Friday, August 12, 2016

Showing the Tees, Fairways, and Driving Range some "Love"

Greens Aerification wasn't the only work that got accomplished last week.  We also performed summer cultural practices on tees, fairways, and the driving range tee as well.  All the tee boxes were aerified using 3/4" solid tines, topdressed heavily with sand, and then once dry enough the sand was drug in.  This practice will make the tees healthier, will increase drainage, and will loosen the compaction of the soil making it easier for you to get your tee in the ground, which we know has been a challenge sometimes this summer.

The big practice that we took on this year was to verticut or vertical mow the fairways.  This year since we had a few extra days I decided to go "deep" to really get down into the thatch layer and clean the grass up.  With the blades set at 1/4" below zero we surely accomplished that goal and pulled a lot of debris up.

Just like the verticutting units for the greens, the ones for the fairways are designed to cut into the turfgrass on a vertical plane pulling long stolons and dead/decaying thatch to the surface so it can be removed.  Here is a video of the fairway verticutter in action.  As you can see there is a tremendous amount of debris removed during this process.  Following the verticutting we blew as much of the clippings as we could from the fairways and mowed them in a circular pattern to "attack" the grass from different angles than it is used to which really cleaned the fairways up.  Since we do not have a leaf/turf vacuum to pick the clippings up there was a lot of debris to blow and you will still experience a little bit of it for a week or so but it will soon be gone.

One area that we really wanted to work on while the course was closed was the landing area on #10 where we installed all the drain lines this winter #10 Fairway Drainage Project Complete.  The work on this fairway has turned out great but the areas where the drains were installed needed to be smoothed out.  Using our John Deere tractor aerifier Willie aerified the landing area with 1" coring tines, allowed the cores to dry and then used a steel drag mat to bust up and spread the cores around.  The area was then blown off and rolled several times with the 1.25 ton vibratory roller we rented for the greens.  We also, as to not waste anything on our course, used the sand removed from #9 green that we had stockpiled in the parking lot to top dress the area heavily which will help continue to fill in the trenches and smooth the landing area out.

To try and make sure all the areas on our golf course felt some love throughout the week we also aerified and verticut the driving range tees on Thursday.  Using the same JD tractor and coring tines the range tees were aerified, then verticut with the Toro verticutters, all the sand drug in and then all the debris blown off to the front of the complex.

In fact there was so much thatch material removed from these tee boxes that when Willie got it blown to the front of the tee complex we had to take the Bobcat up to load it into a trailer to haul it off.  In total we removed 5 full trailer loads of clippings from the area which is an incredible amount.  Just goes to show how badly it was needed to be done, and therefore it will be done a little more often from now on so we don't get in this situation again.

We all love our golf course and believe that all the work we performed last week will only go to improve it moving forward.  We still have a few tees to top dress and will be blowing some of the clippings as we mow fairways over the next couple of weeks.  We are already seeing some response from the fairways as they look more lush and healthy and the tee markers are easier to set in the ground on the tee boxes.  It's always nice to see all the hard work paying off.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

2016 Greens Aerification

Early Monday morning we began our summer aerification of the greens and other areas on the golf course.  Aerification is one of the most important cultural practices we do to the greens as explained in this Course Care from USGA Why Aerate?.  This year we chose to use a 1/2" side eject coring tine set on a 1/5" x 1.5" spacing.   Using this spacing we affected 10.91% of the green and removed close to 30 cubic feet of material from the green per 1000 sq ft.

The organic matter content of our greens has increased considerably over the years to over 6%.  The recommended limit for greens is 3% so this year we had to remove the cores and since we don't have the proper equipment to do this, it was left up to the agronomy team to do this manually.  It was a tremendous effort by our staff over two days to remove close to 3,900 cubic feet of material from the greens surface by hand.

Here is a plug taken from the putting green which if you remember was devastated by nematode damage coming out of dormancy this spring, Greens Update.  Two things to take from this picture 1) We have reduced the impact of the nematodes and the damage they caused, and have grown some very nice roots.  2) We have a considerable amount of organic matter (roots, thatch, live tissue) in the top 1.5" of the greens surface.  Ideally we should be closer to 3/4" of this organic layer. This layer is a haven for disease, nematodes, and holds excessive moisture making the greens soft and slower.  Removing this material will only make the greens perform and play better.

After all the cores were picked up and hauled away (to be used to fill in low areas, tree stump holes, and drainage lines around the course later) the greens were blown off leaving a clean surface.  The holes created by the aerifier were open and ready for sand.

After the greens were cleaned off they were double rolled and heavily topdressed with AS45 damp sand from Golf Agronomics.  Over the entire golf course we applied close to 35 tons of sand to the greens.  The sand was allowed to dry, actually a couple of times as we had a few stray showers pass through which got the sand wet again, and then drug in twice using a circle pattern.  After the second dragging the greens were heavily watered to relieve some of the stress from all the abuse to the surface and to work the sand into the surface.

The next step of the process was to perform a vertical mowing of the greens surface.  This year our intent was to remove as much organic matter from the greens as possible so we set the blades at 0.200" below zero and made passes up and back in two directions.  This process removes a lot of the dead and decaying leaf and stem tissue from the green.  It also pulls the stolons to the surface so they can be removed which will make the greens healthier and roll smoother.

In between each direction the greens were blown off to remove the debris from the green and allow for a cleaner and more consistent cut with the verticuttters on the next pass.

We verticut following aerification rather than prior to pulling the core because experience, and advice from our friends at East Lake Golf Club, has shown that this process helps to work the sand into the holes and reduce the size of the surface opening of the aerification hole.  The vertical mowing process will actually pull the leaf blades over the hole reducing the visual affect of the aerification process and will aid in helping the grass to grow over the opening faster which will help make the golfer happier, quicker.

The next step was to remove the leaf surface that was stood up by the vertical mowing process.  We set our sand reel cutting units at 0.150" and mowed up and back in one direction.  The greens were then blown off again and heavily watered again.

On Thursday the greens received another 35 tons of sand to continue filling in the aerification holes.  The sand will help to dilute the organic matter in the top of the greens profile, will help water and air exchange compared to the heavy thatch layer which was present in the top two inches of the green, and help smooth the surface out for better putting.  The greens were drug multiple directions and in circles after each mowing and topdressing.

After all the coring, topdressing, verticutting, mowing and dragging there is only one step left and that is to roll the greens with a 1.25 ton street roller.  The heavy roller will remove the majority of the tire tracks from the greens and start the greens along the path to recovery. Several different fertilizers and soil amendments were applied to the greens and after one final drag and after one more heavy irrigation cycle Greens Aerification 2016 was in the books.

So yes this has been a lengthy blog post but it has been a very long week and all the work done by your agronomy team will pay off tremendous benefits from here on.  I have to thank Robin and our upper management in Nashville for allowing us the time to perform all these tasks properly and not rushing through them as we normally have to.  We usually have only two days to accomplish all the tasks we performed over these five days but this way we got to take our time, slow down, and do the job better which will allow the course to recover quicker and perform better.

I can not thank our agronomy staff enough for their dedication and hard work.  After all the long hours for the TGA Match Play Championships last week to come right behind that with aerification was a lot to ask.  They performed flawlessly and had a great attitude the entire week doing all the hard work in the baking sun to make your golf course better.  If you see the agronomy staff out on the course let them know how much their commitment to the conditioning of the course means to you.  They deserve the recognition for all their efforts.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Tennessee Golf Association Match Play Championships

Last week The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay had the honor of hosting the 2016 Tennessee Golf Association Junior Amateur and Senior Match Play Championships.  It was great to be able to welcome golfers from all across our great state of Tennessee and we saw some outstanding talented golfers.

The Agronomy Staff has really been working hard over the past several months with the goal of getting the course in great condition for this event and according to many of the players, we succeeded.  Hosting an event like this means that everyone has to do their part, from the operations side, the food and beverage side, and the golf course maintenance side.  It is a team effort and we are very proud of the dedication and work of our team.

From the golf course maintenance side of planning for this event it meant many early mornings with work being done in the dark to make sure the course was properly prepared and ready for the players at 7:30.  So what all was done before most people were out of bed?  Greens were double cut, then rolled.  Pin locations set.  Championship tees mowed.  Bunkers blown out and raked.  Fairways drug and cart paths blown off.  It takes an army and we have a good one.

Afternoon course preparation for the event also needed to be done to keep the course in prime condition and our agronomy staff came through again.  Each evening they returned to mow fairways, tees, approaches, blow off fairways and roughs, and to roll greens.

It is not every day that we can put this much time into the course but the extra work really proved worthwhile and we hope the golfers enjoyed the course and enjoyed their round.
Congratulations to William Nottingham of Kingsport, TN for being the 2016 TGA Junior Amateur Match Play Champion.

Congratulations to Mr. Bob Rice of Pikeville, TN for winning the 2016 TGA Senior Match Play Championship.

We are half way through the year, and it has been a challenging year at that, but our staff has worked extremely hard to get the golf course back in the shape that we and our guests expect it to be and we are not going to reduce our level of expectation.

This week we are performing our summer course aerificaiton, all in an effort to make the course even better.  The course will be closed this week but the driving range is open, except for Thursday when we will be working on the range.