July 31, 2013

Warmest July on Record

Today we close the warmest month ever recorded. I am not surprised and am very happy to see it go. 
My staff and my back are as tired, if not more so, than the turf on the golf course.  The extreme heat and humidity that dominated the middle of the month were compounded by overnight lows that rarely dropped below 75 and storms that dropped as much as 1.5" of rain in 20 minutes. These conditions are extremely stressful to the turf due to high disease pressure, and the fact that the plants consume far more energy than they can produce.  This results in rapid depletion of energy reserves and root mass, which combine to make the turf susceptible to decline.  
When these conditions are combined with wet weather turf loss is inevitable, as we experienced on the 3rd fairway, 6th tees, and 5th green. Wet or moist soil retains heat while dry, well aerated soil dissipates heat more efficiently. It is hard to say what the direct cause of death was in these areas, and in all likelihood it was a combination of hot, wet soil cooking the roots and incubating fungus. At the end of the day it really doesn't matter, it's still dead. What is important is looking at what we can do in the future to reduce the stresses that led to the decline. In most cases this involves additional aeration and top dressing, adding or expanding drainage, and maximizing sun exposure, especially during the morning hours. 
Many areas (not including my back) are recovering nicely during the recent break from the heat and humidity. We did not waste any time waiting to initiate recovery when the extreme heat broke last week. We seeded and fertilized many areas, and restricted cart traffic to damaged areas, all contributing to rapid recovery of stressed turf. There are still areas that will need further renovation, but sometimes it takes the most extreme conditions to reveal the underlying causes to a problem. In some areas such as the 3rd and 5th fairways it means adding drainage to collect and remove surface water. In others such as the 5th green it will be a combination of drainage, aeration, and a host of other tools and techniques to compensate for the poor growing environment. 
As we head into the premier golf event of the season I am happy to report that much of the turf is healthy and resilient enough to withstand the rigors of tournament preparation. I expect the course to provide a fair challenge to the field, and I am confident that all our hard work and preparation will allow the conditions to improve every day. 
We hope you are enjoying yourselves this summer, and as always we look forward to seeing you on the golf course. Perhaps I will be lucky enough to be carrying my clubs rather than dragging a hose. 

July 1, 2013

Greens maintenance rescheduled.

The greens maintenance day that was scheduled for next Monday, July 8th, is being completed today. The cool weather and high chance of thunderstorms makes it a good time to verticut and top dress.
Another key factor is that George is almost ready to grind some cutting units. The sand we put out will be picked up and then he can sharpen the mowers which should carry us through the member guest.
I don't expect there to be any inconvenience to the golfers from this change, and the greens should be in great shape by the holiday.

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