Thursday, April 23, 2015

What's Going On With Our Fairways?

This image shows unaffected strains of Bermuda amongst the more
susceptible strains throughout the fairway.
Some of you who've played the golf course within the past few weeks might be wondering what is going on with our fairways.  As you can see from the picture above, much of the Bermuda in the fairway is thin and is not filling in very well, while other portions of the fairways seem to be doing fine.  While there are several factors that have caused the fairways to look like this, a fungal disease has stuck out as the leading cause for the damage.

Affected leaves are discolored and weak,
eventually dying back to the base of the
April is always a time of transition, usually the Bermuda begins to wake up around the first of the month and then spends the rest of the month filling in until the grass achieves full density by May 1st.  The grass can appear patchy and uneven during this time and little thought was given to the look of the course.  By all accounts, we felt the course was greening up as expected.  However, the weather in April thus far, has not cooperated and has been unfavorable to the Bermuda.  According to the National Weather Service in Tulsa, since April 1st, we've only had 2 days without any cloud cover and 50% of the month has been under complete cloud cover.  During that same time, it rained 14 days out of the 23 days thus far in April for a total of 3.26".  This combination of constant cloud cover and excessive soil moisture has left the Bermuda on the golf course very susceptible to disease.  Around April 14th, we started to notice that the fairways were not filling in like we'd expected and that something was wrong.  We were puzzled that the fairway would be affected but not the adjacent rough.  I began to suspect winter injury because the rough height Bermuda is much taller than the fairway and therefore more cold tolerant.  However, after closer inspection, I realized the lesions (fungal infections) on the leaves and realized we have a fungus called Leaf Spot.  Leaf spot is also called Melting Out, due to the visual symptom left behind of the grass loosing density and seemingly melting down into the soil.  Leaf spot is very common on susceptible Bermudagrasses such as the type that make up the majority of our fairways.  Especially during a wet, cool, cloudy spring while the plant is trying to wake up from dormancy.  All the fungus needs is an entry point, which we unwittingly provide every time we mow.  It seems that the mowing equipment has also spread the disease throughout the fairways.  This could explain why the rough is unaffected, since we haven't mowed fairways yet.  It also explains why some areas of Bermuda seem unaffected next to severely affected areas.  This is due to our fairways containing various types of Bermudagrasses and their genetic tolerances to various pests.  Some Bermuda strains are simply more tolerant to Leaf spot than others.

This image shows the after affects
of Melting Out disease
So what do we do about it?  We cannot control the weather, so we must be patient until the warmer, drier weather begins.  This will naturally turn the advantage back to the Bermuda and the grass should recover quickly.  There are several chemical options that could be used, but we do not have a budget for fungicides on fairways (25 acres).  Since we'd be looking at almost $3,000 for just one treatment, we must be objective and decide if the cost is worth the benefits.  Next week, we have a previously planned course wide fertilizer application scheduled.  This fertilizer coupled with some warm, sunny weather could potentially do more for our fairways than a fungicide application.  It will all depend on the weather.  If we continue to have this kind of weather, we may not have a choice but to remove the disease pressure using fungicides.

Please be assured that the grounds staff is monitoring the issue closely and that every step will be taken so that the course can be in the best condition as possible.  If you have any questions regarding the fairways, or any other issue at the course, please feel free to contact us.  Thank you.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

More drainage work....

Drainage water had collected at bottom of green and found exit point in approach

On Monday, the grounds staff began work on a drainage issue in front of #14 green in the middle of the approach.  The drainage system underneath #14 green exits to the southwest through the approach and goes downhill towards the cart path.  We recently discovered a persistent wet spot right in the middle of the approach, and knowing the drainage is in the vicinity, knew we needed to at least take a look to see what's going on.  The staff dug up the wet spot and found a pocket of saturated greens mix but no pipe.  This spot is about ten feet left of where the drainage system is located.  This means that some of the water inside the green cannot quite make it to the pipe and has collected in a second low spot to the left.  Once enough water collects there, the water "tops" over the clay edge into the sand layer above.  The water then moves inside the sand until it can surface through the turf.  This is where the wet spot came from in the approach.  Our solutions was to create a drainage extension to give the water in that second low area somewhere to go so it will stay underground.  This should keep the turf in the approach from getting saturated.  Although we had a tournament on Monday afternoon and another one Tuesday morning, the staff did a great job getting this project completed as soon as they could.  The area is all put back together and we apologize for any inconvenience this project may have caused.

Pipe extension w/ green left of picture 
Beginning of drain extension w/ fabric to keep sand out of pipe

New drain pipe ties into existing drainage on east side of approach

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Ugly Putting Green

If you've been on the putting green lately you've likely noticed the blotchy yellow color throughout the green.  This is annual bluegrass, or Poa annua, that has been treated with a growth regulator as part a control program aimed at reducing the Poa annua contamination in our greens.  Generally, as greens age, contamination from Poa  becomes more prevalent.  This is especially true on greens that receive heavy foot traffic and have a history of excessive soil moisture.  Poa tends to grow faster than Bentgrass throughout the day and therefore greens with excessive amounts of Poa will get bumpy and slow as the day progresses.  This chemical won't kill the Poa, it just stunts the growth and allows the Bentgrass to better compete for water and nutrients.  I realize this green doesn't look very good during this process, but hopefully, an increase in putting quality will make up for it.

As summer approaches, we will back off the chemical control and let the summer heat continue to discourage the Poa.  Then, when fall approaches and the temperatures cool off, we'll start up the program again.  Antagonizing the Poa throughout the growing season, is our best defense until other control options are developed.  If you have any questions regarding our Poa control program, please feel free to ask.  Thanks

The yellow Poa plants really stand out against the dark green Bentgrass

This lower tier closest to the clubhouse has the most Poa

Friday, April 10, 2015

Drain Work at #12 Green

Please excuse the mess on the right side of #12 green as you play through this weekend.  It was discovered a few days ago that the drainage coming out of #12 green was plugged up.  Staff will be replacing the plugged drain line today and should have the area leveled off before the end of the day.  However, the work site will not be sodded before the weekend.  Ground under repair markings are in place to clarify the work site.  Please use caution when retrieving golf balls within the area.  Thank you for your patience while our staff works in this area.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Spring Fairway Slicing

It's that time of year again!  Time to loosen up the soil and encourage new growth on our short turf.  This week, the grounds staff is using our shatter tine machine on fairways.  This machine does a great job improving drainage, oxygen content and loosening up the soil.  The tines are solid and do not remove any soil, but are curved and so they "shatter" the soil as they go in and come back out.  Once the fairway has been sliced, the fairway mower and tractor blower do a great job cleaning them up.  Below is a video showing the debris that is removed from the process.  After the process is done, the slit left behind is very minimal with almost no disruption to the surface.  The soil should continue to warm up quickly due the the increase in warm air in the tine holes.  This will encourage a quicker green up of the Bermuda.  Next week, the grounds staff will repeat the process on the tee boxes.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Landscape Bed Work

After setting up the golf course for the first Owasso High School tournament this morning, the staff kept off the golf course and spent some much needed time working in the landscape beds at the clubhouse.  The one bed that needed the most work was the landscape bed at the northeast corner of the building between the F&B area and the putting green.  This bed has always been an issue due to it's Northeast exposure and poor drainage.  Before the staff planted a whole bunch of new shrubs, we took the time to address some of these issues.  First, a new drain pipe was installed to take the downspout water underground to the east and it exits near the cart path.  This will reduce the amount of water in the bed and should allow us to maintain drier conditions.  The northeast exposure means that there is very little direct sunlight on this bed and any moisture in the soil takes much longer to evaporate that other beds around the building.  This slow dry time, coupled with the excess water coming off the roof effectively drowned the plants that were there.  Now that the drainage issues have been resolved, new shade tolerant plants have been added.  Slow release organic fertilizer and mulch were then added to finish the project.  The staff did an amazing job getting this done in such a short amount of time.  The beds on either side of the F&B entrance are next on the list.  More soil needs to be added and the plants replaced.  We should have all the landscaping done by the end of the week.

Friday, March 20, 2015

#9 Greenside Bunker

This past Thursday, the crew took the left over sand from greens aeration and filled the two greenside bunkers on #9.  The sand depth in these two bunkers had become too shallow and the risk of contamination had become too great to ignore.  Approximately 10 tons of sand was added to the two greenside bunkers.  The fresh sand made an instant impact on the aesthetics and playability of these bunkers.  The grounds staff did a great job getting this project done in such a short period of time.

Depths are checked and sand is added to create consistent depth throughout the entire bunker

Playability and aesthetics are greatly improved by adding the new sand!

Spring Greens Aeration

The weather and fertilizer perked the greens up quickly
Pulling a lot of thatch out of the putting surface!
  Earlier this week, the grounds staff completed our spring greens aeration.  This is always a busy few days for the crew and this year they did an amazing job getting all the work done on schedule.  The weather leading up to aeration improved and allowed the greens to wake up just in time for the process.  One week before we were scheduled to start punching holes on the front nine, Doug, our chemical technician, applied some granular fertilizer to the greens to help wake them up from dormancy and get them growing.  We time the fertilizer to kick in just as we start the project so that a quicker recovery is encouraged and the greens will be back to normal as quickly as possible.  The weather post aeration is also very important to how long the recovery takes.  The weather has been ideal, with several rain showers, sunny days and mild nights.  It seems we are right on schedule for our usual 1-2 week recovery window.

Most golfers deal with the after affects of aeration on putting greens, but few know exactly how it is performed and why we must go through the process.  While there are many ways to perform core aeration, this is the process that works for us.  First, the greens are "verticut" with our greens mower two times at perpendicular directions.  This creates little square grooves for sand to settle into.  More information about verticutting can be found here.  Then we mow the greens to clean up the longer leaves that are left behind the verticutter.  Once the green has been mowed, the aerator pulls the cores out of the green and pulls them to the collar for removal.  As you can see from the picture on the right, the aerator removes a large amount of soil.  This sand based soil contains built up organic matter that can create wet, soft conditions and harbor disease.  Removing this material, and replacing it with straight sand allows us to maintain drier, firmer, healthier putting surfaces.  After the cores are all cleaned off, the greens are then blown completely clean so the holes are all open and ready for sand.  The next step is to topdress the greens with a very specific amount of USGA topdressing sand.  This sand has a very specific particle size that is compatible with the sand found in our greens profile.  This sand is allowed to dry completely and then is drug into the holes using a drag mat towed behind a utility vehicle.
Sand is heavily applied and left to dry before dragging into holes
Once the sand is worked into the holes, the greens are rolled to smooth out any depressions from tire tracks or footprints.  The greens are drug once again to be sure to incorporate as much sand into the holes as possible.  Water is then applied to settle the sand into the holes and keep the grass from stressing out from all the aggressive cultural practices.

The greens are then left to rest for a few days so the grass can begin to fill into the holes we made and allow the sand at the surface to integrate into the canopy.  Today, the staff spent some time rolling, dragging and mowing the greens to get them as good as possible for the weekend.  Over the next week, the greens will seem less sandy and the turf growth integrates the sand into the canopy and normal putting conditions return.  We appreciate everyone's patience during this time.