April 12, 2016

Online auction to fund turf research

The New England Regional Turf Foundation is hosting an auction for rounds of golf to help fund turf research at universities in the Northeast. The research projects help improve the playing conditions you enjoy wherever you play golf. The projects funded also help develop a more sustainable model for golf maintenance based on reduced reliance on fertilizer, pesticides and irrigation. 
Please take a moment to peruse the list of clubs available, and consider supporting the NERTF Tee Up New England campaign. 

Peter Gorman
Golf Course Superintendent
Pine Orchard Yacht and Country Club

April 7, 2016

Greens aeration

We will be aerating the greens on Friday April 8th.  While most golfers have come to accept this process as a necessary evil, few truly understand why we do it, why different courses do it different ways and at different times.  Aeration programs are designed and scheduled to accomplish specific goals, and therefore no two courses complete the process the same way or at the same time.  Here are a few common questions and answers that will help you understand the aeration program at Pine Orchard.

Why do we have to do it?
Our primary goal is to create vertical channels of sand in the turf that allow water to infiltrate the surface, and will facilitate movement of oxygen and carbon dioxide between the soil and atmosphere.  The exchange of gases will help develop healthier, more resilient plants that tolerate the stress we impose throughout the summer.  The sand channels we create will function throughout the season, and we will supplement this aeration with less invasive "venting" every three weeks to keep the surfaces open throughout the season.

Why do we have to do it now?
Every course chooses their aeration timing based on their own set of priorities.  Some wait until late spring to minimize the recovery time, others wait until late fall to maximize revenue from green fees, carts, and outings.  I like to get the process out of the way at the beginning of the season while most golfers are just happy to get back outside, and are trying to find their swing.  At this time the greens are still a little slow and bumpy as the turf resumes growth, and many golfers have yet to return from their winter homes.  By the time the greens heal, many golfers have found their swing, and are ready to fine tune their short game for the season.  The real benefit of this early timing is that we will not have to endure another significant disruption to the greens until the end of the season which allows us to maximize the number of weeks that the greens are in top condition.

Why don't we pull cores anymore?
Core aeration is one of the most effective methods of controlling organic matter in turf.  Thankfully, our soil tests show that the organic matter in our greens falls within an acceptable range, and we are able to manage its development with less invasive practices such as topdressing and vertical mowing.  Core areation can lead to contamination of the turf by bringing native soil and weed seeds to the surface.  By using solid tines, the sand topdressing is not contaminated and we are able to promote more resilient perennial turf species.

What is the process?
We begin by applying straight sand topdressing to the greens, and once it dries we punch 1/2" holes into the turf.  The dry sand falls directly to the bottom of the hole, and the vibration helps sand permeate the turf canopy.  We then drag the sand into the holes using a brush to fill the holes.  Verticutting helps fill the holes and works any excess sand into the turf, which will produce the smooth firm surfaces expected at Pine Orchard.

How long until they heal?
The recovery process is driven by soil temperatures which are driven by the amount of sun and overnight lows.  Recovery typically takes about a week longer in early spring than when completed later in the season. Our goal is to have the greens smooth by the lat weekend in April and fast by the first week in May.  We will continue to monitor the recovery and will adjust any programs needed to achieve the goals of our program, and set the stage for another season of great golf at Pine Orchard.

What then?
Once the greens aeration is complete, we will shift our focus to tees, fairways, approaches, and rough. These areas will be addressed as weather and maintenance schedules allow.  There is much less disruption associated with aerating the rest of the course, and we hope to have the entire course complete by the time the greens have healed.  The course is closed on Mondays until 1:00 throughout the season which allows us to complete less invasive cultural practices every two or three weeks.  This schedule will ensure that the turf throughout the course can tolerate heat, drought, and traffic stress that is common during the summer months.