Got weed(s)?

The golf course sure does! Its been two banner seasons in a row for weeds and the Green Department has had enough! And I’m sure some of the membership is too!

The definition of a weed is a plant that is growing out of place. A marigold growing in a bed of petunia’s would be considered a weed by some but probably not every one. Our personal preferences can closer define what a weed is. In the golf course maintenance world, annual bluegrass or “poa” for short, is considered a weed by most superintendents but not all of us, just ask the Superintendent at Pebble Beach and other fine courses across the country as many of them have solid poa greens.   Bala has a fair stand of poa in its greens, tees, approaches and roughs but this blog is about the other weeds on the course.

Weeds like clover, spurge, yellow nut sedge, crabgrass, goosegrass and bermudagrass. Some of these are annual weeds, they only live one year i.e. spurge, crab and goose grasses. Others are perennial, live more than one year, bermudagrass, yellow nutsedge, clover. Some are broad leaf weeds, clover and spurge, others are grassy weeds, nutsedge, goose and crabgrass, etc.   Why am I explaining this, these two factors are just many of the considerations to consider when developing a control plan. Other environmental factors that have to be considered are air temperature, applying a herbicide with air temperatures above 90 degrees is risky business but there are certain herbicides that work better under warmer conditions than cooler. This is especially true when treating board leaf weeds. Soil moisture must be adequate for the weed to take up the herbicide  and for the surrounding turf  to be able to resist damage from the herbicide. There should be little or no wind as most of the applications are just a spot treatment versus a blanket application. Little or no wind will reduce the chance of the herbicide missing its target and or creating an over application of the herbicide on the desirable turf.

Location of the weed and what type of turf the weed is growing in also plays a role in determining the corrective actions. When treating weeds in greens, tee, approaches, fairways and roughs, mowing heights can effect the rate of herbicide application. Usually the shorter grasses can only take a low dose of herbicides which may take multiple applications to kill the weed. Fairway and rough height turf can withstand higher dose and usually only require one application. We also have to consider what type of grass the weed is growing in. Treating goose grass in bentgrass requires a different herbicide than treating it when its growing in rye grass. I don’t want to bore you with the many combinations that exist at Bala, instead I will show you pictures of trials I have been conducting since August below. If you don’t think the above condition’s were enough to consider, we can add to the list, no precipitation 24 hours after application. Not mowing the weeds to be treated 24 hours before and after applications, over seeding restrictions once the weeds die and lastly, the golf schedule!

clover in ryegrass fairway

treated clover in ryegrass fairway # 9

Bermudagrass patches in ryegrass fairway

treated bermudagrass in ryegrass fairway # 12

yellow nutsedge in ryegrass fairway

treated yellow nutsedge in annual bluegrass tee # 9

crabgrass in bentgrass fairway

treated crabgrass in bentgrass fairway # 8

As you can see from above, our trials have been successful. Starting this week, we will be treating all of the weeds mentioned above, and some not mentioned above, on all feature areas (tees, collars, approaches and fairways, except greens) and some additional areas of rough in order to have adequate time to aerate and over seed and or sod the bare areas that will become visible once the weeds thin out or die. I would like to point out fairways 7, 11, 12, 14, 15, 17 & 18 and collars around greens # 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, & 18 have a fair amount of bermudagrass in them. You will see the bleaching effect, similar to # 10 & 12’s approaches.

treated bermudagrass in 12 approach

In upcoming blogs, I will discuss what our plans are to prevent the weeds from returning along with an update on the 2019 golf course improvement projects that will be completed this fall. The one item I’m going to mention now that is part of this years golf course improvement project is the herbicide application(s) made to eliminate the bermudagrass growing around #4 green. This is part of the overall plan to renovate the green surround on this hole. Successful bermudagrass elimination with a non selective herbicide must be completed under warm conditions for many of the reasons stated above. The plan is to expand the putting surface, collar, step cut and approach over the next 3 months. This is the first step in converting the areas to more desirable, uniform turf.

Treated area of bermudagrass at 4 green

I thank the entire membership for your patience’s while we go through this renovation period. You will see steady improvements as we go through this weed elimination process.


All was going well when……

Aerification was going well, all greens had been aerated, 3 of them topdressed, dragged and ready for play, #10 fairway aerated and we had started #11(getting the biggest ones completed first). And then the only rain shower around for 100 miles decides to camp out over the course and drop over a half inch of rain! Game changer, actually, game over!

So today we will try again. topdressing greens and aerating fairways. Topdressing the greens will be the priority.

Another limitation we’ll face today outside of the threat of showers will be the temperatures. Applying hot sand to dry putting surfaces is always risky! Once applied, the sand is blown into the holes in two directions using an hover mower, then dragged with a brush mounted on a utility cart. If we are not cautious, the greens surface can become damaged. So throughout the day we will monitor air temperatures and may have to take a break from topdressing in the afternoon till temperatures lower enough for us to continue in the early evening. We will focus on full sun greens this morning and save the shaded greens till later in the day. I will keep the “members only” section updated throughout the day with our progress.

WOW! Time flys when your……… busy…….. and having fun!

Five months since my last post! Way to long but when you look at all the work that we completed this spring, up until Presidents Day, I hope you’ll be able to understand why I haven’t had the time to sit and blog.  And as much as I’d like to review all the completed projects, I’m going to focus this blog on whats in store for the golf course in the next couple of weeks.

Its aerification time. Last week we completed the process on tees. It went well despite some marginal weather. This week, we’ll be aerating greens, approaches, fairways and if all goes well, some roughs. With some seasonal weather we should be able to complete most of the aerification on a timely basis. We will be focusing on greens on Monday and Tuesday, approaches on Wednesday and Thursday, and fairways will be worked on all week. Please check the “members only” section of the web site for current course conditions and updates.

We will be using different processes than in the past to compensate for weather, aide recovery of the turf, and reduce player interference. The largest change being closing the golf course on Monday August 19 to allow us uninterrupted time in completing as much as possible without having to wait on play. I’m anticipating using smaller tines on the greens to expedite healing and solid tines on the fairways to eliminate clean up. We will making the same size holes on the approaches as we have on the tees. After topdressing, the greens and approaches should heal rather quickly.

Here is a link to a brief USGA video that explains green aeration. This information also applies to tee and approach aeration.

When you play over the next couple of weeks, conditions will be sub par while the turf is healing and a few of the processes may be still in progress. There are a few variables that can alter our plans, like labor, equipment failures and last but not least, the weather! But we are prepared to deal with anything that comes our way. I ask everyone for their patience during this time and please check the website before coming out to play.

In closing I’d like to thank the Board of Directors, the Greens Committee and Chris Barletta for their continued support along with Mike Lawrence, equipment technician, Joe Liebsch, interim assistant superintendent, newly hired 1st assistant superintendent Micheal Crane and all of the Green Dept staff for their dedication, hard work and their patience in dealing with me over the last five months. It hasn’t always been easy, but its been fun! Thank you all!


I’d like to start off this message with a huge congratulations to Assistant Superintendent Giancarlo Sarullo and Justin Parisien for taking the next step in their budding careers!

Friday was  their last day with the Green Dept (and Valet, Pro Shop Attendant for Justin) as on Monday Giancarlo starts as an Assistant Superintendent at Sunnybrook CC and Justin enters the Philadelphia Police Academy!

Giancarlo has been with us for 7 years and had never worked on a golf course until I hired him. His goal when he came here was to learn how to grow fine turf and then return to sports field management in which he carries a degree in. Well the golf bug bit him, like many others in the business and now has changed his career goal to becoming a Golf Course Superintendent. Thank you very much for your time and service Giancarlo!

Justin starting working here as soon as I could get working papers for him, at 14 I believe. I have had the rare opportunity of watching him grow and mature right under my nose on a daily basis for which I’m very grateful for. Justin’s career goal is to become a New Jersey State Trooper in their marine division as he loves the water. His 12 years of service to the Club is very much appreciated by all department heads. We all wish him the best at the academy!

On to the golf course now. The window of opportunity is closing fast on having the ground frozen enough to support tree removal equipment. This is a double edged sword as having thawed ground has allowed us to resume work on the bunkers on 17. We will have to wait for drier conditions to complete the balance of tree work, think mid summer, or worst case scenario, next winter. Since the trees remaining are on holes 15-17, leveling 16 tee will have to wait until then. The removal of the tree at 16 tee is dependent upon PECO cutting it back from over their power lines. This work, which is required by law, was requested and approved in early December. There was one additional tree on 15 to be trimmed also. Asplundh, PECO’s tree contractor, completed this last week before the rain came on Thursday. Hopefully they’ll be out this week to prune back the Tulip on 16 tee.

There always are surprises when digging around your golf course!


Selvin and Justin working on another one!

These little rocks and 6 more of similar size were dug out of the small left hand side of the bunker on 17 while relocating the bunker away from the green. Now we know why that bunker didn’t have any drainage! Its all good as of right now, we were finally able to shape the new bunker in its new location. We have our fingers crossed that installing the drainage wont be as disruptive and or labor intensive. Some minor reshaping of the front bunker will be in progress this week. The largest change to this bunker will be a reduced height in the face of it. Similar to the front bunker on 16.

We have expanded the scope of the bunker rebuild to include leveling the hump in the front of the green and slightly expanding the green surface on the lower front corners. The photo below is the aerial view of the green from the 1930’s and clearly shows where the original green was back in the day. Our restoration will not be as extensive as bringing the putting surface all the way down to the front bunker will eliminated an area for equipment to turn on, on this already difficult to maintain green and surrounds. This work will also eliminate the sand dam that have formed in the two front corners. These dams are a result of years of topdressing the greens and prevent surface runoff during rain events. This is common on greens that are sloped back to front or are near level.

14 & 17 greens

The green expansion phase started last week on the left side of the green and will be completed this week with additional sod needed being supplied by the nursery green located on 12.


As for the other winter projects, they are listed below in a tentative order of completion.

Front and left side bunkers 17/ green expansion

Front tee on 13

Irrigation installation at 1 & 4 green (contractor, second week of April)

Stump remediation at 1, 13, 14 greens (other stumps ongoing)

Fan installation 2 & 7 greens (in house and electrician)

Right side bunker 17

Back tee 13

Balance of tree work (Arborist, weather permitting)

This weeks weather forecast looks promising to keep us moving in the right direction, lets all keep our fingers crossed!



January 24, February 0

The title reflects the number of trees removed in the last two months! Why you ask? Very simple, the weather! February’s roller coaster of temperature and precipitation have halted the removals through today and judging by the 10 day forecast, right through the end of the month. The good news is we only have 9 more trees to remove, the bad news is 2 of them are the largest on the list. Hopefully March’s weather will be more cooperative for tree removals.

13 green from right side of front tee

Before tree removals come to a halt, trees on holes 8, 10, 12, 13, and 14 were removed. Pruning 10 fence line was completed also. The link below will connect you to the updated list and the picture below is a map of all the pruning and removals scheduled for this year. (Please note the future plantings, root and tree pruning are listed for reference only. If time and the budget allows, we may be able to complete some of the work listed.)

2019 Comprehensive tree program

2019 tree pruning and removal project.

Despite the lack of recent tree removals, the Green Dept. has been very busy over the last month. Assisting the Arborist to capitalize on time when the ground is frozen has been a priority for us. We have been able to process all the wood chips and stump grindings, back filling stump holes, along with a detailed cleaning of areas affected by the removals.

Angel and Selvin preparing trench for stone and pipe


We have been able to complete a couple of drainage projects too. Drainage was installed in front of the Short Game Area tee. This will eliminate the puddle that became a breeding ground for insects last summer. And we recently installed drainage along 7 cart path at the green in an effort to prevent runoff from crossing over the green and washing out the right side bunker. This wont prevent washouts during a large rain event as the green is sloped towards that bunker, but should assist in controlling runoff during average rain events. With the new drainage and the fan installation scheduled there this spring, the 7th green should dry down and firm up quicker than in the past. We also will be replacing the contaminated bunker sand in the right side bunker this spring.

Frozen ground at the end of January did allow lime to be applied to the fairways and step cut. Based on soil test and the budget, lime was applied at a rate of 1000/lbs per acre, using 24 tons total. We tried making an application of this magnitude in the past but found it very time consuming using the equipment we have, and the larger problem was keeping the material bone dry as it would sit in the parking lot while! Fortunately our industry still has one last company in the area that makes bulk lime applications. Plant Food out of Cranberry New Jersey has it down to a science with their modern equipment.

Lime dump truck

note red auger on back of dump truck filling spreader truck

lime application truck

application truck

These two trucks and operators come in and spread the 24 tons of material in under 3 hours. For comparison, it took us over a week to apply the same amount! This application along with the others we have made to greens, tees and approaches this winter will provide lasting benefits as it “sweeten’s” the soil. Nutrients located in the soil become more plant available when the soil PH is  7 or neutral, tapping into any reserves currently tied up in the fairways and making future fertilizer applications more efficient.

Hopefully I’ll have some updates on bunkers, tees, and fan projects in the next blog. These projects have been at a stand still waiting on cooperative weather. With spring less than 4 weeks away, its looking like a very busy spring is in store for us!

Winter has arrived!

The high temperature of 16 degrees today and a wind chill of -8, i figured it would be a good day to update everyone on the progress being made with the winter projects.

The arborist is making headway on the tree list despite marginal weather. Daytime highs above freezing make the soil surface to soft to operate the heavier equipment over which reduces the hours per day in which they can work efficiently. Through detailed planning on both our parts and a whole lot of flexibility, they have been able to take down the 7 trees surrounding 1 green,

1 green from 128 yrds out

prune the maple on 2 tee, begin pruning back the left side of #3, remove 2 large trees from the back of 7 green. Prune back the trees on 8 tee, remove one tree on the right of 18 and grind out 22 stumps. All of this completed with a minimum amount of damage to the course!

On our side of the fence, the Green staff have been able to clean up stump grindings, spread tons of wood chips along the sides of number 6 which should add to the new openness of the hole as we will no longer let the sides grow up like in the past.

6 with wood chipped sides

We have also back filled stump holes on 5, 10, 15 and 17, prune back the fence lines on 10 & 11, installed proper drainage for the grass depression at 10 green, along with snow removal and assisting with a couple of clubhouse projects.

As beneficial this cold weather is for tree work, its a deterrent for working the ground! We have stripped the front tee of 13

13 tee sod removed

and began cleaning old sand out of the left side bunker of 17 before the ground froze.                 (we will address the fairway flooding shown in the picture below with the bunker restorations.)  

17 bunker with most of the sand removed but filled with weekend rain

Working on these two project is frozen in time so to speak as we can not resume work until the ground thaws. In the meantime, we will focus on completing the tree work and other winter tasks.


Tree Program Update

With all factors considered, the progress on the tree health program is amazing. The arborist and his staff have taken down 27 trees. They have also completed some of the required pruning and grounded out a few stumps. The constant weekly rains has been the largest obstacle in completing additional work, but overall the progress is impressive.

view from 6 tee

As you can see from the photo above and following, some holes are going to look different. Most of the tree work is being performed for turf health and play ability.

Completed pruning at 8 tee from the back tee.

Even though 27 trees have been taking down, much more work needs to be completed before I deem a removal “complete”. Logs have to be removed off the property, stumps have to ground out, cleaned up, their void back-filled and then seeded or sod depending on their location. The Green Dept staff take over the process after the stumps have been ground.

View from the right side 9 tee.

11 fairway from 100 yrds

Here is a link to an updated tree list that will give you a little more detail on where we stand on all the tree work. Please note the few new additions highlighted in yellow.  I have to give a shout out to Glenn Riggs, Arborist. Glenn and his staff have been very flexible with scheduling and generous with their time by completing some additional pruning free of charge.

2019 comprehensive tree program

And one last photo from 14 fairway, please note one more pine behind the green to the right has yet to be removed.

14 fairway from 150 yrds

2019 Golf Course Improvements

The Board of Directors have approved a full slate of course improvement projects for the upcoming year. They range from leveling tees to reconditioning green side roughs. Following is the details of the projects.

Green side fan installation:

We will be installing fans at 2 & 7 greens. With the proven success of the fan at 3 green, the next logical place for fans are the pocketed greens at 2 & 7. The fan on 2 will require a new service from PECO in which the electrician has already started the permitting process. The fan will be located to the right rear of the green along the hillside. The electric for 7 green will be supplied from the same service that serves 3 green. We will be installing about 500′ of conduit behind and along 8 tee to the right rear of 7 green where the fan will be positioned. These two greens would have greatly benefited from the fans this past year!

Tee leveling:

Tee leveling continues this year on holes 13 & 16. On 13 we will be enlarging both tees slightly to the right to increase the playing surface. This will entail relocating the bench and ball  washer to the right of the front tee. 16 will be a larger project with the removal of the tulip tree between the two existing tees. This will allow us to enlarge the teeing surface by combining both tees. We are also contemplating pushing the tee forward slightly to accommodate the forward tees. All tees on 13 & 16 will receive new irrigation with individually controlled heads.

Bunker rebuilding:

Rolling into our forth consecutive year of bunker rehabilitation, bunkers on 17 will receive new drainage and sand. Using the old aerial photographs of the club along with Wayne Morrison’s restoration plan, we’ll be lowering the top of the front bunker to its original height, shifting the left side bunker back and away from the green, and moving the right side bunker away from the green. Drainage will also be installed in the rough between the fairway and front bunker.

Tree work:

Using both consultant reports, membership feedback and personal observation, 60 trees will be removed though out the course. The main objective of these removal are for safety, green surround turf health, and tee shot play ability. In addition to the removals, extensive pruning is on tap for holes #’s 3, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11, 15 & 18. Click on the link below for an up to date status on the  scheduled work. In addition to the list, Paul Csigi has marked up a large version of the tree management study that is located in the grill room. I’m working on a digital version with just the scheduled tree work to post online along with marking each tree out on the golf course. In the interim, the comprehensive version of the tree management study can be found on the club’s website.

2019 Comprehensive tree program

Green surround rough improvements:

This comprehensive project on holes 1 and 4 will be completed in two phases. Phase one will involve tree removals which are included in the aforementioned tree work, minor bunker enlargements of the front of each right side bunkers on both holes and installing new irrigation around each green.  The bunker extensions will consist of removing and storing  the existing sand, excavating the soil, installing sod on the new edge and reinstalling the removed sand.  The upgraded irrigation system will have individual controlled heads for the putting surfaces, the approaches and the green surround rough. Additional snap valves that allow us to hand water will also be installed.  Phase two will include expanding the putting surfaces using the old aerial photos, existing ground contours, along with Wayne’s restoration plan, 1 to the left and rear of the green and 4 to the front, left side and rear. Click on the links below to see Wayne’s suggestions.

#1 green proposed changes                                                                                                                        # 4 green proposed changes

Widening the approaches by using deep drill and sand injection aerification, stripping existing sod and installing new sod. Extending the step cut through sod replacement on both the left side and rear of  1 and 4 greens. Widening the fairways out to match the new approaches will be completed through mowing, aerification and overseeding. Replacing the mixed variety of green surround roughs with tall fescue sod will complete phase 2.  4 green surrounds will require multiple herbicide applications a month before sod installation to eliminate the bermuda grass. Phase two will begin with the herbicide application on 4 at the beginning of August with all sod installation being completed in September.

Resources, contractors, playabilty and the weather will dictate the order of completion of all the projects. There will be multiple projects in progress at any giving time. Please check the website daily for updates. I will also blog about the progress throughout the process. Anticipated completion date of May 4 for the tree work, bunkers, tee leveling and phase 1 of the green surround project. Phase 2 of the green surround project to be completed by September 28.

A Little Taste of Winter

With 3″ of snow falling last Friday and daytime high temperatures forecast to be below freezing the next two days, I’m wondering how far out is winter? Hopefully very!

The calendar says we have another month, but Mother Nature hasn’t been following the calendar for the past few years by my observations! With all the plans (I will blog about them in the near future) we have for golf course improvements this off season, the last thing we need is a tough winter.

We do have some season ending work to complete before winter sets in. Leaf processing has been fairly successful considering all the rain we’ve had. We’ve mulched more this years than in the past. This is the most efficient way of handling leaves but has the limitation of to much of a good thing can hinder turf growth. Moving forward we will shift to picking up the balance of leaves as we have reached the point of hindrance in many areas.

Alternate greens have been installed and will be in use on Thanksgiving Day if your brave enough to test the forecast. The greens are far from dormant at this point and need to be protected from the combination of weather and play. We will be using the alternate greens throughout the winter months when necessary.  We establish these in order to protect the regulation greens during periods of freezing and thawing. Damage to the putting greens occurs under these conditions. If you’d like more information on alternate greens and their purpose and or are interested in the other perils of winter play on a golf course, this link will take you an excellent article from the USGA, .


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