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.
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.
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."
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.