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On August 16, the golf course was in its best playable condition of the year with firm conditions all around and greens rolling about 10 feet on the stimpmeter. Fun stuff and really not very difficult to do when conditions cooperate. Then August 17 and its 2” of rain happened, closing the course for one of the busiest days of the year. Ever since then, it seems that just when we have the course firming up and emulating conditions on August 16, we get hit with more rain. Just the way it goes sometimes.
I always get aerification questions this time of the year since many golf courses in the area (or the country for that matter) core aerify in the fall. I have been trying to actually minimize the need to core aerify (pulling plugs) at the Wilderness. What we do instead is aerify with a solid deep tine aerifier which does, in my opinion, a thoroughly superior job than core aerifying without the mess, disruption to play, and consumption of labor hours. We plan on removing thatch (wherever necessary on tees and fairways) later on this fall utilizing a Graden dethatcher which removes close to three times the material that core aerifying does without the mess. Both processes are winners and while we will “pull plugs” in some select areas where there is an application-like on smaller tees that we cannot access with the larger equipment required, I will say that I am relieved to be doing much less of this disruptive and messy process. I am sure that customers will be as well. In short, I am becoming more and more a believer of the phrase, “Core aerifying is for chumps." :)
Moving on to the technical portion of this work, I have taken a few pictures of the 2nd green for discussion. We have been working with the University of Minnesota to evaluate an experimental use product from Korea (the good side) that helps with the control of annual bluegrass i.e. Poa on bentgrass turf areas. As I have explained in earlier articles over the years, annual bluegrass is not a desirable species on putting greens on this property as it has a tendency to die over the harsh winter months. The seedheads that it produces can also aversely affect putting quality. The first picture shows a patch of Poa underneath the keys that is pretty much smoked by the treatment but note how the bentgrass around it continues to thrive. The hope here is that the bentgrass will fill in the void left behind-indeed it is beginning to do so already. The second picture shows a larger part of the same green showing the different patches of annual bluegrass in varying stages of decline.
2 Green 8-16-2017
2 Green 8-16-2017
As we continue to experiment with this newest technology, we are developing a very real comfort level and familiarity with its most effective usage. Our hope is that this product can become a useful tool in the future to help keep our putting surfaces free of annual bluegrass and thus ensure their health long into the future. While we will never eliminate this weed from our greens, we strive to keep its population in check.
See you on the golf course.
Well, looks like the five days of actual summer we had this year are finally over. Boy was it ever rough. The overall feel at this point is that we are now getting into the fall season and the forecast seems to bear this out. Having worked at other golf courses in a different climate, normally this time of the year is the toughest of the year. Summer had been dragging on for a few months and the hot temperatures would start to get old. Here, what gets old is waiting for a summer that never really arrives and when it does it is over in a few days. Pretty lame but on a positive note the weather at the moment is San Diego-like beautiful. Guess I should stop whining.
But it seems that I cannot help myself-as the picture below helps to illustrate:
Bug spray damage on 2 fairway 2017
The picture above shows the outline of the footprints of a golfer who sprayed their legs with bug spray while standing on a fairway. When temperatures rose to above 80, the sprayed turf was singed and took a solid two weeks to grow through the damage. I have seen this kind of damage quite often on fairways not just here but pretty much anywhere there are mosquitos. The request here is to make sure that you are on a cart path before spraying your legs or any parts of your body-or simply be careful to make sure the overspray stays off of turfgrass. Another turfgrass subject that I would like to discuss is the repair of divots.
Different golf courses have different recommendations when it comes to player etiquette. Things like whether to put bunker rakes in or out of bunkers (at the Wilderness we put the rakes inside the bunkers) or replacing divots. One thing that I wish people would do more of is actually replacing their divots. This used to be standard operating procedure but somewhere along the line somebody started this thing where you do not have to replace divots-to just use the divot mix and leave the mess you made untouched. This is bogus. If you take a divot that remains intact, please retrieve and replace it.
The divot may or may not survive (though any divot taken this year before July 10th would have knit in nicely). More importantly, replacing the divot improves the playing surface for the person coming after you by both reducing the divot debris left on the fairway and filling in the divot left by your swing. Would you rather play out of someone else’s divot filled with divot mix or a well-replaced intact divot? Playability for all should take first priority on the golf course-even if it means a little more work.
The simplest way to put it is if you make an intact divot, replace it. Ideally, you will fill in any gaps on your replaced divot with a little divot mix. This would be optimal. If the divot disintegrates upon impact and really leaves you with nothing to replace, then using just divot mix is the proper route to take.
Thank you in advance for your cooperation in doing your part to help us make the course the best that it can be-not just for your group but for everyone.
See you on the golf course,
Vincent Dodge CGCS
After a few weeks of frost free weather combined with 300 pounds of grass seed and a thorough aerfication, the areas punished by winter are now finally getting back into expected condition. This has been, for the most part, a terrible spring and early summer for renovation/establishment. Nothing new in this part of the world. When the rest of the country is dealing with record highs, we seem to remain stuck with unseasonably cool weather. Summer never really happens here but rather we have a 5 month long spring, a month of fall, and six months of winter. Pretty sad-makes me wish for a little global warming to come our way.
Front of 6 fairway June 8, 2017 Front of 6 fairway June 29, 2017
As I make efforts to keep current in golf industry trends and challenges faced by my peers, the number one issue that always surfaces is staffing. Everybody is constantly complaining about an inability to hire good people to get work done. Not sure what it is, but we really have not had problems in this regard. Our only limiting factor for staffing is staying within a finite budget amount.
We have hired seven new crew members this year and I am, for the most part, very happy with how they are meshing in with our veteran nucleus and giving many of the experienced hands the opportunity to scale back on their own hours and enjoy life a little in season. Inevitably mistakes are made due to inexperience and I might have to whine a little more at times, but upon reflection I feel good about the sustainability of what we have here for years to come. I take a more long-term view of staffing and think of it more in terms of future years than I do fretting about having enough people to work this weekend. If you take care of the long-term, the short-term seems to take care of itself.
A big thank you goes out to George Bibeau, Mark Fabish, Daniel Hilmas, Alyssa Littlewolf, Christine Maki, Ron Marinaro, and Maury Morison for choosing to be a part of our group. Your efforts are appreciated by us all.
See you on the golf course,
Vincent Dodge CGCS
What a difference a few days make. We went from a pretty rotten May with unseasonably cold temperatures to a very warm first part of June. We were finally able to start implementing our plant growth regulator programs throughout the golf course this week which will alleviate the strain on our staff in trying to keep the golf course properly groomed for players-while at the same time, among other thing-preparing areas for and planting ornamentals as well as finishing projects by the clubhouse, 5, and the 9th tee. We also spend hundreds of man-hours throughout the season helping with hotel grounds. Like I said, a busy time.
Plant growth regulators are nothing new in the industry (some of the ones that I learned about in college 28 years ago are still in use today) and their proper use is much like an art form that considers weather, rates, timing, labor availability and financial pressures, fertility, and volume of play. I do not want to bore you with the science of gibberellin synthesis, but suffice it to say that regulated turf needs less water, less mowing, helps to discourage annual bluegrass, and makes for an overall better playing surface. The danger with turf regulation is that if you do not know what you are doing, serious turf injury can result. Any dummy can make something grow fast, look green, and require both mowing and aerifying two to three times more than necessary-which absorbs labor dollars unnecessarily and distracts/annoys players.
A special challenge this year, as was alluded to last month, was the winter damage throughout the golf course. This is finally on the mend with the arrival of good growing conditions-as the before and after pictures below show:
Front of 6 fairway May 10, 2017 Front of 6 fairway June 8, 2017
Now that conditions are favorable for growth, we will be touching up the remaining bare areas by overseeding the areas where recovery is lagging. These areas (which are, for the most part, restricted to the rough) should be back to their usual condition within the next month or so.
On a final and unrelated note, I had the chance to attend the Duluth Airshow last weekend and highly recommend it to anyone who appreciates aviation and the fantastic people who sacrifice many of their freedoms so that we may enjoy ours. I have included a picture I took of a B-52 flying over the airfield since it is, frankly, much cooler than pictures of grass.
See you on the golf course,
The biggest challenge faced in the management of turf in a cold climate such as ours is the possibility of winter damage. Sometimes with all the best preventative measures, factors beyond our control can cause us to come out of the long winter with some damage to turf. This was the case this year on a few of our putting greens. A late December thaw with rain followed by a cold January which in turn was followed by a mid-February thaw with heavy rain followed by a cold early part of March created thick layers of ice on parts of putting greens that caused some isolated damage. Damage was most prevalent on the putting green, 2, 7, 8, and 16 greens. Normally this sort of damage grows out and is for the most part recovered by the time that we open, but cold weather and snow throughout the month of April/May delayed the process. Cold temperatures and snow are not what you want when driving growth. When we opened, all areas were for the most part recovered with the exception of the 7th green.
7 Green 7 Green
April 10, 2017 May 10, 2017
The before and after pictures show the improvement of the putting surface from April 10th until May 10th. Note the deep, dark green on the May 10th photo. This is the plant response to applications of Ammonium Sulfate that we use to drive early season growth. I am confident that with warmer temperatures and hopefully a few days in a row without a frost or snow will help to continue this recovery.
Patience is needed when dealing with this sort of challenge. The solution in this situation is not to go crazy aerifying and overseeding damaged areas right away. Seed is slow to germinate in cold temperatures and all you are doing is making a choppy putting surface (playability comes first) and possibly delaying the recovery by damaging the plants you already have. I have made that mistake before. Rather, the proper play is to encourage growth of what you have and then, with the resumption of consistent growing conditions, touching up areas in need of assistance. This is our plan.
Moving on from the why is that grass brown topic, I would like to throw out a big thank you to the entire staff who worked tirelessly in the rain, freezing rain, and snow to get the golf course up and running for opening day on May 5. This spring was particularly difficult but they endure without complaint and truly show a dedication to the golf course that continues to impress me year after year.
See you on the golf course.
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