December 5, 2014

USGA: Northeast Regional update

The USGA Green Section sends out regional updates throughout the season, many of which I have shared on the blog.

As many of us in he northeast put our clubs in the garage or ship them down to warmer climates, I thought I would pass along the latest update that describes some of the strategies that courses use to prepare for the winter months. 

My favorite part is the quote from Donald Ross about trees on the golf course.  I will reserve further comment for a future post, and perhaps shift my attention to something less controversial, like religion or politics.

Click on the link below to read the update in the Green Section Record.

USGA: Northeast

November 29, 2014

A video on improving the environmental benefits of golf courses

Here is a link to a video on the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America website that discusses some of the environmental benefits that golf courses offer to their communities.
As we continue our efforts to eradicate the invasive weed Phragmites australis, we will certainly be mindful of the importance of creating habitat for native animals, amphibians, and insects, especially pollinators.  This will be a guiding principle as we work to establish a wetland meadow throughout the low areas of the golf course.
I hope you find the information useful, and that our environmental efforts enhance your experience on the golf course.

November 14, 2014

An interesting article on reading greens

This is an article from the USGA on the science of reading greens. I found it funny that they did not reach out to Johnny Miller for his opinion on the subject. I hope you enjoy it.

November 7, 2014


After a very dry summer, the cool wet weather that we experienced in late September and October allowed the turf throughout the golf course to recover from the extended drought.  Much of the summer I was approached by golfers concerned about the brown appearance of the fairways and rough.  I explained that the turf was exhibiting signs of stress, but there was little risk of permanent damage.  Sure enough, shortly after the rains came the turf returned to a consistent emerald green.
And then a few of the fairways seemed to turn brown again.  This time the problem was that there was too much moisture, and the earthworms were thriving.  Their castings would be crushed by mowers and golf carts, and would leave brown pock marks of mud on the surface. 
I was asked if there were any chemicals that I could use to control the worms, and my answer was always no.  While there are chemicals that can offer temporary relief from worm castings, there are no products that are labeled for this application.  Therefore using these products to control worms is illegal. 
One of the most important things to consider with this issue is the fact that earthworms are signs of a healthy soil, and offer many benefits to the turf system.  They help breakdown organic matter in the soil and convert it to available nutrients for the plants, and their burrow act a channels for water and air movement in the soil.
I have experimented with a fertilizer that aggravates worms and brings them to the surface, but it is very expensive and it must be applied just before a heavy rain event.  If the weather does not cooperate it can be a very costly failure.  The second issue with this strategy is handing the worms that are driven to the surface.  I have seen superintendents refer to the process as "dealing with the carnage".  I am willing to try the product again in the spring if people feel strongly enough about eliminating the mess from the worms. 

Click here to read a USGA research article about controlling earthworms.

October 22, 2014

Trees tagged for discussion

There are a number of trees that have been tagged throughout the golf course that are being considered for removal.  Many of them are large oaks and hickory trees that prevent valuable sunlight from reaching important playing surfaces.  The trees were tagged to initiate a discussion so that the Golf Long Range and Green Committees could examine the trees that impact growing environments and playability of the golf course.  Once the committees have reviewed the marked trees, we can develop a schedule and a budget for the work. 

We have a number of greens that are surrounded by trees, hills and rocks, especially holes 3, 4, 5, and 13.  While specimen trees can provide character and strategic interest on a golf course, trees should not be located around greens, tees and near fairways where they will be in direct competition for sunlight, water, and nutrients .  Pine Orchard has a few trees that could be considered specimens, but many are lost among less desirable pines and spruces that were planted more for their rapid growth rate rather than for the value of their mature size and form.  Many of the hardwood trees surrounding the greens were much smaller when the course was originally carved out of the landscape, and slowly grew without attracting much attention.  Over many years they have grown to the point that their negative impacts on the playing surfaces outweigh their value as a mature tree.

I thought I would take a moment to share an explanation of the recommendations, and why certain trees are a higher priority than others.  The most important consideration is sunlight.  Everyone knows that the energy from the sun provides plants with energy and helps them grow.  Few people understand that turf generally requires eight hours of direct sunlight to thrive, and that plants utilize the energy most efficiently in the morning when the when the air temperature falls within an ideal range.  Above a certain temperature, chemical reactions that drive the plants’ metabolism begin to slow down, and the turf can not utilize the sun’s energy as well.  Morning sun also helps reduce disease pressure by drying the surface, and driving air circulation by warming the air just above the ground, which is displaced by heavier cool air from above.  Trees that are located to the northeast and east of playing surfaces block the morning sun, and therefore reduce the ability of the turf to convert the sun rays into energy that can be used for growth and recovery.

 After sunlight, the second most important consideration is root competition.  The roots that supply trees with water and nutrients are primarily found in the top twelve inches of the soil, and extend approximately twice as far as the drip line of the tree.  When trees are located close to greens, their roots often extend half way across the playing surface.  As soil temperatures rise due to the heat of the summer, the roots on the turf begin to decline making it more difficult to compete with the much larger trees.  Pruning the tree roots provides temporary relief from competition, but over time this process results in a more vigorous root system for the trees, and the benefits are rather short lived.  The solution is to remove trees that are located less than twice as far from a green than the width of the canopy. 

The majority of the trees that have been tagged this fall are located on holes 3, 5, and 13, our most challenging growing environments.  For many years there were many more trees surrounding these greens, and many have already been removed.  The condition of the turf has improved as a result of the additional sunlight, so some may feel that there is no reason to take more.  After watching these greens struggle through the heat of summer and the rigors of our maintenance programs, it has become clear to me that we need to minimize the amount of shade and root competition so that we realize the maximum benefit of our cultural and fertility programs.

On the 3rd hole, the removal of the trees would eliminate shadows during the mid morning and late afternoon, and would eliminate the significant mess that the trees make in the approach.  The fifth hole has so many strikes against it that any additional sunlight and air movement will help, especially since the left side lies in the shadow of the rock formation.  The trees surrounding the thirteenth green have roots under close to 50% of the green surface.  The left side of the green has three strikes against it; it slopes to the north which affects light intensity, it serves as the walk on/off, and has to compete with roots from mature oak trees on all sides.  The trees on the hillside block the morning sun, especially in the spring and fall when the sun angle is much lower. 

I am certain that some, if not all of these recommendations will be unpopular, but I assure you they have been well thought out and researched.  I have no expectation that all of this work will be completed at once, but we should at least begin the conversation and prioritize which trees should be removed first, and how aggressive we need to be to address these issues.  Once we have established priorities we can develop a timeline and a budget for the work.

I understand the emotional attachment that is often associated with mature trees, but I have a better understanding of what it takes to maintain high quality turf and meet the expectations of modern golfers.  Trees can provide a lot of character to a golf course, but this usually happens when the tree stands alone adjacent to the landing area in a fairway, and this description fits none of the trees that are tagged.

October 11, 2014

How To Find a Balanced Golf Ball

One more reason the golf course superintendent may not be to blame for a missed put.

October 8, 2014

You have received a YouTube video!

An awesome time lapse video of the staff at the Old Course preparing for the Dunhill Cup.

I happened to hear on the broadcast that the greens were rolling just over 9'6" for a European Tour event, no that it matters.

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

September 24, 2014

The difference between rain and irrigation

There is a significant difference between natural precipitation and irrigation, and it is quite evident just 24 hours after the first significant rain event in almost two months.
I took the top picture at the end of August when the course was being prepared for the Club Championship Weekend. We had not had rain since the middle of July, but the cool temperatures and low humidity made it possible for me to conserve water and keep the course as dry and firm as possible knowing that everything would green up with the first rain storm that rolled through the area. 
In the weeks that followed we watched rain events fall apart as they approached the area, one after another. 
I do everything I can to conserve water for a few key reasons.  First, we purchase our irrigation water, therefore conserving water helps me manage the line item in my budget. Second, it is better for the golf course and the turf. Coastal golf courses are meant to play firm and fast with well played drives bounding down fairways and poorly played approach shots bouncing off greens.  Drought stress places selective pressure on the turf, and each season the turf that cannot survive the stress is replaced by more durable, reliable plants through over seeding, or by healthy, resilient plants creeping to fill voids. Finally, fresh water is the most valuable natural resource on the planet, and golf is a luxury consumption of that resource. Ultimately this boils down to sustainability.
Each time I water fairways I use over 50,000 gallons of water, so I work very hard to rely on irrigation solely for the purpose of getting from one rain event to the next. In order to keep the course lush and green this summer I would have had to run irrigation cycles four or five times per week instead of once or twice. Not only would that break my budget, it is irresponsible from an environmental standpoint and would have ruined the playing conditions that we work so hard to produce.  For the majority of the season the contrast of the dark green fairways against the bronzed rough was as appealing to most golfers as the extra twenty yards they were getting on their drives.  As the drought persisted, some fairway areas thinned a bit more than I intended, but rarely to the detriment of the playing surface.
The bottom photo was taken one day after the first significant rainfall in over two months, and thanks to all the aeration, seeding, and fertilizing we have done over the last few weeks in anticipation of the rains that I knew had to come eventually, the course is beginning to return to its healthy green color.  Was I always pleased with the condition and appearance of the course?  Certainly not, but I was certain that the turf was resilient enough to recover once the favorable conditions returned, and I am proud of the fact that I was able to weather the storm (or lack of storms) without wasting valuable resources.  In the long run the turf will be more resilient due to the stress that was imposed, and for the lessons we learned along the way. In the coming weeks I will be reviewing my programs to see where I can make adjustments and improvements so that we can continue to satisfy the golfers that enjoy a firm, fast golf course without upsetting the club member who prefers more of a parkland look to the property. 
This post has inspired me to begin a series on sustainability, and what this concept means to the future of golf.  The decisions I made this season were sometimes unpopular, but they were all well thought out and intentional.  No one forced me to conserve water or scale back on fertility.  I did it because it is the right thing to do, and the weather conditions were ideal to test this philosophy.  This won't always be the case.  There will be years when excessive heat, humidity, or other extreme conditions require reliance on additional inputs.  In my corner of the world, this was the year to turn the water off.  Many superintendents have admitted they did not, and their courses remained lush and green, and in some cases soft. 
If the golf industry doesn't take the lead on matters such as water conservation and responsible use of fertilizers and pesticides, someone else will do it for us.  As a good friend of mine often says "It's better to have a seat at the table than to find yourself on the menu." 

September 21, 2014

USGA: Our Experts Explain

An excellent analogy that will help explain why some areas of the golf course are taking longer to recover from the dry weather we experienced this summer.
Areas of particular interest are the 3rd green, where roots from trees on the opposite side of the cart path reach half way across the green, and the 13th hole where tree roots penetrate half way into the green from the left and rear.
We will be looking very closely at root pruning and tree removal options in the coming weeks to eliminate competition between trees and turf.

Sent from my iPad

September 10, 2014

Nobody's favorite time of year.

Aeration week is here again, and not a minute too soon considering the extremely dry weather we have been experiencing.  This is one of the most important times of the year for the health and performance of the turf throughout the golf course, and is the first step in preparing the course for next summer.  The turf is beginning to shift all its energy from survival and recovery to building a root system that will sustain it through the heat and drought stress that we will experience again in nine months or so.  We are doing everything we can to facilitate this process by improving the soil and providing water and nutrients to encourage the plants to grow a deep, dense root system.

While the course was closed on Monday and Tuesday we core aerated the greens and tees and spiked the fairways.  Due to a few equipment malfunctions we had to drag some of the work out into Wednesday, but the bulk of the operation is now complete.  We will spend the rest of the week finishing the cleanup and shifting our focus to recovery and restoring the playing surfaces to their original condition.  The guys have been working long, hard hours to get as much done in these two days as possible, and we will continue these efforts throughout the week so that the course recovers as quickly as possible.

The core aeration and topdressing that was completed on greens and tees provide many benefits to the soil and turf.  First, core aeration removes excess thatch that builds up over the course of the season.  Then the sand topdressing dilutes the thatch and improves the soil structure and drainage, and improves the durability of the playing surfaces. 

Aerating the fairways is a bit more challenging due to the acreage as well as the rocks and shallow ledge found throughout the property.  The firm dry playing surfaces we have been enjoying all summer were the result of the extremely dry, compacted soil.  If we were to apply the same aeration process used on greens and tees we would spend more time repairing the machine than we would aerating the fairway.  Two years ago we chose to purchase a more durable machine that shatters the compacted soil with vibrating spikes rather than punching and pulling soil to the surface.  As this machine only deals with compaction, we will have to find other ways of managing thatch later in the season.

A light dose of fertilizer was applied prior to aeration, and we will be watering to promote growth and recovery.  The turf will recover slowly over the next 7-10 days, and soon our normal management programs will be back in place and the course will be ready for fall golf.  Thank you for your patience, and if you get a chance, please take a minute to thank the crew for their "above and beyond" efforts this week.

Click here for an article from the USGA describing keys to a successful aeration.

August 28, 2014

USGA: Easing The Pain Of Core Aeration

Everyone is looking forward to Labor Day and the club championship. 
I am looking forward to giving the greens a much needed breather ( and a big drink).

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

August 22, 2014

Fore the Golfer: Use of a Stimpmeter

Check out this video on YouTube:

I am often asked about stimpmeter readings for tournaments or special events, so when I found this video from the USGA I thought it would be a good idea to pass it along. 
Personally I do not use a stimpmeter, because its use has strayed far from the original intent of its creator. The device was designed to provide a means to provide consistent playing conditions throughout the golf course. It did not take long for this concept to be forgotten, and instead the tool was used to measure conditions at one golf course relative to another with no consideration for other factors such as architecture, construction methods, turf species, or operating budgets. 
The use, and misuse, of the device has lead to the growth as well as the decline of the game. The demand for superior putting greens drove superintendents and manufacturers to develop new technology and maintenance programs that made it possible to maintain turf at lower mowing heights that would have been unimaginable twenty years ago. As the height of cut decreased, the cost of maintaining these conditions increased significantly. Increased reliance on designer pesticides and fertilizers as well as increased water use and labor resources have inflated operating budgets that are difficult to sustain as golf revenue declines. 
Aside from the financial considerations, the insatiable desire for "faster greens" has rendered many classic golf holes unplayable due to the severe contours that were common during the early part of the last century. In extreme cases classic greens have been reconstructed with less severe slopes and softened features, again at great expense. 
Perhaps my biggest problem with the abuse of the stimpmeter is that few people understand what the measurement means, and how it relates to the overall quality of the putting surface. First, the concept of "green speed" is a misnomer.  The tool is used to measure distance, not speed.  There are many factors that influence the distance a ball will roll when released from the meter: height of cut, texture, smoothness, turf density. All of these are characteristics that contribute to the quality of a putting surface, but so are firmness, color, and resilience which are not considered when we only consider ball roll distance as the sole measure of quality putting surfaces. 
Many times I have been told that players enjoyed their time on the golf course, and that the greens played had a significant influence on their golf experience. The next words out of their mouths inevitable ask "What are they Stimping?"  I don't measure ball roll distance simply so that I never have to answer that question. There is too much at stake if the answer does not match the number they have in their head. If the ball roll distance is less than the number they had in mind, their perceived enjoyment is instantly diminished. On the other hand, reporting a number higher than what they expect has no impact on their experience
The stakes are increased when there is a minimum standard established (or expected) for daily play and tournaments.  The two main factors that I nfluence ball roll distance are maintenance programs and the weather. Trying to replicate playing conditions from one event to the next can be dangerous if the weather conditions are not favorable for pushing the turf to the limit, especially during extreme heat, humidity, or saturated conditions. 
This very thing occurred one year ago during the club championship.  We executed our typical weekend maintenance (single cut and roll) for the qualifying rounds during a weekend that was unseasonably cool with a steady breeze and very low humidity. Two weeks later seasonable conditions returned for the match play rounds.  Increased heat and humidity caused the turf to become lush and ball roll distances decreased in spite of the fact that we double-cut and rolled four days in a row.   Had I been influenced by the pressure to achieve the same ball roll distance that occurred under ideal weather conditions, I might have been tempted to put the health of the greens at risk simply to satisfy my own ego. 
I prefer to focus on providing the best playing conditions that the weather allows. I rely on the cumulative effect of consistent maintenance, and invest a significant amount of time and energy  to keep all playing surfaces alive, healthy, smooth, firm, and fast.  When it comes to measuring the quality of the putting surfaces I prefer to grab three balls and a putter, and use my eyes to determine if I am satisfied (there's my ego again) with how the ball responds to a sound putting stroke as it rolls toward the hole. I am most interested in how slowly the ball rolls as it comes to rest, and whether or not it stays on it's intended line. According to this concept of "green speed", less is more. 

Sent from my iPad

USGA: Northeast

A few good points to keep in mind as we enjoy one of the best golf seasons in decades.

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

August 14, 2014

Course Conditions Update

After almost four inches of rain fell yesterday I am pleased to report that the course is not only open with carts, it is surprisingly dry.  The forecast was for 1”-2” which we desperately needed, and the crew was out preparing the course so that we would capture as much of the water as possible to recharge the soil rather than watching it run off into the ocean.

On Monday we needle tined the greens to create pore spaces and reconnect the old aeration holes to the surface.  This was followed up by an application of a wetting agent that not only helps water penetrate the surface; it also helps the turf dry out once the rain stops.  The two steps combined beautifully to recharge the soil moisture and reinvigorate the turf by purging the root zone of stale gases, replacing them with a fresh supply of oxygen. 

We also spiked some of the rough areas that were suffering from drought stress and cart traffic, and the heavy rains seem to have alleviated some of this stress for the time being.  We will continue to aerate the rough and will begin to add seed in the coming weeks to promote recovery and develop a more resilient stand of turf for the future.  There are still a few areas that have remained dormant, but with continued cool weather, a few more rain showers, and perhaps a dose of fertilizer we should see a bit more green return to the course as we head into the best part of the golf season.

Thankfully the course was prepared to handle the extreme rainfall, and we should return to the firm fast playing conditions we had enjoyed over the majority of the golf season.  I have received a number of compliments that the rough is just penal enough, yet manageable, and people seem to enjoy the extra few yards on their drives that find the fairways.  The greens are a different story.  The rough is lush and “aggressive”, which makes chipping to the firm, fast greens a significant challenge.  This provides a distinct advantage to those who find the putting surface with their approach shot, and punishes those who short side themselves. 

We are looking forward to preparing the course for the club championships at the end of the month and I expect to have the course as good if not better than we had it for the Invitational at the beginning of the month.  On Monday September 8th we will be aerating the greens followed by tees, approaches, and fairways.  We will keep you posted regarding days the course will be closed as well as course conditions so that you can schedule matches and bring guests on days when the course will be in the best condition. 

August 11, 2014

Venting greens today

We are aerating the greens this morning using our "needle tines". These are  0.3" solid tines that break through the surface of the Turf that has been sealed off due to the excessive mowing and rolling that we have been doing lately. The holes improve the exchange of gases between the soil and the atmosphere and improve water infiltration. They also extend the benefit of prior serrations by reconnecting the old holes to the surface.   The process will have little impact on the playing surfaces once we resume mowing tomorrow. 
The timing of the process is ideal as we have been trying to slowly rehydrate the greens, and heavy rains are forecast for the middle of the week. University research has shown that the benefits of this process are typically realized for three weeks following the aeration , which will bring us to the end of August, and right up to the club championship. 
I will monitor the condition of the greens over the coming weeks to see if we will need to complete the process once more before we core aerify next month. 

August 4, 2014

GCSAA - Mid-Atlantic Region: What's WOTUS?

The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America is one of the most powerful advocates for the golf industry.   Read the brief description of a hot topic in Washington that could have a significant impact on golf courses across the country. 
One letter or phone call to a politician, repeated thousands of times, can have a significant influence on the decisions they make on your behalf. 

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

August 2, 2014

Re: Invitational Preparation


Great job on the golf course this weekend.  Please extend my thanks to all of the crew.  The hard work is greatly appreciated.


On Saturday, August 2, 2014, Peter Gorman <> wrote:

Rick Ross
Westmount Management
36 Park Place
P.O. Box 719
Branford, CT 06405
Ph: 203-483-4375
Fax: 203-483-4376
Cell: 203-687-2033

Invitational Preparation

In order to get the course set up before the rain came we were out well before daylight on Saturday morning. Kelsey and RJ parked their vehicles on either side of the 7th green and used the headlights so they could see their lines. 

August 1, 2014

So True

I saw this cartoon on Twitter, and thought it was perfect for our Member Guest preparation. Weather has been great, course is in great shape, and rain predicted for the 27 hole Saturday.

July 29, 2014

Cicada Killers | UMass Amherst Turf Program

An interesting explanation for an issue that often arises this time of year.

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

July 21, 2014

Greens Maintenance

Today we verticut and topdressed the greens in preparation for the Invitational Tournament. The greens will be a little soft and slow for the next few days as we try to wash in the sand and help the turf recover from the procedure. 
Some of the greens suffered some drought stress this afternoon. The strong sun and dry winds combined with the abrasive grooming and brushing damaged some of the leaf tissue causing it to turn purple. We watered the greens immediately after brushing and restored the moisture that was lost, and the turf should recover nicely by the weekend. We will resume our regular mowing and rolling schedule in a couple of days, and once we are comfortable that the turf has recovered we will begin the tournament preparation process. 

July 17, 2014

Use of pesticides on the golf course

Recently I have been approached by individuals concerned about the use of pesticides on the golf course, specifically how it affects kids.
While golf courses offer many benefits to the local ecosystem such as providing habitat for native wildlife and filtering and recharging groundwater moving through the watershed, there are a number of aspects of a golf course that would not be possible without the use of fertilizers and chemicals. 
There is always a risk associated with the use of these products, and managing this risk is a responsibility I take very seriously.  I go to great lengths to produce healthy, resilient turf through effective cultural and fertility programs, and try to minimize the use of chemicals by maximizing the duration between applications whenever possible.  When I do make applications I make every effort to minimize the risk to the environment, to golfers, and to my staff.  Since I have come to Pine Orchard I have developed and implemented innovative programs that utilize the best available technology and reduced risk products, and have eliminated the use of more harmful products that are less selective and affect non-target species. 
There are two types of risk associated with the use of chemicals (or medications for that matter), chronic and acute.  For golfers the risk is of chronic exposure, which deals with repeated exposure to low doses over an extended period of time.  Acute exposure deals with short term exposure to a high concentration, such as when I handle the concentrated products when mixing the spray solutions.  Once the products are combined and diluted to the desired concentration, the risk of acute exposure decreases significantly.
 The University of Massachussetts conducted research to determine the level of this risk and found that the level of exposure was well below any level that would cause harm from chronic or acute exposure.  If that does not ease your concerns, I am required by law to maintain Material Safety Data Sheets for all chemicals that are used or stored on premises.  I would be happy to provide copies of this information, as well as a table that compares the toxicity of the products we commonly use with everyday household products and over the counter medications.  Most of the products as applied are less toxic to mammals than aspirin, Tylenol, alcohol, nicotine, and vinegar.  If you are still concerned about the products we use and the potential risk of exposure, we are required to post signs at the 1st/10th tees as well as any conspicuous points of entry to the golf course (practice green) alerting the public that a pesticide application has been made.  These signs serve as a voluntary 24 hour no reentry notification.
At the end of the day, golf course superintendents are stewards of the environment, a role that I take very seriously.  It is easy for a concerned parent or individual to dismiss my efforts to defend my programs and the decisions I make as a turf manager.  Perhaps the most powerful statement I can make with respect to the safety of my programs is that my son attends the same golf camps as your children, and plays the same golf course you do, and I would never expose him to anything that I thought would cause him harm.
If you would like any more information regarding my chemical, fertility, or any other management program, please feel free to send me an email and I would be happy to make time to discuss it with you.

July 16, 2014

Lightning strikes Pine Orchard

The thunderstorms that rolled through the area yesterday and last night brought an unexpected surprise.  Lightning struck the 6th fairway and broke one of the pipes.  The electricity moved through the ground, into the wires from the old irrigation system, and travelled along until the spot where the new irrigation system was pulled through the old wires.  The current dumped out of the wires and into the ground right over a 2"pipe blowing a hole in the PVC creating a geyser that greeted us when we arrived at 5:00 this morning. 
Although we needed the rain, the combined total over the last few days is over 3", which is a bit excessive.  Thankfully we poked holes in the greens and fairways on Monday so that the water could recharge the soil. 
The course will be open for play today and carts are available.  We were not able to mow or roll the greens this morning and it is certainly not suitable for the Ladies Guest Day that was originally scheduled for today.  We will be spending the day cleaning up debris from the wind, repairing the irrigation system, and fixing the bunkers that were washed out by the heavy rains. 

July 4, 2014

July 4th Greens Update

I saw this on Twitter and thought it was perfect for what we have been experiencing recently.

I never thought I would say this, but the latest hurricane to come up the coast was just what the golf course needed.  The gentle soaking rain recharged the soil by replenishing the water table and replacing the built up carbon dioxide with fresh oxygen, which is just what the doctor ordered.
I heard a few people comment recently that they were concerned about the appearance of the greens, and that they felt we were close to “losing” them.  I too was a little concerned, but at no point were we in jeopardy of suffering any damage to the greens.   The additional stress was related to our preparation for the two premier spring golf events, The Sid Noyes Stroke Play Championship and the Spring Member/Member.  Leading up to both events we performed our usual tournament preparation program, which includes extra mowing, rolling, and a special concoction that I devised to help firm up the greens and increase green speed.  The plan worked great, except for the fact that the weather following the Member/Member turned against us.  The heat and humidity were a bit stressful on the turf, and my concoction prevented the grass from growing out of the stress. 
The off color areas that people saw were areas of Poa annua that is typically less resilient than creeping bentgrass.  The extra mowing, rolling, and lack of water damage the leaf tissue, and the growth regulators prevent the plants from growing tall enough for our mowers to remove the older damaged leaves.  Creeping bentgrass thrives under these conditions making the Poa annua look even worse.  This is most evident on holes 3 and 5 which are over 80% Poa annua.  I admit I was more than a little concerned at first, but by using my moisture meter and microscope, I was able to monitor the condition of the turf as it slowly recovered.  Thanks to these two tools I had the information I needed to develop a strategy that would help nurse the turf back to health.  The key component of that plan was a good soaking rain to flush the soil and revive the plants that had been choking on the growth regulators that had been applied over the last few weeks.  The two thunderstorms early in the week and steady rain that fell on the 4th of July worked perfectly.
Unfortunately, our roller fell into disrepair just as the turf was coming out of regulation and is beginning to grow vigorously.  The turf will be lush and the greens a bit shaggy until I can resume my programs and the roller is repaired.  On Monday we will resume our cultural and chemical programs which should have the playing surfaces back in shape by the end of next week.

June 23, 2014

Fairway maintenance today

Today we used our scheduled Greens Maintenance Day to Aer-a-vate the fairways. This is a vibrating spiker that will help improve water infiltration and alleviate compaction which will be very important as we head into the heat of the summer.
The turf is full of holes today, but the disruption will be minor after we mow them tomorrow. By the weekend I doubt there will be any evidence of the procedure.

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

May 11, 2014

Tweet from Wykagyl Maintenance (@WccSuper)

Wykagyl Maintenance (@WccSuper)
And this is why we don't mess with lightning!

Download the official Twitter app here

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

April 30, 2014

Spring update

The calendar says that we are in the middle of spring, but looking out the window it feels more like it's just beginning.  We have been working hard to complete our renovation projects while getting the course open and ready for the golf season.
The greens aeration at the beginning of April has worked out beautifully, although the cool weather has delayed the recovery process a bit more than I had anticipated.  The rain today should put the finishing touches on the recovery, and the playing surfaces should be firm and smooth throughout the remainder of the season.  We will address the tees and fairways in the coming weeks as the weather and work schedule allow, but it will have minimal impact on the accessibility and playability of the golf course.
We now have two major projects complete, and hope to finish the third in the next couple of weeks.  The new mats at the driving range have been installed and have received rave reviews.  The fairway bunkers on the 1st hole have been renovated the sod has been installed.  They should be open for play by the middle of May.
The last major project is the re-grassing of the rough along the left side of the 1st hole.  This project is taking the longest due to irrigation repairs and upgrades which can only be completed at low tide.  These should be completed by the end of the week, allowing us to focus on improving the soil and installing the sod.  We have repaired, upgraded and expanded the irrigation over the last few weeks to improve the health of the turf after the renovation project is complete.
The phragmites are starting to recover from the winter mowing, and we will do our best to keep them under control.  There are a few people that do not like the changes, but as the native vegetation returns to the wetlands I am confident that the majority of the golfers will grow to like the new look.  The only place that there is a general dislike of the removal is along the 2nd hole.  We will be extending the wooden fence at the tee and will allow a 10'-15' buffer to grow back to block the view of the road. 
Soon warmer weather will be upon us and the grass will be growing vigorously.  We look forward to putting the projects to rest and enjoying the warm sun and sea breezes that make Pine Orchard the place to be in the Summer.

April 14, 2014

Fwd: Urgent request for residents of: Branford, Bridgeport, Glastonbury, Manchester & Tolland towns.

On the surface this looks like a no brainer. Eliminate pesticide use at schools to protect our children. In reality it is a tactic to prevent the responsible use of pesticides everywhere. The proposed legislation is based entirely on emotion rather than science. 
Professional turf organizations asked to have a study designed and completed to determine the actual level of exposure to pesticides on fields managed under mandated Integrated Pest Management protocols.  While there is evidence that some pesticides pose a potential threat to human health, there is not evidence that connects the exposure to a dose that correlates to increased risk of illness. 
The initial restriction was for grades k-8. The new bill expands that to all schools AND municipal grounds. Golf courses will be next. That will significantly affect our ability to provide the playing conditions that modern golfers enjoy and have come to expect. 
Please read the message below and consider encouraging your legislator to make decisions based on science rather than unfounded claims based on emotion. 

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

Begin forwarded message:

From: CAGCS <>
Date: April 14, 2014 at 2:11:13 PM EDT
Subject: Urgent request for residents of: Branford, Bridgeport, Glastonbury, Manchester & Tolland towns.

CAGCS Meeting Notice
Urgent request for residents of: Branford, Bridgeport, Glastonbury, Manchester & Tolland towns.

I am writing to ask your assistance, CTEC is counting votes in the Planning & Development committee for a vote tomorrow at 1 PM.

We need these specific areas to get involved! Bridgeport, Tolland, Branford, Glastonbury, Manchester to contact their legislators on the Planning and Development Committee and ask them to vote no on SB68.

Below is our Action Alert:

Call and/or email members of the Planning & Development Committee to OPPOSE SB68 by Tuesday, April 15th at 1 p.m. Call 860-240-0550.

A list of committee members can be found at

Background: SB68 has been amended and now EXPANDS THE BAN on use of EPA registered PESTICIDES on school grounds to include grades K-12.

Today's pesticide products represent an important, effective tool to more than 8,000 trained and licensed Connecticut professionals like me who work hard to keep outdoor spaces healthy and safe.

Well-designed integrated pest management (IPM) programs can reduce pesticide use by using maintenance and sanitation as the first line of defense against insects, rodents and noxious weeds.

However, pesticides do plays a valuable role in IPM programs by providing reliable pest control and preventing pest problems from reaching dangerous levels.

The proper and judicious use of pesticide products help protect towns from harmful pests, noxious weeds and allows for safer playing fields.

SB68 Bans the use of EPA registered synthetic pesticides on school grounds, parks, playgrounds, athletic fields and municipal greens.

Any questions or concern - contact:

Scott Ramsay, CGCS
Government Relations Chairperson

Connecticut Association of Golf Course Superintendents, Inc
P.O. Box 3678, Woodbridge, CT 06525
Telephone: (203) 387-0810
Toll Free: (888) 561-7778
Fax: (203) 387-7866
E-Mail Address:

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New mats installed today.

The new mat has been attached to the concrete pad on the practice tee. We are currently working on preparing the surrounding area for sod, including installation of a small drain in the low spot behind the tee. 
Please refrain from using the new mat until we set up a walkway through the dirt so that we avoid contaminating the artificial surface.  I hope to install the sod surrounding the mats by the end of the week, but that will be determined by the amount of rain we get tomorrow. We will provide updates here on the blog, through the golf shop, and in the newsletter. 

April 7, 2014

Greens Aeration Complete

Today we completed our spring aeration on the greens, which included a 1/2" core aeration and a deep verticutting.  Tonight's rain should wash in the remaining sand that was left on the surface from the winter topdressing, and the sun will drive the recovery process over the next few weeks.
I figured this would be a great time to get the work completed for a few reasons. First, the 3/4" holes from the fall deep aeration had not healed so a few more holes would not hurt. Second, the different grass species break dormancy at different rates leaving the greens bumpy and inconsistent this time of year, so the disruption from aeration would be a minor additional inconvenience. Finally, there are fewer golfers this time of year than during our traditional timing, and most of the golfers that are playing are just trying to find their swing after a long winter. By the time people are ready to focus on their finesse on and around the greens, the surfaces will be healed and we will be shifting our focus to producing firm, fast playing conditions.
Aeration is never a popular endeavor, so we shifted our schedule to minimize the impact on the golf calendar without compromising our ability to achieve our goals.  In the coming weeks we will be shifting our focus to tees, approaches, and fairways, as well as completing the renovation projects on the first hole and driving range.  I will keep you posted on any progress we make on all fronts.  Until then, I hope the weather cooperates and you are able to get out and enjoy the golf course.

March 30, 2014

Off and running

The golf season is right around the corner, finally.  For many it will be a relief to get back out after a tortuous winter marked by record cold snaps followed by a very persistent blanket of snow. For me it is the end of a season of rest, recouperation, and growth ( both personal and professional).  
The winter prevented us from completing many items on our "to do" list, but we were able to make some significant improvements to the course, our equipment, and our maintenance programs.  If you have not learned about these changes in blog posts, newsletters, or emails, you will certainly recognize them the first time you return to the golf course. The most obvious and important have been covered in previous posts, so I will shift our focus to the future. 
We are in the process of completing a few capital projects on the course, including installation of new artificial mats on the range, renovating the rough on the 1st hole, repairing and expanding the irrigation on the 1st hole, and replacing trees and shrubs that were damaged in the hurricanes. These projects will be moving along rapidly over the next two weeks, and we hope to have most of the work completed by the opening golf breakfast. Much of this depends on the weather, and I am trying to remain optimistic after the heavy rains this weekend. 
On Wednesday we will take a short break from projects to complete our first aeration on the greens. It will be a similar process to the one completed last September when we cored the greens one day and deep verticut them the next. This will be the cornerstone of our cultural program for the year, allowing us to rely on less invasive practices throughout the season, which will minimize the disruption to the surface during the peak golf season. The putting surfaces will be severely disrupted for the first half of April, but I expect them to be healed in time for Opening Day, and in excellent condition for the Spring Member-Member. 
During the season we will be completing minor cultural practices on greens, tees, and fairways, on close to a weekly basis. I have an initial schedule worked out that I will post on the club calendar, and will post any changes on the blog or via social media. I am still working out the details and will provide more information in a future post or email. 
Looking out the window it is hard to think that spring is here and another golf season is upon us, but I am eager to completethe capital improvements and shift our focus to building on the progress we have made on the course over the last few years.   I am confident that we are well on our way to another exciting and successful season, and we look forward to seeing you all again enjoying the golf course. 

March 13, 2014

Worst case scenario

The recent temperature swings could present a worst case scenario with respect to winter kill for turf grass. The saturated conditions caused by the warm weather and melting snow followed by the rapid drop to below freezing has the potential to cause significant damage to the plants.  Poa annua is at greater risk because it tends to break dormancy and draw moisture from the soil earlier than bentgrass. 
You can find more information about the potential damage in an earlier post. I am confident that the late fall deep aeration will reduce our risk if damage. The temperatures should warm enough tomorrow for the majority of the snow and ice to melt, and hopefully the surfaces will thaw and drain before the next precipitation event. 

March 8, 2014

USGA: North-Central

We have been monitoring the greens at Pine Orchard  for the last few weeks.  We were free from snow at the end of January, and it probably took a week or two for ice to form. I estimate that we are close to 35 days under ice which should be fine. 
A more dangerous situation arises when we clear snow and ice and rapidly expose turf to the sun causing it to break dormancy prematurely. Rapid drops in temperatures in this case can cause significant damage and turf loss. 
My first spring here was similar to this situation and we suffered very little damage, and none on greens. I expect the late season deep aeration and heavy topdressing will serve us well over the coming weeks. I will keep you posted. 
Here are two photos from March 2013. I was very scared at first, but the turf survived and the green performed beautifully that summer. 

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

March 4, 2014

Changes for the better.

We hired a contractor to come and transplant three trees to restore the strategic value that was lost one year ago when we had to remove the large pine tree that guarded the left side of the 3rd fairway.  Last spring we consulted with golf course architect Tim Gerrish to determine a long term solution that would challenge tee shots that were played along the left side of the fairway.  His solution included adding four trees in the left rough adding a new fairway bunker.  Last spring the Golf Long Range Committee approved the planting of the trees, and our staff planted the largest sugar maple that we could handle given our equipment.  

Today we transplanted three significantly larger red maples to complete the planting portion of the architect's drawing.  The new trees will provide a significant penalty for shots that miss far left of the fairway, but will not prevent the advancement of the second shot.  For the next few years it will be possible for many players to play over the trees, but it will require a lofted pitch shot making the approach to the green much more difficult.
The photos above show the process of digging a substantial rootball, raising it intact, and transporting the tree, roots and all, about 225 yards where it was installed in its new location.  
There will be a significant amount of care required over the next two years to ensure the success of the transplant, but I was assured that this species of tree is extremely hardy and tolerates this type of transplant well, especially at this time of year.

Click on any of the photos to enlarge

The new view from the left rough on #3
Another significant change to the course this winter is the cutting of the phragmites found throughout the property.  Phragmites, or Common Reed, is an invasive species that is a very aggressive weed in freshwater wetlands.  It modifies the nature of the wetland and out-competes the native plants by limiting the light availability, and ultimately crowds out the desirable vegetation.  It has little value as a wetland species due to the fact that it destroys diversity among plants and excludes the native insects, migratory birds, and mammals that rely on wetlands for survival.  Over time, the phragmites accumulate a significant amount of biomass and ultimately fill in the wetland.  This would be extremely detrimental to the golf course since we rely on these wetlands to absorb water running down the hill from the 7th and 8th holes.  If left unchecked, their continued growth would have a  negative impact on the health and condition of the 7th green and approach, as well as the forward tee on #17.  

Across the 1st fairway to the 7th and 8th holes
Cutting the dormant vegetation is the first step in the management project.  The dormant stalks are cut down and mulched as much as possible.  The material is left in place to decay to prevent transporting seeds and roots to new areas where the weed can begin a new infestation.  We are working on securing a permit that will allow us to complete the second step, which involves treating the areas with a herbicide to kill the vegetation that recovers from the initial mowing.  This will be followed up by another round of cutting next winter.  The following spring the native plants will begin to reestablish themselves from the seed bank that exists in the wetland soils.  I have already reached out to one of my vendors to explore the possibility of introducing some desirable wetlands plants that will speed up the recovery process and create an attractive habitat that contributes to the beauty and character of the golf course.

The work to the right of the 9th/18th tees can be seen from Blackstone Road, but the most significant visual impact will be found standing in the 7th fairway.  It will take some time to get used to the unobstructed views throughout the area, but in time the aesthetic and ecological benefits that the  wetlands contribute to the property will be well worth the wait.  A similar project has been implemented at Madison CC, and I have heard from a number of golfers that it has transformed a large portion of the property. 

View from the 18th Back Tee

Looking down the 7th fairway

February 28, 2014

Phragmites project update

The contractor has completed the cutting portion of the phragmites control project. We will continue working on a permit to spray the areas with an herbicide this summer. 

February 26, 2014

Phragmites management project: Part 1

View of the work area from the
9th/18th tee area
Click on photos to enlarge.
All Habitat Services has been hired to begin controlling the phragmites that have overtaken the inland and tidal wetlands throughout the golf course. Our staff cut most of the invasive weeds surrounding the 7th green at the end of last month, and now we are focusing on the source of the material near the 9th tee.
We are working with the town to secure permits that will allow us to kill the emerging weeds later in the summer, followed by another round of cutting next winter.
I will continue to consult other golf courses that have successfully implemented a long term management plan to see what will be involved in the future. The short term succession of native plants takes a few years to completely recover, but once it does the wetlands are much healthier, act as a natural filter for water moving in and out of the watershed, and provide beneficial habitat for native birds, insects, and mammals that are often excluded by the dense phragmites.

February 20, 2014

The enemy below - News - News -

A recent article from a superintendents' online community that discusses some of the issues we focus on as we transition from winter to spring. 

Sent from my iPad

February 19, 2014

What's going on under the snow?

1" Ice layer on 5th green.
No cause for alarm at this point.
Looking at the forecast and the thick blanket of snow I decided to strap on my snow shoes and take a peak under the snow this afternoon. I wanted to see if there was any ice buildup on the greens and see if I could expose a couple of drains to handle the runoff from the melting snow.
The first stop was the edge of the 6th hole to uncover the collector Darin at the edge of the property. The downstream portion of the system was upgraded this fall, and we wanted to do everything in our power to make a fair determination of how those changes will impact the capacity of the entire system. I also exposed the storm drain in the middle of the fairway. Hopefully this will take some of the burden off the smaller collectors and effectively act as a vent to facilitate flow.
The second stop was the 5th green. The lack of sun at this time of year can create significant problems, but thankfully there is not too much ice beneath the snow. I found about 1" of granulated ice, which indicates that there is still gas exchange and sufficient oxygen for the turf. I found a small drain on the back right corner and exposed it in case we end up with significant melting this week.

Exposing a surface collector on the 5th green

February 15, 2014

Jim Skorulski: Ten Things I Wish my Golf Course Superintendent Knew

It's never too easy to start thinking about the golf season. We are spending a lot of time this winter evaluating our current programs, planning projects, and establishing priorities. One of the most important aspects of a golf course maintenance operation, or any organization for that matter, is how priorities are established, communicated, and executed. This involves trust and effective communication among the Green Chair, committee members, and the superintendent.
Thankfully I feel that we have achieved that at Pine Orchard, and I appreciate the support and candid feedback I receive from the committee members.

I think this video from a 2011 USAG/MGA Green Chairman seminar offers some valuable insight on how superintendents and committees can improve their relationship, and make the operation more effective.
Feel free to add your comments if you have ideas that would add to the conversation.

Check out this video on YouTube:

Sent from my iPad

February 13, 2014

Damaged trees removed from 9th/18th holes

The grounds staff removed the trees on the 9th/18th hole that were damaged in the storm surges. The Green Committee is in the process of developing a plan to select replacement trees and restore the character that the damaged trees added to the hole.  They were not specimens trees, but they did screen the view of the range fairway from the 18th fairway, and could come into play for an errant shot off of the 9th tee.
As we begin the replacement process we will:

  1. Determine what, if any, value the trees added to the hole
  2. Identify the value of the remaining trees and their contribution to the hole
  3. Define how the trees should contribute to the hole in the future (framing, penalize poor shots, safety)
  4. Use Google Earth to take measurements to determine who is more likely to be impacted by the replacement trees
  5. Consult with USGA agronomists and local arborists for replacement options
  6. Contact suppliers to determine cost and availability of suitable replacement species.

The link below describes some of the characteristics that should be avoided when selecting trees for use on a golf course.  Too often committees opt for rapid growth over long term stability.  Support for this can be found in the white pines that were planted throughout the course, and now have damaged or missing limbs due to snow or wind storms.  A better approach is to examine the health and long term viability of the remaining trees.  This information can be used to design a replacement plan that will provide an attractive, functional planting that will add character and strategic interest to the golf hole.  This might involve a short term planting plan combined with future phases of removal and replacement as the desirable trees mature and fill the space.
We will post updates as we get closer to a solution.


A Guide for Selecting and Planting Golf Course Trees

February 7, 2014

Golf Industry Show - Orlando 2014

I just returned from the Golf Industry Show in Orlando. This event brings most of the top professional organizations, associations and individuals together annually to help improve and grow the game of golf. I participated as a member of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) and a board member of the Connecticut Association of Golf Course Superintendents (CAGCS).

The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) put on one of the best education conferences I have ever attended. I was able to listen to and interact with some of the top minds in turf research. Each year I try to select education focused on a certain topic, such as agronomics, budgeting, personnel management, or professional development. This year I selected two seminars focused primarily on plant health. I won't even bore you with the titles, but they centered on creating an environment where the plants would be healthy enough to tolerate the stress associated with producing firm, fast playing conditions, and how to use this stress to your advantage to create a more sustainable system. In addition to the paid seminars I attended a number of free group sessions, including one that featured the superintendents from Medinah and Merion sharing their experiences preparing for the Ryder Cup and U.S. Open. The talk was originally supposed to discuss aeration strategies, but it quickly evolved into a more general conversation about topdressing, rolling, and a host of other topics that contribute to satisfying golfers at the highest level in golf.

There were also hospitality events and celebrations that brought turf professionals from around the world together in relaxed settings where relationships could be developed and experiences shared. It has been my experience that we find more value in this part of the conference than we do looking at bar graphs and photos of dead grass in a seminar. I was watching the Super Bowl in a restaurant where Bayer Environmental was hosting forty of the top turf researchers from around the country. Over the course of the night a few of them ventured over to our table and shared ideas about hot topics in turf research, the potential of new products, and even a few laughs about past dinners and seminars. Over the years I have learned that the conversations that take place beyond the walls of the conference center provide the most value in the long term, as they often lead to support and advice that helps us save money or improve conditions back at our clubs.

While visiting the trade show I saw a number of exciting new products ($$$) and ideas that I will try to utilize this year:
  • I saw the latest model sprayers from TORO, and was given the rundown from a former classmate who pointed out the most improved features and how they had improved his programs.
  • I found a vendor that was selling mini-golf kits that could be used to engage kids and improve their ability to develop into avid golfers, which is critical to the future of the game.
  • The vendor that sold us our roller and grinders introduced me to a company whose product claims to improve irrigation efficiency and reduces water use through magnetism. I am very skeptical but it is definitely worth a free demo and some further investigation.
  •  I met with one of the contractors that is being considered for our fairway renovation project. I updated him on the status of our project and inquired about their schedule, and inquired about their availability in the future. I was pleased to hear that the number of bids was increasing indicating that the golf industry is recovering, but was a little concerned by the fact that they were busy enough to be more selective in the projects that they would consider.
Overall it was a great trip and I learned a lot, but I am glad to be home, and am eager to incorporate everything I learned into the coming golf season.
I hope you find an opportunity to steal away from the "Polar Vortex" and get to enjoy some sun, and maybe even sneak in a few holes while you're at it.