Fruit of our Labor

We are seeing results of our aerification and slit seeding along with signs that more needs to be done.

Pictured below are the rows of new rye grass that have germinated on 9 fairway. We have completed 7 fairways to date and plan on doing 3 more at a minimum. Unfortunately the weather forecast for seed germination is not promising!  Rye grass seed needs temperatures between 68 and 86 to germinate so lets keep our fingers crossed that “normal” fall weather prevails.

New rye grass on 9 fairway

While mowing greens over the weekend, I noticed how green the aeration holes on the right side of 15 green have become. These holes were made last month when we aerated collars ( the slope of the collar is to severe for the aerator so we have to aerate part of the green in that section) This is a great  indicator for additional aerification.  Air entering the aerification holes stimulates new growth of leaves and roots. Very beneficial after the long stretch of wet, humid weather we have recently encountered.

month old aeration holes on 15 green

The plan is to aerate #2, 15 & 16 greens again using the small 1/4″ diameter tines before November’s drill and fill aeration. These 3 greens have responded nicely from the August aerification but are not fully healed. We are going to add the back of 3 green and 7 green to the list  as the late season weather has caused them to thin. I also noticed wear from mowing the clean up pass on the circumference of most greens, which is normal especially giving the weather. Aerification will relieve these areas of stress.

 

Clean up pass wear on 17 green

Looking at the weather forecast for the rest of the week, tomorrow looks to be the best day to perform this. We’ll do our best to keep disruption to a minimum. The clean up process is quicker with small cores. We will need to be careful with the topdressing procedure as aggressive brushing can cause damage to the putting surface.

As a reminder, greens drill n fill is scheduled for Wednesday November 7 and Thursday November 8. This process makes the greens unplayable for most of the day. Please keep this mind if you plan on playing either of those days.

Practice putting green after drill n fill

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Sunny Days Ahead.

The forecast for the next four days looks promising for some long overdue aerification and over seeding. Of course we’ll take Thursday off for the McQuiston Open, but we’ll utilize most of the daylight hours on the other days to get as much new seed into the ground as possible as the window for germination is quickly closing in on us.

We will be focusing on fairways , approaches and some tees. The fairways will be slit seeded using the equipment pictured below. Its not as disruptive as aerification but it will bring soil to the surface that will need to dry out before we can drag it along with the seed into the grooves.

The 6th tees will be aerated as the sod that was installed in June is creating a barrier for water to infiltrate the tees. We’ll be using a smaller tine than usual, between 1/2″ to open up the sod and allow topdressing, seed and fertilizer in. We are doing the lower tee today and then the upper tee on Wednesday.

The Green Committee approved removing the Bermudagrass that has encroached into the approaches through select spot spraying.

Bermudagrass left side #11 approach

We are also eradicating clover and other weeds from the approaches. But the troublesome Bermudagrass covers much more area on # 10 & 12 approaches than the clover.

initial herbicide spray on some clover on 12 approach

Bermuda 10 days after treatment.

Both the Bermuda and clover may require multiple herbicide applications, even into the spring of next year to remove them from the approaches. Aeration, seeding and topdressing will be completed in conjunction with the herbicide treatments to provide a seamless transformation between the weeds and turf.

One last note on aeration, drill n fill on greens is scheduled for November 7 & 8. Most of the greens are unplayable through out the process so please plan accordingly. I’ll be sending out reminders in the upcoming weeks.

Wicked Wet Weather

I’d like to update everyone on what’s happening on the course. If you’ve played recently you noticed how the recent wet weather has stressed many areas of the golf course.

The golf course has received over 6.21” of rain in the last 18 days, September’s average is 3.5” for the month. Within those 18 days we’ve experienced 3 partly sunny days with the others being overcast. These conditions are not conductive for growing finely manicured turfgrass.

 

Most greens have algae on them to a certain degree. This is caused primarily by water sitting on the surface and not percolating downward. In an effort to reduce the algae on greens, we were able to solid tine aerate the thinnest greens last Wednesday and spike all the greens on Thursday and Friday. I did blog on the solid tinning aeration on Wednesday. We were also able to quad hollow tine (1/8″) all the collars except # 7 Thursday and Friday.  We will continue to spike and solid tine them as needed until the algae problem is under control.

Greens were sprayed this past Monday with a broad-spectrum fungicide and a fungicide especially for algae. Tees have been holding their own with a few exceptions mainly on 5 & 9. All tees were sprayed last Thursday. We will continue to spray fungicides on all feature areas on an as needed basis to prevent and alleviate the growth of algae and other turf diseases.

Rutgers has found Gray Leaf Spot (GLS) in the fairway samples we sent them last Tuesday even though we just sprayed for it on Wednesday and Thursday, September 12 & 13, and have been spraying for this and other diseases on schedule since mid-July. We picked a fairway that was sprayed each day as the course received 1.53″ of rain on that Wednesday. The disease was found in both samples. The GLS is responsible for some of the fairways thinning, but overall environmental conditions have contributed more to the thinning of the fairways and roughs than the GLS. We began spraying the fairways again last Friday and will finish as weather permits. These fungicide applications will also be continued until the threat of all diseases has past.

For the upcoming weeks, we are planning to begin slit seeding the fairways, the thinnest ones first. (1,4,7 for example) along with aerating and seeding approaches and tees. We will need to balance our work with the golf schedule as October is a very busy month. We will do our best to keep disruption to a minimum but there will be times when our work will interfere with play ability.

It has been a difficult year weather wise to produce consistent conditions. Recovery will have to be in the form of aeration, seeding, and fertilization. These processes will have to be completed as soon as possible to give the golf course time to heal for next season. I thank you in advance for your patience as we work through this difficult period of weather.

Venting of greens

In an effort to dry down some of the wettest greens on the course, today we have begun a process called “venting”. One definition of venting is: “permit air to enter” which is exactly what the greens need after the 6+ inches of rain they have received over the last 12 days!

There is an abundance of black algae on many greens like # 7 below:

algae 7 green

Using a green aerator with 1/8″ solid tines on a 2″x2″ pattern we can punch 36 holes per square foot, 3 ” deep which will allow air to enter the green to hasten the drying process. In the past we have used this process to do just the opposite, to let water in after the soil has become hydrophobic. But that’s not the case this time around.

green aerator with solid 1/8″tines

After aerating, we will roll each green using a mower with the blade off. This will gently smooth the surface to keep ball roll as true as possible. This process is slightly more disruptive to the surface than spiking but should heal over in most areas within a few days.

finished product

At this point we only plan on doing the following 8 greens, 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 10, 15 & 16 along with the 2 practice putting greens, as they have the most algae on them. We will be spiking the other greens beginning tomorrow. These forms of aerification along with fungicide treatments should expedite the healing process. In the upcoming weeks we will be aerating tees, approaches, collars some fairways and roughs. I will be posting information on these processes both here on the blog and on the “members only” page on the website.

Bunker rake trial

In an effort to improve bunker conditions after a golfer makes a bunker shot, it was suggested that we try wider bunker rakes in the bunkers. I have purchased 4 different models, pictured below(#5 is the current rake on the course) and have numbered them accordingly.

They have been placed  on holes # 1 ,2, 5, 10, 14 &16.

I will be working with Mike Viscusi to make up a quick pole that we can email out at the end of the season. Your feedback on this experiment will give us insight on making changes for the 2019 season.

Aerification Update

Green aerification went well considering the weather. It did take us to Wednesday to complete do to the weather. Greens 2,15,& 16 were handle differently than the others due to the disease level on 15 & 16, and # 2 being under water recently. We used smaller diameter tines on those greens and hand topdressed them. This was the first time we ever attempted this and they seem to have handled it fine. The other greens were aerated as planned and are doing well. We did have an irrigation issue on 12 that has been resolved and the green is expected to fully recover. We plan on over seeding them and adding additional topdressing to a select few where the topdressing has settled into the holes.

Weed control on fairways 1-9 was completed early last week. The bermudagrass is showing signs of discoloration. This is good. It may take an additional application in the future to complete the task. We began aerification last Thursday on the front nine fairways. This was due to the marginal weather earlier in the week. 2 & 5 just need some additional clean up work to be complete. With the hot weather upon us, we will shift today’s aerification to solid tines(no cores) to 3 & 7 landing areas and the large part of 8. This is normal procedure for these fairways and will reduce the chances of damage due to the heat.

And to further complicate aerification, the computer controlled operating system (Rainbird) has totally failed. I have diagnosed it to an interface that is located in my office. I’m waiting for Rainbird representatives to assist me in further troubleshooting and or to confirm my findings on the interface. In the meantime, all watering can be completed during daytime hours as the pump station is 100% functional. Even if the irrigation system becomes fully operational, we need to exercise caution with this heat. We may have to postpone further aerification to later in the year. We did plan on aerating approaches also during this two week stretch as many of them have become weak from the summer weather and may attempt to get some of them done later this week.

I will keep everyone up to date with progress on both aerification and the irrigation system. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with questions and concerns.

Too Much Of A Good Thing

This past weeks rain and overcast weather did the roughs wonder bringing most of it back from dormancy. There are some areas that were taken out by disease that will need overseeding later in the season to get it filled in. But overall I see a vast improvement in the majority of rough areas. We did struggle with keeping up with some of the mowing last week. Mowing fine turf under those conditions risk mechanical damage to the plants which can lead to stress and other problems.

Which leads me to the stress some of the greens came under when the irrigation pump transformer was damaged in the storm on July 3. I mentioned in my last blog about the problem and some areas on the golf course had some wilt on them and I expected a full recovery. Unfortunately that’s not going to happen without some additional inputs from us and some patience from the membership.

If you recall my blogs from last June and July in which we had an irrigation problem and some greens had wilt on them. I explained wilt in detail and showed how 14 green in particular, had recovered nicely in a matter of a few weeks from the wilt damage.This was my expectations for the newly stressed greens.

The recently injured greens appeared to improving as new growth was visible and some of the older leafs turning yellow and dying off, typical of wilt damage. At the end of last week we noticed more leaves turning yellow and a rust/orange color developing down in the turf canopy. I knew that color from 2004, anthracnose!

Anthracnose is a disease that infects weaken annual bluegrass and in extreme cases creeping bentgrass. We battled it on some greens back in 2003 and 2004 and haven’t seen it since. It slowly takes out the leaves and if left unchecked, will spread into the crown of the plants which will lead to death.

We did determine that it was only foliar on the annual bluegrass at this point and we applied a fungicide accordingly. This weeks damp and humid weather caused an additional flare up and has left some thinning areas on #11 and #16 greens. We sprayed again this past Friday along with spiking and overseeding these two greens. To promote recovery, we will be reducing inputs on them, increasing fungicide and fertilizer applications, continue spiking and over seeding, topdressing and carefully monitoring moisture levels. So these greens may play slightly slower than the others or be a bit bumpy at times.

I will keep everyone updated on our progress. Please check the “member’s only” section of the website for daily course conditions.

Around the golf course

The last six weeks have been extremely busy for the Green Dept. Completion of the winter projects consisting of 6 tee and the bunkers on 13 took us right up to Presidents Day. The Monday before Presidents Day, Mother Nature unleashed some heavy rains which washed out the bunkers. They had to be repaired before Thursday along with other detailed grooming that was necessary to showcase the course. Judging by the compliments I received, we were successful. Much credit is owed to the Green Dept staff that worked sunup to sundown the 3 days leading up to that Thursday! Thank you guys!

We were able to catch our breath for a few days after Presidents Day before the heat and humidity rolled in bringing with it some new challenges for us. The first one was the decline of some patches of turf in the fairways. Being up to date with the preventive spray program and being very specific to a certain variety(s) of ryegrass. The areas appeared to have brown patch disease which should of been covered by our spray program, but i had my doubts on what exactly was happening.

right side 14 fairway

When in doubt, I’ll send a sample or two up to Rutgers Turf Diagnostic Laboratory for answers. They answered my question alright. These patches of turf were infected by an disease that I’ve never heard of in my 37 years in the business, “Bipoloris sorokiniana”! Searching around the internet revealed its primarily a problem in the crop industry and of southern golf courses. This is the exact reason I rotate ryegrass varieties from year to year, if we only used one or two varieties the damage would be much more widespread. I do suspect some turf loss is inevitable with this heat though. We will adjust the fungicide program to include keeping this disease in check along with preventive applications for gray leaf spot as hurricane season is upon us!

 

very defined spots on 7 fairway taken on 7/11/18

The second challenge was discovering the left side of the lower sixth tee turning brown overnight on us!

summer patch, left side 6 tee

 

We try to monitor moisture levels everyday the sun is out this time of the year and the tee had adequate moisture the morning we found it turning brown. This usually is an indicator of a dysfunctional root system. Being early in the first heat wave I suspected a disease. Either pythium root rot or summer patch. Both diseases attack the roots and can only be confirmed by a turf diagnostic lab. Rutgers once again confirmed our suspicion of summer patch. We do spray greens and approaches for summer patch as it is a bluegrass/tall fescue specific disease and most of the tees at Bala are a combination of creeping bentgrass and ryegrass. Six tee being the exception at this point being sodded to Kentucky Bluegrass. We are on a tight spray schedule with the tee and will be nursing it along to get it though the summer at which point we’ll aerate and over seed it to ryegrass.

The latest challenge came last Tuesday in the form of an isolated thunderstorm. The one inch of rain in the 15 minute span did minor flooding of bunkers but the high winds which accompanied the storm took down 5 trees along # 10 and numerous branches throughout the course. I had four staff members volunteer to come in and help clean up on the 4th of July. My sincere thanks to Tom Brian, Isaac and Aaron!  We rented a larger chipper and have finished the clean up as of yesterday.

The worst part of the storm had to be the lightening! The clubhouse lost phone service, and to my understanding to the Pro Shop also, along with the Clubs server being knocked off line. We can also add to the list, damage to the irrigation system and the loss of the main transformer for the pump station!  The initial test after the storm revealed half of the irrigation system was inoperable electronically. As many of you know, we have been down this road before with electrical storms. On Thursday morning we began diagnosing the system to find the fused cable devices  that we have been installing over the years have done their job and protected most of the system from catastrophic damage!  The extend of the damage so far has been just one decoder but we still need to diagnose 5 more fairway heads. We replaced all of the burnt fuse’s and had the system back up and running electronically on Thursday. When we went to field test all of the stations, we found the irrigation pump wasn’t working. I preformed a check on all the supply lines and fuses and found a bad 200 amp fuse in the main cutoff switch at the loading dock. There was a spare fuss in the cabinet which I promptly replaced and up and running came the pump station! Success or at least I thought! We were only able to water and check on the system….. only for an hour as the transformer that supplies the pump station caught on fire and was destroyed! Luck would have it that rain was forecasted for Friday and I was able to find a company to replace the transformer late Friday afternoon! We did some testing on Saturday morning and started to pressurize the system on Sunday morning with the computer set to operate Sunday evening. Inspecting the monitoring log on Monday morning revealed the system worked electronically with the exception of the broken fairway heads. There was some wilt on some greens, tees and fairways from this incident. We have spent time this week making sure the recovery process is swift and complete.

Going forward in this dry spell you can expect to see more hand watering, syringing of greens and roller bases through out the course on most days. This is necessary to put water only where its needed and to make up for any deficiencies in the irrigation system coverage. We all appreciate your patience during these practices as we do our best not to interfere with play.

I’m currently working on next years budget in which I will request financial support for green surround improvements, tee leveling, bunker restorations and tree removals around tees.

 

Wet Weather Woes

Outside of disrupting the busy golf schedule and rearranging our usual spring mowing patterns, the recent rains have brought Mother Natures aerators, earthworms, to the surface. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending how you look at this, these guys are usually beneficial to the environment. They are a sign of healthy soil and create passages into the soil which allows water, air and nutrients to the root systems. In most circumstances they go unnoticed in home lawns, gardens and throughout most areas of the golf course. That is until we get into very wet weather like we did the week before last.

Their castings which are a by product of their digestive system have wreak havoc on low cut surfaces like fairways and tees! Their castings which have a heavy soil content create half dollar size spots in the fairways and tees that smother the grass when rolled over by carts and more so, mowing equipment.

worm casting 15 fairwayThe casting also create chaos with the mowing equipment as they can be drawn into the reels, dulling the blades and build up on the rollers which can alter the height of cut. They are as much as a challenge to your game as they are to us while we try to provide superior playing conditions.

15 fairway worm mud

The photo above shows the mud being smeared on turf causing dulling of the mowers and poor lies!

So what can we do about these animals? Our choices are very limited! There are no insecticides labeled in the U.S. to control them. There are studies that indicate topdressing fairways with angular sand encourages them to move to the roughs where the soil is less abrasive. This is a very expensive option! There is also an organic fertilizer that contains tea seed meal which has been shown to have some success when applied on the onset of a steady rain, irrigation is apparently not effective in washing in the fertilizer. The cost isn’t cheap either, about $400.00/acre the last time I checked(we currently treat 20 acres of fairways or $8000.00/treatment). Reading other Superintendent blogs, this product must be applied while they are active on the surface and must be watered in with at least 1/2″ of natural rain. It has no residual so supplementing irrigation after a rain doesn’t seem to work. So the application guidelines are narrow for such an expensive product. In the past we have discussed including this option in the budget but determined to adapt to the problem as it doesn’t occur ever year.

There are a couple of fungicides that appear to irritate them to the point of moving them off site. There isn’t much research on this, just general observations throughout the industry. We do use them in the spring and late fall on the fairways and I do believe it helps, just not under the pressure we had here with the 4’+ rain we received over that week.

I will be adding the problem to the next Green Committee meeting agenda for discussion. We will add an additional fertilizer application to the fairways that received the most damage to hasten their recovery and hope for some drier weather, although the forecast for the next 5 days doesn’t indicate any relieve!