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!