Even though we’ve only been open for a month, I’m calling this the “early summer” update. It’s been very difficult to remind myself, and others, that we’ve only been playing golf for 30 days. Yes, its June, but our progress on fine tuning the property, and especially the turf itself, is a good reminder that we cannot make up time, and the natural progression of nature must take place.
The natural progression of breaking dormancy, soil temperatures slowly rising (even though we’ve had temps in the 90’s), quantity of daylight, recovery from winter damage, all make up how the golf course grows differently each spring.
Sometimes you need to look at what’s happening below to understand what’s happening above.
Without getting too technical, not all varieties of turf follow the same growth curve, and it’s been very evident this season. Everyone knows when the rough begins to grow, as it goes through it’s “spring flush.” For 2 weeks every spring, it grows at a pace up to an inch a day! If we lose a big day of mowing rough, like Memorial Day (plus the weekend), it can take us the rest of the week to catch up. With 80 acres of rough to mow at least 1.5xs per week, any delay, whether it’s a tournament, rain, mechanical breakdown, etc., the rough can become a challenge for all of us quickly.
Rough growing at 1″ a day!
The short grass playing surfaces have had an unusual growth curve as well. Poa and Bentgrass break dormancy at different times (soil temperatures), and this year, it was very evident. Poa breaks dormancy faster than Bentgrass, but slower than Kentucky Bluegrass (rough). This spring, the Poa took longer than usual to begin growing, especially in the rough. Many of our shaded areas and exposed areas of rough experienced winter damage for different reasons. The Poa in the rough under trees experienced ice damage. Tee, green and bunker surrounds with Bentgrass growing in them experienced desiccation damage during the winter. This all delayed recovery, and as of today, many areas are still not fully recovered. The 8th green experienced desiccation over winter, and the deep-tine holes receded this spring. With the delay of Poa and Bent growing aggressively, we did all we could to assist recovery. Filling those deep-tine holes by hand several times, giving the turf additional fertility applications, and topdressing, it goes to show that sometimes you cannot overcome Mother Nature’s natural process. With finally receiving rain and humidity at the end of May, we saw the rapid recovery to the green we hoped for in the previous 30 days. Going from 18″ of snow, to temperatures in the 90’s a few weeks later, the turf broken dormancy, then went into defense mode, thus delaying recovery, and it’s normal seasonal maturation process. With so many different varieties of turf growing throughout the property, getting it all lined up and growing at the same rate this spring, has been a slight frustration.
Over 40,000 holes filled by hand, more than once, was more of a mental challenge than physical, until they were close enough to the top to use the mechanical topdresser.
One of our newest additions to our equipment fleet is an inter-seeder. This allows us to drill seed into the ground with good soil contact, with minimal, to no, disturbance to play. The seeder is very mobile, allowing us to use it on most areas of the golf course, from the rough around tees, to fairway perimeters. Most of the issues with winter damage is having certain varieties of turf in the wrong locations. We don’t want Bentgrass in the rough, and we don’t want Poa anywhere. This seeder will allow us to turn the percentages of desirable turf varieties so that the golf course functions better, and is more aesthetically pleasing. Although we will never have “pure” stands of turf, given the age of the course, this will be a long-term process to correct our percentages, and strengthen our stands.
Below you can see winter-damaged Poa in the perimeters of a fairway expansion.
On the left you can see where the Poa is still occupying the last 18″ of the fairway. On the right, the inter-seeder drilling Bentgrass.
Our converted Fescue areas in the rough also took it on the chin this winter, and are slow to recover. This was induced by a herbicide application made last fall. We’ve been testing a selective herbicide, in select areas, over the past several years that removed grassy and broadleaf weeds. The results have been fantastic. However, we added a supplement to the application that we add often; a drift reduction agent that has a surfactant. The drift reduction agent is to ensure that no drift in a windier environment occurs, and the product stays in the intended location. The surfactant helps get the product into the plant more effectively, helping the herbicide penetrating through the thick walls of the weeds. We use this combination supplement in applications made on all playing surfaces, increasing its efficiency. However, this supplement had an adverse reaction with the herbicide, getting the chemistry into the plants too quickly, essentially burning the turf. The phytotoxic results weren’t evident until this spring. Most of the areas are alive, they are just really slow to recover, as Fescue is a very slow-growing turf variety. In the long run, it could turn out well by “thinning” the Fescue stands out, increasing playability and aesthetics.
There is a large Burr Oak to the right of 8 approach that did not fully leaf out this spring. Usually you look to the leaves to diagnose diseases/issues. However, after consulting with our Rainbow Tree Arborist, the issue with this tree is at the base of the trunk. The arborist thinks that the tree suffered damage to the bark around the base decades ago, more than likely from a mower. That bark began a slow process of rotting, and nutrients were cut off to the canopy of the tree. The bark has now separated, and the tree is now rotting at the base. After suffering damage to their root system, or bark, trees often use all of their internal reserve nutrients within themselves until they are completely used up, and this is what we are seeing with this Oak. Unfortunately, there is no remedy to correct this issue. We will monitor the tree throughout the year, and make sure that it doesn’t pose a safety issue until deciding a removal date. If you remember, the 8th hole is a Seth Raynor Cape Template off the tee, and seeing the green from the tee box (but yet not being able to hit directly at it) is one of its trademarks. http://www.mhccturf.com/?p=1185
Overall, the golf course is in fantastic shape. The turf is “making the turn” and growing at its normal pace (the rough will slow its growth curve shortly). All of our new staff is figuring out the property and honing their craft. With college students returning over the next few weeks, we are getting projects completed at a quicker rate. Thanks for all of your positive comments, and patience, during this unorthodox spring we’ve had.