Saturday, August 20, 2016

Course Notes, 8/20/2016

A brutal stretch of rain, heat and humidity is looking like it is coming to an end.  Within the last week, the golf course has received over 6.5" of rain, and more is pouring down as I write this.  Many areas to the west of Elcona have received double the amounts we have, so I count my blessings that rainfall has not been greater.  I would like to take a moment and explain what is causing what everyone is observing out on the course, mainly on the greens.

Soil conditions now course wide are quite saturated and currently cannot handle even small amounts of water quickly.  Combine these water logged soils with daytime highs in the mid to upper 80's and heat indexes approaching 100 degrees, and it does not take long to create soil temperatures above 85 degrees.  These conditions create prime environments for disease and turf struggles, as roots begin to die off and they do not come back until soil temperatures consistently stay below 80.  Roots and turf that do not die off are quite easily susceptible to fungal diseases.
Canopy temperature on 2 green, one day after a 4.5" rain event.  This is not good!

Pythium effects, 8 green
The brown areas of turf on some of the greens are areas that have succumbed to Pythium Root Rot.  This disease affects mainly the creeping bentgrass in the greens, as the healthy Poa annua surrounding it depicts.  With the weather and extreme soil temperatures we have experienced in the last 6 weeks, extreme environmental stress has finally shown us the symptoms of probable infection that occur during late spring.  We have treated all greens twice with fungicides to combat this pathogen, and a third will be coming this week.  A regularly scheduled venting of the greens is also coming Monday, which will allow us to poke .25" x 5" deep holes into the greens surface to dry out the rootzone and allow it to drain better, as well as promote new rooting and replacing harmful carbon dioxide in the soil with fresh oxygen.  The good news is that I am seeing new plant tissue emerge from many of these brown areas, a sign that the disease is in check and recovery is coming, which will be helped tremendously by the cooler weather coming this week.

Pythium effects, 3 green
Please note that recovery will take some time in these areas.   Any areas that do not recover will be plugged out from our nursery.  We have two large bentgrass/Poa nurseries that were established mainly plugs taken from our greens.  These nurseries are maintained exactly the same as the greens on the golf course and are an invaluable asset to have on hand.

Many of the collar edges and higher trafficked areas around the greens have also succumbed to the extreme stresses and traffic that the last 6 weeks have brought.  Populations of our old friend Poa trivialis (roughstalk bluegrass) that have emerged in the approaches have gone dormant from this weather.  Again, I am seeing new plant tissue emerging from these areas, so recovery is ongoing.
Rough bluegrass, April 30th on 11 approach
Same patch 8/12/16

While I am not satisfied by any stretch with these current issues and conditions, the overall health of the golf course is good.  We will continue to be diligent with our maintenance practices to aid recovery and utilize all means available to return normal playing conditions as soon as possible.

 Finally, we lost a quarter of the large Burr Oak near 5 green (affectionately known as "Gus") Saturday morning.  This tree is estimated to be about 250 years old, and there are many cables that have been installed over the years to stabilize and balance its weight.  This morning one of the cables snapped, causing the southeast part of the tree to fall.  It has since been re-cabled and stabilized, but the area will be roped off to cart traffic for the time being.

If you have any questions, or would like to discuss the topics I mentioned above with me, please contact me at, or call me at my office.  I am more than happy to discuss and explain what is happening on the course with you.


Monday, August 1, 2016

Course Notes, 8/1/16

With the recent stretch of heat and humidity, the greens have been showing signs of stress and the need for some recuperation.  Canopy temperatures have hovered near 105-110 degrees, this means that it is time for us to play defense!  To allow the turf the chance to recover and grow new shoots, we are venting all greens this morning, and temporarily raising the mowing height of cut from .125" to .130". Rolling will be reduced as well to further limit traffic damage on this turf.  Our staff will be out as often as needed to check for any signs of wilt, and syringing on a regular basis to cool the turf.

Canopy temperature on 1 green.  Hot!

This will lead to a temporary reduction in green speed, but will also allow for the turf to generate new leaf tissue to better generate the energy it needs to survive.  Given that the forecast this week calls for more heat and humidity, this is the best course of action to reduce stress on this turf and allow these areas to recover.  My goal is to return mowing heights back to normal as soon as these areas show sufficient healing and recovery and when the weather returns to more seasonable conditions.

If you have any questions, please contact me at  I appreciate your patience and understanding with this matter.  Have a great week!


Saturday, July 23, 2016

Course Notes, 7/23/16

With all of the heat and humidity in the past week, our maintenance practices have shifted to a more defensive position.  Greg wrote a tremendous blog post in 2013 that you can read here about how we can use different maintenance practices to defend the turf as best as we can through tough stretches of weather.  While I have not raised mowing heights, dragging the dew off of fairways and keeping irrigation to a minimum have been our main weapons to help fight turf stress.  Plant protectants are helping us as well, although they have been performing well without increasing rates.  The humidity has also led to some decreased green speed, with the added moisture in the air being taken up by the plant, creating larger leaf blade surfaces.  

Many afternoons have the staff and I syringing the greens turf to help cool it down.  When temperatures get above 85 degrees, Poa annua has difficulty photosynthesizing (making energy), and uses more energy then it can produce, causing stress damage.  By applying a fine amount of water, the turf is temporarily cooled off to relieve some of that stress.  This syringing creates the same effect as your skin feels if you ran quickly through a sprinkler.  

The below video was taken by one of our newer management tools, a thermal imaging camera.  Watch the temperatures before, during, and after our assistant superintendent Matt syringes the turf on #13 green.  
In a matter of a couple minutes, the turf canopy goes from near 100 degrees, down to 80, and back up in the 90's.  You wouldn't think this would do much to relieve the turf, but it helps tremendously.

The picture below is 15 green taken with the thermal camera, and notice that the higher heights of turf are 10-20 degrees cooler than the green, and that the 100 degree canopy temperature on the greens turf is only cooler than the aluminum on my cart, which measured at 114 degrees.  The lower height of cut on the turf, the higher the canopy temperatures can be.

Thermal image of 15 green

The great news is that the heat wave and humidity is expected to return to more manageable levels just in time for next week's Walter O. Wells Invitational, which means we will be back to normal maintenance practices and be more aggressive in achieving the conditions that you expect.

As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask me at  Thanks, and have a great weekend!


Sunday, June 26, 2016

Course Notes, 6/26/16

Elcona hosted a very successful Indiana State Amateur Championship, and we would like to congratulate Matt Christensen on his victory.  Well played!  I would also like to congratulate our staff for their efforts leading up to and during the championship.  I am very proud of them and the product they produced.  

#1 fairway bunker being pumped
17 Fairway bunker
Elcona staff moving sand back on 17
On Wednesday night, the course received 2.45" of rain, in the span of 40 minutes.  While all the playing surfaces were free of standing water when we arrived Thursday morning, all of the water had run off into the bunkers, creating washouts that were the worst I have ever seen out here. 30 out of the 50 bunkers we have on course needed to be pumped out, and all of them had silt contamination.  While we were able to repair them to get them playable for the final round, there is still work to do.  Over the next week, our staff will be removing additional contamination, checking sand depths, and sieving the rocks that washed to the surface during this rain event.  Also, we will be installing new sand on a couple of the bunkers on #3, and placing the old sand in select fairway bunkers.  
Rocks left behind on 17

Large rock in 17 fairway bunker
Many of you ask where all the rocks come from in the bunkers.  Quick hitting, large rain events like last week's is a major summertime reason.  The sand washes away, exposing the soil below.  The soil washes into the sand and mixes (contaminates) together, leaving rocks at the edges of the bunkers.  

17 fairway bunker after repairs
11 greenside bunker contamination
Chef Casey's garden
Seed to Feed garden
Finally, the Seed to Feed garden is doing well and starting to show blooms on the squash that is planted there.  Onions and zucchini are also planted there and doing great.  Chef Casey's garden was relocated to the west of the Seed to Feed garden and is thriving in its new location.  Here's hoping to a successful harvest that he can share with you in the clubhouse this summer.  

If you have any questions, please contact me at  Thanks, and have a great week!