Monday, March 29th, 2010

Course Conditions
It is hard to believe April will be here in a couple days. It seems like we have spring for two months already. The nice weather has sure been a blessing but don't think the rain will be over anytime soon. The forecast is for lots of rain this week, perhaps up to an inch today. Today we scheduled to aerify the tees which may be a wash. I am hesitant to aerify now and topdress later for fear of the holes closing up and then being unable to fill them with sand. We have borrowed a neighbors aerifier which will enable us to get the job done twice as fast. If we can't get them done on today we will be aerating then next possible day. The plan is to do the tees this week and then aerify the greens next Monday. This year we will be using the mini tines which will heal much faster and will have a very small impact on ball roll. If all goes well the greens should be putting nicely by the end of the day when we finish. Pray for nice weather!

From the eyes of a Superintendent

While out on the course yesterday I found a couple interesting items I would like to share with everyone. Once in a while you find one of those situations where you just have to shake your head and walk away such as the golfer parking his cart off the cart path right in front of a newly constructed turn out, built to prevent just that. Many time bunkers will reveal activities from the day before and even the night before. Just last month Jorge was coming to work and witnessed a coyote running across the street toward the course with not one but two chickens in his mouth.

Monday, March 22nd, 2010


I would like to start this post with a video by my friend Darren Davis from Olde Florida Golf Club. This is one of the videos we filmed at Miramichi Golf Club for the Golf Channel last October. I thought this video would be appropriate with greens aeration scheduled April 5th and tees scheduled next week. Click on the box below to begin the video.

Bentgrass vs Poa annua

Modern golf course putting greens today are primarily seeded to bentgrass but eventually will convert to Poa annua within twenty years. Here in the Northwest we are home of some of the finest Poa putting green surfaces in the county. This doesn't come without a price. Unlike bentgrass, Poa is very shallow rooted and requires much more water to survive in the dry summers. It is also less disease resistant than bentgrass and requires many more fungicide applications. The reason why it is so prolific is its ability to produce copious amounts of viable seeds at a very low mowing height. This ensures it survival under times of stress.

The greens at Stone Creek Golf Club are now entering their tenth year of existence and are no different than most greens in the northwest for their age. Some greens have up to ten percent and others less than one percent Poa. Many factors contribute to the degree in which a green will convert. The first green to usually see a fair amount of Poa is normally the practice putting green. This is usually the first place golfers walk to after putting on their golf shoes which contain Poa seeds embedded from previous rounds of golf at other courses. Another factor is the surrounding turfgrass. If there is an area that golfers are regularly walking through that contains a high amount of Poa, the seeds will travel by foot and appear to spread from that direction as if a disease were taking over. You will be able to see an example of this on our eighth green.

How we manage our cultural program is one of the most important factors in slowing the conversion. Mainly it is the amount of irrigation that we use. Our greens were seeded to a variety of bentgrass called PennLinks. This grass is very deep rooted which means it has the ability to withstand low water conditions by drawing its water from deep in the soil profile. If we over irrigate bentgrass then the roots will not search out the deep water and will only rely on the shallow water. Since Poa thrives on shallow water this is where it will begin to take over and spread.

There are generally two types of irrigation practiced, light/frequent and heavy/infrequent. As you can guess the light/frequent method will benefit the Poa and the heavy/infrequent will benefit the bentgrass. Many homeowners have asked me how to get rid of the Poa in their lawns and I tell them to turn off the water. The first thing they do when they install a new lawn is program their irrigation clock to run 5 minutes a night seven days a week and all they are doing is encouraging the Poa to spread. Instead what they should be doing is watering maybe two times a week but with the same accumulative amount of water. This doesn't have to be applied in one cycle rather it can be done in three to four cycles over the period of one night. This allows the soil to be drenched then dried over a period of time, allowing the roots to search deeper and become healthier.

There are chemical control methods involving growth regulators which have limited success and can come with a risk. Some growth regulators can suppress the seed head production which is used by many courses with Poa greens to smooth the putting surface in the spring when they are seeding heavily. This has some success with Poa in bentgrass but if applied more than once it can have a drastic effect on the bentgrass itself.

At Stone Creek we have decided not to fight the Poa but to encourage the bentgrass instead, allowing to Poa to do what it does naturally but to also encourage the bentgrass in a way that gives it an advantage over the Poa in the long run. Once accepting this practice we have seen tremendous results on our putting surfaces. We are using wetting agents to ensure that the water penetrates the soil profile and doesn't allow the soil to become hydrophobic. We are using a product called Revolution by Aquatrols. This is applied monthly and followed by an extremely deep irrigation cycle which helps the water penetrate the profile. This helps use achieve the heavy/infrequent watering cycle that is so desirable for the bentgrass.

Another way we can promote the bentgrass is to incorporate new bentgrass seed on a regular basis. Since we planted the greens at Stone Creek new varieties of bentgrass have been developed and have more desirable qualities than the older varieties. We have been interseeding our greens with two more recent varieties called Penn A-1 and Penn A-4. These varieties are much more aggressive and form a tight canopy thus creating a much smoother putting surface and even have the ability to compete with the Poa. We have been incorporating the seed into the greens each time we aerify, allowing it to establish in the holes created. Currently you can see the caches of seeds coming through the holes from last fall. It is amazing after such a cold spell in December that it is still there. Since we have been interseeding we have seen a notable difference in the texture of the greens. My thought is if Poa can reseed itself so prolifically why can’t we allow the bentgrass to do so artificially?

In this photo to the left, you can see a discolored patch of bentgrass in the middle which is a natural occurrence.Within that patch you will notice some lighter green patches of grass. This is a great demonstration of the success of interseeding bentgrass. This seed was sewn last fall during our aerification and is now establishing itself.

Monday, March 15th, 2010

I have decided that I am going to call this month February and some how come to grips that this year March came right after January. I know it has been different in other parts of the country but we seem to be ten degrees cooler this month than we were in February.

My heart goes out to all those high school kids playing golf each year. March is when practice begins and they have to come out and endure this cold weather to prepare for the spring season. Each year it seems that the weather finally cooperates just about the time their season ends. It is nice seeing so many of them showing up to practice each day.

We had a great week last week in that the greens and tees received a Verde-Cal application and soil samples were taken prior. It seemed like it rained an awful lot but it was only around a half inch, most of it happening late Friday. It was good to see it clear up for the Stone Creek Men's Club opener on Saturday.

Last week we broke ground on the new banquet facility, stripping off the old asphalt where the tent used to be. Once the grade is set the foundation crew will be in to start excavating and setting forms. I will be posting pictures as the project proceeds.

Here is an updated picture of the new turnout at the thirteenth green with the new sod. If this doesn't keep the carts off the grass I don't know what will. Since we still had some extra cobble left the guys went ahead and put in a new turn out at the bottom of fifteen. I think that should take care of that mud hold nicely.

Expect to see some fertilizer applications this week on the greens and tees. As we begin to mow more frequently the need for fertility increases as well. Weather permitting we will also try to get some fungicide down on the tees as well. We have been keeping a close eye on the fusarium patch and it is probably time to take action. The greens are also due for a preventative application for anthracnose. We have seen some yellow patch show up here and there but that is mostly superficial and disappears as we fertilize.

If we have time this week we will begin our new irrigation project on the right side of thirteen. As you can see from the photo, the area near the path has always been thin in the summer due to the lack of coverage. We are going to take a sprinkler head out of commission on the opposite side of the fairway and use the wire to control a zone of sprinklers along the cart path edge. Once completed, this should greatly improve the rough along the right side of the fairway.

March Madness!

As Always, March rolls in like a lion. When you feel spring is just around the corner it has a way of bringing you back to reality. This morning we woke up to a light dusting of snow. If all goes well we should be playing by noon!

Monday, March 8th, 2010

Course Conditions
The course is still playing great. What a fantactic weekend for golf, temps in the mid 60's can sure bring them out. We are starting to see some spring growth occurring on the greens, enough to even verticut last Thursday. We have been staying on the 30 day fertilizer program applying the Redox formula with a tenth pound of nitrogen each application. It has been good to stay on the program all winter, the benefits are are already paying off in terms of the condition of the putting surface.
Last week I mistakenly stated that we saw a decrease in the pH after our lime application, of course I meant to say increase in pH!
The fairways firmed up enough to allow carts most of the week. Friday Wilco spread the Verde-Cal with their big buggy truck. With the huge tires it didn't leave a mark and they were done spreading 30 acres in less than 3 hours.

We continued to work on the turn-out on thirteen and wrapped it up on Friday. As usual the guys did a great job. I took this picture just after they had wrapped up for the day on Thursday. Explain why after we go through all the trouble of making the turn-out that the golfer still feels the need to drive on the grass? I took this picture and had to walk away.

This week we will be applying Verde-Cal to the greens and tees. Lime is normally applied in the fall so it can work into the soil and have an effect in the spring. Verde-Cal is different in that it is very quick acting and will have an effect on the soil in a matter of weeks. Last year was evident of that when we measured an increase in the pH in a 4 week period. By increasing the pH we are allowing more nutrients to become available to the turfgrass. I feel it is important to maximize the soil to its full extent and allow it to support the turf without adding an abundance of fertilizer. Testing the soil and checking the pH regularly is how we can gauge the amount of nutrients necessary to grow quality turfgrass while also utilizing sustainable practices.

Monday, March 1st, 2010

This week couldn't be more different weather wise but what can we expect for Oregon in the winter. At least Monday was nice so we could mow the fairways as we predicted. As you can see by the photo above we started our new mowing pattern. After we get a few bugs worked out and get into a regular routine I think this is going to work out well. It is definitely faster, the only challenge was seeing the lines because of the lack of dew and the light amount of growth. The look is a good change. I really think we can knock off an hour on our mowing.

With the great weather we were also able to get the rough completely mowed for the first time of the year. The outer rough is gradually beginning to green and many of the thin areas are filling in as well. A few spots here and there were damaged by the freeze, two in particular are next to the seventh green and between the bunkers next to the eighteenth green. Our plan will be to lightly aerify them with some old mini times and fill the holes with a sand and seed combination that will fill in as the ground temperatures warm up.

It is almost time once again to fertilize the greens and tees. We will be looking for a weather window anytime to get that done. If we are lucky we will be able to get it done this week. This week we will also be receiving 1500 pounds of Verde-Cal to apply to the greens and tees. This will be our annual lime application. Last year we started using this product and had exceptional results. This will be the first time on the tees which should greatly improve the fertilizer utilization. By keeping the pH levels in check we are allowing more nutrients to become available to the plant. Our target pH is around 6.5. The tees have been averaging in the 5.0's so this will definitely help.

Last year after we applied it to the fairways we saw a three tenth increase in the soil pH within four weeks. We also had some of the most consistent fairways we have seen. The fairways are scheduled this week as well. We will be using the large balloon tire buggy and will try to schedule within a good weather window.

We got a good start last week on armoring the turn-out on thirteen. We should be wrapping that up either today or tomorrow. We are hoping to be able to start on the irrigation project along the path on the right side of the thirteenth fairway. That area has always been too dry in the summer and tended to wither away and loose turf. We are going to ad six Toro 2001's along the path edge and remove a head on the far side of the fairway that was placed too far out of play. We will be able to use that wire to run the new valve. I really think it will make a big difference in the play of that hole.

Crew Update
Both Carl and Bob are on our injured reserve list. Carl had an accident on his new motorcycle and shattered his wrist, receiving eight screws and a plate to pull it all back together again. He should be out for nine weeks but knowing Carl he won't be able to stay away that long. Once the grass starts growing he will be able to mow the rough without a problem. Bob took his trike out for a spin (he calls it his trike but it is one of those stand on things that you sway side to side and make it go) and thought he could jump a speed bump. He said the next thing he knew his was on the ground in a mess and couldn't figure out why there was blood running down his face. Another good reason to wear a helmet, six stitches! He made it to work the next day but asked if he could go home early after his morning chores. If you know Bob, nothing can keep him from doing his job.

I am beginning to get some applications in for summer work, I will be filling two positions and will give those that worked for us last year first shot a reapplying. Matt Coombs who interned with us last summer did get an "A" on his internship paper. I am very proud of him. He is now seeking employment in Northern California and has been getting lots of interest. I wish him all the best.
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