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Dodge's Dirt

October 2019

Winter preparations are well underway on the golf course.  In addition to the usual tasks of bringing in accessories, installing snow fence, edging, cleaning up leaves, giving the golf course its final mowing of the year, and applying fungicides for winter diseases, we have been especially busy on giving putting greens a thorough treatment before buttoning them up for the winter.
After final mowing and cleanup, we over seeded putting greens using an implement called a Maredo Over seeder.  The unit, which is something we just acquired this past year, does an excellent job in efficiently spiking and metering bentgrass seed.

18 Green 10-18-2019

Note the small spiker holes around the keys.  These holes provide the perfect seedbed for the application of bentgrass seed and the unit uniformly meters the bentgrass seed-which can be difficult to work with due to it being as fine as dust.  This is what is called a dormant seeding-this seed will not germinate this fall due to cold temperatures but will instead overwinter and be in position to germinate in the spring.  This is a new practice that we will be implementing as part of our winter preparations in the future.  This practice is mostly an insurance policy in the event that we have winter turf loss but introducing bentgrass seed into the putting surface is never a bad thing and will assist some of the weaker areas on greens next year.  After the overseeding, we applied what are commonly referred to in the industry as winter chemicals with a spray rig.  This mix consists of fungicides for the control of snow mold diseases and a calcium supplement to add to the turf’s winter hardiness.  Winter chemicals are applied to greens, tees, and fairways.  Once we allow this application to set up for a day, we then move on to topdressing greens with a layer of sand.

17 Green 10-18-2019

Sand topdressing as part of winter preparations is an age old practice that offers many benefits including protecting the turf from winter exposure and smoothing out any old ballmarks or any other imperfections in the putting surface.  Adding topdressing sand to a turf surface also allows us to continue to dilute the thatch (old stems and roots) layer so that greens can remain firm and drain well.  A relentless topdressing program also allows us to get away from core aerifying which is, frankly, a labor intensive mess that, while necessary at times, is best minimized.  We do, however, aerify using solid tines.

Olaf Walkky 5 Green 10-18-2019

We aerify immediately after topdressing putting greens.  Aerifying after topdressing allows us to avoid creating ruts from running a heavy topdressing on top of a soft, freshly aerified putting surface.  The vibration created by the aerifier also helps to work the sand into the putting surface. 

5 Green 10-18-2019

This year we used our Toro 648 aerifier with 5” long 3/8” wide solid tines with 2” by 2” spacing.  We are very pleased with the result as these tines did a great job in alleviating compaction in the top end of the soil profile with minimal disruption.  An added benefit to this process is that in the event we get excessive rains (which we will), these holes should provide an abundance of channels for water to leave the putting surface before freezing.  We are doing what we can to avoid the accumulation of ice on putting surfaces. 

Solid tines-Pre and Post Aerifying 10-21-2019

The wear that these tines exhibit is pretty cool after we made an estimated 6,272,640 holes on putting greens (I did the calculation).  Note the new tine compared to the tine that just participated in the making of 261,360 holes.  In retrospect, we probably should have replaced that tines after the first 9 greens or so but the old tines were still penetrating to 3.5” on the last few greens which was adequate for what we are trying to do.  Something to keep in mind for next year. 
Having open holes going into winter can be a little scary since we do have the potential of subjecting greens to desiccation (drying out) in the event we have a dry winter with no snow cover.  We mitigate this risk, however, by covering greens as the final step in our winterizing process.  And, honestly, we rarely if ever have a winter without snow cover.  My experience, after 17 years on this site, is that ice damage is a greater likelihood than winter desiccation-and is more damaging.
The final step before covering greens is a thorough rolling of putting greens.  This helps to smooth out, firm up, and work the topdressing sand into the turf surface.

Kevin Lynch 3 Green 10-18-2019

All in all, a pretty thorough process that should help to ensure good putting surfaces for the 2020 golf season.

Vincent Dodge

September 2019

September is, in many ways, my favorite month of the year in regards to the golf course.  Temperatures are considerably cooler and we rarely have to worry about turf stressing out due to higher temperatures and/or droughty conditions.  I honestly cannot remember the last time that we had to irrigate anything and would not be surprised if we do not use our irrigation system for the rest of the year-other than maybe to water in materials that require it or mist a putting surface so that mowers and rollers can see where they are going.  September does, however offer other kinds of challenges for the crew.

The main challenge is the result of the exodus of the very solid group of summer help we had this past season.  High school and college students, with the proper direction, have been an outstanding help to us this season.  The only downside to this help is that it leaves for school at the end of the summer and we are forced to lean on our existing core staff members to work more to get us through the end of the year.  I feel blessed to have a good group of folks that are more than willing to volunteer to work more to allow us to continue to present a good test of golf and an enjoyable experience.  Without the work being done there would be no golf course.  Next time you see someone on the golf course, feel free to let them know that you appreciate everything it is that they do.  I know that I sure do.

One extra chore that we have started on is the deep tine aerifying of fairways.  The implement that does this work is called a Wiedenmann Aerifier and it is powered by a turf tractor.  This machine does an excellent job of relieving soil compaction and just as importantly the machine does it with minimal disruption to the playing surface.  With a unit such as this, we have been able to pretty much eliminate core aerifying on fairways-which is needlessly messy and frankly unnecessary.  

15 Fairway
Turf Intern Peter Johnston making holes 9-9-2019



View from back


Final Product with 7/8” tines going down 5”

Later on in the season, we will then target certain fairways for thatch removal using a different unit to be discussed in the next newsletter.  This two-step process is a proven winner for us and hopefully the weather will cooperate later in the season.  If not, we can go after those fairways next spring.

Thank all of you for your patronage at the golf course.  We are very pleased with the product presented this year and hope that you are as well.

Vincent Dodge

August 2019

The golf course is back to the level of conditioning that we are accustomed to after much effort that spanned over a period of 14 months (5 winter months, 6 cool and wet months-great for annual bluegrass, bad for bentgrass-and 3 wonderfully warm and dry growing months).  Just walked off of the 18th green with a Stimpmeter and clocked greens at well over 9.5’ on the Stimpmeter.  Right where we want to be.  The picture below makes me happy in that it shows a severely stunted clump of Poa annua (annual bluegrass) surrounded by a less stunted bentgrass.  This is intentional as we are taking advantage of the warmer weather to level the playing field in favor of the more abundant bentgrass on the golf course.  Much like an oncologist might use chemotherapy to control cancer in a patient, we use a selection of plant growth regulators combined with fertility management to do the same thing to our tees, greens, and fairways-though each prescription is tailor made for each respective area.  While most area golf courses have pretty much punted and gone with the strategy of growing the best annual bluegrass that they can, we are not ready to give up the fight as bentgrass is, frankly, a much better playing surface with a better likelihood of surviving all sorts of stress-both from the winter and the summer.
 

Annual Bluegrass 7 Green 8-4-2019

 

16 Green 8-4-2019

The only downside of this program is that areas with extensive Poa annua contamination, like the collar on the right side of 16 green, can look a little gnarly with the weakened annual bluegrass that we are trying to control.  I am okay with this and I hope that you are too.  Everything we do to manage this site is done with an eye towards long-term health of the property-even if it means having some areas that might not look as healthy as the rest of the golf course.  This is a fight that will be ongoing for the next few years as we continue the conversion process.  Playability is in no way affected by this process-indeed it is enhanced as the PGRs (plant growth regulators) have the added benefit of creating a surface which is more tightly knit and faster.  Thank you for your interest in the golf course and the technical nature of our work-I would now like to move on to something a little less complicated.


During this past week we have seen three player behaviors that I wish would never occur.  These actions do not really affect us as a golf course maintenance crew as our job is to solve problems and repairing these issues is not a huge deal.  What is concerning is that these negative actions affect your fellow player and show a lack of concern for the other players around you.  Golf is all about etiquette and courtesy-or at least it should be.  The examples are as follows:

The Foot Grinder:

Putting Green 8-1-2019

In this example, a player has camped out on one part of the putting green and ground their feet into the green.  I am all for practicing-that is what a putting green is for.  All I ask is that players refrain from grinding their feet into the same area repeatedly while they practice.  We have a 13,000 square foot putting green so feel free to use the entire area.

 The Short Putt Missed Tantrum:

 

7 Green 8-4-2019

This has happened twice in the past week but has become a fairly regular occurrence over the years.  Usually within 2-5 feet of the cup.  Not difficult to see what happened here.  Somebody missed a short putt and took it out on the green.  I have never been around a player that did this sort of thing but if I was, I certainly would not be happy, as a player, to see this and would definitely let that person know that this is not cool.  I hope that the other folks in the group at least said something to this person to discourage this.  Again, the repair is easy enough but what about the rest of the players for the day coming behind this player?

The Sunflower Seed Guy

13 Green 8-4-2019

This is a relatively new phenomena but is now a regular occurrence on the golf course.  I like seeds as much as the next guy but blowing the shells onto a putting surface is kind of an inconsiderate move to your fellow player.  Blow them all you like anywhere on the golf course you like other than a putting green if you care for the others trying to enjoy the golf course.  These pictures came courtesy of our golf course maintenance crew who show a genuine concern for the property.
I feel lucky to be part of the group that is the Crew of 2019.  We had some changes this year-subtractions and additions-but all-in-all this has been a very positive experience in crew building.  I have always enjoyed the crew teamwork aspect of my profession more than anything else.  We work every day starting at 5 am to do the best that we can for our customers-next time you see them feel free to share a kind word.  We are the offensive lineman of the golf course operation.  When things go well, no one notices and acknowledgement of a job well done is rare.  When things go wrong, however, we are the first to take the heat.  Just the nature of the business.

 


Crew 2019

Thank you for your patronage and we hope to see you on the golf course.

Vincent Dodge

July 2019

I just walked off the 18th green after measuring green speed with a Stimpmeter and came away with a reading of 9.25’.  The goal on these greens, with the heavy undulations and our volume of play, is anywhere from 8.5’ to 9.5’.  Anything slower than this results in the slow greens complaint.  Faster than this means complaints about pin positions and a reduction in usable space on putting greens resulting in excessive wear.  I sometimes wish that I was managing flat greens again where the goal was simply to make putting greens as fast as you can while withstanding traffic.  Managing greenspeeds within a range is much more difficult than just making them fast.  I think we have a pretty good handle on where we are at now and for the rest of the season-for the first time in about 18 months or so.  We have made the transition, finally, from finishing the recovery from the previous year and are back to where we can resume our maintenance (as opposed to recovery) programs as the picture below illustrates.

Vince 7.5.19

16 Collar 7-5-2019

While admittedly not my best photo, upon close inspection you can see two things here.  Darker green patches of bentgrass (desired) interspersed with pale, sad green patches of Poa annua, also called annual bluegrass (undesired).  Look at the areas in the sunshine and you can see the difference better.  This situation is intentional in that we were able to resume our growth regulation programs on greens and fairways in June with the intent of “squeezing out” the annual bluegrass by creating a situation where the bentgrass outgrows the annual bluegrass.  The PGRs (plant growth regulators) that we use encourage the lateral growth of bentgrass while weakening the Poa annua.  These programs are especially important right now since the damaged areas last year were infested with annual bluegrass, some of which was tracked onto greens in the form of seed from golfers’ shoes.  In order to encourage the long-term health of the golf course, we need to really commit to a program of weakening annual bluegrass while encouraging bentgrass.  We had been on just such a program for over 15 years with solid success in keeping the golf course clean.  Last year, however, we had to abandon the program in order to establish new turf in many areas of the golf course and you can tell.  We have annual bluegrass throughout the course, it is not something that we cannot mitigate over a period of 2-3 years given excellent growing conditions like those that we have experienced of late.  Our hope is for conditions that continue to be warm and dry as this will help us to maintain this competitive advantage for the bentgrass.  So far, so good.  More than anything, we do not need any more 6 month long winters with multiple freeze/thaw cycles.

Funny how one year can have such long-term effects on a golf course.  Also interesting is that the management decisions we make regarding the golf course are long-term in nature-the best managed golf courses have a plan to ensure the viability of the golf course well into the future.  As opposed to continually reacting to issues that will inevitably arise if this perspective is lacking.  The challenge is in sticking to your guns in following through with these plans as sometimes the short-term pressures-both financial and from players-can cause one to deviate from the long-term goals.  Financial pressure can cause us to simply not afford to continue our programs-such as our just mentioned regulation program as well as our annual drainage work that has worked wonders in improving course conditions.  This golf course maintenance stuff can get pretty expensive.  An example of player pressure would be in the form of complaints about slow greenspeeds while in recovery.  The worst thing we could have done in June would have been to lower cutting heights below what has historically been our optimal setting as this would have tilted the field in favor of the annual bluegrass as well as encouraged the formation of moss on greens-but this could be the topic of another newsletter. 

See you on the golf course.

Vincent Dodge

June 2019

What a difference a year makes.  As has been made clear before, the golf course overwintered extremely well this past year and the course has, for the most part, fully recovered from the beating sustained a year ago.  This is a tremendous relief to the entire staff in that we are now able to focus on details on the golf course such as bunker edging and weed control.  Taking care of the “little things” is something that we try to accomplish and this year has been conducive to that.

Hole #1 6/3/19


Hole #9 6/3/19

Putting greens at the moment are rolling as true as they have been for this time of the year and will continue to improve as we get into the summer season.  We have intentionally been keeping the fertility on greens a little on the high side to continue the recovery from spring aerification.  We have been working hard to keep greens true and they are.  Speeds are a little on the slow side but this will change when we back off on the nitrogen and begin dialing things in for the summer.  This year is really shaping up to be a wonderful one.

Moving on to staff for the year, we have added a number of new people that have been a tremendous help to us.  We have “gone young” this year with many of our new additions and for me it has been invigorating.  Having been in this profession for quite some time, the technical aspects of the work have become pretty routine and it can be easy to grow stagnant in your work.  What makes things exciting for me is spending quality time with people eager to learn and having the patience to teach these new additions not only how to do the work we do but why we are doing it.  The teaching aspect of my profession is what keeps things fresh for me and I am certainly spending a great deal of time doing this in 2019.  It has been a blast.


See you on the golf course, 

Vincent Dodge

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