Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Course Notes, 11/21/17

Our 2017 course winterization is now in full stride.  The pesky leaves are finally falling at a faster clip and each day brings us one day closer to having that time consuming process finished for the year. 

The irrigation system was successfully blown out and put to bed last week.  This process utilizes an industrial sized air compressor that fill the pipes with a high volume air flow at a lower pressure to flush out as much water from all piping and rotors as possible.  This process takes us about 2.5 days to complete and is one that I am happy to finish with no major issues!

Plant protectants have been applied to greens, tees, and the practice facility to help guard against snow mold infection.  Fairways and green surrounds will receive their application later this week or early next week, depending on the weather conditions. 

Finally, this coming Monday we will be applying our final topdressing to the putting surfaces.  This last application is a much heavier application than normal, and is not normally broomed in.  This is to maximize the protection and insulation the sand provides the Poa annua that is predominant on the greens at Elcona.  The above picture of 1 green shows what last year's application looked like after a rain event washed the sand further into the canopy.  The close up view with a microscope shows how the sand tightly protects the crowns of the plant from winter desiccation and cold temperatures. 

In our industry, we liken this final heavy application to putting a blanket on the greens and "tucking them in for the winter".  Bob Vavrek of the USGA has written a great article further explaining this application that you can access here

I hope that everyone has a very Happy Thanksgiving, as we all have so much to be thankful for.  Be safe in your holiday travels, and I hope to see you out at Elcona soon! 


Sunday, October 29, 2017

Course Notes, 10/29/17

October is almost over, and the leaves are starting to display their usual spectacular colors thanks in part to a warm, wet month.  The warmth also allowed us to have a successful aerification season and heal in all signs of it quite quickly.  There are still some great days in the forecast for you to enjoy your golf course, and we hope to see you out as we begin to tackle mulching all those beautiful leaves when they fall off of the trees.

As the lead picture of 18 green showed, we had our first frost last Thursday morning, or about 3 weeks later than normal.  The arrival of frosty mornings serves as a good reminder why we delay tee times when there is frost.

Frost is essentially frozen dew.  It can form when the temperature approaches near freezing.  The ice crystals that form on the outside of the plant can also harden or freeze the cellular structure of the plant.  When frost is present, the normally resilient plant cells become brittle and can be easily crushed internally or pierced like a knife from the outside ice crystals.  When these cell membranes are damaged, the plant loses its ability to function normally.  Think of this like cracking an egg: once the shell is broken, it cannot be put back together.

Average footprinting of a foursome on a green
Although damage will not be immediate, the proof will emerge within 48-72 hours as leaves turn brown and die.  As the picture left shows the typical foot traffic of a normal foursome on a green, damage could be extensive if played or mowed during frosty conditions.  Recovery from frost damage can take several weeks depending on weather.  For more information on frost delays, here is a link to a great USGA video explaining them. 

Drainage install on 17

The staff also installed a catch basin and drain tile along 17 fairway last week.  Through the year, this area opposite the fairway bunker had developed poor drainage conditions.  This catch basin will capture much of the water that collects and divert it into the rough.  We will also have our contractor deep tine this area to improve the water percolation of the soil November 6th.

Severe example of what winter can bring!
We also have begun the winterization of the golf course and turf.  On November 6th, we will begin to winterize the irrigation system, a process that takes about 3 days. We also will begin applications that will maximize turf health and protection from the severe winters that can visit our area.  For the greens, that entails the following:

Raising mower heights.   Throughout the next 3 weeks, I will raise the height of cut on greens from the normal height of .120" to .135" slowly.  Raising height of cut allows more leaf surface for the turf to maximize their photosynthetic capabilities and carbohydrate storage.  Raising height will also lessen stress to the plant and create a deeper root system going into winter.  While raising heights may not create the speeds that summer brings, it is best for the long term health of the greens going into winter.

Deep tine aerification
Aerification.  On November 6th, we have a contractor coming in to perform solid tine aerification to a depth of 10" on all greens.  These extra holes create three advantages:  additional channels for spring root growth, aid in relieving any deeper compaction within the rootzone soil profile, and extra drainage capabilities for ice/snow melt to prevent ice formation on the plant surfaces.  The greens are rolled immediately after being aerified, and these holes do remain open throughout the winter for the above mentioned reasons. 

Fertility and Plant Protectants.  While we limit nutrients on finely maintained turf during the season to provide great playing conditions, the fall is the best time to feed the turf to maximize carbohydrate storage going into winter.  The more carbs the plant stores, the quicker it will break dormancy when temperatures warm up in the spring.  Winter can also bring the threat of snow mold to all varieties of turf on the golf course, and our sprayers will be out applying plant protectants to help prevent infection from those fungal diseases.

1 green after heavy topdressing
Topdressing.  When growth has ceased for the year, we will apply a thick coating of sand topdressing to bury the crowns and as much leaf tissue as possible.  This sand helps protect and insulate the crown of the plant from any extreme cold temperatures.  This practice is very effective in protecting the turf from any potential ice damage and helps maintain a smooth surface when the course opens next year. 

If you have any questions, please email me at ryan@elconacc.com.  Have a great week and I hope to see you out on the golf course! 


Friday, October 6, 2017

Greens Aerification update, 10/6/17

We successfully aerified the front 9 greens yesterday with what turned out to be a gorgeous day weather wise.  Below are some pictures of the process we are using this year. 

Plugs are chopped up with our verticutting machine, and the resulting soil is brushed back into the holes.

The grass left over is blown and removed by staff

A heavy application of topdressing sand is applied and brushed into the holes

The blower aids the sand into the holes and is the final step in the clean up process before the greens are rolled

The resulting product on #8

With the current muggy, cloudy conditions and the increasing chances of rain in the forecast for today, we will be postponing back 9 greens aerification.  We will perform this necessary practice on Monday, October 9th, which is a closed day for the golf course.  Fairway aerification will start the following day, with all 18 holes open during that process. 

Cores removed from aerification must be completely dry for us to remove them successfully without making a muddy mess.  The topdressing and brushing process also needs complete dryness for a successful result.  It is my opinion that we will not have an adequate drying window today.

For the weekend, the front 9 greens will be rolled daily.  The back 9 greens will be mowed and rolled as they would be normally.  Any additional sand that is necessary will be applied when weather allows. 

Thanks for your understanding!


Friday, September 29, 2017

Course Notes, 9/29/17

September has been a topsy turvy month weather wise.  Quite cool the first 2 weeks, and July-like temperatures the 2nd half of the month.  The heat that has been in our area has produced some high growth rates in our greens, tees, and fairways.  We have verticut all of these areas within the last 10 days to reduce the amount of leaf matter and applied additional growth regulator, which will return these surfaces to more normal playing conditions.  Besides cutting lateral growing turf and removing thatch, the verticut helps stand the turf up for regular mowers to achieve a more consistent playing surface. 
2 fairway after a verticut
6 fairway after verticut and regular mowing

One constant throughout the month has been the lack of rainfall.  Only on September 19th did we have a rain event producing greater than .10” of rainfall.  Needless to say, it is dry out there, which you can see by what the grass looks in some non-irrigated areas.  Here’s to October bringing our area a good soaking rain!

Of course, that good soaking rain needs to avoid our aerification dates!  Tees were aerified on September 6th, and as you can see to the left, we removed a lot of thatch from them!  With the warm temperatures we had, the holes have already healed in for the most part.  Greens will be aerified on October 5th (Front 9 and the Large practice green) and 6th (Back 9 and Small practice green) using a 3/8” tine.  The cores that we bring up with these tines will be
verticut and the soil will be re-introduced into the profile.  The greens will then be topped off with new sand to finish filling the holes.  Fairways will be aerified the week of October 9th, using a solid ½” tine.  There will be no plugs being brought up, which is how we aerify them in the spring.  While a short term inconvenience to ball roll and playability, aerification is the foundation of proper soil and turf health and a critical component of any agronomic program.  Thank you for your patience and understanding during this busy and quite necessary time in our maintenance schedule!

Some other notes….

7 fairway bunker on a Saturday morning
The picture on the right is unfortunately becoming more evident each morning when we are raking bunkers.  This was noticed on a Saturday morning, footprints right next to a bunker rake.  Out of respect for your fellow members, please rake the bunkers after you hit out of them.  Thank you for your cooperation. 

Jorge raking 11 greenside bunker
Our staff has been expanding the Aussie ring around the bunkers in a further attempt to increase playability.  For the most part we have received positive feedback with this short term change in maintenance, and will be utilizing the plate compactor method I wrote about here in all greenside bunkers next spring.

Skunk digging has been evident is some green surrounds, like this area to the left of 3 green.  The skunks are looking for a tasty meal of grubs.  These areas are repaired, seeded, and a curative insecticide is applied to take care of any white grubs that are present.  These areas are considered ground under repair, and the digging usually subsides later this month. 

In an attempt to better warn anyone on the course of potential weather, we have moved the weather siren from the halfway house to behind 12 black tee.  This siren was having issues receiving its signal from the clubhouse.  It is also solar powered, which was a fun afternoon electrical engineering project (a great use of my Purdue education!)

The milkweed we left in the native areas was well utilized by the visiting Monarch butterflies last month.  Milkweed is the sole host plant for the monarch caterpillar and is critical for completing their life cycle.  Creating additional habitats such as this one right of 16 fairway is a simple way we can help these pollinating insects thrive and contribute to the benefit of our local ecosystem. 

If you have any questions, please contact me at ryan@elconacc.com.  Thank you, and I’ll see you out on the golf course!