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