The golf season is right around the corner, and we are preparing to complete the recovery for the 1st and 18th fairways. The storm surge submerged the fairways and rough areas for more than 24 hours causing significant damage to the turf. The bentgrass in the fairways is extremely sensitive to salt damage and was completely lost. Elevated and well drained areas such as greens and tees survived because the water receded within 24 hours and we were able to flush the salts from the soil immediately. The flood gate prevented the sea water from returning to the sound, and therefore it took over two days for the water to recede. By that time the turf was already dead.
Our recovery efforts began with an application of gypsum to greens, tees, fairways, and clubhouse lawns. The gypsum provides calcium which helps remove the sodium from the soil. This is most effective in well draining soils that can be flushed with fresh water. It is less effective in poorly draining areas because water can not infiltrate the soil and the sodium remains in the root zone.
Once the fairways were dry enough we seeded the damaged areas with salt tolerant varieties of grass. Germination and establishment occurred rapidly in areas that had adequate surface drainage and good soils. Due to the persistent rains in October the seed would not germinate in depressions and other areas with poor surface drainage. This clearly indentified where we needed to focus our attention on drainage. We expanded existing drainage and installed new drains to correct as many problem areas as possible. We then removed the dead thatch and brought in new soil to improve surface drainage and move surface water to the collectors. We seeded and covered the areas in hopes that we might be able to get some turf established over the winter. We are currently working to complete this process on the 18th fairway. These areas will be finished with topsoil and prepared for sod in the next two weeks. We will continue to evaluate and expand the drainage as needed.
I have been in regular contact with sod farms, and we will begin installing rough sod in early March. I will continue to monitor the availability of fairway sod which is more delicate and won’t be available until the fields break dormancy near the beginning of April. We will begin taking delivery of fairway sod for smaller areas as soon as it is available. For the larger fairway areas we intend to purchase large rolls of sod that is cut thicker. The larger rolls tend to establish more readily and will require less maintenance to achieve acceptable playing conditions. The sod will take 4-5 weeks to establish depending on the weather in March and April. I will be hiring my seasonal staff next week and I expect to take our first sod deliveries in early March. Aeration, topdressing, seeding, and fertilization will take place throughout the spring until we are satisfied with the condition of these areas.
Our initial goal was to have the fairways open for play at the beginning of May and in pre-storm condition by Memorial Day. I am confident that we are still on schedule, but complete recovery will be an ongoing process and our efforts will continue throughout the season. I will continue to update you on our progress in the club news letter, as well as on my blog.