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 USGA.com 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.