Monday, September 28, 2015

What's Up With the White Sand??

"More sand, laddie" is a quote accredited to Old Tom Morris, the first greenskeeper at The Old Course at St. Andrews.  Topdressing greens and other areas on golf courses has been as common as mowing the greens since the beginning of the game of golf.  So why is there such an uproar when greens, and other areas of the golf course, are topdressed now. 

For many years we have been using dyed green sand to topdress our greens in an effort to appease golfers and lessen the amount of grumbling and complaints heard by the agronomy team and the proshop but this has been to the detriment of our greens. This picture shows the layering of fine green sand that had occurred over the many years of continuous use of green sand.

The problem with layering of sand in greens, especially green dyed sand is that it restricts the movement of water, air , and nutrients within the soil profile. The biggest problem is that the roots can not thrive in this environment and as you can see in this photo break off at this layer.

This is an electron microscope image of a sand particle. As you can see it is far from round and smooth as one might think. Each one of those pores or holes in the surface of the sand particle has the potential to act as a cation exchange site or an area in which nutrients and water can attach to later be used by the root system.

Now image you fill up or eliminate 70-80% of these valuable cation exchange sites with paint. Is it feasible to believe that the soil structure and the root system could function properly and provide us with the high quality putting surfaces that we are all demanding? 

For a better visualization with something we are all more familiar with, a golf ball. Imagine removing 3/4 of the dimples on a golf ball. The golf ball would not function properly and would not generate the lift that golfers demand.

I agree that green sand is more appealing to the eye but it is harmful to the health of the green and that is why we have discontinued the use of it at Harrison Bay. We are working to improve our course, not simply out to upset anyone. If you still have an issue with the white sand, see me. Don't take it out on the proshop or the outside operations staff. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Time to Reset

I have to begin this blogpost with a sincere apology.  Over the past couple of years I have failed to do the job that I was hired to do; to be the caretaker, the protector, the "voice" of the golf course.  I have spent so much time trying to satisfy so many different entities from golfers, to management, to the proshop, that I have failed to care for the most important entity we have, the golf course itself.

One of my favorite movies is An American President and to quote Michael Douglas' character "I have been so busy doing my job, I have forgotten to DO my job.  Well, that all ends today."  I have spent countless hours worrying, stressing, and beating myself up over what we need to do on the golf course to keep everyone happy and not effect or interfere with anyone's golf game that I have failed to carry out many of the important agronomic practices that I need to carry out to ensure the golf course is in top condition.  That all ends today.

So what does that mean for you, the golfer.  We will be carrying out more of the vital and important cultural practices that we have put on the back burner such as verticutting, aerification, topdressing, and slicing to name a few.  Don't be surprised when you see an aerifier on the course or a slicer alleviating compaction and wear in the fairways, or the greens, tees, or approaches being topdressed with sand.  And we will be using white sand from now on for many reasons (cost, availability, and the fact that painted sand is harmful to the soil profile).  More on that in a later blogpost.

Now please don't get me wrong.  I greatly appreciate everyone who chooses to spend their hard earned dollars at our course.  We are blessed to have a great collection of loyal golfers and tournament directors that choose our course over all others in the area every day.  We have over 50 tournaments/outings per year bringing in over 4,000 of our 30,000 annual rounds and we will try our best to not interfere with your round or your outing but with three to four outings in some weeks we will have to perform some of our cultural practices when we have to do them.

As always if you ever have any questions about the course or what/why we are doing certain practices on the course please don't hesitate to contact me at or stop me on the course and I will be happy to sit down with you as I have with others in the past several months.  Our job is to provide the golfer with the best golfing conditions possible within the constraints of our budget and manpower limitations but to do that we have to take care of the foundation of the property, the turfgrass.  I thank you, in advance, for being accepting and understanding of the maintenance being performed on the course.