Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Breath of Fresh Air

This week has brought favorable weather and a great deal of progress on the golf course. The overnight lows have been dipping into the 50's which is a welcome change for our staff and our turf. Monday was a day of great progress because we did not have an outing to prepare for. All mowing was put on hold while every crew member worked to make improvements throughout the course.

One of the more notable improvements is the replacement of dead turf on the 8th fairway. Our staff completed this task on Monday afternoon. We will keep carts off this area until the sod has matured- later this fall. There are several other locations where we will continue to replace sod but the area on the 8th was the largest. We have other spots in the fairways and rough which will recover naturally while some locations we will reclaim through seeding in the coming weeks.

Another project, which is currently being completed, is the drainage in the landing area on the 4th hole. This drain will extend through the 1st fairway and will improve conditions there as well. We feel this project will have a tremendous impact by improving the aesthetics and playability of these holes.

Above, drainage being installed to the landing area on #4. Below, a picture of the finished product.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

USGA Visit

USGA agronomist Ty McClellan made his annual visit on Tuesday, August 10th. Ty spent the afternoon touring the course with John Temme, Dave Schneider, Jeff Courter, and several members of the green committee. Mr. McClellan's visits are always educational and are enjoyed by the management team and members alike.

The comments we received were very encouraging. Ty stated that Wakonda's greens are as good (or better) than any others he has visited this season. He commended the membership for their willingness to take the necessary steps to create such fantastic putting surfaces. Ty claimed that our fairway and rough damage is typical of other courses he has visited but that Wakonda is doing much better than average. Collars are also performing better than average with stress evident in a few areas. Topics of concern that were discussed included bunkers and drainage- not surprising given this season's weather. Ty said to be patient for recovery of weak turf until optimal growing conditions return in Autumn. We expect Ty's full report, including his recommendations sometime in September.

A comparison of two greens. Old 9- with old bentgrass varieties and a lot of struggling poa is pictured above. Below is a shot of the turf on new 9 green- there truly is no comparison.
The weather has improved this week. With a break from thunderstorms and lower temperatures, the grounds crew has taken several steps forward in the recovery process. We have been replacing sod on the 8th fairway and in a few small locations on the collars. Fairways were fertilized on Wednesday. The added fertility will help ensure a flush of growth this fall which will help the turf return to top condition.

You may have also noticed man in a lift pruning trees. We rented the lift for two weeks during which time we are primarily removing dead, hanging branches left from this year's tumultuous weather.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Water Water Everywhere

"Same old song and dance." We are still locked in a battle with the elements. We've received over 8 inches of rain through the 9th of August. The torrential downpours could not come at a worse time for the golf course. The extreme heat and humidity cause disease pressure to skyrocket. When we receive excess water during times of extreme heat our turf declines at a rapid pace. Creeping bentgrass roots begin to recede when soil temperatures exceed 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Yesterday we observed afternoon soil temperatures exceeding 93 degrees. Wet soil gets hotter than dry soil and is much slower to cool overnight. Until the weather breaks, areas such as 8 fairway (pictured below) will keep getting worse. Attempts to repair these ares by seed or sod must wait until temperatures fall.

Pictured below is a view from the 11th fairway. Puddles of water, shallow and deep, can be found throughout the property.

Our heavy duty trash pumps have run non- stop all week but each night's rain seems to nullify the previous day's progress.
Course's throughout the country are feeling the pressure this year. You know it's getting bad when articles start appearing in The Wall Street Journal. Wakonda's greens are still very healthy despite the horrible weather conditions. Our success can be attributed to the new turf cultivars being grown in sandy soil with plenty of air movement & sunlight. The new turf still has roots approximately 8 inches deep while many other course's greens have less then 4 inches.

USGA agronomist Ty McClellan visited yesterday. He was impressed with conditions here at Wakonda and stated that we are in very good shape when compared to other courses he has visited recently. We will have more on Ty's visit in a future posting.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Fighting the Good Fight

It has been a challenging season for us here with the grounds department. With the rain falling down outside, we feel it is a good time to take a moment to reflect on the season, comment on our current circumstances, and outline our thoughts going forward.

We experienced a very productive spring characterized by dry, mild temperatures. The favorable weather allowed us to have a great beginning to summer. The course was in tremendous condition for Blazer Days in the beginning of June.

During Blazer Days the weather began to turn for the worse. The Saturday rounds were barely completed before heavy rains commenced. Once the rain started to fall, we received a continual cycle of severe weather which made a mess of the golf course. We received over 14 inches of rain in June and 5 inches in July.
During this time we witnessed a drastic decline in turf quality in some areas of the course which are still with us. Many low- lying areas in the fairways literally drowned in standing water. These areas can be witnessed on holes 1, 3, 8, 11, and 13.

The poor condition of some of the rough is a a different situation. Like the fairways, some of the rough declined due to excess water. However, there were other stresses in play in the rough which also contributed to turf decline. First, is cart traffic. During wet weather we try to find a delicate balance when restricting carts. Generally, when the course is wet, carts are kept off the fairways and the rough is subsequently abused. Finally, hot, humid, rainy weather is prime conditions for turf diseases to form. We are able to fight off these diseases using plant protectants on the greens, tees, and fairways. These products are extremely expensive so use in the rough is not an economically feasible option. Pictured below is an area on the 6th hole which we will likely seed in the coming weeks.
Wakonda is not the only course experiencing these losses. For further reading check out the iaTURF blog.

Work to repair these areas began weeks ago but our efforts keep getting hampered by storm cleanup. Going forward we will evaluate areas in the fairways and the rough. Some areas will recover on their own. These areas are what we refer to as 'dormant'- the turf is not dead but growth has ceased until the stresses subside. In areas which will not recover we will be sodding and seeding. The best time of year for these activities is approaching during the end of August. You will also see us correcting drainage issues and utilizing other methods such as aerification and fertilization to promote turf recovery. We are confident that with favorable weather and a lot of manpower we will have the course in good condition through the fall.
Before and after pictures of the 13th fairway. This area was sodded a couple weeks ago and is now barely noticeable.

This has been our most lengthy blog posting to date- a fitting tribute to a season which has stressed the grounds crew. In closing we would like to focus on the fact that the greens are performing extremely well. The weather and storm cleanup has interrupted our routine of green maintenance but we feel that our members can be very proud of the playability and turf quality on Wakonda's putting surfaces.