If you have played the course over the last few weeks you may have noticed the turf at the end of the 4th fairway thinning out. This is due to a fungus knows as Gray Leaf Spot. It is a disease primarily of Perennial Ryegrass, and its early symptoms mimic drought stress and wear damage. The fungus started in late August as we were trying to dry out the course in preparation for the club championship. The first infection occurred in areas where cart traffic to the 4th green is constricted by the fairway bunkers, and where players that fall short of the 13th green park and turn their carts to return to the path.
Once the humid weather of late August returned, the infected turf declined rapidly. Once I determined the cause of the decline I immediately filled my sprayer and treated the 4th, 5th, and 6th fairways. The treatment halted the progression of the disease, and the remaining turf is now healthy enough to withstand the recovery process.
Today we aerified, seeded, and topdressed the affected area. This initial seeding was completed using disease resistant and wear tolerant varieties of bentgrass, which should germinate in 7-10 days. Once the threat of Gray Leaf Spot has passed, which comes with the first killing frost, we will overseed with a Gray Leaf Spot resistant variety of Ryegrass, which is more wear tolerant than bengrass. The combination of these grasses will provide a wear tolerant turf that is dense enough to provide a good playing surface.
While the seedlings are becoming established we will keep the area roped off to carts. As the turf matures we will continue to topdress the area to improve soil structure and surface drainage. The long term solution will require additional aeration and topdressing to improve the overall health and wear tolerance of the turf in this area.
On a more positive note, the greens are healing ahead of schedule considering the aggressive aeration that was completed two weeks ago. The smoothness and speed of the greens should improve noticeably with each passing day, and they should be in fantastic shape for the Fall Member-Member.