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.