Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Frost delays

In the spring and fall of the year in Northeast Wisconsin, frost early in the morning is a common phenomenon. Golfers are oftentimes delayed from playing due to frost. Delays are very inconvenient for the golfer, but it is important for the health of the golf course to respect these delays.

Why is it important for the superintendent to suspend play until the frost is gone?

Grass plants are made up of mostly water, this water turns into very fragile crystals of ice. Simply walking on turf with frost can cause damage, particularly on a green where the height of cut is around 1/8". Walking on a grass plant with frost is like breaking glass or cracking an egg.

Why not just throw the sprinklers on to get rid of the frost?

This method can work however many factors must be considered before turning on overhead irrigation. What is the air temperature? . . . What is the soil temperature? . . . What temperature is the irrigation water? . . . How heavy is the frost that is covering the grass? I have seen where turning on overhead irrigation cause more frost and in turn makes the delay much longer !!

As a maintenance staff we try to keep the proshop as informed as possible regarding the length of the delay. Keep in mind this is only a guess, and hourly updates usually keep the membership/proshop up to date as to the length of the delay. Usually foretees has the frost delay on it so people who are at home are aware that there tee time may be moved back till they get the "all clear."

Thank you and your cooperation in adhering to these policies is greatly appreciated !!

Here is a informational link to frost delays:

Sunday, September 19, 2010

What are the white lines?

Many people have been inquiring about the white lines that are present around many of the greens and approaches. These lines are marking where either the approach is being bumped out, or where the green is being enlarged. Why do this?? Overtime many of the mowing lines have been altered by daily maintenance practices. Essentially the greens and approaches have shrunk overtime. This is very common on older golf courses because the operator(s) who is mowing cheats a little bit so that he/she doesn't scalp the edge of the green or approach. Consistently doing this results in the shrinkage of greens and other fine turf areas.

There are several different ways to enlarge and restore lost areas that have shrunk. You can sod the areas to bring them back to there original location, which has it pluses and minuses. Sodding can be done very effectively, especially if the remaining turf species is not either Poa annua or Bentgrass. By sodding, the unwanted turf species are eliminated and a mixture of Bent/Poa is present. Sodding, however, is very labor intensive and usually good nursery stock is needed to expand these areas. Cost being an important factor and the limited amount of quality nursery sod, make this option less viable for us in this transition. The other solution to restore lost playing surfaces is to slowly lower the height of cut over the period of several weeks then match it to the existing height. This is very effective particularly in areas that are still predominantly Bentgrass or Poa annua. Many of the areas targeted for enlargement are still predominantly Bent/Poa mixture. This allows us to slowly lower the height and make a gradual transition over the period of a few months.

With both methods problems can arise! When sodding areas turf does not always take to the transplant. Its much like a human getting an organ transplant, sometimes your body rejects the newly transplanted organ. Turfgrasses are really no different and some areas of sod take better than others. Pitfalls also arise when "mowing down" areas; the turf make not like the lower height and may thin out or die in spots. By starting now we give the turf better conditions to help make this transition/transplant easier and less stressful on the plant. Also coming out of winter we can prepare these areas to make it through the coming summer. Continually topdressing and aerating these "mow downs" will also help make these areas blend in better overtime. Topdressing will smooth these areas and aerating will help remove any thatch/organic matter that may potentially make the transition fail.

By bringing back the original location of our greens, approaches, and fairways the golf course plays the way it was intended too. Another reason to move are greens back to there original size it to give us more options with hole locations. The greens at Ridgeway are fairly small averaging 4,200 square feet a green. Restoring more putting surface will allow for more flexibility with course set-up in the future and less wear on turfgrass plants.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Pythium Blight

While playing in the past week and half you may have noticed #6, #15, and #16 tees have a fair amount of bare spots on the teeing surface. This was caused by an aggressive turfgrass disease called Pythium Blight. Sunday July 18th we received about 1.4" of rain followed by a warm day and a night that saw temperatures around 70 degrees. In order for Pythium to be active it needs warm temperatures (high night time lows or hot daytime temps.) and rain/high humidity. The fact that very little if any air movement is present in this part of the golf course made it a perfect breeding ground to get the disease. The saturated tees became a perfect breeding ground for this pathogen. The next couple of mornings Pythium blight was seen in the rough in many areas particularly on south faced bunker slopes. This can be concerning considering the fact that mowers and people can move the disease from place to place. It just so happened the course was closed and staff was directed away from the affected areas.

The greens at Ridgeway are sprayed on a preventative basis for Pythium Blight, however due to the high cost of spraying other areas (i.e. tees and fairways) they may only be sprayed if absolutely necessary. Because the night time lows continued to stay rather hot we did decide to spray low/wet spots on fairways and other tees that would present problems (tees with either poor drainage or air circulation). We have skipped mowing these tees a couple of times and will continue to over seed the areas to get them back into shape. Because these tees were so saturated with water we deep-tined these tees to get water to move off of the surface of the plants and down into the profile.

Ridgeway has a number of areas that present many challenges due to:

1. Poor drainage

2. Lack of air movement because of the number of trees that only provide a breeding ground for turfgrass diseases, numerous weeds (crabgrass, clover etc.), and make it difficult to dry turf off after heavy rain and high humidity.

3. High number of rounds that put a lot of stress on saturated turfgrass plants. In fact Pythium was the most severe in areas of high foot traffic between the tee markers.

4. Numerous trees that suck sunlight from turfgrass plants which make them weaker and increase the need for fertilizer, water, and pesticides.

5. Trees whose roots suck nutrients and water from turfgrass plants requiring more TLC and $ to make these surfaces "decent."

6. Heavy clay soil which holds water and has numerous problems in of itself: poor playing surface (too firm, too soft), poor drainage, make it difficult to mow in wet conditions, clay is a poor rooting medium for turfgrasses, whereas lighter soil (sand) is a much better rooting medium.

7. The combination of heavy soil, numerous trees, large number or rounds, and the recent weather make a great cocktail for diseases, weeds, less than favorable playing conditions, and anaerobic soil conditions (see earlier posts).

The weather is the one factor that is uncontrollable, however selective tree cutting, soil modification (sand topdressing), and good sound maintenance practices (i.e. aerification, verticutting, intelligent use of water, etc.) will help provide healthier and more playable playing surfaces. Years like this become a good litmus test for identifying all the challenges a golf course and its environment presents, we now have an excellent opportunity to rectify some of these challenges to help make Ridgeway better!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Bug Spray kills grass!

With all of the rain lately the mosquitoes are out in full force. The picture to the left is of someone who sprayed themselves in #2 approach. Bug spray kills turf and we would like members to spray themselves either on a cart path or by the pro shop before they tee off. Thanks.


This morning we had some vandalism to #11 green which came from sometime last night. These areas were rather large and deep!! They decided to use the green as a range tee. Pictures of the damage are above. They also broke the 150 pole on 11 and ripped out one the flagsticks on the range. The green was repaired with some plugs and sand before any groups got to the hole.

Course Open

The golf course is finally open after being closed for 2 days. Overall the golf course took the water well considering the amount of rain we have been receiving. This is the first day we have mowed the greens since Thursday morning. We raised the height of cut so that we do not scalp the turf. Also this morning we will be trying to get the bunkers back into shape and pick up debris that was left from the storms. Early next week we will concentrate our efforts on getting caught up on mowing the rest of the golf course.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

GCSAA press release about abnormal weather and its effects on golf courses

Rain, rain and more rain . . .

Once again I am looking out from the maintenance building and all I see is water. This morning we received 1.4" of rain, which is on top of the 2.25" we received Thursday. As a result the course is closed for the second day in a row and the third time in the past two weeks.

Here are the July rain totals:

July 4 0.2"
July 5 1"
July 7 1.1"
July 10 0.6"
July 11 0.15"
July 14 5.2"
July 18 0.8"
July 19 0.25"
July 20 0.2"
July 22 2.2"
July 24 1.4"

Total July rainfall to date: 13.1"

This is on top of 8" received in June. Keep in mind we normally receive 2-2.5" in July.
Here is a slideshow of the project between #1-#8. There are some before and after pictures as well as pictures during the construction phase of the project.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Soil saturation and weather related stress

This summer's weather has presented many challenges due too heavy rainfall and warm temperatures. Although daytime temperatures have been a little warm, the night time temperatures are 10-12 degrees warmer than normal. Then throw in high humidity and we start see signs of stress. Our push-up greens have 2" of sand with heavy clay base underneath. The heavy rainfall coupled with heavy soil, warmth and high humidity have lead to anaerobic soil conditions. Anaerobic soil conditions persist when prolonged saturated turf does not allow for gas exchange in the root zone. The heat, water and lack of oxygen make the roots die off and plants start to look unhealthy or die. Many of our wettest greens are starting to show signs of decline. Many of you may have noticed greens like front of #4, middle of #6, middle of #11, #12, #13, #16, and bottom #17 at differing points this summer look thin and unhealthy. In a situation like #6 green the area affected is in the low spot in the middle of the green. This area holds water and does not allow oxygen into the soil. Also on days of warmth these areas become hotter due to the amount of water directly below the surface. The water, heat, humidity, lack of air movement and lack of sand in the profile cause roots to die or die back closer to the surface. #13 is a great example of a green that receives little air movement even on windy days. All of these scenarios produce a situation where plant health especially the roots are negatively affected. The picture to the left is taken from the middle of #6 green in the low area mentioned above. The soil temperature in the middle of #6 green at noon today, July 21st, is 91 degrees. Keep in mind it is only 80 degrees air temperature currently. How can this be?? Water heats up faster than air, which in turn heats up the saturated soil and has a negative impact on the roots (suffocates). On a side note #13 green in the low area is 92 degrees. Whereas "good" greens like #9 and #10 are 84 degrees some 6-10 degrees cooler. So under these anaerobic soil conditions a few problems can arise. One is wet wilt, where the soil is so saturated that all the pore space is devoid of oxygen and root health is comprimised. Under heat and windy days this can be prevalent. Scald is another situation that can cause damage and is similar to wet wilt in that it causes damage under heat, wind, and intense sunlight. Because the turf is saturated the soil heats up at an alarming rate as direct sun causes turf decline. And lastly anytime you have situations of heat, humidity and moisture you are going to have intense disease pressure particularly on turf that is already weak or growing in a poor environment.

So what options do we have that can help in the fight against root loss, thinning greens and turf death? Almost weekly greens have been needle tined (aka venting) with the aerator in the picture to the right. Venting is the process of using small diameter solid tines (.2") that do not affect play much but allow for the exchange of oxygen in anaerobic soil situations. Other options we have chosen is skipping mowing and or rolling after heavy rain events. Although the soil is extremely saturated light syringing on days with heat, intense sunlight or wind will also cool the plant off so that it can function properly. Lets note that syringing is not watering but cooling off the surface of the plant during these "extreme" conditions. Long term solutions involve amending the soil profile with sand. This is being done bi-weekly to help modify our soil profile. Deep tine aeration with 10-12" tines along with a solid core aeration program will over time help alleviate the problem. Another factor is the amount of trees that surround many of our greens complexes. These trees inhibit air movement, which is a large part of the problem with many of the greens at Ridgeway. Selective cutting of trees that do nothing but rob Ridgeway of having consistently good putting surfaces is necessary part of our greens management program.

In summary needle tining (venting), skipping of mowing(after heavy rain), skipping verticutting, topdressing during stress and light syringing after periods of no rain will help keep these areas alive. Long term solutions involve selective cutting of trees, consistent topdressing when weather allows, and the combination of deep tining/core aeration will greatly improve conditions on the putting surfaces by allowing increased drainage and air movement.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Golf Course Flooding

As many of you are aware on July 14 th we recieved a little over 5" rain. This storm caused significant flooding. This warrented closing the course for the day. As a side note this brings our total rainfall over 15" since May 26th. Along with heavy rain, wind left the golf course littered in branches. All of this rain has been a challenge in trying to provide quality playing surfaces for the members at Ridgeway.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Up and running . . .

Ridgeway Country Club turf blog is up and running!! More posts to come . . .