscape area between the second green and third tee was upgraded and a paved walking path was installed. 

We have one last project on the 10th hole and we will re-post upon its completion. I am very proud of our staff for knocking these projects out while also maintaining the course for daily play. I am also thankful for the club support and member patience as we work our way through these improvements. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Kinloch Golf Club
1st Quarter Golf Course Maintenance Update 

Although the winter weather has been sporadic, our golf maintenance team has remained very productive. Over the past 3 months, we have accomplished many tasks and projects while maintaining the course for daily play. The following report will cover our production throughout the off-season. We have organized this report into the following sub-sections: 
I. Completed Projects 
II. Projects Underway 
III. Upcoming Projects 
IV. Perennial Practices 
V. Spring Aeration 
VI. Aeration Recovery Time-Line 
VII. Detail Work 

I. Completed Projects

Under the guidance of our design team, Lester George and Vinny Giles, we have completed several projects across the property. 

Cleaned up and restored the native area to the front right of the 3rd tee complex. 
Removed hardwoods behind the 3rd green. 
Set-back the tree line to the left and rear of the 4th green. 
Restored the native hillside to the left of the 6th fairway (upper) 
Expanded the bent grass approach around the rear and to the right of the 9th green 
Cleared a line of sight to the right lower fairway on the 9th hole
Converted the first10 yards of the right lower fairway on the 9th hole to rough
Installed bluestone pathways at porch exits at Cottages 2 and 3 
Re-grassed the par 3 green to new varieties of bent grass 
Re-sodded all collar areas infested with perennial rye-grass 

II. Projects Underway 

Install new teeing area to the right of the fire-pit 
New paver path and landscaping to the left of the 2nd green 
New landscaping at the pro-shop entrance 
Restoration of the native area to the left of the 15th tee complex and fairway 
Grading and mulching the gravel access trail behind the 17th green 

III. Upcoming Projects 

Reinstate 19th hole teeing area along the dam 
Creek restoration on the 10th hole between the tee complex and fairway 
Creek restoration behind the 11th green 
Paver path way from porch exit at Cottage 1 
Landscaping installations to the left of the 10th green and behind the 15th green 
Landscaping installations along the new patios at all 3 cottages 
Install new irrigation caps on all broken heads (new distance plaques) 

IV. Perennial Practices

Double deep tined fairways and approaches 
Vertical mowed all bent grass surfaces 
Drainage installed in the 3rd and 9th approaches 
Cut-back all over-grown wetland/native areas 
Cleaned up underbrush on the opposite sides of the cart path 
Pruned tree limbs near pocketed green sites (#3,#4,#5,#7,#11,#17) 
Re-furbished all benches, trash cans and other course furniture  
Re-painted all tee marker borders 
Cleaned up all leaves across the entire property 
Fertilized all of our existing plant material 
Planned and ordered all chemicals and fertilizer for 2015 
Removed many dead or dying trees across the property 
Mulched all landscape areas (in progress) 

V. Spring Aeration 

Our annual spring aeration has gone very well. I remain very thankful for all of the member support that we receive during both the spring and fall aerations. Other than perhaps Member Invitational, there is not a more stressful period(s) than aeration. Although we are very excited about the positive benefits of an aggressive aeration program, there is no one more impatient than our golf maintenance team with regards to recovery time. To keep this report as concise as possible, I would direct you to our blog site for a detailed recap of this year’s aeration process. http://kinlochgcm.blogspot.com/.  We look forward to re-opening on Tuesday, March 31st. 

VI. Aeration Recovery Time-Line 

Once aeration is completed, we immediately focus our attention on the recovery of our playing surfaces; particularly the putting greens. With our process, we apply a great deal of topdressing sand. We do this this for three reasons: (1) to fill all of the aeration holes thus creating clean pore space for months on end; (2) to smooth any imperfections within the putting surface and (3) to firm up the surfaces for the long-term. Although we will remain committed to an aggressive top-dressing program, it does limit our ability to roll the greens directly after we re-open. We do not want to press tender leaf tissue against the grainy sand that has yet to be fully worked into our canopy. Thus, during the first week after reopening, we will single cut the greens each morning with little to no rolling. Beginning with the week of April 6th, we expect that the grass will have grown through the sand to a point where we can re-introduce rolling in conjunction with mowing. Ultimately, we target Master’s Weekend (April 10th – 12th) for consistent putting green performance. This timeline allows for proper post-aeration recovery and dovetails nicely with our opening day celebration. We already feel very fortunate to have such a patient membership regarding our aeration practices. We hope that by explaining our recovery time-line, you can fully appreciate our process and trust that we want to push our surfaces as soon as possible. 

VII. Detail Work 

A key differentiator in Kinloch’s maintenance practices has always been our strong attention to detail. Nowhere is the commitment more evident than in our care and concern for crisp edges and straight mowing patterns. Following the clean-up from aeration, we will begin edging all of our features while re-marking and straightening any skewed mowing patterns. Throughout the year, we edge every feature on our property every 14 days. However, the first edging of the new season is always the most intensive. Furthermore, we are beginning to mow turf, applying fertilizer and finishing our project list mentioned above. With all of that taken into consideration, our plan for detail work over the coming weeks is as follows: 

1. March 30th – April 3rd – Edge Cart Paths/Sod Damaged Edges and Mulch Work 
2. April 6th – 10th – Edge Bunkers and Mulch Work 
3. April 13th – 17th – Edge Sprinkler Heads and Creek/Pond Banks and Mulch Work 
4. April 20th – 24th – Edge Mulch Beds and Complete Mulch Work 

Ultimately, our seasonal crescendo is the Member Invitational, but we hope to have most of the detail work completed on our around our Opening Day Celebration. 

We hope that you find this report useful. As always, if you have additional questions, feel free to contact me either by phone (804) 840-8320 or email at thedgepeth@kinlochgolfclub.com. You can also access more detailed information on our blog site: http://kinlochgcm.blogspot.com/ and you can see daily course updates on our twitter feed: @kinlochdaily.com. Thank you for reviewing this report and we look forward to a great spring season.

Trevor Hedgepeth 
Golf Course Superintendent

Friday, March 27, 2015

Spring Aeration 2015

Each March we perform our annual spring aeration to the golf course. Aeration is important to growing and maintaining sustainable turf because the process: reduces thatch; improves infiltration rates; increases porosity; alleviates compaction and firms up our surfaces. Without an aggressive aeration program, turf grass would be very difficult to manage throughout the heat and humidity of summer. Although a 14-day disruption to play, aeration is a "necessary evil" in providing championship conditions throughout the growing season.

In this blog post, we will walk you through our typical spring aeration... step by step.

  • Verti-cut the surfaces at a depth of .100" 

  •  Deep tine at a depth of 7" with 1/2" solid tines on 2"x 2" spacing 

  • Dry-ject the greens to a depth of 2.5" (for an explanation of dry-ject click here)
  • Core aerate with 1/2" hollow tines on 1.5" x 1.5" spacing
  • Remove cores and blow off greens 
  • Apply top dressing sand at a rate of 700 lbs. per 1000 square feet 
  • Drag sand with a sweep n' fill 
  • Blow and brush sandy excess 
  • Roll greens with a 1-ton asphalt roller 
  • Amend greens with fertilizer based on our soil tests 
  • Water in amendments 
  • Roll greens with our DMI Speed Rollers 
  • Mow greens with no buckets on the final afternoon prior to re-opening 

Tees and Approaches 
  • Vert-cut with our Weidemen Super 600 to a depth of .75" 
  • Drag and blow clippings from the vertical mowing 
  • Solid tine to a depth of 3" on 2" x 2" centers with 5/8" tines
  • Apply top dressing sand at a rate of 700 lbs. per 1000 square feet
  • Drag sand with a sweep n' fill 
  • Blow and brush sandy excess 
  • Edge and replace tee plaques 
  • Roll with our DMI Speed Rollers 
  • Amend with fertilizer based on our soil tests

  • Deep tine fairways to a depth of 6" in two directions 
  • Vert--cut fairways on 1" spacing to a depth of 1/2" 
  • Core aerate fairways with 1/2" tines on 2" x 2" spacing 

  • Drag cores with drag mats 
  • Blow cores towards the center of the fairways
  • Vacuum cores with our Stec machine 
  • Apply top-dressing sand at a rate of 500 lbs. per 1000 square feet 

  • Drag sand with our sweep n' fills 
  • Final blow on fairways 
  • Apply gypsum at 15#'s per 1000 square feet 
  • Drag in gypsum with a steel mat 
Roughs and Intermediate Cuts 
  • Core aerify roughs with 3/4" tines to a depth of 1" on 3" x 3" spacing 
  • Drag roughs with a harrow-tine 
  • Apply gypsum at 15#'s per 1000 square feet
  • Drag in gypsum with a steel mat 

So, this gives everyone a nice summary of our process. In terms of time-lines, days 1-5 are used for the aeration/topdressing/amending processes. Days 6-7 are used to tweak any areas that we missed and clean-up the golf course. Day 8 is used to re-set all play supplies and conduct a final inspection of the course. After re-opening, we use the first week to mow-off excess sand and debris while re-setting all of our mower lines. Although it is tempting to aggressively roll and mow the greens once re-opened, we choose to slowly ramp up our intensity. One of the worst things that we can do directly after re-opening is to press the grass tissue against all of the sand that has yet to be worked below the canopy line. This potential abrasion can counter-act the strides we make during the aeration process. Our goal is that by week 2, (April 6th) we are aggressively maintaining the surfaces in preparation for our Opening Day Celebration and Master's Week.

We hope this blog helped to explain our spring aeration practice. Although a disruption to play, it is a necessary operation for our course. We cannot wait to get passed the clean-up so that we can offer championship conditions on a regular basis.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Spring Project Season

Our golf course architect, Lester George,  has created a Master Plan for improvements across the golf course. Just recently, we were approved to begin several projects from within that Master Plan. Over the next several weeks we will keep you posted on projects that we have completed. 

One of the first projects that we have completed is select tree clearing behind the 4th green. This was a delicate project as the existing tree-line frames the 4th green beautifully. Mr. George hand picked the trees that were to be removed so that we could accomplish our agronomic objectives while not damaging the overall look of the hole. 

Before we get into the project details, let's discuss the agronomic purpose of this project. Grass plants perform two major physiological functions to produce and consume food. Photosynthesis is the process of making energy and respiration is the process of using energy. The plant needs both to survive, but photosynthesis is the most crucial because the plant cannot consume food unless food has been created. 

If you look at a photosynthesis/respiration timing curve, you can see that photosynthesis reaches its 
apex in cooler temperatures relative to respiration. 

Image result for photosynthesis respiration bell curve

In layman's terms, the hotter it gets, the plant consumes more food than it is making leading to a net-negative food deficit. In this state, the plant is not producing enough carbohydrates to support vigorous growth and repair. 

So, how do we maximize plant food production throughout the summer? We supply the plat with the raw material it needs to photosynthesize efficiently at key periods of a hot day. The raw materials in question are water, sunlight and carbon dioxide. The key timing of a hot day is in the morning and to a lesser extent, the late afternoon. The reason these two periods are important is because the plant wants to make food in cooler temperatures. On a hot summer day at lets say 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon, the plants photosynthetic rate is much lower than lets say 6:00 or 7:00 in the morning or evening. Furthermore, at the hottest parts of the day, not only is photosynthesis inefficient, respiration spikes. 

We cannot stop these processes as they will remain a challenge with respect to cool season grass in warm climates. However, if we can ensure that we water well and that the plant has adequate sun at the key points of the day, we can maximize photosynthetic potential and mitigate some of the net-negative energy production cycle. 

This brings us to the tree project on #4. The pine tree canopy to the left and rear of that green creates a heavy shade line that doesn't allow sunlight until later in the day while re-casting shadows quickly in the afternoon. In other words, the two points in time when that green may be able to make food, there isn't enough sunlight to support efficient photosynthesis. By moving the tree line away from the green, we were able to move the shade line and .... increase sun light onto the putting surface both earlier and later in the day. By doing this, we have given the 4th green a better opportunity to make food when possible. 

In the photo below, taken at 4:00 pm in mid-March, you can see that the shade line is just starting to re-appear on the back left corner of the green. Prior to the tree removal, that shade line would have set-up by 2:30 or 3:00. During the afternoon hours, we have added 1-2 hours of photosynthetic potential. The same trend is seen in the morning where the shade line wasn't off of the green until almost lunch time. Now, we are seeing full sun on that green by 10:00 or 10:30 in the morning. Again, we are picking up 1 to 2 hours of sunlight each morning. Our net increase is 2-4 hours of sunlight. Over the course of a growing season, this increase is monumental in allowing the plant to not only build, but store excess carbohydrates (food). 

The first step: tree removal with chain saws. 

The second step: grind all of the sumps. 

The third step: clean-up stump grindings, grade and seed to fine fescue. 

The fourth step: sodding any tree wells that were in primary rough. 

The finished product: a new shade line with the original framing in tact. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Winter Training Sessions

As the winter wears on, we are faced with almost daily frost/freeze delays. Although these mornings present a great opportunity to knock out shop cleanings, equipment polishes and play supply refurbishments... we also use these mornings to conduct 30-45 minute training sessions with our staff. We believe in these sessions because they promote:

1. Good cross-communication with our staff
2. Invaluable training
3. Our dedication to attention to detail
4. Our assistants as leaders and mentors to the staff

We delegate one morning to each assistant. The assistant is free to determine the topic of the morning. For example, last week, we covered: Greens Mowing Techniques, Fairway Mowing Techniques, Bunker Maintenance and Cart/Tool Cleanliness.

These sessions allow our staff to provide feedback while being reinforced on how to do things at the highest level. Also, it gives the guys a break from the repetitive cold that they face every morning. But above all else, it shows our staff that we, as a management team, are dedicated to great conditions. The winter can be a time where intensity dissipates. We believe that these meetings, while truly offering solid fundamentals, continues to build our intensity throughout the off-season.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Putting Green Maintenance in the Winter - The Great Dilemma

As the winter months settle in, daily maintenance to our putting greens becomes a difficult proposition. This time of the year challenges our decision-making because we do not want our members playing golf on unprepared surfaces. However, when the night time temperatures consistently fall below freezing, the top 2-3" of the green becomes frozen. On certain days the greens remain frozen and our decision is pretty easy. We will always avoid rolling/mowing frozen turf because it is detrimental to the grass.

To illustrate, imagine someone standing on your back in two different scenarios. In the first scenario, imagine that you are lying on a firm, unforgiving surface. In this scenario, there is no give beneath your body so you will absorb all of the pressure from the person standing on you. Now, imagine that scenario  involves you laying on a fluffy mattress. In this scenario, the give of the mattress absorbs some of the downward pressure and it is not as painful to your body. Turf existing on frozen ground feels the full effect of mower/roller traffic because there is no give beneath the turf. Couple that fact with grass that is not actively growing and you have a situation that could set grass back.

Our decision gets tricky on days where the greens are initially frozen in the morning, but begin to thaw throughout the afternoon. On these days, our members see an opportunity to play golf and we want them to have the best conditions possible. So, the frost lifts in the late-morning and the grass appears to be ready for maintenance. However, in that transition period between frost lifting and afternoon warmth, the greens may still be frozen through the profile. It may be 1:00,2:00 or even 3:00 before they fully thaw. Obviously, it does our member no good if they have to wait until the early afternoon to tee off because sunlight will prohibit a reasonable finish time.

So, on each of these "tweener" mornings, we have to decide if: (a) the greens will thaw at all and (b) if they are going to thaw, will they thaw fast enough to give us a window to prepare them for play without holding golf until the early afternoon. Its a daily decision that we make every day. The real problem for the golfer is that when a frozen green thaws, not only does it become soft, it becomes "spongy" soft. To explain this phenomenon would require an entire other blog post.... you'll have to trust me. Nonetheless, "spongy" soft greens aren't that fun to putt on because they can be very slow and "wobbly."

Everyday, we look at the condition of the greens in the morning and decide if the thawing will occur quick enough to at least mow the greens. (We generally stay away from rolling greens this time of year.) If we feel like our window of time is large enough, we mow the greens. Otherwise, we may let them go untouched. So, through the winter months, please know that we want great conditions on a daily basis, no matter the season. However, on some days, this freeze-thaw effect "ties our hands" and we choose to do nothing. On those days, don't think we forgot about golf, its just Mother Nature holding us back. Golf through the winter months is what makes the transition zone unique and we love to see people enjoying the course year-round.