Sunday, June 12, 2016

Best Laid Plans Gone Awry---Green #9

Not every plan that we come up with at the golf course works out the way we plan, but you have to be willing to try different techniques or you will never know.  When we came out of winter dormancy this year we were dealing with several issues and had to try different techniques to combat them.  On #9 green our issue was not nematodes as it was on the other greens but rather poor drainage and an excessive amount of surface algae that was smothering the new turfgrass as it was trying to come out.

We tried several chemical controls to try and eliminate the algae growth but none of them worked the way we needed so we decided we would "wash" the algae off with a high pressure hose.  We started with a 1" adjustable fire hose nozzle but that was not working as well as I wanted so I decided to use a flat fan nozzle on the end of the 1" hose to peel the algae off of the green.

In theory the plan worked great and there was lots of green grass on the green under all that algae.  So our plan worked out, correct?  Well, not really.

On other areas that had algae growing on them on other greens we reverted back to the less aggressive adjustable nozzle after we realized that the flat fan nozzle had actually, almost irreparably, damaged the green by stripping the leaf blades off of the plant.  After a week or so after performing the high pressure washing of the green I knew our best laid plans had gone awry.  The green was showing some signs of recovery but with the golf season coming on quick we had to make some quick decisions about how to fix or repair this green.

Before just fixing the green we needed to figure out what could have been the cause of the issue in the first place.  Why was the green failing to drain properly and allowing the surface to stay wet for so long to allow the algae to become such a problem.  At first we thought it was our pigment PAR from Harrell's that we used for greens applications but according to lab testing that was not the cause of the sealing off of the greens.  A closer look at the top three inches of our greens surface and the topdressing sand we have been using for several years began to tell the tale about what happened.  The fine and very fine sand particles in our topdressing sand exceeds the suggested limits for topdressing sand from the USGA.  These particles had packed together to make water and air almost impossible to penetrate the green surface.  Below the top 2 inches tests showed that our greens were functioning properly but the water simply could not make it through to that level rapidly enough.

With several big events coming up at the end of the summer we had to pull the trigger on fixing the green.  We simply could not wait for the green to come back in on its own.  So on Monday, May 23rd, we started the renovation process of the green by removing the top 3-4 inches of the green surface as we did on #3 green over the winter months Rebirth of #3 Green  The removed material was stockpiled in the parking lot to be used in other projects at a later date.

Close to 75 tons of new greens mix was brought to the green and spread.  We used the tracks of the Bobcat track loader to disturb the area beneath the 4" so that there was no chance of the two sands bridging or water being trapped between the new sand and the existing greens complex.

After the green was roughed in and then fine hand raked to level out any humps we watered down the sand to help it pack better and used the weight and the tracks of the track loader to firm up the greens surface and get it ready for it's new coat of turf.

The removal of the damaged green and the replacement of the new greens mix was done by Mitch and Bill in only one day.

Over the next couple of days we continued to hand rake and pack the new greens mix as well as apply our pre plant fertilizer getting the surface ready to lay the new Champion Ultradwarf bermudagrass sod on it.  The sod arrived on Wednesday and early on Thursday morning we got started by first placing a ring of sod around the perimeter of the green and then pulling a rope across the middle of the green so we could have a good first line and off we went.

It took the agronomy staff a little over 4 hours to cover and cut in the new sod on the green.  Roll after roll after roll we kept laying it down until it was all done.  The sod came in a refrigerated trailer so it was still in excellent condition and gave us an instant idea of what the green would soon look like once it was grown in.

Once the green was completely covered and cut in we cleaned up all the scrap pieces and moved all the unused pallets of sod out of the way and began the "seating in" process.  First we hand watered the green rather heavily to water the sod and to make the 1.25 ton vibratory roller work better.  We rolled the sod in multiple directions which did a great job of helping to level everything out.

After the multiple rollings we had a sand slinging party to add greens mix on the surface and used level lawns and brooms to help work it down into the canopy.  This helped to firm up the green and level off high and low areas in the green.

The next thing on the list, after multiple heavy waterings, was to mow the green at a high height of cut 0.250" taking off the top bit of canopy to help the smoothing process and to make it easier to get the multiple topdressings into the surface.

Unfortunately this is the last project, and last picture I took, of one of our agronomy staff members Barry Webb.  Barry passed away unexpectedly on Memorial Day.  Rest in peace Barry.  You are very much missed.

So it has been three weeks since we went from what was an embarrassing situation and green to one that is looking extremely good.  Already down to greens height and rolling better and better every day we are extremely happy with the results of the project.  Thanks to all the golfers who put up with the temporary green in the fairway for a few days and with the slower than normal putting as we worked the green down to height.  As we move forward the green will only get better as the rest of the greens are.

The Agronomy Staff did a great job on this project and we will continue to work to improve the golf course with other projects such as sodding, tee and approach aerification, and adding sand to bunkers will be carried out throughout the remainder of the summer.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Greens Update -- Getting Better Every Day

Photo taken on April 19, 2016
It's only the first of June but it has already been a long season for the agronomy team at Harrison Bay, mostly due to the extended growing season we encountered this past winter where we were still mowing green turf on our greens on New Year's Eve day which is very unusual. If you have played the course you have witnessed the areas on the greens which are less than ideal.  So what caused this and what are we doing to correct it?

The primary cause of our issues on the greens was a severe infestation of nematodes, mostly of the Sting (Belonolaimus longicaudatus) variety.  Nematodes are microscopic, non-segmented worms which feed on the root system of plants in various ways, all leading to the injury and/or demise of the turfgrass.  In the case of the Sting nematode they feed by inserting a stylet into the plant root much like a mosquito into a human and suck out the plant juices.  By the time the symptoms are observed on the surface the damage has been done below.  We normally treat for nematodes from March through October but with the warm weather this winter the nematodes did not enter dormancy, or hibernation, as they usually do.  This was an abnormal year and I simply was not thinking of nematode control during the Christmas season.  This has been a wake up call for us and we will, from now on, be on a 12 month preventative control program for these little pests.

Photo taken on May 21, 2016
All is not lost however.  We have seen a considerable amount of recovery over the past couple of weeks since the weather has improved with higher temperatures which has greatly encouraged both topical and root growth.  The nematode infestation has been controlled with the use of Avid from Syngenta and Nortica from BAYER Golf.  We have begun using a new product Dakota REV from Dakota Peat which we have seen considerable benefits from.  This product along with our foliar apps from Harrell's MaxLine and our granular fertility, along with Harrell's Divot Recovery Mix, will help to continue to improve the putting surfaces every day as we move forward.

Unfortunately there are areas on a couple of greens which would take longer than acceptable to recover just by growing in the turf that is there so we will be working to repair these areas with sod over the next several weeks.  No one likes to have to sod a green surface but this is the best and quickest way to get these areas, mostly on the perimeter of the green and thus not affecting most putts, back into proper condition and ready for the major golfing tournaments and TGA state championship events we have coming up in the next three months.

Healthy turfgrass from root to tip can withstand more environmental stresses than plants which are already weak.  This is well known and commonsense.  So as I stated last year in Time to Reset we will be doing more cultural practices on the greens to help improve their health and ability to withstand the pressures placed on them from weather, play, maintenance practices, disease pressures, and other forces such as nematode activity.  This may include additional venting and quad tine core aerifications, spiking, shallow and deep verticutting of greens, and additional applications of sand topdressings.  All designed to improve the health of our greens by revigorating our 12 year old Champion greens with new, stronger, healthier plants.

We are confident that our greens will continue to improve exponentially as the summer progresses and we thank all of our faithful members and tournament directors who have stuck with us through this learning process.  This has been a trying time for everyone at the course as golfers look to us for answers as to what went wrong.  I have to thank my agronomy staff for their hard work and the operations staff in the clubhouse for taking the brunt of the questions and concerns.  As it has been said before "If it was easy, everyone would do it." which is definetely true for a golf course superintendent.  We are excited about the future and thank you for your patience.