May 25, 2015

Greens Update

Here we are nearing the end of May, and still dealing with the consequences of unfortunate weather events that happened back in December and January, almost half the year ago.  It has been no secret that all of the Poa annua in our greens and collars did not make it through the winter, the amazingly odd part has been that very little of the Poa in the greens has decided to recover much yet either.  While the collars are very slowly filling back in, I estimate that only about 10-20 percent of the Poa that died in the greens is making a return to life.

This situation presents a bit of a double-edged sword for us.  The greens are in much less than desirable condition right now with the voids from all the dead Poa leaving the putting surfaces about as smooth as a gravel parking lot.  Conversely, if the Poa decides it doesn't want to come back, great.  We are doing all that we can so far this spring to push the bentgrass into filling in the voids where the Poa died.  The more bentgrass is in our greens and collars, the less we will have to deal with scenarios like this in the future.

There is hardly a single living blade of Poa annua is this picture.  Normally by
now all of those dead voids would be filled with Poa bursting to life.  For whatever
reason, that has not happened this year.

So far this spring we have been doing all that we can to keep the bentgrass spreading out into the dead voids.  A little bit of extra topdressing sand has helped level out the depressions making the greens putt a little smoother, and giving the bentgrass something to spread into.  Furthermore we have been filling some of the larger voids with bentgrass plugs from our practice green, utilizing smooth rollers on our cutting units, doing a bit of spot seeding here and there, and regularly rolling.  Combined with a little bit of extra fertilizer and the areas are slowly starting to fill in.  However, it is a long road back back in some areas still.

18 green received some serious attention last week with the collar getting
sodded out, about 100 bentgrass plugs in the larger Poa voids, and spiked, seeded,
and topdressed in the smaller damage areas.

Lots of plugs in the front of 11 green
Getting started cutting plugs out of the practice hole green.  We will likely take
another 1,000 more before its all said and done.

Lastly, 16 green is showing some serious recovery after having been seeded and covered for the last few weeks.  All of our bentgrass seed germinated (although amazingly, almost no Poa seeds did.)  We will likely open hole 16 back up in the next few days as the new bentgrass seedlings start to mature and take hold.  It will likely putt a bit slower than the rest of the greens for a few weeks as we continue to go easy on it to allow for complete recovery.

Lots of bentgrass seedlings are filling in the bare areas in 16 green.  It should
make an almost complete recovery here in the next few weeks.
Needless to say, this has been a very trying spring so far.  It is extremely frustrating to deal with damage to the golf course that is the result of weather events that happened months ago.  However, we are making the most of a bad situation by quickly converting our greens to a mostly pure stands of bentgrass.  The more Poa annua we can keep from coming back this year, the more consistent our greens will be in the summer months, and the less devastating loss of turf we will have to deal with in coming winters.

May 13, 2015

Course Markings and Native Areas

The greens committee toured the course a few weeks ago to discuss some of the markings on the course and to look at moving around some of our native grass areas that we have added over the years.

One of the major changes we decided to enact was to remark what had previously been Out of Bounds in the prairie area between holes 2, 3, 4, and 6 into a lateral hazard.  There was really no reason for the area to be marked Out of Bounds as the area is all property of the GFCC.  Remarking this area as a hazard will allow players to look for and play their ball out of that area, or drop a ball along the hazard, as opposed to having to take a stroke and distance penalty.

Furthermore, we made some tweaks to our native grass areas.  We mowed out some areas on the left side of 2, the right side of 9 along the creek, and the right side of 17 behind 16 tee.  These areas are where a lot of only slightly errant tee shots were getting lost in the tall grass.

We also reclaimed some areas that Cole Creek and constant flooding have turned back into weed infested wastelands.  These areas are along the right side of 9, right side of 15, and the right and left side of 17 on the green side of the creek.

Previous native area left of hole 2 mowed back down to rough height.

After cleaning up a bunch of weeds, overgrown trees, and some piles of old
flood silt, we were able to reclaim 15' - 20' of rough on the left side of 17.

Previous native area on the right side of 9 mowed back to rough height.
We reclaimed a lot of area on the right side of hole 15 where years and years of
silt removal had created massive piles of dirt and weeds.  The area was leveled,
weeds sprayed, and will be reseeded next week.

There were also some areas on the course where we moved our native areas out into the course a little further as well.  Most of these areas are along or behind tee boxes, or in areas so far away from the line of play of the hole that very few balls will end up there.  That isn't to say that a few extremely errant shots won't find their way into some, but it should be few and far between.

The reason for letting these rough areas grow back into native areas is two-fold.  Most importantly, it comes down to dollars and cents.  Our rough mowers are extremely expensive machines with a lot of years and hours on them, diesel fuel is expensive, and so are operators.  Every bit of rough that we can quit mowing is money back in our bank account, and more time our staff can spend working on other areas of the course.  Secondly, letting these areas grow back to prairie gives the course a more natural look and adds a lot of extra texture to the property.

This area right of 2 tee is getting let go back to native.  If you miss the fairway
on hole 6 by more than 100' you could lose your ball here.

May 6, 2015

16 Green Recovery Program

I had originally thought that we had sustained only moderate Poa annua loss in our greens and collars coming out of winter this year.  Well, I was wrong.  The dry and open winter almost certainly wiped out all the Poa annua in our sand based greens and collars from direct low temperature kill.  The warm melting periods in December and January followed by temps in the -15 to -20 range directly following them without any snow cover on the ground was definitely the nail in the coffin.

Surprisingly however this year, very little of the Poa is recovering.  This is most likely due to the hot and dry start to spring we have had.  Poa annua thrives in cool and wet conditions, which is what we would typically think of in April and early May.  That has not been the case this year however.

While all greens have some Poa annua in them that died, 16 had much more that a lot of others, and absolutely none of it is showing any signs of life yet.

All of the green left on 16 is bentgrass.  Not a trace
of Poa annua is showing any life.
Because of the intensity and the coverage of the damage on 16 green, we are closing the green to allow for recovery.  This morning we slit seeded bentgrass into the surface in two directions, topdressed, fertilized and put down a cover.  With the help of the cover and our irrigation system that is finally fully functional, we should be able to get a significant amount of seed to germinate very quickly.  In the meantime, the practice hole by the driving range will serve as the temporary hole 16.

The bentgrass seeds are too tiny to see, but the slit seeder does a great job
getting them down into the mat layer where there is more moisture.

Topdressing the entire green with sand after seeding.

Getting the cover stretched out.

Just add water.

Taking a green out of play is the absolute last thing that I was hoping to do.  However, the damage was so severe on 16 I feel that if we did not take these steps to aid in some significant recovery, then there was a good chance the green would struggle the entire summer and may never fully recover until later in the fall.

There is however a silver lining to all of this.  Obviously, Poa annua is a horrible grass (well, weed technically) to have on our golf course as is evidenced by our greens and collars this spring.  There have been a lot of advancements in the last decade or so with newer bentgrass cultivars, growth regulators, and cultural practices that make taking Poa annua out and keeping it out much more realistic that ever.  This spring is giving us a huge jumpstart on getting our greens and collars back into being a stand that may one day hopefully be nearly devoid of Poa annua.

Most of the damage on the greens from the Poa dying looks more like this.  With
a little extra topdressing and fertilizer the bentgrass will quickly creep in and
take over these voids.