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.