Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Drainage and Tree Management


The greens committee and I have put drainage as one of our top priorities going forward. Many of our turf struggles are directly related to drainage and the lack of evacuating water efficiently. Two areas of the golf course that have been habitual problems for ponding and holding water are the top of #11 fairway and #18 North of the fairway. The picture top left is #11 and top right #18, notice how poor the turf quality is due to poor drainage.

The lack of snow and warm weather has allowed us to get most of the drainage in these two areas done. All that is left is sodding over the top of the drain lines, which will be done in early spring. This added drainage will help evacuate water rapidly and grow healthier, denser turfgrass plants.

Below the pictures show some of the work on #11/#18, most of the work was done by trenching and removing the native soil. Then 4" perforated drain tile was added with 3/4" stone and finally the top layer was back filled with soil, which is now waiting for sod. Also small 4" catch basins where added in low areas to remove surface water. The large tile shown in the pictures is 24" plastic culvert pipe that will act as a catch basin in the low area in #18 rough. We also install them in areas where a large number of tile lines meet like #11. We place these large catch basins in the rough in out of play areas. Once the drainage grate is installed, it will allow water in and not be a hazard for the golfer!

Other locations we are considering for drainage next year are: #18 approach/surround, #4 fairway low areas, #14 fairway/rough, and #16 fairway low area. As I mention these areas, we all know how bad they look and play, which is why we are making it such are large priority. We also are evaluating surface and subsurface drainage on our putting surfaces. The installation of XGD subsurface drainage on #9 and #12 is a great addition. In the future we hope to do more in realm of greens drainage both surface and subsurface.

Tree Management

Winter is a great time for tree management. Last week, I toured the course with the Greens and Grounds Committee as part of our ongoing tree management program. We analyzed nearly every tree on the golf course based on the following criteria: i) tree health; ii) effect on sunlight, airflow, and nutrients to fine turf areas; and iii) short and long-term effect on maintenance, playability, and design.

This winter, we will transplant 40-50 trees to more desirable locations throughout the property. Disturbed turf areas will be filled and prepared for sod so that course opening preparations are not delayed.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Golf Course Closing Procedures

The golf course officially closed for the season on Saturday. A checklist of procedures must be done before heavy frost or snow covers the course. Some of these items take place before the course has officially closed and some happen immediately following the last day of golf. None the less, each step is important to help the course overwinter.

The checklist of items in chronological order:

  • Winterize and blowout of the irrigation system and pump house.

  • Winterize 5 & 13 building for the season.

  • Fungicide applications for the prevention of snow mold on tees, greens and fairways.

  • Removal of items from the course. This includes ball washers, benches, garbage receptacles, bunker rakes, hole signs, etc. Many of these items are painted prior to the upcoming golf season.

  • Deep tining of greens to help prevent the build up of water on the surface of our greens. These holes go down 7-8" and move water off the greens surface during snow melt or rain.

  • Moderate sand topdressing applied to greens, tees and approaches.

  • Green covers put on holes #1, 2, 5, 8, 9, 11, 12, 17, and the putting green.

The forecast for the next week and half looks cold but no significant snowfall is expected. After we finish our closing procedures we will look to finish some items on the course. #11 drainage, seeding of #13 wooded area, #18 drainage are things we will try to tackle as long as weather permits.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Drainage and Closing

The low area in #11 fairway near the ladies tee has been a habitual drainage problem during heavy rains. Yesterday we got started on fixing this issue. We are adding new tile in the low area and tying it will existing tile to the north of #11 fairway-driving range. We will also be adding catch basins in low areas to remove as much surface water as possible. After one day of work, a majority of the trenching is complete and we hope to add tile early next week. This will improve this fairway immensely and have a positive affect on turf quality.

In the coming days we will keep you informed as to when we are going to close the course. Next week's forecast looks warmer around Thanksgiving . . . of course this can change and we will keep you informed on which day we will be closing for the season. We will keep it open as long as weather permits, giving us enough time to put the course to bed for the season. Thanks.

Mound System

The early snow storm and heavy rain has delayed the installation of our new septic mound. As many of you have noticed there is a temporary truck path running across #18 fairway. Since we are going to be putting in drain tile in #18 approach anyway, this will give us a great opportunity not only correct subsurface issues but correct some surface drainage issues as well. By slightly re countering that area we can keep water out of the tiny pockets that used to exist in this approach.

Since the forecast is favorable, they are going to wait until the ground is froze to bring in the tanks and cap the top. We will keep you updated on further progress.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Yesterdays early November snow storm dumped 2-3" of snow on the course. Prior to Wednesday's snowfall we received 1.75" of rain on Monday-Wednesday. Temporarily the course is closed until the snow melts which, may not happen until Saturday or Sunday. Sunday's forecast does look nice with highs in the 50's. We will keep you posted on when the golf course will reopen for play. Due to the heavy rainfall and wet snow carts will not be allowed until further notice.

Friday, November 4, 2011

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 were 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 were turning on overhead irrigation causes 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.

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

Here is a informational link to frost delays:

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Stairs, Root Pruning and Cart Path Edges

Last week we were able to check off a few items from our to-do list.


The new bunker left of #4 green is very pleasing, however a little to steep to climb into so we added some stairs. The stairs are a nice addition and will help those who had a hard time getting in and out.

Root Pruning

The large cottonwood tree behind #7 green is beautiful to look at but tree roots invade the putting surface taking important water and nutrients away from the green. Because the tree is massive in size and has beautiful form we chose to root prune. Root pruning is the process of cutting off tree roots so that they no longer interfere with turf health. We used our trencher to dig down several feet to sever any tree roots on the south side of the tree. Then we simply back filled, tamped and sodded back over the trench. The trench is outside of the drip line so that it does not affect tree health. This is an important process especially in times of drought were turf health can be severely compromised. By doing it now we are better able to give the putting surface the right amount of water without having it taken by invasive tree roots. In the coming years we plan to do some more root pruning where important trees are affecting turf quality (i.e. #18 fairway etc.). Also areas like this will have to be root pruned again once the roots grow back to the green which will take several years. The pictures below show the tree in question and the finished product once sodded. The new sod lines are barely noticeable and one can hardly tell what was done here.

Cart Path Edges

And lastly we began sodding cart path edges that are worn and rutted from cart traffic. We began with areas of cart paths nearest tees and greens. Currently #4 green, #5-#13 tees and #14 tee areas have been sodded along cart paths. We will continue to tackle the worst cart path edges and stake them appropriately to keep cart traffic to a minimum. Below is the finished product along #14 tee, their is no longer any ruts and bare ground!

Mound System and #18 Drainage

Because our existing septic system (located near #18 fairway) is outdated and failing we are going to be installing a new mound system. In the coming days and weeks the new mound system for the clubhouse will be installed between #1 and #18. That entire area will be marked as ground under repair. During the process of building the mound, dump trucks will be driving across the fairway to the site. When playing the hole allow any trucks to cross before hitting and any ruts are to be played as ground under repair. Because it is late in the season the ruts left by the trucks may not be repaired till spring but it will all depend on the weather for the rest of this fall.

Also in the coming days we will be doing drainage work on #18 specifically around the green and in the approach. We have all observed standing water in this area after a heavy rainfall and adding drainage will be a big improvement in times of continual rain. This project will take days to complete and any areas related to the drainage work are to be played as ground under repair.

If weather permits we will also be draining the large low area on the north side of #18 fairway approximately 60 yards from the green. This area holds water for days sometimes weeks depending on how much rain we receive. We will be able to tackle that once the mound system is finished and weather permitting.

We will keep you updated on the status of these events in the coming days and weeks.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Aeration Updates

Core aeration of the fairways is complete and most have healed in nicely. There is still some loose soil and a couple of small areas that pulled up turf but overall it went very well. Most areas that pulled up turf are in weak portions of fairways that are mostly made up of Poa annua. These areas are predominately in low, wet areas where Poa thrives. Because Poa is a weak rooted grass it is more susceptible to damage from aeration. It is not uncommon when aerating 25 acres of turf to have a few small areas that lift up and tear sections of fairways. Most of these areas have been repaired or filled with divot sand to allow them to heal.

For the remainder of the week we will be solid tining tees and topdressing with sand. This process is minimally invasive and should have little, if any affect on your round. Thanks!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Irrigation Leak

At some point last night an irrigation pipe burst on the chipping approach. It flooded #10 fairway, the chipping bunker, and parts of the driving range fairway. We are pumping out the bunker, but if you see any standing water try to stay away from the area. Luckily the areas that are affected are not heavy traffic or "in play" areas of the course. Later today we plan to get started on fixing the leak.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Turf Club

I would like to express sincere thanks to all of the members who took time out of their busy lives to help out with #13 woods project and filling fairway divots. We had 22 members come out to help Saturday October 15th and it really helped us complete these tasks. One of the great things about Ridgeway Country Club is it's members and their willingness to help out the club. Ridgeway's members take pride in their course and this was another example of members going above and beyond!! Here are some pictures of the project on #13.

These people deserve recognition for helping out and thanks for all the hard work!!

Sean Bradley
Boyd Sterling
Dave Battermann
Jeff Tyczkowski
Matt Krenke
Mike Thelen
Ron Armitage
Ron Harder
Steve Bergstrom
Steve Terrien
Todd Baumgartner
Tom Sather
Tom Wroblewski
Tyler Higley
Al Zmyslo
Dave Huculak
Don Winrich
Jim Laus
Kim Johnson
Pat Martenson
Shirley Laus
Stan Martenson


As many of you know XGD systems completed the drainage project on #9 and #12 greens. They did an incredible job and it only took 2 1/2 days to complete. It is only one week after they have finished and you can hardly tell they were here. Below are some pictures of the construction process.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

XDG is completed

Yesterday the XDG Drainage was completed, both #9 and #12 are now open and ready for play. Both greens will be slightly bumpy over the next few days, but with rolling will smooth right out in no time.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

XGD Update

Today XGD systems was able to complete #9 green. Due to the late afternoon rain they were not able to start #12 green. Tomorrow morning they will get started on #12 and you can expect #12 to be closed all day Friday. Depending on weather we are unsure as to when or how long #12 will be closed. We will keep you updated on when it will be open for play. In the next week I also hope to post some pictures of the entire project. So far the work has been incredible and this will have a positive impact on these two greens for years to come!!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

XGD and Fairway Aerification Update

XGD systems has arrived early from another job and will begin work today on #9 green. Depending on when they get their infrastructure set up, your round today may be impacted on #9. The golf shop and I will keep you informed as to the status of the hole. Appropriate signs will be put on the tee if the hole is closed for play. Thanks.

Here again is a link to XGD systems for more information:

The fairway aerification is going well as I have stated in previous posts. There is some soil in some areas along with some small areas of weak turf on #4, #7 swale and right of #18fairway. These areas rose up and have a washboard look to them. When aerating 28 acres of turf it is not uncommon to run into small areas like this from time to time. Those small areas are being repaired today by our staff. We now have 5 holes remaining. Because of the weather forecast we will not be aerating fairways today or tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fairway Aerification Update

A week into the fairway aerification we have made a lot of progress. Holes #1, 5, 7-14, 17, and 18 are completed. Today we are going to be aerating #4 fairway. The projected forecast for the next few days is calling for rain showers. If we have a good chance of rain we will not be aerating fairways on those days. If plugs are laying on the ground and get rained on it can cause a mess and make it nearly impossible to clean up. This will probably push fairway aerification into next week with 5 holes remaining.

The holes that have been aerated are healing in nicely and in some cases completely healed over. The pictures below are taken from #1 fairway, as you can see no aerification holes are present. Some holes however, still have some lose soil at the surface but should disappear with time or wash away during the up coming rains.

Friday, October 7, 2011


Just a reminder for next week on October 13-15th, that XGD systems will be at Ridgeway working on greens #12 and #9. Please refer to prior posts regarding this subject and thanks for all of the generous donations.

Also a reminder that the grass portion of the range tee will be closing for the season Monday October 10th. A communication was sent out by the golf shop regarding this closure. Keep in mind the range is not closed but you will be required to hit off mats. The putting and chipping greens however are going to stay open.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

XGD Drainage Dates and Info

Because of the Fall Fling and many generous donations XGD systems will be here October 13-15 to install drainage on #9 and #12 greens. XGD systems is a great company with an impeccable record of installing drainage on troubled greens that are over saturated. This will be a big improvement on the health and playability of these two greens. Here is a link to their website for any additional information.

Because of the nature of the project we will need to temporarily close the hole that they are working on to allow them to do their work efficiently. They will be doing one hole at a time and once they finish that hole it will be open for play immediately. So in the 3 days of their visit only one hole will be closed at a time and we will keep informed as to which hole to skip. We are sorry for any inconvenience and we thank everyone for their support of this project!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Root Building

In the final days of the golfing season this autumn we are preparing our putting surfaces for winter and the next golfing season. We core aerated our greens a little over one month ago, which has allowed us to grow a deeper thicker root structure. Timely fertilization with an emphasis on Potassium will provide for better plant and root health. Because top growth starts to decline more and more as fall progresses. the plant instead uses its energy to produce roots. Fertilization throughout fall will help improve root structure and overall plant health. In fall we also tend to water greens less, to allow roots to dig deeper in search for water, instead of over watering which keeps roots at the surface.

And lastly, we will be slowly raising the height of cut on our putting surfaces. In the coming weeks we should expect green speeds to be slower. The higher the height of cut, the better and healthier the root structure. By preparing now we give turfgrasses the opportunity to utilize the nice weather to make itself healthy so that it can better withstand the stresses of winter and summer.

Fairway Aerification

This week and next you will notice that we will be core aerating fairways. The process is very similar to how we aerify greens with the exception that fairways take much longer to complete and because of cost we do not topdress. We will be pulling 5/8" cores from fairways and they will be picked up with our core harvester. By picking up the cores we leave a lot less soil at the surface of the fairway giving them a cleaner, less dirty look. Once we pick up cores we blow or drag any left over material off the fairway and we then start the next fairway. Yesterday we completed #1 fairway and today we are going to complete #9 and #14 fairways. Depending on the amount of play, mechanical breakdowns, and the weather conditions we hope to complete 1 to 2 holes a day. We will not start a fairway until the previous fairway is completed. Once fairways are completed we will aerify the walk paths which will take 2 days to complete. Below are pictures of pulling cores (lower left) and cleaning up cores with our core harvestor (lower right).

You can expect fairways that are completed to have a lot holes and some small areas of soil. Overall the fairways will be very playable and softer than we are used too. On the fairways that are aerified, play lift clean and place, this will allow you to clean any mud you may have picked up on your ball. With good weather and some timely rain the fairways should recover nicely, two weeks after they were completed. Below are pictures of #1 fairway once it was completed. As you can see fairways are clean and from afar (lower right picture) you would hardly know we aerated.

Core aerificaiton is an important process for all turfgrasses. It relieves compaction, helps elongate roots, removes thatch, improves soil gases, and helps with water infiltration. Core aerification is vital to improving the health and playability of our fairways.

Thanks and we apologize for any inconvenience.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Seeding and Plugging

In the past week and a half we have been aggressively seeding bare areas in the rough, in fairways, and on greens. The rough was slit seeded with a mixture of rye and Kentucky bluegrass. The greens and fairway areas where slit seeded with 4 different varieties of bentgrass. The hope is to get germination in these areas to allow them to fill in ... that being said, we may have to do subsequent seeding later this year and/or early next spring to allow these areas to succeed. The picture on the right is of Assistant Bill Meyer running the slit seeder through the bare area left of #18 fairway. The slit seeder makes a series of small rows or "slits" that drop seed directly into the ground. This allows all of the seed to make it into the ground making germination more likely then if applied over the top of the ground itself. The left picture is taken from #12 green with all of the slit marks going in 3 different directions.

Along with slit seeding we have been plugging areas on greens like #13 where we have some weak areas. The reason for plugging instead of seeding is because the areas are larger and will take longer to heal. The picture below is of Tony plugging areas of #13 green. By plugging we hope to get more uniform turf coverage and healing before winter.

A Simpler Game

Here is a link to a USGA webpage that has 6 articles pertaining mostly to golf course maintenance and the direction of golf course conditioning as a whole. It makes the case for more natural, sustainable, and realistic playing conditions. As you will find in the articles, it makes operations more cost effective in tough economic times and adds to the overall enjoyment of the game. Enjoy!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Ridgeway Drainage Solutions

This is a comprehensive report given by Stan Martenson. Stan and I have walked and discussed the course's drainage problems. This report outlines our major drainage issues and takes into account the numerous times we have had to cancel events due excess water on the golf course. We all know that after heavy rainfall the golf course is closed. This report gives us both the problems and possible solutions to fixing our drainage issues. I thank Stan for his hard work on this matter and hope you read the document he wrote below:

Ridgeway Drainage Solutions by Stan Martenson
I have been on the Greens and Grounds Committee for 4-5 years. I am a Civil Engineer and work with drainage year round. In addition to normal G&G activities, I joined G&G to help solve drainage issues in 4 areas:
• Regular ponding on the north side of 18 near the fairway tree
• Regular ponding on 11 in front of the silver tee box
• Frequent ponding on 11 at the bottom of the range
• Frequent ponding in 3 fairway low area
After many flooding occurrences, I convinced Tom Wenzel to mark up a course map with the sprinkler system to show all drain tiles lines he was aware of as best he could. I finally got the map in late 2009, transferred the info to AutoCAD, and can reproduce, add to, or change as needed. Discussions in 2010 and early 2011 centered on “Do we have blockages caused by siltation or from damage caused by the sprinkler system installation?”
I found the answer this summer when the Saturday morning Red Coat was postponed. I knew we had heavy rain in the early morning. When I got the e-mail that the course was closed, I headed out to Ridgeway to walk around. AMAZING!!
I had known for a couple years that the Ridgeway Drive residential area SE of the maintenance building drains through the golf course in a 12” pipe. When I got to the course, I couldn’t find the pipe inlet on Ridgeway Drive, water was coming OUT of the manhole on the east side of 12 fairway, the drains on 11, and the drains on 3. The discharge west of 16 tee box sounded like a raging river. I now call it “Trying to put 20#’s of shit in a 5# bag.” Steve Blake and I spent a couple hours looking at various situations and monitoring water flow off the course.
Conclusions and Solutions
The main drain is not plugged. It is too small. Field survey work is completed and we are looking at preliminary sizing. We have good slope across the course. The Town of Clayton is looking at street improvements in the Ridgeway Drive area. We hope to work cooperatively with them to install a new drain across the course in fall of 2012 that is sized to serve both our needs.
The drain in front of 11 silver tee is just a stone sump. A new tile line will be trenched in when time and budget permits.
The ponded area on the north side of 18 can be tiled to existing tile on the south side by the treatment plant when time and budget permits.
The ponded area on 11 at the bottom of the range is drained by 2 – 8” tile to the #12 manhole. Additional evaluation will be made to see if more capacity is needed or if a larger main drain will solve the problem.
The cost of implementing the solutions will be more than offset by saving one large event.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Update Board

Just outside of the proshop we have a wipe board that will help us communicate to the membership about what they can expect for their round of golf. Maintenance practices that inform you what was done to the golf course (mow, roll, etc.) and any potential things that you may have questions on (i.e. the hydraulic leak on #2 and #3 green). Also we will be providing the membership daily stimpmeter readings and post it on the board no later than 8 AM. Larger maintenance events like aerification will also be posted as reminders. Also upcoming events and dates will be posted to serve as reminders.

The board already has been a great communication tool and I hope people stop on their way to the proshop for a look at the daily course conditions.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Today we had a hydraulic leak on #2 and #3.

We chose not to do any heavy hand-watering or use of wetting agents to push contaminates into the soil profile. This would only lead to severely hampering the recovery efforts because the soil would be contaminated making it hard to get grass to grow in that area. By keeping it in the leaf tissue we minimize the impact it may have on that area for the future. We will keep you posted in coming days to update you on the situation. Meanwhile here is an article on hydraulic leaks:

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Aerification articles

Many people have asked me why we have made the effort to aerify greens twice a year since our season is so short. Quite simply our greens need some long term modifying as it relates to organic matter, drainage, firmness, playability, etc. In the short-term after another record summer of high temperatures and rain our greens need this helpful process to improve plant health after this period of stress. Elongated roots, better soil oxygen, compaction relief, soil modification, and removal of unwanted organic matter are just some of the benefits of aerification.

I have a few helpful links that can further shed light on the subject. They relate to aerification and the need to aerify after the harsh weather we have experianced the past 2 seasons.


Aerification Healing

Below are two pictures taken today from our 18th green. One is completely healed in and the other is almost completely healed. The heavy rains and a timely fertilizer application have helped the greens recover nicely. Today we are at day 12 and we are happy to say most of the greens have recovered or are close to healed in. This is surprising considering we went with 5/8" tines at the tightest spacing. Typically we have went with 1/4" or 1/2" tines, but the larger diameter tine was used to remove as much material as possible and allow for more root growth. The hot, rainy summer has greatly diminished our roots and this process will help greatly!

Overall the aerification went well except for a couple of mechanical problems that left blemishes on #2 and #16 greens. Both situations have been fixed and should blend in nicely over time. You may have noticed that we also aerified and topdressed approaches. This was done to allow for our approaches to mirror our greens in firmness, quality, and playability. Overtime with the same practice of aerifying with greens our approaches should firm up, drain better and produce more options around the greens.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Labor Day Weekend

This morning we recieved more rain with more rain on the way. So far since yesterday morning we have recieved 2.5" of rain. Because we have recieved very little rain lately we are able to let carts out. However because our greens hold a lot of water we were unable to mow or roll greens this morning so expect greens to be slower. Hopefully we will get a break so we can mow and roll tommorrow.

Friday, September 2, 2011

High winds take down more trees!

This morning at around 9:30 we lost approximately 12 trees and some large branches. 70 + mph winds and heavy rain pelted the course leaving behind a large mess of debris. Most of the damaged trees where between #5, #13, and #14. Many white pines, ashes and silver maples where affected.

Currently we are cutting up the trees that are the most in play. Currently the greens are clear for play and tomorrow we will continue to blow tees and fairways. Also this weekend we will be working on the trees that are out of play to get them removed from the golf course. Tonight and tomorrow is calling for more rain and storms, hopefully without high winds. If we receive a lot rain in the next couple of days it may hinder removing the rest of the trees from the golf course in an efficient manner. Please be patient while we clean up the mess. Thanks.

For those who are curious, this is the 4th storm of the season that has taken trees from Ridgeway!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Weather, problems and solutions . . . oh my!

I haven't posted in awhile and I will make it a priority to keep the membership up to date on the relevant issues at Ridgeway Country Club.

Below is the July and early August high and low temperatures recorded here at Ridgeway CC. I put in the days where the high temperature was over 85 degrees or the low temperature was over 68 degrees. In many cases during this period, both the high and the low temperatures exceeded both marks. In fact, we had a 10 day stretch where the temperature was never lower than 68 degrees and as high as 96 degrees. As you may recall we had many days of high humidity and dew points in the upper 60's and low 70's. In this time frame we also experienced 8.2" of rain which only made the situation worse. Excessive heat both daytime/nighttime, high humidity, excessive rain events, little wind, and dew points in the 70's in not a good situation for turfgrasses. Keep in mind that turfgrass roots die-off at 70-72 degree soil temperatures. Rainfall and high humidity kept the soil oversaturated and on certain greens we saw some decline. The combination of all of these weather factors, our heavy clay soil profile, lack of ability to evacuate water after rain events, our grass types (mainly Poa annua), poor air circulation, and weakened areas from winterkill all are contributing factors to turf decline. #6, #9, #12, and #13 green thinned out in areas and we took a conservative approach to managing these greens. Skipping mowing, high heights of cut on these greens, decreased rolling all kept these greens healthier. By simply mowing #6 green from .140" to .160" we saw rapid recovery in the low areas of this green.

Here is the days of note from July 1st-August 3rd.

July 1st 92/75
2nd 88/68
3rd Nice
4th 87/60
5th 88/68
6th-7th Nice
8th 88/62
9th 87/64
10th Nice
11th 90/70
12th-15th Nice
16th 87/69
17th 93/71
18th 92/72
19th 92/70
20th 96/72
21st 81/71
22nd 88/69
23rd 86/72
24th 82/68
25th 85/62
26th- 28th Nice
29th 88/66
30th 91/65
31st 90/69
Aug 1st 86/72
2nd 84/74
3rd 83/71

What does this mean from the golfers perspective? It means you may have greens that are not mowed or rolled. Also some that are mowed, are cut higher than healthy greens, so some inconsistent speeds are to be expected. Overall the greens in these types of situations will be slower overall. The #1 priority is to maintain turf health, not green speed! Being as conservative as we have been, we still had areas of decline but luckily the areas were small.

The weather has been great lately and we have not had hot, rainy weather; so why have green speeds and firmness not reflected what we are used too despite the nicer weather? It would seem that once the weather gives way we could go back; pick up speed and firmness on the putting surfaces. But in reality, the roots we had at the end of June are nonexistent. In some cases we have roots that are less than 1" in depth. This means we still need to be conservative with greens heights and water more frequently than we would like too. A higher height of cut, in the long run, will equal deeper roots. The recent dry weather has been good but we must keep things wetter because the roots are at the surface. Last Sunday and Monday we core aerified greens and this process will bring much needed relief to Ridgeway's putting greens.

What are the solutions to our problems?

There are many solutions to the problems that plague Ridgeway's greens. The weather is one solution that is out of our hands. But there are many other long-term solutions that can help us combat turf decline in adverse weather situations. I break down good greens in 3 main categories: drainage, sunlight, and air flow. They include:

1.) Improve the internal drainage on our problem greens. Examples would be #4, #6, #9, #11, #12, and #13. Internal drainage on these greens would allow for the evacuation of water thus making them more like our other greens. They would be healthier because excess water would not be trapped at the surface and allow for greater root growth. The likelihood of scalping and higher/different height of cuts on these greens would be greatly diminished. Stay tuned for more details . . .

2.) Continue to core aerify, deep-tine, and frequent sand topdressing. These processes will diminish the presence of organic matter which holds water at its surface. Other benefits are deeper roots, increased soil oxygen, firmer greens, smoother greens, thatch dilution, and less overall water holding capacity. These processes are vital to good greens health and playability. They are however invasive to the playability of the course and the benefits of a consistent program are not realized till years down the road! But those who adhere to these practices are healthier and more playable. Skipping these practices means we revert back to shallower roots, poor soil oxygen, more organic matter, and we lose the ability to condition the golf course in a manner that people have come to expect at other clubs.

3.) Environment: Air Circulation and Sunlight. We have done a great job of changing the environments of some of our putting surfaces by selectively cutting down trees. That being said we could do a little more to improve air flow and sunlight on some of our problem greens (i.e. #12). Also the addition of fans in certain areas of the golf course would help tremendously.

4.) Sound water management. This means deep and infrequent watering supplemented by hand watering when necessary. By going deep and infrequent we allow roots to dig deeper to search for water. Deeper roots=equals healthier plants. Over watering causes shorter roots, soft conditions, slower greens, disease issues, poor soil oxygen, and an increase in organic matter.

If Ridgeway continues to have a consistent program of topdressing, aerifciation, and water management we can slowly improve turf health and playability. Drainage and selective tree management will help curb turf decline in periods of stress. Lastly a little luck from mother nature would be nice too!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Wind Strom takes down trees …

Monday morning at 9 AM we experienced a severe storm that produced 70 MPH wind gusts that knocked down several of our trees, most notably the beautiful Hickory tree right of #1 fairway. With the hard work of my assistant’s and our seasonal crew we were able to clean up the trees Monday. We expect to remove the stumps in the near future… Thanks!

Weather related diseases

With the unusual hot and humid weather we are experiencing the past few days Ridgeway is very susceptible to a variety of turfgrass diseases. Most diseases are fairly common and can be treated very easily because they are cured with our regular spray regimen. However, Pythium Blight is a disease that is very severe and can cause major damage in the right environmental conditions. Pythium affects most turfgrasses and can kill plants in a matter of hours in the right situations. Abnormally hot humid weather, along with untimely rains make this disease flare up. The pathogen is always present but it needs the right environmental conditions to affect turfgrasses. Pythium Blight is a water borne pathogen and can move very rapidly by water, foot traffic and even cart tracks. By simply walking in the disease you can spread it to other parts of the golf course and once the grass gets the disease it is dead in a matter of hours if not minutes.

We have sprayed our tees, greens, fairways, and green banks for the disease however because of the enormous cost of spraying rough it has been left untreated. The past several mornings we have noticed Pythium in our roughs. If you plan on playing golf in the early morning hours (i.e. before 8 AM) you may experience delays because we are diligently scouting the golf course for the disease. Your patience is needed to allow us to better keep the golf course out of harm’s way. If ropes are on the golf course please abide by them and do NOT under any circumstances walk into that area. If you need a ball please ask Jason Hogue, Bill Verbrick or myself to rectify any lost ball. You patience and understanding is greatly appreciated!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Winter Kill Woes

The extended ice cover and constant freeze-thaw cycles have taken its toll on our predominately Poa annua greens. In particular, greens on holes 9, 11, 12, 13, and 17 have the most extensive damage with roughly 1/4-1/2 of the green affected. This blog post hopes to help the membership understand the different types of winter kill and why winter kill occurs. Lastly, we will go over our short-term and long-term goals of minimizing our risk of winter kill.

There are many factors that encourage winter kill to occur they include: grass species, lack of drainage, over abundance of trees near the putting surfaces, and weather. Poa annua is much more susceptible to winter kill than any other grass. At Ridgeway, we have about 80-90% Poa annua on our greens while many other courses have much higher populations of bentgrass. This is why courses in close proximity many have winter kill while others may not. That being said, there are also differing varieties of Poa annua. Poa annua var. annua is a truly annual species of grass while Poa annua var. reptans is a perennial that seeds out in spring and lives on as a perennial. The truly annual species of Poa is obviously weaker and more susceptible to stress. Bentgrasses are much hardier against winter kill and are one of the main reasons golf courses renovate greens to make it the dominate species.

Lack of drainage is a huge factor that affects winter kill because melting snow and water can more easily get trapped on the greens surface. Because it gets trapped, subsequent cold temperatures freeze the trapped water and form a nice layer of ice. Ice, as I will mention later is detrimental to turfgrasses especially Poa annua. Improving drainage will greatly help in minimizing turf loss due to ice formation and crown hydration problems.

Trees that border or in close proximity to the putting surface can increase the likely hood of winter kill. Spruce trees and other conifers are especially detrimental because of the dense shade it casts over the putting surfaces during the short days of winter. Conifers that are to the south and south-east are problematic because the greens are virtually covered in shade for the entire day in mid-winter. Shade inhibits the sun from melting any ice cover and keeps the temperatures colder than that of greens in full sun. Selectively removing trees particularly south of the putting surfaces is a smart idea to allow for more sunlight in winter months.

The most important factor and one that Superintendents have yet to control, is the weather. Some years are better than others for winter kill and some areas get hit hard while others are left unscathed. For instance, the Milwaukee-Chicago area was hit hard by winter kill last year, however just north of the Milwaukee area was seemingly unaffected at all. This year at Ridgeway we received a lot of snow and a lot of melting. This can be problematic because melting snow pools up and refreezes over and over again. This type of scenario usually produces ice cover that sits on the green for extended periods of time. Having talked to several superintendents they have also experienced winter kill this spring. Golf courses with more Poa annua and poor drainage are more affected this year than courses with higher populations of bentgrass and better drainage. Other forms of weather can also be problematic. Winter weather that produces no snow and bitter cold is problematic, it causes dessication. Other scenarios are times when mid-winter thaws are followed by extreme temperature drops that shock turfgrass plants. And in some cases regardless turf species, drainage, and trees the weather causes extensive winter kill to the point nothing could have been done to prevent it.

There are many types of winter-kill, they are as follows: extended ice cover, crown hydration, direct temperature kill, desiccation, and snow mold diseases. In a year where winter kill is present anyone of these factors can cause turf death. Again Poa annua is the most susceptible to all of these forms of winter-kill while bentgrass is almost rarely affected.

Snow mold diseases affect turf over winter and are usually not an issue for Ridgeway because we spray tees, greens and fairways with the proper fungicides that protect the plants over winter. Both bentgrasses and Poa annua are highly susceptible to snow mold diseases thus requiring the same fungicides for proper control.

Desiccation is winter kill that is associated with very cold winters with very little to no snow cover. The plant is then exposed to cold temperatures and high winds. This has an effect on the turf similar to putting your hand on dry ice. There are many ways to protect turfgrass plants from desiccation, one way is by putting out covers over the putting surfaces that help protect the plants from cold and wind. The other method is by applying moderate amounts of sand that act as a blanket and protect the crown of the plants from extreme cold. Both methods are successful against desiccation, we chose to cover our greens, tees and approaches with sand. We have enough covers to use on 8 of our greens at Ridgeway, by putting sand over our greens we were able to cover all 18 greens instead of just 8. The other side benefit is that we are able to incorporate the excess sand into our greens profile. Increasing the amount of sand in our greens profile is one of our higher priorities that our staff and greens committee feel is very important. Burying greens with sand in late fall is a common practice that many golf courses use to protect the plant overwinter while adding sand to their greens profile. A couple of months ago there was a blog post about this exact topic and reading it will give you more insight on why sand and not covers.

Direct temperature kill is another form of winter kill that happens typically when warm mid winter thaws leave the plant unprotected and large swings in temperature shock the plant causing it to die. This happens usually on exposed turf in a short time frame when temperatures go from lets say 45-50 degrees to sub-zero in a matter of hours. Usually sand and covers do an excellent job of protecting the greens from this type of injury. However, in extreme cases nothing can be done to prevent this type of turf loss. Again Poa annua is most susceptible to this type of turf loss.

Extended ice cover and crown hydration are the last two forms of winter injury that I would like to discuss because they are main reasons for turf loss at Ridgeway this year. Continual snows and several thaws left solid ice cover for many days on our Poa greens. Initially, we were able to remove ice with black sand and milograinte (see recent blog post). Poa annua greens can only with stand 30-60 days of ice cover before carbon dioxide reaches toxic levels. The plant then dies from a lack of gas exchange a term called anoxia. Bentgrass can survive 90-120 days of ice before it has issues with an excess of carbon dioxide. As you can see Poa annua is much weaker and can succumb to winter kill due to ice cover way before bentgrass. In fact, it is rare to see bentgrass affected by ice because 90+ days of ice cover is very, very uncommon. Crown hydration is somewhat related to ice cover because can be caused by poor greens drainage. Crown hydration is when melting snow or rain water is taken in by the plant and a sudden change in air temperature causes the plants to burst. This would be similar to taking a plastic soda bottle at room temperature and putting it in your freezer, after a few hours the bottle bursts. This is a good analogy of what happens with crown hydration and turfgrasses. Once again Poa annua is more susceptible to this type of winter injury. Bentgrasses are more resilient and can withstand this type of injury better than Poa. This scenario was the case in late March when the golf course was water logged and free of snow. A wet late season snow storm dumped 10" of new snow. Standing water underneath was exposed to 4 days in a row of temperatures in the single digits. This scenario in combination with excess ice cover early in the winter provided a situation in which the weak Poa annua was unable to fight against winter kill.

Here is an article about crown hydration:

Now that we have discussed why winter kill occurs and the different types of winter kill we can go over what we can do to minimize winter kill on our greens at Ridgeway. In the past few greens and grounds committee meetings we have discussed the importance of drainage on the golf course. In fact, the committee and staff made it our number one goal going forward. Improving drainage on greens will minimize water pooling up in low spots and curtail the chances of ice and crown hydration issues. Our long-term plan is to drain #4, 6. 9. 11. 12. 13. 16 and 17 greens to allow water to move into the profile better. With this new drainage we will be able to put large drains with a cup cutter hole that will act as a drain like you have in a bath tub. Also increasing the amount of sand in our greens profile will also improve drainage and is one of the reasons we chose to sand our greens over using covers. In conjunction with improving drainage we have been selectively cutting trees around putting surfaces so shade does not interfere with the flow of water in winter. By implementing these methods we should see an improvement long-term with regards to winter injury. In fact most of the issues concerning the golf course have been or are being addressed in our 2011 maintenance plan and the new long-range plan.

For more information about ice and winter injury look at past blog posts about some of the issues we encountered last winter. There you can also find professional articles related to ice and other forms of winter kill. Also in the next couple of days look for blog posts the show what steps are being taken to bring the greens back from winter damage.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Ice Revisited

The latest article by Bob Vavrek, the USGA senior agronomist for our region, takes a look at some of the potential ice problems this spring. About a month ago, I wrote about ice that was present on our greens and what measures we took to combat this situation. Vavrek's piece goes a little more in depth but hits many of the main points that my post does . . . it may also help to revisit my post or read if you have not done so already.

Link to Bob Vavrek's article:,-Icy-Decision---February-2011/

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Master Plan

Here is an interesting essay written by golf course architect Tom Doak and his associate Bruce Hepner. Mr. Doak is one of the most accomplished golf course architects in the field today, boasting many courses that rank in the top 100 in the world and US. While being a great golf course architect he has also written many books on the subject, which are also worthy of reading. Mr. Doak and his associates at Renaissance Golf Design also renovate/restore older golf courses. In fact, they have been involved with work at clubs in Wisconsin like North Shore Golf Club, Milwaukee Country Club and Bluemound Country Club. The purpose for giving the link to his essay is to point out how to make changes to Ridgeway without having to pay the large fees associated with having a master plan. The essay outlines what subtle but important changes can be done without the need to hire an architect. Fortunately for us we have been or will be doing all the things that are outlined in the essay. Enjoy!


The new year brought us the gift of ice this winter as an early thaw with temperatures in the upper 40's and low 50's created considerable snow melt. Immediately following the warm temperatures, cold nights around zero trapped and froze the water that had been melting during the end of December. The result was a nice layer of black ice on many of our putting surfaces. Some greens where completely clear of ice and some where completely covered in ice. #11, #12, #13, and #16 greens where one-hundred percent covered in ice. Greens like #5 and #10 had no ice at all.

What does this mean? Ice cover on a green can cause considerable damage if left on the putting surface for long periods of time. The duration of ice cover, before damage will occur, depends on the species of grass that is under the ice. Ridgeway Country Club's greens are predominately (80% +) Poa annua and the duration of ice cover before damage will occur can vary from 30-60 days depending on the what research article you read. Bentgrass however, can withstand 90 and in some cases 120 days of ice cover. Ice cover produces a scenario where gas exchange is greatly hindered and the grass plant suffocates to death. Anoxia is the term used to describe this phenomenon and is basically turf death due to a lack of oxygen. In order to minimize turf loss due to anoxia, ice cover must be removed to allow the grass plant to breath and receive the oxygen it needs to live.

The above pictures are of the greens after the snow was removed and only the ice was showing.

These last two pictures are after black sand and milogranite was applied to the surface of the ice. The last picture shows melting of the ice after black sand and milorgranite was applied.

Ice on Ridgeway's greens formed on New Year's day and last week we made an effort to remove snow and expose ice to the sun. Remember that ice can cause damage with 30-60 days of coverage on Poa annua greens. Since we where at 20+ days an effort was made to speed up the melting process. Our crew went out and surveyed the greens to see how much of every green was covered in ice. Then snow was removed on only the portions of the greens that had ice cover. After the removal of snow, milogranite (a black organic fertilizer) and black sand where applied directly over the top of the ice. The black color helped absorb the suns heat making ice melt happen quicker. Unfortunately Wednesday and Thursday last week were not sunny as had been predicted by meteorologist but Friday saw a few hours of sun which melted 75-80% of the putting surfaces. Now, only time will tell if any damage to the putting surfaces occurred, more than likely minimal damage occurred because we where able to remove a large percentage of the ice to allow proper gas exchange. My only concern now is the remaining ice in the low spots of some of our greens. An effort to melt this ice will be made sooner than later depending on the weather forecast.

Many important factors must be taken into account when removing or melting ice from greens. One factor is the temperature that is being forcasted immediately following the removal of snow and ice. If snow and ice is removed with cold temperatures or high winds, this can cause other forms of winter injury due to desiccation or direct temperature kill. Snow is a good insulator from the elements, which is why we only removed as much snow as needed to melt ice. A few snow storms since Friday have helped cover the greens to keep them insulated against the wind and cold. Another factor to consider is, what turf species predominates our putting surfaces and what action if any is needed to protect your greens. Because we have a large Poa annua population it is imperative to get the ice off before the 30-60 day window. If we would have mostly bentgrass more than likely no action would be taken because 90 + days of ice cover is needed for problems to arise.

People have asked: why not just use greens covers and we won't have ice? In my experience green covers do little to combat ice coverage. Simply put, if we had green covers we would have ice on top of covers and would have to go through the same process as I explained up above. Green covers work well for other types of winter injury, that being said so does burying greens in a nice layer of sand. We chose to bury our putting surfaces in sand because we could protect all 18 greens, tees, and approaches from dessication. Conversely, we only have enough covers to protect about 8 greens. Applying a nice layer of sand has some nice side benefits as stated by Bob Vavrek in an article written in the USGA green section record, titled "There Is No Time Like The Present."

Vavrek states this about late fall topdressing,

"Late fall topdressing is the poor man’s cover that provides turf fairly good protection from wind desiccation. The often-overlooked benefit of sanding greens before winter is thatch management. Root growth on greens will continue through fall and into winter until the ground freezes. The sand that buffers turf from the damaging effects of winter wind also will help dilute the late fall/early spring organic matter that is recycled into the greens. In effect, pre-winter topdressing provides an effective bridge between the last coring or topdressing operation of fall, and the initial coring or topdressing operation of the following spring. Just how much sand to apply before winter will vary from course to course. Greens maintained at higher heights of cut can accommodate more sand than greens at short heights of cut. When in doubt, it makes more sense to err on the light side of late fall topdressing."

The decision to go with a layer of sand instead of covers was one that was well thought out and took into account many important factors. Because we are in the process of aggressively removing thatch and organic matter from our putting surfaces, the winter topdressing in lieu of covering 8 greens was a no brainer.

One thing research is conclusive on, is that greens that have poor internal drainage, are mostly Poa annua, and/or have trees (especially spruce trees) planted closely to the putting surface are more apt to see winter injury. By improving our sand profile, improving drainage, and removing selected trees around greens we can help combat some of our winter injury woes.

Here are some other articles that discusses ice and other related winter injury.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Reading Material

Dustin Riley, the golf course superintendent at Oconomowoc Country Club, wrote this article recently in Golf Course Industry Magazine discussing the importance and reliance of venting, particularly in stressful times of the year. As many of you know it is a practice that we routinely utilize to "help out" our turfgrass plants in the heat of the summer. For those who do not understand the practice of venting and its benefits can read this article to find out more information.