April 28, 2013

Opening Day is a success.

Thankfully the weather cooperated this week, especially for the Opening Day Golf Breakfast. We had a good turnout to enjoy the beautiful weather and much improved course conditions. The greens were much better, and except for one or two, were just about where we would expect them be this time of year. The fairways were firm, but the turf was a little lush, which may have stolen a few yards from people's drives.
The cool dry weather is excellent for the turf, and the plants are expending almost all of their energy producing roots that will support them through the heat of summer. I decided last fall that I was never going to complain about the weather again, but I would not mind a good day of rain in the near future. The greens are very firm, but the top 4" is a lot drier than I would like. We will be working on grooming the surfaces tomorrow in preparation for the Member/Member next weekend, and will irrigate heavily to help rehydrate the greens.
Looking ahead, tomorrow will be our first Greens Maintenance Day. I will have a separate post explaining what that means, but for now, things are looking very good so far.

April 23, 2013

Sod coming this week

We have started repairing damage on the 1st, 9th, and 18th holes. Last week we stripped the turf from the areas that were damaged last fall or did not completely heal from the previous spring. We have already replaced the fairway turf and corrected some surface drainage. We will be working on the rough areas early this week in between rain storms.
We have been closely monitoring the progress of the greens as they continue to heal from aeration. The below average temperatures have delayed the process, and I have been reluctant to try to push the issue with excess fertilizer. When soil temperatures are low, nutrients remain in the soil until the plants are ready to use them. Adding more will add to the reserve in the soil which can lead to excessive growth and slower greens later in the spring. I have scheduled two sprays this week which will help, especially if we get the rain that is forecast for the middle of the week.
We have been gradually lowering our height of cut over the last couple of weeks. A lot of the sand that we applied last fall was pulled to the surface during the aeration, and dulls the mowers each time we mow. We have been gradually lowering the height of cut to avoid the sand and are on schedule to be at or slightly above our normal mowing height by the Opening Day Golf Breakfast. I will keep you posted on any developments over the course of the week.

April 18, 2013

New tee complete

We installed the sod on the new forward tee on #13 today. I am rather pleased with many of the features, and I learned a lot from this project.
We still have work to do to finish repairing the work area surrounding the tee, including grinding the tree stump, and aerifying/seeding the rough in the surrounding area. Most of this work will be completed next week and the area should be repaired in time for the grand opening.
This project has been in the works for a long time, and there was even a pile of material that was placed in the area a few years back, but the tee was never completed. Once the decision was made to finish the project, it was clear that we were going to do it right. We did not build a "Ladies Tee", we added a forward tee that will provide a challenging shot on a difficult par 3 for golfers of many skill levels. We extended the tee back to add flexibility and variety. We consulted with Tim Gerrish a few times to be sure that the size and alignment were correct for the length of the hole. The materials were selected after careful consideration and consultation with other clubs (the root zone mix is the same that was used to build the tees during the recent renovations at Mohegan Sun).
Many of the design features and materials will be evaluated and may be used for the future tee projects, including the 1st/18th fairway project.
It will take about five or six weeks for the turf to become established, depending on the weather and how much work it takes to prepare a proper playing surface. If everything goes well we could have the tee open as early as May Madness, but worst case scenario would bring us closer to Memorial Day.

April 14, 2013

Aeration update.

You may have noticed that the spring aeration is complete, and at the surface appears to be less aggressive than in years past. It was also completed a month earlier. For a variety of reasons we chose to switch from a traditional core aeration to an aggressive verticutting. This will help us achieve most of the goals of our traditional aeration program, but focuses on removing organic matter the top 1" of the profile, a problem that has been identified in recent soil tests. The other goals of our traditional program (improving water infiltration and gas exchange, and modifying the root zone) will be addressed throughout the season by completing less aggressive treatments on a more frequent basis. Scheduling the aeration earlier in the season will reduce the inconvenience to golfers since there are very few people playing relative to a month from now, and the greens are still transitioning from winter to spring.
Looking forward we expect the benefits of this process to include firm putting surfaces and increasing the bent grass population. There are many other potential benefits that mean a lot to superintendents, but not much to golfers so I will spare you the technical details. We will be watching very closely to see how effective this process is relative to our traditional program, and how it can be implemented in the future to maximize the benefits to the turf and minimize the impact on the golfers.
On another, and perhaps more important topic, Joe Starzec and I met with golf course architect Tim Gerrish last week to examine how the removal of two key trees on the 3rd/12th and 17th holes will impact the strategy and integrity of the golf course. We shared a number of interesting ideas, and Tim will provide recommendations that will help restore the challenge lost by removing the damaged trees. I hope to have information for the Green and Golf Long Range Committees in the very near future.
Thank you for checking in, and we look forward to seeing you again on the golf course.
Remember to check your calendar for the Opening Day Golf Breakfast on Saturday April 27th, and the Spring Member-Member the following weekend, May 4-5. It looks like the course is on track to be in great shape.

April 10, 2013

Masters coverage

I am watching the early coverage of the Masters on the Golf Channel and saw a segment on their mowing pattern for the fairways. They mow all fairways from the green back toward the tee, thereby affecting ball roll off the tee and the lie for the second shot.
For me the interesting part was that they were using at least 12 mowers (the segment ended before the line of mowers did). Each of the mowers cost over $55,000, for a total of over $650,000 in fairway mowers alone.
One reason why more courses don't look more like Augusta.

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