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!

Wilt 101

In my June post about wilt and the irrigation system, I mentioned I’d explain wilt to everyone following the blog.

Wilt is nature’s way of preventing death! And it works! Wilt occurs in all plants but I will focus on turf. The grass plant cools its self by drawing water from the soil, up through its roots and out its stomates, which are located through out the leaf surface. This constant flow of water regulates the plants temperature. When moisture levels are too low for the roots system to draw from the stomates close. The temperature of the leaf blade rises and turns purple, then to brown in color. How quickly this happens depends on the air temperature, wind, relative humidity and traffic.

A tell tale sign for anyone to check for wilt is to look back at your footprints on the turf. Wilted turf will lay flat in the pattern of your shoe and will not bounce back. Hydrated grass is very resilient to traffic and will spring right back up even under the heaviest of traffic. You can use this method here at the Club or in your own yard to check for wilt.

The picture above is 14 green from June 13. It is wilt, not dead grass. All life of grass originates in the crown of the plant. The crown is located right at the soil level. All roots, shoots and leaves begin at the crown. Wilting and dead leaves prevent the crown from drying out and put the plant into dormancy, thus keeping the plant alive. Depending on the species of grass, this dormant state can last for months. Now with a little water, the plant will again begin to grow and develops new shoots, leaves and roots. As evident by the photo below taking of the 14th green on June 19.

As we move into the heat of the summer, recovery from wilt can become a bit more complicated. A plant going through the wilt/dormancy period is stressed which can lead to infection from disease that can slow down the recovery process or even worse, kill the plant. We due apply fungicide on a 14 day schedule, but may have to shorten that schedule when the environmental conditions favor such infections. This is insurance to keep the turf healthy and strong during the most stressful time of the year!




One step forward, two steps back!

The crew has been working longer days the last two weeks to prepare for Presidents Day this Thursday. Our biggest accomplishment last Friday was opening up the left side bunker on 16 for play! Even though we still have some minor details to complete surrounding the bunker, we were all very excited to have the bunker back in play!

Now we have set our sites on detailing the golf course. We always keep an ongoing punch list of things that need to be addressed but for Presidents day, that list grows by pages. Giancarlo, Assistant superintendent, added to the list over the weekend along with preparing the course for play and keeping the new sod alive on 16 with this summer weather.

When I asked him how the weekend went on Monday morning, he replied”frustrating!” My first thought was we lost the sod on 16. “Nope its fine” he replied but some greens have developed severe LDS (localized dry spot). This was a huge surprise to me since the heat was only two days old and Giancarlo had been watering with both the irrigation system and by hand!  All greens and some tees were checked for moisture and a list was developed for hand watering. This had to be completed before noon’s outing.

Reviewing the list raised suspicion with me, normally wet greens were dry and dry greens were wet!! My suspicion was confirmed when we couldn’t water the SGA tee with the radio. We checked and confirmed we had water pressure at the snap valves at the tee so we immediately went back to the office computer and checked the black box recorder only to find some areas of the course have not been working electronically.

The irrigation software has the ability to run a test on the wires, decoders and solenoids. Running the test revealed exactly what is not working.

As in school, red “F”‘s are not good! Roughly 1/3 of the system is down electronically! This is probably a result of a lightening strike! We haven’t had to run the system since May 21 and have had a couple of storms in that period. Usually we’ll find a tree that was struck by lightening that would indicate where the problem started and we know to check the system when we do see a damaged tree, but we haven’t noticed any such tree!

We are able to water manually and will continue to do so until we can troubleshoot the system and make the necessary repairs. This will commence after Thursday.

Greens 14 and 15 suffered the most damage. Greens #12,13,15 & 17 have some damage, along with # 5 and 18 tees.

I expect a recovery rate of +90% which has already begun.  As in all of agriculture, plant recovery is very slow, especially this time of the year. Wilted turf is not necessarily dead but dormant. My next blog will discuss what happens to wilted turf and the recovery process.

I appreciate everyone’s patience’s while we work diligently to speed the healing process and prepare for Presidents Day.