April 24, 2015

Winter Injury Update 4/24/15

By now many of you have heard about, and possibly seen the damage to the golf course caused by the extreme winter weather.  Over the last few weeks we have been cautiously promoting recovery through seeding and fertilizing affected areas.  These efforts combined with some favorable weather conditions have helped some areas recover, and have revealed the areas that suffered complete loss of turf.
April 14, 2015
Now that we have identified the areas that will require additional attention we are taking a more aggressive approach.  In the fairways we have begun seeding a modern variety of bentgrass into the dead areas.  This will result in a more durable, reliable stand of turf that will be able to tolerate extreme weather in all four seasons.  The areas that showed the most severe damage on greens are found on holes 4, 5, 7, and 9.  Yesterday we aerified, seeded, and fertilized the damaged areas (including the entire 5th green).  The idea is that the seed/fertilizer combination will either fill in the voids with new bentgrass plants, or the fertilizer will push the remaining turf to fill in the voids. 
The damage to the 5th green was rather extensive, and therefore we have decided to close the green and cover it to increase the soil temperatures.  Elevated soil temperatures will promote germination of the seed and help any plants that survived resume growth.  The plan is to leave the cover on for one week and assess the recovery before the spring Member/Member. 
April 23, 2015
I can assure you that I am the last one who wants to close any greens, but I also don’t want to be dealing with winter a minute longer than I have to.  The good news is that the rest of the course is emerging from the winter beautifully.  The fairways are glowing and the bentgrass on the greens looks as good as I have ever seen.  Hopefully it won’t be long before we are able to resume our normal greens maintenance programs that provide the firm, smooth, fast greens that we all enjoy at Pine Orchard. 

April 11, 2015

New Tick Borne Illness Discovered in Connecticut

There is a new tick borne illness that has been found on the Connecticut shoreline. According to the alerts I have read it is more severe and more readily transmitted than Lyme Disease.
There are a number of insecticides that can be used to control ticks in turf, but they are generally broad spectrum products that are not consistent with my management programs. They are more toxic than the reduced risk products I use on the golf course which are more selective and present minimal risk to mammals and birds.
I will be consulting state extension specialists to learn more about reduced risk tick control options. In the meantime I have included a link to a state publication on ticks, and what we can do to control ticks at Pine Orchard and protect our families from the diseases they spread. 

April 7, 2015

Course opens for 2015

The course opened today for the 2015 season.  Last week we were able to roll the greens twice and begin cleaning tees, fairways, and rough areas.  We verticut the greens yesterday to remove some of the winter topdressing and begin smoothing the surfaces.  The surfaces are far from being in mid-season form, but I feel comfortable that they are firm enough to receive approach shots and tolerate foot traffic.  As the turf breaks dormancy and resumes growth we will watch the weather to determine when to mow the greens and gradually increase the frequency and intensity of our maintenance schedules. 
The harsh winter and unseasonably cool spring has significantly impacted our ability to transition from one season to the next.  The extreme cold and persistent snow cover has left some of the turf struggling to break dormancy.  Some of the damage to the leaves is superficial, and is consistent with previous winters.  There are a few other areas where the damage seems to be a bit more severe and is found on turf that I would expect to be more resilient.  Damage can be expected in shaded areas that are dominated by weaker turf species and experience extended periods of snow and ice cover.  Typically this damage occurs in late spring when the daytime snow melt is followed by extremely cold nights, causing the saturated soil and turf to freeze.  Each species of grass exhibits a different degree of cold hardiness and susceptibility to ice damage.  Traditionally bentgrass is the most resilient grass species, with Poa annua and perennial ryegrass being more susceptible to ice and cold temperature damage.  The areas of the course that were damaged by the extreme weather this winter include low areas on greens dominated by Poa annua and fairway areas comprised primarily of perennial rye. 
The areas that concern me the most are the front of the 9th green and the depression at the front of the 7th.  These were the first green surfaces exposed to the elements as the snow melted, and may have suffered ice damage.  The bleached areas of the fairways may have been affected by the extreme cold weather in January.  At this point there is no point in worrying what caused the damage.  Our focus will be on watching for signs of recovery and developing strategies for establishing more durable turf species so that the situation can be avoided in the future.
As the day time highs and overnight lows rise over the next couple of weeks we will have a better idea of the extent of the damage.  I have been in contact with area superintendents to learn more about what they are experiencing and discussing recovery strategies. As we monitor the recovery process and begin seeding the damaged areas, our normal spring maintenance programs may need to be modified opting for a less aggressive approach to preparing the course.  Flexibility and patience are critical to ensure the course will be healthy enough to stand up to the wear and tear and environmental stress of the summer. 
Once we are comfortable that the turf has recovered, we will resume our normal cultural and maintenance practices.  These include routine mowing and rolling, as well as topdressing, verticutting and aerating.  The plan for 2015 is to take a less aggressive approach to our cultural practices, but to complete them more often.  In time this approach will lead to less disruption from individual cultural practices, and will reduce the number of days that the surfaces are in a state of recovery. 

In the coming weeks I will be sharing updates on the blog, in the newsletter, and through the ForeTees system.  Until then, I hope you will all find time to sneak in an early season round, and I look forward to seeing you back out on the golf course. 

April 5, 2015

Inside the Ropes: The Life of an Augusta greenkeeper

I stumbled across this article on Twitter. It provides a brief description of what goes on behind the scenes at Augusta National, and why it is irrational for most clubs to strive to achieve that level of perfection. 
In spite of the dark side of the "Augusta National Syndrome", the club and its premier tournament do a lot for the game of golf. For decades they have inspired golfers in the northern half of the country to get back out on the course after a long winter, and now they are create opportunities to introduce and engage young players through the Drive, Chip, and Putt competition. 
I for one can't wait to watch the coverage all week. Which reminds me, I have to go set my DVR so that I don't miss a single minute of uninterrupted coverage. Another feat that can only be pulled off at The Masters. 

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