Only the strong survive!

It is that time of the year in which we encourage growth of the greens to ensure they are strong enough to withstand the stresses of aerification, the summer weather, being manicured daily, and having thousands of members and guest playing on them.

The best way to encourage growth is through fertilizing. If you’ve been out playing lately or plan on playing this week, you’ll notice that the greens are off color especially when compare to the approaches, tees, fairways and roughs. They are very hungry right now! Their current state of slow growth is the main reason they are rolling so quickly. The recent drier weather, the few mowing’s and rollings we have done, have also added to their quickness!

I have receive many positive comments on the recent conditions of the greens, and as much as I would like this to continue, the greens would never survive the summer like this. So the balancing act of fertilizer, growth regulation, insect, disease and weed control, moisture management, aerification, topdressing, mowing and rolling has begun! And I can not forget to mention the largest input, the mother of all mother’s, Mother Nature!

The first input will be aerification of the greens, which is now scheduled for this Wednesday and Thursday April 18 &19. We will be using a 1/4″ open tine on a quad pattern of 2″x2″ spacing, it will look like this when the cores have been removed.

A light topdressing will follow to primarily smooth the surface, trying to fill the little holes is next to impossible. Rolling will be next followed up with a granular, slow-release fertilizer and water. It will take 5-7 days for the fertilizer to kick in. During this time the greens will be regaining their smoothness but also slowing down in speed. Depending on the weather, the greens should be healed in 14 days. Once healed we will initiate the growth regulator program for the season.

While I’m on the subject of green speed, we will be monitoring this more this season in an effort to find a acceptable speed that will enable us to maintain consistency between greens without challenging the health of the turf. I will go into more detail on this subject in a future blog.

On to other golf course news. We were able to finish the stairs on the 1st. tee last week with the warm temperatures. We officially opened them this past Saturday.

And the forward teeing surface on 6 tee was sodded last week also.

The sod will need to root for three weeks before opening it to play. During that time we will be mowing, rolling and topdressing it. I’m hoping Monday’s heavy rain helped settle the irrigation trench so we can finish up the tee’s perimeter with tall fescue sod. This will not affect the timing of the opening of the tee itself.

Rounding of the corners of the tees is in progress. We have mowed out the expanded areas along with rounding out the square corners. We are going to schedule aeration of the expanded tee surfaces during the last week of April. This will be followed up with a heavy rolling of the areas to expedite matching  the two surfaces. There is a substantial height difference between the new and existing tee surfaces. This process will have little affect on play ability and will bring uniformity to both the new and old surfaces.

You may have noticed some red lines along the fairways. This is our annual realignment of the fairways that is completed during the first few mowings of the season. Most movement is minimal and will not affect your game. We did take the liberty of shortening 4 fairway back to the first sprinkler head as we feel the fairway was to close to the tee, even for high handicap players and the irrigation coverage before the first head always presented a challenge maintaining quality turf during the summer months.

Work will resume on #13 bunkers this week. Our goal is to have them completed in the next three weeks. We have plenty to do on them, grading, drainage, sod and new sand. Of course Mother Nature will have to cooperate for us the reach our goal. Keep your fingers crossed!


Spring off to a slow start.

Unless your working in the Green Department! We cant move quick enough to get the golf course ready for the upcoming season which officially starts this Sunday, April 1st.

If you were in the Philadelphia area for the month of March, you know we spent most of the month under snow cover. The turf that was breaking dormancy in February ( we mowed greens on February 28) has since gone back into dormancy and will require fewer mowing’s to maintain the proper heights. We are out today mowing greens, collars, approaches and fairways with the hope of stimulating growth which is necessary to withstand the wear and tear of play. Lets all keep our fingers crossed for more seasonal weather.

While most of the month of March was spent cleaning up the golf course, we were able to trench for the new irrigation on 6 tee.

And install pipe, wires valves and heads.

isolation and snap valve’s

front head waiting to be leveled, wired and back filled.

My goal is to sod the top of the tee next week and let it root for 3 weeks before opening it and begin working on the back tee. I will ask that once it is open, that you please limit your practice swings on the new sod and if possible use a tee as all tee markers will be located on the lower tee till the back tee is completed.

While the new tee is growing in, we plan on jumping into the bunkers on 13. Unfortunately this project as received no attention over the last 30 days due to the weather. Our new completion date is April 27 for the bunkers.

Warmer, drier weather will allow us to complete the stairs on 1 tee also. We need to add some more stone to the landing areas before we can install the porous pave material.

During March’s Green Committee meeting, the committee approved the recommendation of rounding off corners of the tees. This was a suggestion from the ” Restoration and Master Plan” provided by Wayne Morrison. Wayne was hired by the club to give his professional opinion of improving the integrity of your William Flynn design.

William Flynn:

In fitting a course to all classes in everyday play it is necessary to maintain relative values in the holes. This can only be done by using two and in some instances three tees to a hole-the various players using the tee that fits their particular game.”

“A great many players are averse to using forward tees perhaps because they were originally christened “ladies tees” but regardless of that fact it seems that a great deal more enjoyment could be had if golfers used the tee on the various holes that really suited their game.”  

Wayne Morrison:

Tees –Rounded Corners

Existing and any proposed tees should be maintained with rounded corners with minimal linear geometry. Square or rectangular tees are not only difficult and more time consuming to mow but are unsightly and not in keeping with the naturalized intent of William Flynn. Tees that blend with the natural terrain are a better choice than forcing a geometric shape. Tees should harmonize with the landscape and not stand out as a man-made addition.”

Rounding the corners will save labor while mowing but we will take advantage of this process by increasing tee space by reclaiming teeing area that has been lost over the years from mowing. This loss happens on all features (greens, tees, fairways, etc.) of a golf course from operators not continually mowing up to the edge due to fear of scalping the surrounding rough. Using 12 tee as an example, I believe the time we save mowing rounded corners on tees will be somewhat offset by mowing of slightly larger tees.

left side 12 tee

right side 12 tee

One last note, we are delaying opening the grass tee at the Short Game Area until warmer weather arrives. The tee always receives heavy traffic this time of year. Without the temperatures needed to germinate new seed, the divots will linger well into the spring. I will post the opening on the “daily course conditions” page on website.

Winter update

The moderate February weather gave the green department false hope in having a smooth transition into the the spring. As I mowed greens on February 28th, I noted how little clean up would have to be preformed on the golf course before the season opens on April 1st. This minimal amount of clean up would allow us to focus on the four winter projects that are in progress with a goal of having most of them completed by April 1st.

The plan was to bring back 5 crew members from layoff this week and begin general golf course clean up along with installing new irrigation at 6 tee and installing sod on the top of the lower tee on 6. While the new sod knitted in, we would focus our attention on rebuilding the bunkers on 13, continuing addressing the 19 stumps that remain from the tree health program and finishing up the stairs on 1 tee……

Then enters winter storm Riley! This Nor’easter brought chaos to Philadelphia and the immediate Bala Cynwyd area in particular! Wind gust over 60 mph downed 7 trees throughout the golf course, damaged another half dozen trees and coated the entire golf course with tree debris!

back of 10 green

15 fairway

Fortunately #10 green only received minor damage with #15 fairway suffering modest damage under the weight of the tree trunk falling on the saturated soil. There are multiple branches down and trees that are heavily damaged and will have to be removed. The crew of 8 have begun cleaning up the golf course and was able to open the front nine on Monday afternoon and the back nine Tuesday afternoon with only 10 green being closed. A possible bright side of the storm is the 21 trees that were removed over the winter were deemed dead, declining or dangerous. I feel the golf course would of suffered more damage if we had left these trees standing and a couple of them are on the long term removal list!

Moving forward but not as fast as we’d like as winter storm Quinn is currently unloading 8″-12″ inches of heavy wet snow and predicted wind gust of 25 mph over the area. This will definitely slow us down a bit but we should be able to continue with the tree clean up as the snow melts. And when the snow does melt we’ll resume more detailed clean up of the course along with completing the following winter projects.

Stairs at #1 tee.

All of the wood work is complete. Some back filling on the sides is needed along with filling the landing areas in with stone and ‘Porous Pave”. It should be noted that the “Porous Pave” material needs temperatures above 45 degrees for a 24 hour period for installation. This is the same materiel that is in the landing areas on the stairs leading from 4 green to 5 tee.

#6 Tee leveling.

The top of the lower tee just needs to be floated before new sod is installed. Once installed the tee will need up to 3 weeks before it can be opened for play. When the tee is opened, we will move on to leveling of the back tee. We have all the materials for the new irrigation of the tees. This will be completed as soon as the snow melts and can be done under wet conditions.

Bunker rebuild on #13

Most of the old sand has been removed from both bunkers and stockpiled for future use as fairway topdressing. The next step is grading around the outside of the bunkers to control runoff from running into the bunkers and creating washouts. The left side bunker will require a substantial amount of grading and both bunkers will have catch basins located out side the bunkers. These will tie into the internal drain lines that we’ll install inside the bunkers. Once all of this is completed, new sand will be added and compacted before opening for play.

Tree removals

Between the Green Dept and the Arborist, 21 trees were removed before the storms. 90% of the trees have been cleaned and remove from the course. 5 stumps have been grounded and the grindings removed. These holes will need to be back filled and seeded or sodded depending on location. That leaves one removal, behind 15 green, and grinding, clean up and back filling of 14 more stumps. Plus all the clean up from the winter storm(s).

I will be providing regular updates on a timely basis on these projects. We’ll do our best to have a smooth transition into spring, at the very least, it will be a very busy spring thanks to Mother Nature!



Weekend Golf Course Outlook

Dear Members,

In an effort to better communicate the condition of the golf course and the use of regulation greens, Jay Parisien, Golf Course Superintendent, will send weekly emails with a forecast of anticipated greens conditions. The Green Department will use multiple weather forecasts and current conditions to determine whether regulation greens will be open.

Update from Jay for the weekend of February 10th & 11th:

“I expect the regulation greens to freeze up tonight and remain frozen through early Saturday morning. Saturday will be a thawing day with predicted high temperatures in the upper 40’s and rain. The use of alternate greens is highly probable.”

“Sunday’s forecast has temperatures above freezing and rain. If regulation greens are thawed to a depth of 3”, they will be open for play.”

“We will update this prediction again on Friday February 9th. Please refer to the website for daily golf course conditions.”

Bala Golf Club
Jay Parisien CGCS
Certified Golf Course Superintendent

Working our way through winter

Happy New Year to all. The Greens Department has been very busy this winter despite the erratic weather. We’ve had our hands in everything from snow removal, tree work and pushing up bunkers to stripping sod, refurbishing ball washers, picking up leaves and everything in between!

To be more specific on whats going on here in the off season……

New stairs on the first tee are being installed. This is part of the project to rebuild all stairs located throughout the course. Once completed the stairs at 3 and 9 tee’s will need to replaced, and the stairs at 3 green will be removed.

Removal of 26 trees. All of these trees are either dead, declining or causing a hazardous condition. They are all listed in the tree health plan that we received this past fall. Most of the trees are in outlying areas of the course and will have very little effect on playablity. Most of the work will be completed by our arborist, Glen Riggs. We have removed the smaller ones on the list and will be responsible for stump clean up and ground restoration.

Hemlock at practice putting green

Leveling 6 tees. At the last Board of Directors meeting, funds were approved to level both tees on #6. In order to keep disruption of play to a minimum, this project will be done in phases, completing the front tee first while the back tee remains open. We will also be installing new and more efficient irrigation. This work can only be completed on unfrozen soil. We were able to strip the sod from the lower tee today before colder weather returns.

Also at the Board meeting, the board approved rebuilding the bunkers on 13. These two bunkers always need to be pumped out in spite of having drainage. The drainage was installed pre-2000 and has become ineffective. There will be some substantial ground work on the left side of the hole to eliminate the fairway runoff that flows into the bunker.

runoff flow into bunker

Along with the grading, each bunker will receive new drainage and fresh sand. We should be able to continue working on these when colder temperatures prevail.

This is a snapshot of the larger projects in progress. I wish I could give you a completion date but the weather really dictates when we can work on these. Our goal is always April 1 for completion, perhaps mother nature will grace us with some mild weather for the rest of the winter.

Season end update.

Winter will officially be here in 4 days although it appears to have started a week ago with the first snow. The snow has in fact set us back somewhat as we still have a lot of leaves to be processed on the course. The maples hung on to their leaves surprisingly late this year and the oaks shed theirs last week, which is normal considering the mild fall. They are always the last to the party and depending on the variety, they will commence their leaf drop into the spring.

Most of the snow should melt this week based on the latest forecast. This will allow us to go through the entire course for one last leaf clean up, apply snow mold protect to greens, tees and approaches and finish topdressing approaches along with alternate greens.

We were fortunate enough to get regulation greens doubled cupped, alternate greens installed and the irrigation system winterized before the very cold weather set in. All of these task must be completed before the ground freezes.

If your new to the club and will be playing golf over the winter and early spring, you may be hitting into alternate (formally known as temporary) greens. 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. Actually the entire course is subject to damage from playing in the winter. Fortunately, Bala has tee to green cart paths except for 10 + 11, to minimize cart damage to fairways and roughs. Tees do get beat up since we can’t germinate seed in the divots until the warmer weather in the spring but we do fill them through out the winter. 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, .

My next update will cover winter projects. Right now I know we will be doing tree work and have already started replacing the stairs on #1. I have submitted recommendations for bunker and tee restoration to the Greens committee. I will follow up a soon as I have confirmation on the details.

Thank you for reading and a Happy and Healthy Holiday Season to all!

The begining of the end of the season.

With the official end of the golf season fast approaching, I’d like to share with you whats on the Green departments schedule for the next two months. Aerification, seeding, aerifcation, topdressing, aerification, fertilizing and more aerification! Oh, and leaf clean up too!!

Starting Thursday October 26, we will began aerating the perimeter of some greens, collars and roughs around greens. This will continue through next week with the addition of slit seeding of fairways beginning with 1,10 & 18 and the balance of the front 9 fairways along with aerification of the gray leaf spot damaged step cuts.

The green and collar aerification will be done with 1/4″ holes and shouldn’t have a large affect on ball roll, neither should slit seeding of fairways, its very non invasive once completed. The aerification of the step cuts will be disruptive but confined to the weakest of them, i.e. 1, 10,18 etc.

In the following weeks, we are planning on aerating more large areas of the rough. This will have to balance with leaf clean up as we use the same equipment to do both tasks.

Two dates you may want to note if you play in November are the 15 & 16. Weather permitting we will be bringing in an outside contractor for a process called “drill and fill” on greens. The process is very disruptive to the point of greens not being puttable until after we process them. Here is a video link to the process:

In the video, the machine is equipped with actual drill bits. These bits bring subsoil to the surface which should be removed to reduce the risk of creating a impermeable layer on the surface of the green. To prevent this, we have the contractor use a solid bit that brings nothing to the surface. We then do an extra step by aerating the greens with 1/4″ solid tines after the machines are finished on a green. This additional step provides channels for the excess sand that remains on top of the green to be incorporated in the the top 3 1/2″ of the putting surface thus providing additional pore space and reducing the amount of wasted sand. I need to emphasize the fact of dry environmental conditions must prevail throughout the entire process to be efficient and successful. The benefits of this type of aeration is the 12″ depth that the machine achieves. This depth is 8 1/2″ deeper than our traditional aerifing process and provides deep channels for air/gas exchange, root growth and water percolation. An email reminder will be sent out the week before and it will be posted on the “members only” section of the website. I will also include updates on the process on the website and if times allows, this blog.

With leaf dropping season getting started early this year(although it has subsided in the last week or so for whatever reason), I’d like to throw caution in the wind as the dry warm fall will probably alter how we handle the leaves this year. Normally the roughs are growing vigorously right now and we are able to mulch the majority of fallen leaves. Since this fall hasn’t been normal, and the rough is sparse in may places from being drought stressed, I’m concerned that we may have to pick up the majority of the leaves and transport them to the recycle center to the left of 3. This is very laborious and time consuming! Mulching them can only be successful if we are able to match the growth rate of the grass which is impossible under these current dry condition. Hopefully normal precipitation will prevail to rejuvenate the roughs and allow us to expedite leaf clean up.


Double edge sword

The weather forecast ahead should bring much needed relief to the roughs, but this warm and wet forecast comes with another threat of Gray Leaf Spot disease (GLS)

GLS disease is a major problem on perennial rye grass and to a lesser extent tall fescue. Your fairways are 95% rye grass. Its also grown on the tees with bentgrass and in the roughs along with tall fescue and other turf varieties. If you have played in the last month or so, you have noticed the damage GLS has caused in the green side roughs, step cuts and fairways 1,10 & 18. Other fairways have a few affected areas in them, but not like the ones previously listed.

The last outbreak of this magnitude came in October of 2008. Since that time we have always sprayed preventatively for this problem because once the turf gets infected, its very difficult to control. The spores for this disease will travel with tropical storms coming up through the south. This years hurricane season began early in April but has had little effect on our region. Activity in the tropics grew in June and July so I pushed up the first application to the end of July. Spraying every 14 days in the past years have proven to be very effective. Not this year though, by the end of August, we began to see symptoms of GLS in the step cut of 18 and around a few greens. At that point we began to closely monitor the course and adjust the spray schedule accordingly. When possible we shortened the intervals, increased the fungicide rates and rotate the fungicide chemistry only to see it spread to 1 & 10 fairways! I was doubting my diagnoses at one point because of the rate is was spreading but I was reassured by Dr. Buckley at Rutgers that GLS was what we were dealing with!

With tropical storm Nate appearing in the forecast overnight on Thursday, we decided to spray on Friday and Saturday hoping to prevent another out break. I have suspended all over seeding at this point because all rye grass seedling are very susceptible, regardless of GLS resistant variety’s that we have purchased. The affected fairways and roughs will have to be over seeded but will have to wait for more seasonal weather.

Infected seedlings on #10


Hopefully this will be the last of the warm humid weather for the year and we’ll be able to resume overseeding and fertilizing to expedite recovery. I’d also like to note that the spores for GLS do not overwinter well so here’s to a harsh winter!

Stakes Anyone?

If you’ve played golf last week you may have noticed multiple stakes laced with ribbons throughout the golf course and groups of people with golf carts but no clubs touring the course. The stakes are marking percolation testing wells that will be drilled next Monday and Tuesday. This is the beginning of phase 1 of a storm water management project that the Club has entered into with the Philadelphia Water Department and a outside contractor, Opti, to retain the Club’s storm water on site, along with exploring the possibilities of storing water from the adjacent neighborhoods in order to reduce the fees that the Club pays the city for storm water runoff.

The monitoring wells will be installed on the same days that greens aerification are scheduled to keep disruption to a minimum. If you are planning on playing either of those days, I suggest you call ahead, check the web site for updates or seek another place to play as there will be lots of activity on the golf course those two days.

Bonus Bunker

We had sand left over from the SGA bunker rebuild, so we decided to replace the sand in the right side bunker at 18 green. This bunker was last rebuilt in 2003 and is subject to flooding from the creek under a very heavy rain. Between this and evolution, the sand has become very contaminated. The drainage still works and the margins are strong, so we just had to remove the old sand,

and reveal the stone layer in the drainage that covers the pipe

then just add new sand, spread evenly, compact and rake!

in less than 48 hours after we started!

Selvin, Darren and Brian W. did an awesome job!!

Thanks guys!