Wow, May and June went by fast. Really fast!
Here’s an over due update on the course, common questions I’ve received, projects we’ve completed, as well as what’s ahead for our department.
Our cultural practices on the playing surfaces, especially the greens, are showing their worth as we approach the summer months. We are able to maintain consistent ball roll, firm surfaces that also accept proper golf shots. One thing we’ve been working on is eliminating the tire tracks from our sprayer. In the picture you can see a faint dark line from our sprayer. This is from the Iron we apply to achieve good color without promoting top growth. The tires of the sprayer collect a higher concentration of product and make the turf greener than the surrounding area. We’ve been experimenting with rates of an anti-drift agent that keeps the products coming from the sprayer from wafting back to the tire.
The tire marks are merely aesthetical and do not affect ball roll. None the less, its an area we saw an opportunity to improve upon. We’ve seen great results from our adjustments and will continue to monitor. You’ve also maybe noticed our aerifiers operating around the perimeters of the greens, poking small holes. This is a preventative maintenance measure that we do to relieve compaction from mowers and rollers turning. It also increases porosity and increases gas exchange in a highly vulnerable area of the green. Our goal is to create an environment that promotes Bentgrass and doesn’t allow the Poa Annua from taking over. This practice is done as needed and is designed to prevent a decline in our green perimeters and collars. It’s a practice that you would probably only realize if we stopped doing it, as those high traffic areas would decline in quality.
In last month’s newsletter I included a picture of the driving range tee and divot pattern. There is definitely an increase in players getting away from hitting divots in a ” large patch” and instead hitting in strips and individual patches. Any pattern other than a large patch will increase the regeneration and playability of the driving range tee. As we get into the heat of summer, regeneration of the tee is critical as it becomes difficult to germinate seedlings and we rely on vegetative regeneration working from the outside of the divot inward. Thanks to all who have changed away from hitting divots in the “large patch” pattern, it’s making a big difference!
The fairways at Midland may be in the best condition since I’ve been here. There are several reasons for that, the main reason being the amount of Bentgrass we are gaining over the Poa Annua.
Deep tine aerification, as-needed perimeter solid tining, low Nitrogen fertility, growth regulators, acidifying fertility, adjustments to our mowing equipment’s rollers, proper heights of cut, even the direction of mowing has had large effects in our efforts to promote more Bentgrass. We strive towards Bentgrass on all of our playing surfaces because of better winter survivability, it’s need for LESS water, fertilizer, fungicides as well as its ability to provide a firmer, more consistent playing surface. Even the aesthetics of a more uniform stand of turf is a benefit that cannot be overlooked.
You may have noticed long and string-like grass plants in a few of our fairways over the past several weeks. It’s Rough Stock Bluegrass and is similar in nature to Oak Trees and Acorns or Maple Trees and Sumeras. This year was a bumper crop for the Rough Stock and it’s more noticeable than in years past. I’m not certain how it got in our fairways but it’s only in areas that are predominately Poa Annua. The Poa is thin and gives the Rough Stock an environment to survive. I imagine that in years where winter kill was prevalent in fairways, the Rough Stock became established. It’s difficult to eliminate because there is no herbicide that will selectively remove it out without damaging the fine turf. It grew so quickly this year that our mowers couldn’t cut it and merely pushed it downward as it rolled over it. It’s slowly disappearing as it’s the “flowering stock” of the plant and is past that part of its life cycle. We’ve learned a few things about our fairway mower set up to help control it and plan to implement what we’ve learned next Spring.
Our rough has been growing along at a quick rate with the timely rains and lack of extremely high temperatures. It’s nowhere near the growth rate as last year but none the less, hitting out of it is a challenge. We have NOT fertilized the rough this year. The only fertilizer in roughs has been around carthpaths, highly compacted areas from carts and mowers and old stump holes.
One of our goals is to have the rough consistent. That’s a tall order because there is 70 acres of it. I classify our main rough into two categories. The first category is primary rough. This is immediately around greens, tees and fairways. It stretches out into what I call the secondary rough. We mow them at the same height but the maintenance practices are slightly different. The primary rough gets fertilizer once per year, gets aerified when necessary to relieve compaction from carts and mowers and has excellent irrigation coverage. The secondary rough is further out, directly between holes, and wide open areas that don’t see normal traffic so it doesn’t see the same level of maintenance. Hence, why you might see a thinner stand of grass. We don’t have the infrastructure or budget or desire to maintain this area as the primary rough but we still want to keep it playable. As we have removed unnecessary trees, our roughs have become thicker and healthier. There is less competition from tree roots, shade and compaction. A comment was made to me that they would rather hit a shot 40 yards off line from a green or fairway instead of being in the first 10 yards. That’s debatable depending on the player’s skill and brings up one’s ability to recover from that far from the intended target. Again, consistency is the goal of our maintenance program. It’s rare that you catch a poor lie that’s half dirt or exposed tree roots.
Our native areas are starting to look great, mainly because our Spring was on the dry side. This creates a thinner stand of grass. Our new native area that we re-grassed to a pure stand of Fescue between one green and two tee is progressing nicely. It will take at least one year for it to mature and look the way we want it to. If accepted, we plan to implement pure stands of Fescue into other native areas as the stand of grass is much thinner in nature which means you’ll be able to locate your ball and advance it easier.
Over time, native areas cost much less to maintain than primary and secondary rough, they create important habitat for wildlife and increase the aesthetical texture to the property. Remember to always keeps carts out of these areas as once the grass is trampled down by the cart tires, it more than likely will not stand back up.
Our ponds are looking healthy and are functioning as habitat for wildlife as well. We are currently looking to replace the fountain on #6 as the motor burnt out. A common question I get is regarding why Walsh Lake is not weed free. Because the Lake is directly connected to the Mississippi river through a series of overflow piping, it is regulated as a non-treatable body of water. The lake acts as a filter for storm water runoff that is collected for the entire city of Lauderdale as well as the University of Minnesota golf course before it moves on to the Mississippi.
Overall, my staff continues to work extremely hard 7 days a week with the goal of constant improvement. A lot of improvements you don’t see on a normal basis. We strive to work behind the scenes and accomplish as much out of your way as possible. Every small collective effort we hope brings you big enjoyments when you’re at the club or playing a round of golf!
Some of the upcoming projects you will see us working on over the next few months include:
- The completion of edging all carthpaths directly around the clubhouse, holes 1,9,10,18 in preparation for the cartpath asphalt sealing
- The continuation of renovating the landscaping around the clubhouse, finishing off behind the clubhouse on the East end
- The removal of the circular flower bed between 11 green and 12 tee as this area has proven to be the wrong environment for flowers
- The addition of a flower bed at the water cooler house at 12 tee
- The expansions of the flower beds at the storm shelters at 13 green and 16 tee
- Restaining all of the storm shelters and on-course bathroom exteriors
- Utilizing the stone from the flower bed between 11 green and 12 tee to rebuild a larger drop zone tee box on 16
- Adding Chilton stone along the cartpath behind the clubhouse
- Resodding tired and old bunker faces on holes 4 and 7 back to their original shapes and slopes
Golf Course Superintendent