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.