Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Course Notes, 10/18/16

As the picture above illustrates, fall is finally upon us and the foliage is starting to show its true color.  The next 10-14 days will truly have some spectacular views.  Hopefully many of you will have the opportunity to come out and enjoy your golf course.

Aerification has been completed on greens and fairways, and I thank my staff for their hard work in the last 10 days.  With the ample rainfall and above normal temperatures, healing of the aerification holes is already ahead of schedule compared to past years.

We have also began some of our preparations of the greens for this coming winter, a bit earlier than we normally do.  Below are some of what we do to best defend the turf against the harsh conditions winter can sometimes bring.

Raising mower heights.  One of the changes I have made this year is raising the height of cut on the greens earlier than normal.  Currently,the height of cut on greens .135", or .015" higher than in-season heights.  Raising height of cut allows more leaf surface for the turf to maximize their photosynthetic capabilities and carbohydrate storage.  Raising height will also lessen stress to the plant and create a deeper root system going into winter.  While raising heights may not create the speeds that summer brings, it is best for the long term health of the greens going into winter.

Late Season deep tine channels
Late season aerification.  On November 7th, our annual Vertidrain process will completed (weather permitting!).  These extra holes create three advantages:  additional channels for spring root growth, aid in relieving any deeper compaction within the rootzone soil profile, and extra drainage capabilities for ice/snow melt to prevent ice formation on the plant surfaces.  These tines are 1/2" wide, and vary in depth from 7-10".  The depth of these tines is altered each year to prevent a hardpan layer from forming, which would hinder drainage over time.

Fertility and Plant Protectants.  While we limit nutrients on finely maintained turf during the season to provide great playing conditions, the fall is the best time to feed the turf to maximize carbohydrate storage going into winter.  The more carbs the plant stores, the quicker it will break dormancy when temperatures warm up in the spring.  Nitrogen, potassium, and bio stimulants were applied to fill this vital need over the course of the month.  Plant protectants will be applied to prevent damage from fungal diseases such as Pink Snow Mold.

Topdressing protecting the crown of the plants
Topdressing.  Another change to our winterization program will be more light, frequent applications of topdressing sand while the turf is still actively growing.  This will help further even out the playing surfaces from aerification and begin the process of protecting the crown from winter's cold and ice.  When growth has ceased for the year, we will apply a thick coating of sand topdressing to bury the crowns and as much leaf tissue as possible.  This sand helps protect and insulate the crown of the plant from any extreme cold temperatures.  This practice was another way more damage was prevented from the ice layer that encased all the greens turf in 2014.

Our 2nd assistant Kyle removing bluegrass sod
Finally, the staff and I began one of our major fall projects today.  We will be installing an extended collar to the back of 9 green, thanks to much input and feedback from many of you.  This is also a suggested improvement from our golf course architect, Shawn Smith of Hills/Forrest.  The idea is to give more options for shots behind the green and make that area of the hole a bit less penal.  As the pictures dictate, we will be removing 6-7 feet of the bluegrass sod and replacing it with bentgrass from our in-house nursery.  We should have all the sod laid by week's end.

Bentgrass sod being installed
Going forward, while #9 will be open for play, this area will be roped off for the rest of the playing season.  We will be rolling, aerifying, and topdressing the sod to smooth this surface into a playable surface for the 2017 season.  This area should be treated as Ground Under Repair and shots should not be taken from this new area.  Thank you for your cooperation with this nice improvement to #9.

If you have any questions, please contact me at ryan@elconacc.com.  Thank you, and I hope to see you out on the golf course!


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Course Notes, 10/11/2016

In looking at the week's forecast, it is looking like Friday morning will be our first frost delay of the Fall 2016 season.  Why do we delay tee times when there is frost?

Frost is essentially frozen dew.  It can form when the temperature approaches near freezing.  The ice crystals that form on the outside of the plant can also harden or freeze the cellular structure of the plant.  When frost is present, the normally resilient plant cells become brittle and can be easily crushed internally or pierced like a knife from the outside ice crystals.  When these cell membranes are damaged, the plant loses its ability to function normally.  Think of this like cracking an egg:  once the shell is broken, it cannot be put back together.
Traffic patterns of an average foursome on a green.

Although damage will not be immediate, the proof will emerge within 48-72 hours as leaves turn brown and die.  As the picture on the right shows the typical foot traffic of a normal foursome on a green, damage could be extensive if played or mowed during frosty conditions.

If you have any questions, please contact me at ryan@elconacc.com.  Have a great week!


Sunday, October 9, 2016

Course Notes, 10/9/16

The staff and I have had quite a busy September and early October.  The final days of the season had beautiful sunshine and warm temperatures, capped off with a successful Hole in One Stag tournament.  We are currently in the middle of our fall aerification.

Green tines vs. fairway tines
3/8" vs 5/8" tines
 For greens aerification this year, I decided to go with a slightly smaller tine size, for a number of reasons.  Each year, I look at many factors in deciding what is best for Elcona's greens, mainly our annual soil test results, current soil structure and rooting, and the amount of traffic the greens have received over the course of the year.  I also look at the amount of surface area impacted annually.  The USGA recommends that 20% of a putting green's surface area be removed or effected by an annual aerification program.  With our frequent venting (solid 1/4" tines) we performed this year coupled with our current soil structure and results, we went with a 3/8" coring tine instead of the traditional 5/8" tine, at a 1"x 2" spacing.  For your information, in 2016 the greens will have a total of 25.13% of surface area impacted by 6 ventings, one core aerification, and one solid deep tine in November.
Green surface after pulling cores

Each golf course is different in respect to soil structure and turf needs, so what is best for Elcona may be different that what would be best for other courses.  What is best for our greens can and may change year to year, so while these smaller tines are good for this year, we may have to go back to larger tines in future years if organic matter or thatch levels change dramatically.

After the cores dried on the surface, we verticut the soil from the thatch and turf, and dragged the material back into the holes while the staff cleaned the thatch up by hand.  Fresh sand was then added to fill the holes as best as possible.

While we were overall successful in this fall's aerification, we did have a few belt issues on a couple greens that caused a rippling effect on the turf.  We will be out repairing these areas over the course of the next week, as well as adding an additional application of topdressing to further fill any open holes.  Mowing and rolling will be done on an as needed basis to allow the turf to grow through the sand layer and create a more smooth surface in time, and would be done in the afternoon to create a dry cut that is best for the turf and limit the mess wet sand would leave.

Staff blowing sand into holes and thatch into a pile
Fairway aerification will be starting Monday, using 5/8" coring tines.  It looks like we will have fantastic weather for this process, and hopefully be complete be the end of the week.  Please be on the look out for our staff when you are out enjoying your golf course this week, as we will be busy coring and cleaning up in the afternoons.

The final product!
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at ryan@elconacc.com.  There is still plenty of great weather, changing colors, and great golf ahead in 2016, so I hope to see you out on the golf course!


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Course Notes, 8/31/2016

Some of you have asked me what is making the tiny sand mounds on the greens during the day.  The answer is two fold in what I have seen.  
Moundings on 10 green

The first is the Seed Corn Beetle.  These beetles burrow about 2 inches into the soil, looking for insects and other tidbits to eat.  There are two generations of these beetles, occurring in May and in August.  

Close up of Seed Corn Beetle

The second, and more populous burrowing insect I am seeing are ants, specifically the Eastern carpenter ant and the Cornfield ant.  These ants are worker female ants looking to form new colonies with their burrowing.  They mainly feed on seeds and honeydew from aphids and mealybugs.  
Ant mounding on 17 Green

Ant crawling on 17 green

Close up of the Eastern Carpenter Ant

Normally treatment is not required, since both of these insects provide beneficial natural control of other pests to turf, such as the cutworm.  We try to set high thresholds when it comes to evaluating whether to treat or not, to limit the footprint we set on the environment.  However, we will be treating for these ants today due to the high incidences of moundings on select greens.  

If you have any questions, please contact me at ryan@elconacc.com.  Thanks, and have a safe and fun Labor Day Weekend!