Yes, we still have some time until the 2023 golf season…we’re working feverishly to get the golf course cleaned up and playable. Remember, the preparation work that needs to take place to prepare the golf course doesn’t know the temperature.
There are still bunkers with 4 feet of snow in them, there are sticks and limbs everywhere, the fairways are too soft to start to clean, and we are literally pumping standing water (again we had record snow fall, so our low areas areas are saturated and are ponding up). There is over one thousand man hours that go into the two weeks between snow melt and opening the golf course. Then there is the agronomics of opening a golf course. Go to any course that opens “early” in late July. You’ll see dirt, weeds, Poa, and suffering conditions. If you are compacting wet soils, playing on turf that is not actively growing, you’ll pay for it down the road. Happens every year. We will not put golf course conditions in jeopardy just for a few extra days after snow melt. Every course is different, has different soils which drain unique to each property. Each course also has different objectives and standards.
We also heavily top dress and deep-tine aerify greens right before we cover them for winter. This has proven to be extremely effective in preventing winter-damage from occurring. We now have to work all that sand into the holes, and roll everything closed. That process has to wait until the green are firm enough, or severe rutting will take place. But here’s the other benefit, we will not need to aerify greens come May. We will still aerify all sodded areas of expansions, but the rest of the greens won’t be aerified until August. This is all data driven, and a culmination of a consistently aggressive cultural program.
Overall, the golf course came out of winter in fantastic shape, much better than I anticipated. With the record snow fall, you’re going to see an obscene amount of Vole damage. It’s been 20 years since I’ve seen it this bad. Unfortunately, with early snow, basically no frost in the ground, and a consistent snow cover, it was the perfect environment for the Voles to burrow extensively. That damage will take weeks to rectify. The record snow also brought about record snow mold. The majority of damage is in the rough, which will slowly grow out of it.
While we wait a few more days, lets go through a few questions that will inevitably come up regarding the new putting green:
1. Can I push my clubs across the putting green? Yes, please do just like you do on the course. On the golf course, we prefer you don’t push your clubs on the edges/perimeters of the green, just go randomly through the middle. This is the same with the putting green. We don’t want cow trails, so randomly distributed traffic is best. If you play the black or blue tees, walk through the back opening. If you play the white tees, walk through the middle opening, and if you play the red tees, use the most forward opening, or walk over the driving range tee.
2. Can I drive my electric club cart across the putting green? Nope. Please take your club of choice out, and drive it on the cart path to the South of the putting green and to the tee box, OR across the driving range tee to in front of the first tee. We don’t allow electric club carts on the golf course greens as they can turn to sharply (by accident) and can affect those playing behind you. The same goes for the putting green.
3. What is the function of the chipping area on the far South end of the putting green? This area was designed to recreate a similar shot that you face on the golf course. You come up just short of the green, or your ball rolls off a false front, onto the approach. The area is designed to practice putting off of approach height turf, or hitting a bump-and-run. There will always be a pin in the lower section of the putting green to practice that shot. This area is not designed to hit sand wedge shots of more than 5 yards. We have 2 separate chipping complexes for that. Taking divots out of the putting green area is not allowed. Please help us educate everyone using it, so that it functions as it was designed, and we’re able to keep a pristine area to practice those shots.
4. The putting green will take time and patience to heal in. For the first year, it will be especially tender. If you are going to practice, lets say a 6′ putt, please refrain from setting up a putting station where you hit 30 putts from the same spot. The sod will not be able to handle that concentrated foot traffic of standing in one spot. If you really want to practice that many putts from one spot, take two towels from the golf shop, fold them in half and stand on them. This will make a world of difference of leaving 2 sunken footprints for weeks vs. not. Again, it’s all about leaving things as you found them or better for your peers to use.
From a management standpoint, because the putting green, and 14 green were sodded (to expedite the grow-in period vs. seeding), they will need a more aggressive approach to get them performing at the same level as the remainder of the greens. Just like after the 2020 project, we will be steadfast on an aggressive aerfication process to remove the layer that occurs from sodding. If left alone, the layer will prevent rooting, infiltration, as well as staying soft and slow. We simply cannot top dress the layer out by burying it in sand. That will actually exasperate the negative effects, and essentially bury it too deep for us to physically remove the layer.
The USGA has done a good job of explaining soil layering https://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/course-care/green-section-record/58/9/dont-layer-it-on.html
Another good article worth reading https://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/course-care/green-section-record/60/18/the-inevitable-layer.html
The USGA has spent a lot of time educating golfers on the negative effects of layering because they can be devastating. Going into a hot, humid summer with frequent rain events with a sod layer will lead to instant decline and turf death. At that point, its too late to correct the issue. Prevention is key, and it’s not a one and done event. We will aerify the putting green and 14 green once they are actively growing, and will aerify them again once they’re healed. We will hopefully aerify them 3 times before summer sets in, and again 3 times this Fall. Now before you hit the red button, the greens will be very playable when we’re done with each aerification. We don’t take large hole via tines. It’s a balance to continue to provide you with playable greens, and preventing losing all the work that was done if we get a horrendous summer. I’m not willing to take that chance so we’ll be aggressive right out of the gate, expediting the time to get the sod back to the same performance as the golf course. Remember, the alternative was to seed the greens, and they would not be playable for at least 52 weeks after seeding. This was the trade-off. All of this was done after the 2020 project and will still be ongoing this year. All of this is data driven, we will be taking soil tests that give us organic matter percentages, along with percolation rates, which will guide us to know when we’ve definitively arrived at the performance we’ve set out to achieve.
5. When will the mounds between the putting green and first tee be at the achieved aesthetics? This is weather driven of course. The first hope is that the seed and hydro mulch we applied last Fall survived winter. With over 80″ of snow this winter, there were very few times snow actually stuck on the tops of the berms. However, it’s those exact same conditions that will provide a stunning stand of Fescue, which will create one of the best putting green/1st tee ambiances you’ll experience. But Fescue is an excruciatingly slow establishing turf, compared to other varieties. We will have grass growing on the mounds this season, but I don’t expect it to be “showy.” Just like the other 30 acres we’ve converted, this area (as well as left of #3/8) will take up to 3 years to reach full maturity. By definition, we expect it to grow to 4-6″ this year, next year reach a full height of 12″, and by the third year, have full seed heads come mid-July. Again, this is all weather dependent, as it has a major impact on maturity. Each year it will get better than the last. We understand that this area next to the putting green will be under high scrutiny because of its location, and the resources to ensure it’s a success will match that. Again, we’ve converted 30 acres so far, and this Fall, most of it will finally reach maturity. Patience is a virtue, but worth the wait.
6. One of the objectives of the pavering project was the cluttery mess of golf carts. Walking up to the club, the first impression you’d get was 12 carts staged. Not necessarily a welcoming site to a classic golf club, and not one that represented the natural beauty of the golf course. The changes with the pavering project was not only aesthetics, but that of function. You will now find the golf carts staged in the back corner, North of the bag room. Also part aestethic, and part function, was the clay pavers that literally form a “cart path” within the cement pavers. This is to hopefully keep cart drivers following the “path” so that we keep the area between the golf shop and putting green safe, and not congested. When you return your cart, drop it off in that same corner, not out in front of the bag room or golf shop. This change will undoubtedly take time to adopt, but we’re confident once it is, it will improve the experience from walking up to the club, to leaving for the day.
7. How long until we can hit off the driving range tee grass? The driving range tee was the last thing to be sodded last Fall. It never rooted, as it was mid-October. It’s not rooted as of today, and will take several weeks until it does, and is growing at a pace that can recover from divots. Luckily, we have a brand new synthetic tee that will be massive improvement to our old mat experience.
The changes of the putting green/1st tee, golf shop, driving range, and back patio are major changes to the experience at Midland. Club leadership realized this space is highly used, and the ROI on the investment has a high potential.
See everyone soon,