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.