December 1, 2011

1st fairway update: 12/1/11

We are continuing to work on the 1st and 18th fairways to resolve the drainage issues and facilitate recovery of the turf damaged by the storm surge this fall.  Unfortunately this has been the 3rd wettest year on record, and we will likely exceed the previous record by the end of the year.  The weather conditions have revealed the core of the problem in these areas, drainage.  The material used to fill the wetlands and build the fairways does not allow water to percolate into the soil and flow to the streams as groundwater.  Therefore any water that does not run off collects in puddles and saturates the surface until it evaporates or drains into the soil which often takes days.

The directive I was given was to restore the condition of the fairway without spending too much money.  Therefore, my approach has been to try the least expensive options first, and then proceed with more expensive solutions as needed.  The least expensive option was to seed the areas and promote recovery using fertilizer from of our existing inventory.  This worked well in areas that had sufficient surface drainage such as the beginning of the 18th and the high areas of the 1st fairways.  Flat areas or depressions remain saturated and have not recovered using this approach. 

The next step is to add internal drainage where possible.  Due to the heavy soils we installed catch basins in the worst areas to collect as much surface water as possible.  This strategy has worked well in the approach and just across the creek on the 1st hole.  We continue add collectors and improve surface drainage to expand the area affected by the drains.  These areas may require laying new sod, which due to the extreme wet conditions this fall will not be available until spring.  We are currently working to determine the cost of completing the recovery using this strategy.

The final step in the process will be topdressing the fairways with sand which we initiated earilier this week.  We aerified the areas and spread out a thin layer of sand that was washed into the turf by the rain.  We will repeat this process throughout the winter as often as possible to improve the health and playability of the turf for next season.  The key to a successful fairway topdressing program is that the drainage must be in place before topdressing begins, which is why previous efforts to resolve the issue have not been successful.  (Click here for more information on fairway topdressing)

Ultimately, the solution to the problem will require raising the elevation of these areas using a well draining material, and designing a drainage system based on the characteristics of the fill used and the amount of elevation change that is created.  This solution is currently being developed by the Golf Long Range Committee with the BSC Group and architect Tim Gerrish. 

November 18, 2011

November Update

It has been a long time since I posted an update on my blog, and I apologize.  We have been extremely busy trying to keep up with course maintenance and working to improve the condition of the first fairway.  I recently shared an update with the Green Committee that outlines our efforts to date, which I have included below.  We will continue to work on improving surface drainage throughout the areas as long as the weather allows.  The areas that have suitable soil and surface drainage have been recovering nicely, and we hope that as we correct the drainage issues more seedlings will be able to fill in and the condition of the turf will improve. 

Green Committee Update dated 11/13/11:
The problems with the first fairway are not new, and many attempts have been made to correct the issues with topdressing, aeration, filling depressions with sand, installing French drains, and building berms to prevent tide water from spilling into the fairways.  Few have been successful.  Providing superior playing conditions and accessibility will require a complete reconstruction.   This solution requires significant planning, permitting, and funding.
The condition of the fairway is not acceptable, and there are no quick fixes.  In an average year, these areas may perform well, and extra maintenance may improve them to the level of the rest of the course.  In an extreme wet year, like we just experienced, no amount of aeration, fertilizer, or topdressing would compensate for the poor soils and lack of surface and subsurface drainage. 
The impact of the storm surge is an extreme example of the problems that plague this area, as is the lack of recovery in the low areas of the fairway. The current condition of the fairway is related more to the amount of rainfall that we have received since Labor Day than it is to the storm surge. The material used to build the fairway does not allow water to percolate, and therefore water that enters the fairway area can not drain into the soil.  Rainfall must run off the surface, but there is not enough elevation change for adequate surface drainage.  The lack of elevation change, combined with the fact that the edge of the stream and pond are higher than the fairway, prevents water from running off and we are left with puddles and saturated soils.  Much of the material used to build the fairway is of such poor quality that the plant roots do not grow beyond the 1"-2" layer of soil that is found at the surface.  Higher areas that have a thicker layer of suitable soil are recovering nicely. 
Last month I spelled out a recovery plan of action for the Green Committee and Board of Directors, and we are right on track.  Seeding has been completed twice, as weather and soil conditions allowed.  Fertilization has been taking place on approximately a two week interval, using both granular and liquid applications.  We have spent the last two weeks correcting surface drainage problems in the approach, and installing catch basins to help move water from the surface as soon as possible.  Once the collectors are complete we will improve surface drainage toward the catch basins to eliminate as many puddles as possible.  We will be filling as many holes as possible with soil and aeration plugs to help eliminate depressions as well. 
Once the majority of the drainage repairs and surface drainage work are complete, and we have mowed the newly seeded areas for the final time this season we will apply seed and sand top dressing to help firm and smooth the surface.  Drainage work will continue as long as the weather allows, and will resume in the spring until we are confident that we will be able to produce acceptable conditions until a comprehensive solution can be initiated.
Recovery of this magnitude under such extreme conditions takes time.  Below is a list of steps taken throughout the recovery process (dates completed in parentheses);
ü      Seed areas with Seaside II, a salt tolerant creeping bentgrass variety (slit seeded in two directions week of 9/19, broadcast seeded once after spiking in early October)
ü      Add fine fescue to act as a nurse grass to help the bentgrass get established and mature (spike seeded early October)
ü      Apply fertilizer to help seedlings get established before winter dormancy (Fairways- Granular app mid September, liquid app 9/28, 10/18, 11/7; Rough- Granular app 10/14)
ü      Locate as many existing drain lines as possible and add catch basins to remove surface water where possible (10/27, 11/1-3, 11/7-11)
ü      Raise low areas and direct surface water toward drains where possible (11/3, 11/11, 11/14)

We have also been working to prepare the course for winter.  Fertilizer and fungicide applications are near complete, and the irrigation and wash station have been winterized.  The bulk of the leaf clean up should be complete in the next couple of weeks.  Below is a link to a USGA Regional Update that explains some common practices utilized to prepare courses for the winter months. 

October 5, 2011

I am guessing that I am not the only person that has been thinking about the drainage problems on the 1st and 18th fairways lately.  I thought I would take a minute to update you on the larger scale plans that we have been working on to resolve the issues that have plagued these areas for years.

I have meetings scheduled with the Green Committee and Golf Long Range Committee chairmen this week to discuss a number of issues related to the problems.  The issues are as complex as they are severe, and there will be a lot of red tape to cut through before the first shovel hits the soil. 

The first meeting is with the BSC group out of Glastonbury, a firm hired by the club to look at the problems and develop a solution that would improve the accessibility, playability, and appearance of the opening and finishing holes of the golf course.  I am convinced that we are working with the right people, and that we will come up with at plan that resolves the issues, improves the health and quality of the wetlands, and provides the membership with a product that exceeds their expectations.

The second meeting is with the superintendent at Rhode Island Country Club.  They recently completed a similar project and we are going to tour the facility and learn more about the challenges they faced, the solution they developed, and what impact it has had on the golf course and the membership. 

We need your support and patience more than ever.  In the coming weeks and months we will be working on finalizing a plan and securing the necessary permits and funding to ensure we can break ground as soon as possible.  We cannot afford to rush any step in this process because we will only have one chance to make the project a complete success.  If you, or someone you know has any questions about this issue, please pass them along to me, in writing if possible, so that we can ensure that everyone is kept well informed and educated on this very sensitive and important matter. 
During my research I came across videos that depict one component of the problem.  This company installs drains on a very precise grade.  The machine cuts the trench, installs the pipe, and back fills all in one step.  Check out these short YouTube videos of the process.


September 17, 2011

USGA Green Section Record, September 16, 2011

Some very interesting and timely articles in this weeks update from the USGA. These come out every Friday, and you will find a link to subscribe at the bottom if you wish.
Sorry I have not shared any new thoughts or updates in a while. Things have been a little crazy at work. I hope to find time for a recap this week.

Pete Gorman
Golf Course Superintendent
Pine Orchard Yacht & Country Club
Branford, CT

September 1, 2011

Hurricane Irene damage assessment

The storm surge from Hurricane Irene has caused significant damage to the lower portion of the golf course, especially the 1st/10th and 9th/18th fairways.  The strong winds damaged a number of trees throughout the golf course, and the sea water submerged areas for up to 36 hours. 
We spent the majority of the week before the storm preparing the course and our facility in hopes that we would be able to minimize the damage and facilitate the cleanup and recovery process.  We never imagined the water would come so high, or with so much force.  Thankfully the wind damage was minimal, and was primarily limited to limbs and leaders as opposed to entire trees.  The maintenance staff has been working extremely hard all week, and the cleanup on holes 3-8 is almost complete.
The salt damage is a bit more complicated as it comes in two stages.  The acute toxicity of the chloride is remedied by rinsing the turf with fresh water as soon as possible, and flushing it out of the soil.  We were able to do this on the areas that were only covered for one day, including 4 greens, the 2nd/11th tees, and the 7th and 9th approaches.  The areas that were submerged for more than one day suffered the most damage, and will require extensive renovation to completely recover.  The chronic toxicity is related to the sodium, which must be displaced by calcium and then flushed from the soil.  We are still working on this process.  You can see the difference between these two areas on the bottom of the 9th fairway where there are two high water lines, one from Sunday, and the lower line from Monday.

Recovery will depend on how long it takes to flush the sodium from the soil, which must occur before seeding or sodding can take place.  I have been in touch with the soil scientists at UCONN, and they confirmed that we were taking all the correct steps to remove the sodium and minimize the damage to the greens.
The power outage has limited us to running 5 or 6 sprinklers at a time, and therefore we have focused our attention on the areas that were submerged for one day, including the greens, the 2nd/11th tees, and the 7th/9th approaches.  I am confident that these areas will recover with minimal turf loss after continued flushing, and perhaps some extra aeration and fertilization.  We are working to provide temporary power to the pumps so that we can begin flushing the remaining areas as well as maintain the rest of the golf course.  Once we have cleaned the mud off the turf and can determine the extent of the turf loss we will develop a strategy to restore the areas to their pre-storm condition.
We are going to open holes 3-8 for play beginning at noon on Friday, September 2.  Carts will be allowed on these holes only, but rental carts will be limited due to the lack of power.  The bridge on the 9th hole was lifted off its footing, and the damage on the 1st and 18th fairways has rendered them unplayable.  I will keep you posted as to the cleanup and recovery process, and we will open the remaining holes as soon as we are able.  We appreciate your patience and support, and are looking forward to the day when this ordeal is behind us.

August 23, 2011

Top 10 Day today

Today looks like it could qualify for a Top 10 Days of the Year nomination. The thermometer this morning read 20 degrees cooler than the night before and the stars were shining brighter than that have in weeks.
The best part is that the low humidity has the greens in great shape. They are much firmer than yesterday and the putts are rolling out beautifully. This is why golf is so much better in September and October than July and August.
I hope someone stumbles across this message and is able to sneak out and take advantage.

Pete Gorman
Golf Course Superintendent
Pine Orchard Yacht & Country Club
Branford, CT

August 18, 2011

Verticut greens today

We verticut the greens this morning to improve green speed and smoothness. We had done a trial run in the practice green on Tuesday and people noticed the difference immediately.
We tried rolling after they were mowed but the belt on the roller was about to break. We have made the repair and will roll the greens tomorrow. The combined effects of the verticut, rolling, and the greens drying out should have them in very nice shape for the weekend.
I have been asked to be kind during the championship qualifier, so hole locations may seem a bit tame over the weekend. I am not making any promises for the championship weekend however, so I would keep that in mind when offering comments or suggestions until after Labor Day.

Pete Gorman
Golf Course Superintendent
Pine Orchard Yacht & Country Club
Branford, CT

August 16, 2011

Course weathers storm nicely

In spite of over 3" of rain since Saturday night, the course is in surprisingly good shape.  We are allowing carts today and will have most of the prime playing areas mowed by the end of the day.  The usual spots are still saturated, including the end of the 3rd fairway, the middle of 4, and the entire 6th hole.  Other than that everything seems rather dry.
The rain has released some fertilizer and the cool temperatures have the grass is growing vigorously.  Many areas that were stressed due to heat and drought will begin to bounce back this week, and the rough should provide a significant penalty for shots that miss their intended target.  The greens were cut today for the first time since Saturday so they may be a bit slow for a couple of days, but we hope to have everything in fine condition in time for the qualifiers this weekend.
Peter Gorman
Golf Course Superintendent
Pine Orchard Yacht and Country Club
294 Pine Orchard Road
Branford, CT 06405

August 13, 2011

Back on track

I am happy to report that we have just about completely recovered from the stress endured during the Men's Invitational, and have returned to our regular maintenance programs.  While we are not entirely out of the woods just yet, the nights are becoming longer and cooler, and the sun is riding a bit lower in the sky.  This places much less stress on the turf, and offers a bit more room for us to push for playing conditions.  Generally August 15th is the tipping point where we start to see recovery in areas that suffered damage from disease, drought, or any variety of stresses during the dog days of summer.
The rain that came early this week was much needed, but it prevented us from getting a few things done in time for the 1 Day Member/Guest.  It seems as though most players were pleased with the course, but I feel as though the greens are closer today to where I would have liked them for the tournament. 
Monday we begin preparing for the Club Championships.  I have been asked to keep the course playable for the qualifying, and then push for the Championship weekend.  If everything goes according to plan, we will work on smoothness this week by verticutting and topdressing, and make some applications that will set us up to work on firmness and speed the following week.
I am looking forward to some great weather and even better golf in September and October.  Check back in the next week or so for an update on the greens aeration scheduled for September 6th and 7th.  I have not worked out the details just yet, but it will be more aggressive and invasive than the spring aeration.
Thanks for checking in, and I look forward to seeing you on the golf course.

August 5, 2011

Home stretch

I am starting to get flashbacks from last summer when I thought it was never going to rain again. The current weather trend of bright sun and dry winds is starting to reveal the difference between irrigation and natural precipitation.
We have been trying to keep the course dry and firm, especially heading into the Invitational. The lack of rainfall and the continued warm days and nights are causing some areas to show signs of drought stress. Irrigation is effective for keeping the turf moist, but natural precipitation is required to wet the soil.
Maintaining firm fast conditions requires the upper soil profile to be as dry as possible, while maintaining enough moisture deep in the root zone to sustain the plants during periods of hot, dry weather. If there is no rainfall the entire root zone dries out, and the irrigation system is used to provide enough water for the turf until the next rain event.n if this goes on too long the playing surfaces become soft and wet. Unfortunately the rain events have been few and far between. It is now difficult to keep the dry areas moist without saturating the areas nearby. The result is that the turf in the dry areas begin to go dormant and look brown. The turf is still live, it is just waiting for mother nature to provide a good dose of water.
Generally the tipping point is August 15th. At that point the nights are long enough for the turf to recover from the hot, dry days. Soon we will begin to aerate and fertilize, which will build the root system that will sustain the turf through next summer.
We are approaching the best part of the golf season, Labor Day through Columbus Day, when we can turn off the water without the threat of extreme temperatures and disease.
Every morning I look at the calendar and count the days until the 8/15, and pray that we get a few clouds, and an overnight shower to carry us through the next 10 days. At that point we will be cruising into the Club Championship and I will begin sleeping just a bit better. And with any luck, I will get around to dusting of the clubs and remind myself why I got into this crazy business.

Pete Gorman
Golf Course Superintendent
Pine Orchard Yacht & Country Club
Branford, CT

August 2, 2011

Pushing the Envelope

You never know what your limits are until you cross them.  This is as true for putting greens as it is for invisible fences.  All year we have been trying to push for firm, fast playing conditions, especially on the greens.  I have been reluctant to push too hard since there is a lot at risk, and the best part of the golf season is yet to come.
Wilt scar from where
someone dropped a flag stick
This weekend we pushed the greens further than I ever have, and they stood up to challenge beautifully.  Until Sunday at 1:00 that is.  I had planned on the final round of the tournament wrapping up sometime between noon and 1:00, then the course would empty, and we would be able to syringe the greens ahead of the afternoon play starting on the first tee.  It would have worked perfectly except for two things; the weather was hotter and drier earlier than than I expected, and the tournament did not finish until close to 3:00.  It got so bad that I had to break my own cardinal rule of not syringing during a big tournament, and even that was not enough.  If one more blade of grass wilted on the eighth hole we would have changed the name of the putting surface from green to purple. 
Eventually a champion was crowned and I was able to douse the flames, but not before some greens suffered significant wilt damage.  Thankfully the turf was very healthy heading into the tournament, and the greens are recovering nicely after some TLC and a nice rainstorm Monday night.  We will continue to take a less aggressive approach for a couple of days and will begin preparing for the Club Championship and qualifiers next week.
Some people will argue that it is not worth going to all this trouble for a tournament, but I would guess that the people that played over the weekend would disagree.  Our greens were as true and fast as I have ever prepared, and I feel comfortable saying that we showcased every ounce of character they possess.  Most importantly I have now pushed the greens on a few occasions and have watched them bounce back every time.  Over time I will learn more about when to push them, how far to push them, and what I need to do to bring 'em back alive.
I hope everyone enjoyed the golf course over the weekend, and I am definitely looking forward to some cooler weather and fall golf.  The best is yet to come.

July 8, 2011

Cart paths being paved on Monday

Many of you may have seen, and heard the paving contractors working on the 7th cart path Friday afternoon. I apologize for the noise, but it was imperative that they get the prep work done. If they had not, any rain over the weekend could have delayed the completion, an that was not an option.
The base will is not complete, but you may drive on it over the weekend. The finish grades and asphalt will be completed Monday.
Since we were going to have contractors here already, I scheduled the installation of the bridge aprons at the same time. Work will begin on #9 and we hope to have them finished sometime mid week.

Pete Gorman
Golf Course Superintendent
Pine Orchard Yacht & Country Club
Branford, CT

July 2, 2011

"Coarse" Ettiquette

This golfer made every effort to be considerate of their fellow golfers by replacing their divot.  Unfortunately the divot was taken from the third green, and they did not replace the one that was taken a few feet away.
I guess they did not care for the front-middle hole location.  Protest duly noted.

June 27, 2011

Venting greens today

We are venting the greens again today. The tunes we are using are even smaller than the ones used a few weeks ago (check prior post to compare photos). I do not expect there to be any disruption once yet are mowed, but I wanted to increase gas exchange after rolling wet greens 5 times in 4 days for the Member-Member.

June 25, 2011

Patience pays off

I am pleased to report that giving the greens a brief rest at the beginning of the week has paid off. The majority of the Member/Member participants are very pleased with the condition of the greens. At the beginning of this mornings round the greens were very smooth and pretty quick. In fact, according to the CBS coverage of the Travelers Championship, our greens were as fast, and in some cases faster than the pros were putting on today. Unfortunately the persistent rain made them softer than I would like, but everyone I talked to was more than understanding.
I want to thank everyone that offered their kind words and support, and congratulate my crew for a job well done. I am looking forward to the conditions tomorrow now that the sun has come out, and the guys are catching up on some work we had to postpone due to the wet conditions on Friday.

Pete Gorman
Golf Course Superintendent
Pine Orchard Yacht & Country Club
Branford, CT

June 20, 2011

No need to panic...

The greens seem much slower today than they were over the weekend. We are giving them a break so they will withstand the stress of preparing for the 3 Day Member/Member this weekend. The growth regulator that had people so concerned a couple of weeks ago has worn off, and the turf is extremely healthy. I applied a less aggressive regulator today, and may reapply later in the week if necessary.
We will be working on smoothness, firmness and speed all week, and I expect the greens to improve each day. If The weather cooperates they should be in great shape for the weekend.
There is no need to panic, this is all part of the plan.

Pete Gorman
Golf Course Superintendent
Pine Orchard Yacht & Country Club
Branford, CT

June 18, 2011

US Open coverage

As I watch the US Open, I am amazed by the 11 fairway mowers rolling out on the front 9 behind play. Each of those costs around $50,000.
I wonder if I can get that kind of support from my Toro dealer for the Member/Member next weekend.

Pete Gorman
Golf Course Superintendent
Pine Orchard Yacht & Country Club
Branford, CT

June 16, 2011

Pushing the envelope

I have received a number of comments about the appearance of the greens over the last few weeks, most of them through second parties.  In order to avoid any confusion and prevent the spread of incomplete or erroneous information I decided to share a clear and concise explanation of why certain greens look the way they do.
Heading into Memorial Day weekend we experienced the first warm, humid spell of the season following a very cool spring.  There were 9 out of 10 days in the middle of May when we experienced measurable rain.  The week before Memorial Day the rain finally stopped but the air became warm and very humid causing the turf on the greens to become very lush, and we were having a difficult time maintaining acceptable green speeds heading into the Sid Noyes tournament.   In an effort to thin out the turf, and provide the smooth, firm playing surfaces that I have been asked to maintain I decided to verticut and top dress the greens, just as I had done two weeks earlier during aeration.  Brushing the sand into the turf strips the cuticle (waxy coating) off the leaves causing the tips to appear straw colored.
That Friday I made a chemical application to protect the turf heading onto the heat of the summer, and to control an insect that could potentially devastate the greens if left unchecked.  Included in that spray was a Turf Growth Regulator called Legacy, which I used to improve green speed.  It is a combination of two products that affect the plants' ability to produce a hormone that causes the leaves to grow tall.  One of the active ingredients controls Poa annua, the dominant grass species on some of our greens, more than creeping bentgrass.  I used a low-label rate to test the product and see what affect it would have on the turf.  It worked.  In fact the high temperatures, persistent winds, and strong sun caused it to work a little too well.  After coultless hours of pulling hoses and watching the greens VERY closely for the next ten days, the weather pattern broke and the Poa annua bounced back on all but the 3rd and 5th greens. 
The off color appearance of the greens over the last 10-14 days is due to the fact that the regulator prevented the tip damage from growing tall enough to be removed by our mowers.  I have been down on my hands and knees every day monitoring the progress of the greens, waiting for the nice green leaves that are emerging from the base of the plants to push the damaged leaves high enough to be mowed off.  Most of the greens have bounced back and are performing exactly as I would like.  Unfortunately the greens that are located in the poorest growing environments are our weakest link, and are still in the process of growing out the damage.  Looking forward these greens will determine how aggressive we can be as we push for the firm, fast conditions that everyone loves.
In the end, this is just part of the process that superintendents go through as we explore the limitations of a new property.  I wanted to know how far I could push the greens, and how long it would take for them to bounce back.  Had I taken a more conservative approach the comments in the 19th hole would have been that I over water, that the greens are too slow, and I would have learned nothing.  I have been watching and recording the results of my cultural practices and applications, and will adjust my programs accordingly.  This, and many other issues, will be reviewed by an Agronomist from the USGA this coming Wednesday during our Turf Advisory Service visit, and his report and recommendations will be available for all to read.
Thank you for your patience and understanding as I continue to develop programs that will provide turf that is healthy enough to withstand the abuse necessary to maintain firm, fast playing conditions.

June 15, 2011

Seed in divot mix

People always ask if there is seed in the divot mix.  Bentgrass seed is very small, almost the same size as a grain of sand so it is hard to find. Here you can see seed that has germinated in the box and the roots are hanging off the edge of the scoop.  In an effort to prevent this we only fill the divot boxes half full in hopes that they will be close to empty the next time we fill them.  I would like to thank all of you that fill your divots and any others near by as this makes a big difference in the condition and appearance of the tee complex over the course of the season.  One thing to remember when filling your scrapes is to fill them to the top and smooth the sand with your foot to prevent dulling the mower blades.

June 6, 2011

Venting collars and clean up passes on greens today. The disruption should be minimal.

June 4, 2011

Spring update, or should I say recap.

I have been meaning to sit down and share some thoughts and observations about spring on the golf course, but I think I missed my opportunity.  The cool weather in April got the golf course off to a slow start, and the persistent rains in May made it difficult to keep up once the grass started growing.  Before I could stop and enjoy the tulips and azaleas, spring had sprung and summer came almost overnight.  I guess that happens every year and I am too busy to realize it.  May is one of the busiest times for the golf course maintenance staff.  There are a lot of things that go on behind the scenes that prepare the course for the summer months, and they all must be completed within a narrow time frame to be effective.
On top of all the things that we have been doing behind the scenes, many of you have noticed (and commented on) how fast the rough has been growing.  We have been doing our best to keep up with the mowing and blowing the clippings but it has been a struggle to say the least.  We have been mowing the rough twice each week and will continue our efforts to keep up so that the penalty for an errant shot is not too severe, and more importantly to maintain an acceptable pace of play.
We have been discussing the condition and impact of the natural fescue areas that lend so much character to the golf course.  I am consulting with other golf course superintendents that have been managing similar areas and will develop a comprehensive management plan to preserve the appearance of the areas, but make it so that players can find and play their balls.  One of the keys seems to be cutting them down once or twice in the spring until the heat of summer can dry and thin out the grass close to the ground.  We have mowed a few of the areas that come into play most often and will continue to work on it in the coming weeks.  I will be developing a chemical program as well that will control broadleaf and grassy weeds that can take over these areas as part of natural succession.  We will make applications using product from our existing inventory, and build a comprehensive program into the 2012 budget to make sure these areas are maintained such that they do not detract from the beauty of the course, or the members’ ability to enjoy it.
The greens are finally starting to perform as I would expect.  The cool spring prevented them from growing which affected ball roll and smoothness.  Then the rains released any nutrients that had been applied last fall and this spring causing the turf to become very lush and sluggish.  Now that the sun is stronger and the days are longer, the surfaces have dried out and the greens are rolling nicely.  The aeration, verticutting, and topdressing have produced smooth putting surfaces, which is our top priority.  We will continue our efforts to maintain smooth, firm playing surfaces throughout the year.  In order to maintain turf that is healthy enough to withstand our grooming programs we will be “venting” the greens from time to time.  This is a less invasive version of solid tine aeration.  We use small tines to create holes in the greens to maintain adequate gas exchange and water infiltration in the soil.  We may use the same tines as last month one more time, and then we will move to a needle tine that will make holes so small you won’t be able to see them when we are done.  This practice will be scheduled as needed based on the health of the turf, weather conditions, and the golf calendar.  I will post any such practices on the blog and inform the golf shop, but I do not expect that there will be much inconvenience to the membership.
As we head into the heat of the summer, maintaining firm, fast putting surfaces requires very diligent water management.  A key component of this process is syringing the greens in the afternoon to prevent severe wilt, which requires us to apply a light mist of water over the green surface with a hose.  In order to do this effectively and efficiently we must be given the time to get on the greens between groups.  I will instruct my staff to quietly plug the hose into the system while the group is putting and wait until they are done before turning the hose on.  While the group replaces the flagstick and walks off the green, we will syringe the turf by creating a cloud of water that will cool the surface without wetting the soil or affecting the playing surface.  The process takes about one minute to complete on a large green.  If you see us walk onto the green with our hoses, please wait until we are done and have left the green before hitting your approach shot.  If we are not afforded this time we will be forced to use the overhead sprinklers which apply too much water and may affect the speed of the greens.  Click here to view a video clip from that explains this in more detail..
As I learn more about the limitations and resiliency of these greens I will be able to be more aggressive with our maintenance strategy.  Right now I am pleased with seven of our eleven greens.  There are three that are not performing as I would like and therefore are the limiting factors with respect to pushing for the firm, fast greens many of you have come to love and expect.  I will be watching these greens very closely and will develop specific strategies to allow us to push them a little harder.  I would hate to exceed their limits in preparation for the member-member in June and lose them for the member-guest in July. 
Thank you for your patience as I continue to become acquainted with the course, the membership, and my staff.  I am confident that we are going to have a great season and I look forward to seeing you on the golf course.

May 20, 2011

Aeration update

At the end of last week I thought I would be writing this post to pacify the mass of angry golfers that wanted to hang me from the flag pole for ruining their greens.  Surprisingly I don’t feel that I have to mention it at all.  In fact, I would be surprised if anyone could tell that we had done anything to them at all.

Unfortunately this does not mean that the greens are rolling beautifully.  The heavy, persistent rain delayed our follow up maintenance and has released nutrients that were stored in the soil.  We finally mowed the greens on Thursday and mowed and rolled today.  The turf is very lush preventing us from dropping our cutting height back to its original setting (we’re still only 0.005” or 4% above normal).  I made two applications to the greens that should improve the firmness and speed of the greens over the weekend.

A few people have commented about how much they like the less aggressive approach we took with respect to aerating the greens this spring.  It is my goal to continue with this approach as long as the turf remains healthy and the weather cooperates.  In order to achieve our goals using this strategy, we must complete our cultural practices more often.  We will try to use Mondays to get this work done, which means that there will be some weeks where the greens are much slower on Monday than they were the previous weekend due to verticutting, topdressing, spiking/venting, or a variety of other practices we employ to improve the health and condition of the greens.  We appreciate your patience and support as we fine tune these programs to minimize the impact of these practices and maximize the number of days that the course is in pristine playing condition.

Considering the weather we had this week I am very pleased with condition and appearance of the golf course.  I attribute this to the hard work and dedication of the crew.  In spite of the persistent rain the guys remained focused and were able to get all of the routine maintenance completed in addition to the aeration and topdressing.

Thank you for checking in and we look forward to seeing you out on the golf course.

May 15, 2011

It's that ime of year again...

Why is it that we always seem to aerate (translation: ruin) the greens just when they are starting to get good? 
I get this question twice each year, often from the same people.  I always figured they were just expressing their frustration with the process, so I never gave it much thought.  Since this is my first aeration at a new course with new greens and new members, it is probably a good time I sit down and give it a little more thought.
There are two answers to the original question.  The one I have some control over is that aeration is usually scheduled during the time when healing conditions are ideal.  In the spring we try to wait until the grass is growing and healthy, which is usually some time in May.  Greens usually take 10-14 days to heal, so we schedule two weeks before Memorial Day.  Later in the season we must wait until the stress of summer is over.  Usually around August 15th the nights become long enough that the turf begins to recover from the heat of summer.  Generally aeration can take place beginning in late August and can be scheduled through early November. 
The second reason is that Golf Committees always schedule big tournaments just before aeration, and since we are about to “ruin” the greens we try to provide the best conditions possible.  Since the weather conditions are ideal and we are stepping up our grooming practices, the greens are usually the best the day before aeration.
After giving this some more thought I realized that the people asking that question are not concerned with the timing.  They are challenging why we have to do it at all.  The answer to this is really quite complicated.  The simplest answer is to ensure that the turf is healthy enough to withstand the stress associated with producing  playing conditions that exceed the standards and expectations of the membership.  Maintaining firm, fast playing conditions requires us to place the turf under considerable stress: double-cutting, rolling, topdressing, brushing, withholding water and nutrients.  Not to mention the fact that we do all of this during the hottest, driest time of year.
In order for the turf to withstand this torture we must do everything in our power to make sure it has the resiliency to recover from our maintenance practices.  Aeration is one way that we provide a growing environment that will allow us to push for the conditions that we expect. 
Since each course has its unique challenges and priorities, the programs developed to achieve their individual goals will be quite varied.  I have not been working with these greens long enough to establish long term goals and develop a comprehensive program to achieve them.  I do recognize that the greens have been well cared for and are very healthy so I do not see any reason to attempt major surgery.  I have identified two main goals that are part of almost every aeration program, improving gas exchange and managing thatch development.  We will be solid tine aerating the greens to provide open channels for water infiltration and gas exchange throughout the summer months.  We will also be vertical mowing and topdressing the surfaces to manage thatch development and provide smooth, firm playing surfaces.  The combination of these two practices should allow the greens to withstand all the rigors associated with maintaining the conditions you have come to expect at POYCC.
Once I have had more time to see how the greens perform over the course of a season I will establish specific goals and develop programs that will achieve them.  I will go into more detail about the benefits of aeration and what goes into developing the programs in future posts.  If you have any questions that you would like me to address, you can sign up as a follower of the blog and post them in the comments section.  

May 7, 2011

Opening Day

Welcome to the Superintendent’s Blog for Pine Orchard Yacht & Country Club.  This is a new communication tool that I will use to keep the members informed and educated regarding course conditions and maintenance practices, and more importantly how they will impact your golf experience. 
The posts will offer a variety of information including my own personal thoughts and observations, descriptions of maintenance practices, and in the moment updates regarding course conditions.  I will provide detailed explanations about the nature and necessity of our cultural practices including greens aeration and topdressing.  Less formal updates will describe how the course is recovering from maintenance practices, or holding up to extreme weather conditions.
By signing up as a follower you will be alerted each time an update is posted, and you will be able to add comments that provide feedback or ask for more information.  The archive provides a historical record of posts that you can revisit to learn how our programs and the conditions they produce evolve over time.
 I hope you will find this information interesting and useful, and I encourage you to participate by sharing your thoughts and ideas so that I will have a better understanding of how the maintenance operation affects your ability to enjoy your time on the golf course.
I am grateful to everyone who has gone out of their way to welcome me to Pine Orchard and look forward to meeting many more of you over the course of the season.  I am very excited about the coming season, and look forward to seeing you on the golf course.