Monday, April 14, 2014

Poa: A Golf Courses Greatest Liability.

In the game of golf turf management, mother nature always has the upper hand.  She is the judge, jury and executioner.  So far our turf has looked very good coming out of winter.  Up to this point both bentgrass and Poa seem to be doing well and have broken dormancy. We have mowed all of our fine turf areas and at this point things appear to be going along nicely ... until this past weekend.

Taken 4-14-14
Taken 4-13-14

Winter kill scenarios like crown hydration are problematic at this time of year particularly when you have Poa plants that break dormancy, start growing and start taking in water.  Any situation where you have Poa plants breaking dormancy, wet weather, followed by cold weather you have a recipe for crown hydration. Crown hydration in plants is similar to taking a sledge hammer to a glass window,  cell membranes in Poa plants burst similar to breaking glass and cause death of that plant. The next couple nights are expected to be very cold.  Tonight in particular lows are supposed to reach the upper teens.  After receiving 5"+ of rain the ground is way past field capacity and the Poa plants are full of water.  This could lead to some crown hydration which means death of some Poa plants.

What can we do about protecting Poa plants at this point?

Nothing.  Our only saving grace is if the snow stays and acts as a blanket to protect it from the cold air. Or it does not get as cold as the forecast is predicting.

Low areas and poorly draining areas with Poa are at risk for crown hydration.  And greens with large amounts of Poa are at risk.  For example #14 green is 95+% bentgrass and has virtually no risk of damage while #4 green has ~50% Poa with some poor drainage characteristics is at high risk.

What can we do in the future to protect against this type of injury?

PROMOTE BENTGRASS!! If we have damage occur it will be on weak Poa, not on bentgrass.  We have made great strides in promoting bent over Poa, that being said we still have some greens and some areas with significant amount of Poa.  Also improving drainage especially surface drainage will go a long way in keeping turf drier which will ultimately help curb winter kill and summer stress.

Remember that Poa annua is a golf courses greatest liability in this climate. It is by nature weak and succumbs to winter and summer stress.  99% of winter injury occurs on Poa and a large majority of  summer injury occurs on Poa.  Poa requires more water, fertilizer and pesticides to stay alive.  It becomes bumpy and uneven which can impede smooth consistent ball roll on greens.

I know that I talk a lot about Poa on this blog and that is because of all of the liability issues it presents as a turf manager. But keep this in mind during the summer months, when the golf course is a little firm or you see some brown areas from lack of water, or you see some trees that have been removed, remember this blog post about how Poa as a golf courses greatest liability.  Remember that a soft, overly green golf course is an unhealthy golf course full of liability.  With all of the winter kill issues, summer stress issues, playability issues,  and large cost involved in maintaining Poa, would you invest in it long term? 

Here are some great articles about winterkill and crown hydration:

Thursday, April 3, 2014

What's New for 2014

Course Update

Currently we little snow left on the course but still need some much needed warm weather to remove the several feet of frost from the property.  With rain then snow in our forecast, its going to be awhile before we open unless the weather makes a drastic change.  Keep in mind the average opening date at Ridgeway is around April 7th-12th taking into account 40+ years of history.

What's New for 2014

With the season nearing I thought I would take this time to announce what's new for the 2014 season.  During the offseason, the greens and grounds committee takes a look at what items or practices it wants improve for the next year. This season is no different as we have some great and exciting things we want to unveil. 

  • The last couple of seasons we have looked at ways to incorporate some new landscape/perennial flower areas to the golf course.  We removed a majority of the numerous small beds in preparation of adding larger less numerous beds, located in high impact areas of the course.  Starting this spring we will be adding several landscape additions to the property that will be located in these parts of the course:
    • Landscape beds near the clubhouse between #1 tee and #18 green.
    • Below the deck by the clubhouse.
    • Between the wildflower and natural area on #13 across from #13 tee. Now that the natural area on #13 is reaching maturity we are adding this bed with the hopes of making this area the most beautiful on the course.
  • We have received a lot of feedback regarding greens firmness vs. approach/fairway firmness.  This season our goal is make fairways and approaches firmer than that of our greens.  This will allow balls to roll up onto the putting surface.  Another aspect of this maintenance change is to closely monitor greens firmness so that well executed shots hold the green better than in past couple of seasons.  Several factors will play into our watering decisions in 2014: playability, aesthetics, firmness, and plant health will play a role in how we water.
  •  This season we will be leasing a large PTO driven detacher that will help keep our fairways in great condition.  Thatch is a problem for turf because it impedes water movement, shallows roots, and makes a great home for pests like insects/fungi. We anticipate dethatching fairways this spring.
  • In 2014 we are also going to be rolling fairways and approaches so that we improve ball roll without sacrificing aesthetics.  This goes back to earlier in this post about firmer fairways and approaches. The side benefit to rolling our fairways and approaches is improved turf health and less disease pressure.
  • Collars and perimeters around greens are some of the toughest areas to maintain on a golf course.  This season we have a multi-faceted approach to dealing with these areas so they are healthy and vibrant as the rest of the course. 
We are excited for the 2014 golf season to start.  The new changes are nice additions to our ever evolving maintenance regimen.

The greens and grounds crew hopes to see you out golfing very soon!

Please check this blog and our twitter feed @RidgewayCCTurf for continuing updates as the season nears...