I usually take a few days per week looking back at the year and how I can improve upon the programs that I had in place. I usually break down each area look back at my notes for the year and write a report.
This year was a challenging year, cold and dry to start the year. The turf was not able to develop a good root system for the summer. We did our best to encourage rooting but if the ground is not warm enough there really is not much we could do. Then the first part of the summer was a 180 of the spring warm, humid, and very wet. Almost 8 inches alone in June.
This made the rooting problem especially in the fairways even worse since now it is warm enough, the roots didn't need to work very hard to get water so even after multiple solid tining the roots in the fairways just did not grow. Adding more fuel on the fire was the humid and warm weather allowed the grass to grow like crazy. When the turf is growing vigorously there is also a direct relation to the development of organic matter. We have not core aerified the fairways in 10 years. In the past we have been able to manage the growth just fine but this year was an expectation to any year prior and I noticed a 100% increase in thatch in the fairways. The rest of the summer continued to challenge us with the fairways no roots in the soil meant we had to really pay close attention to the turf in any stress time. When the dry weather continued in August we started to see some decline of the poa annua in the fairways on the high mounds and low drains areas. This is interesting since these are the highest areas of stress coupled with a short roots system and high organic matter you would expect some sort of stress. By the end of September all areas were recovered.
What did I learn this year?
. I am quite surprised in the complete turn around of the organic matter this year and to increase quality and health the fairways will be cored in the spring. I feel the fertilizer program on the fairways was good this year. Next year, I will increase the potassium on the fairways to help strengthen the turf once again for better survival. The soil reports I just received show a reduction in available potassium in the fairways. I also sprayed the fairways using a wetting agent this summer instead of injecting the wetting agent into the irrigation system. Spraying the wetting agents are much better then injecting them because you have more control. I am looking into some different products that may help the water infiltrate through our heavy soils. This spring we will continue spraying the fairways with a growth regulator help reduce the poa annua in the fairways. For the most part any weak and stressed area in the fairways last summer were the poa annua grass, I really did not see any creeping bentgrass turf overly stressed.
Overall I was pretty happy with the performance of the greens. The speed was between 11 and 12 for most of the summer even with the rains. The main problem that we had was the greens really seemed to hold water. I did not water the greens with the irrigation system until August , with the expectation of watering in a few granular fertilizer applications. We used hoses to water any dry areas. We also needle tined the greens many times to try to dry them out. I still was confused as to why they continued to hold water. When you look at the weather and what other courses in the area this seemed to be the norm. We still had excellent green speeds but they greens were holding water and remained softer then I have seen in the past. I did notice some excess organic matter development and made the decision to core aerate the greens in the late fall. This was the first time in 10 years that all greens were core aerated. I feel that we removed enough organic matter to not core the green for quite some time.
What did I learn?
I feel this upcoming year we will make use of a wetting agent on the greens to control the moisture level. The University of Wisconsin just published a good report on using wetting agents to control greens firmness. We increased the rolling in the fall and I feel that when we rolled more the greens were much more consistent even if we did not mow that day. I feel that we can make more use of the rollers by increasing the rolling to 4 days per week and not skipping any days in between. This fall we worked on leveling a few approaches in front of the greens. This is critical in the removal of excess surface water on the greens. The front right on 8 green, there was a small area in the collar that actually was extremely stressed The reason was the surface water was trapped right in that spot. This fall I leveled that area and we should not have a problem there again. Leveling the approachs will also help with allowing winter ice melt to surface drain and reduce the amount of ice formation on the greens.
Overall the tees were in fine shape with the exception of excess amount of divots not being repaired or filled. Please remember that if there is a nice divot taken, it can be put back and stepped down. The range tee was also a problem. The divots boxes on the tee remained filled for days sometimes. I really do not understand why the divots can not be filled up there.
What Did I learn.?
I do not plan on making any real changes to the program. The range tee has been a problem for years. I would like to look at changing the turf from creeping bentgrass/poa annua to a low mow Kentucky bluegrass this spring. We would be able to mow the Kentucky bluegrass at the same height as the current tee but the growth habit of Kentucky bluegrass would allow for better rooting which in turn should reduce the amount of divots on the tees.
We have worked very hard over the last 3 years in changing the sand to the new angular sand to reduce the chance for plugged balls. From the feedback we have received we have reached a point were the bunkers are not such a problem. On the other hand the torrential rains and many wash outs have caused the drainage system to be plugged. This year we had to use a pump to remove water from the bunkers after rains. We repaired the bunker on 15 green this fall by removing all the sand and cleaning the drainage system. After a heavy rainfall the bunkers drained for the first time in the season.
What did we Learn?
This spring we will start working on repairing the drainage in some of the bunker. Also we will be looking in to installing a liner under the sand to help reduce the amount of washouts in the bunkers. The liners should also help reduce the amount of contamination in the drainage system. there were 7 storms this year that forced us to spend at least 3 days repairing bunkers after each rain.
The fesuce Project
We converted 25 acres to maintained turf over to fesuce. The spring seeding was difficult because to the low ground temperature and cool weather. Then the weather went to hot and wet. We chose not to fertilize the new seedlings and allow it to develop as it would in nature. We seeded the fescue to half the recommended rate in order to have a thinner sand so that it will be more playable then the existing fescue. I understand that the new seeding was not very nice to look, by the fall we had great cover and you could really start to see the impact this is going to have. When you really look at the project and add in the weather it ended up pretty good. I made 2 applications of herbicide to the existing fescue. I feel we are starting to turn the corner here many area on the golf course are looking beautiful.
What did I learn?
Communication is a important tool. I use this blog just for that. I did my best to keep everyone informed all year on the fesuce progress and I feel that most of the membership understood what was going on. I also have found some very interesting herbicides that I will be using in the spring. I feel these newer herbicides will make a huge impact on the fescue. I also feel the growth regulator that we used in a few areas worked good. I will be increasing the use of the growth regulator by spraying a 18 foot swath down most golf holes at the rough fescue line. This should really help too increase the playability of the fescue.
In closing as always I thoroughly enjoy taking care of Hawks Landing and do my best to have a great conditioned golf course for the membership daily. The year end Wisconsin golfer survey rated Hawks Landing best in course conditions and second in operation. http://www.wisbusiness.com/index.iml?Article=219027 I think we all know what a special place Hawks Landing is but is was nice to see the ranking that we received. I am constantly trying to find ways to make it better for the membership and will contiue to improve on what we already have.
I can not reach our to everyone each day and that is why I make use of this blog. Year to date there has been 4200 pages views with 70% from the Madison area.
Thank you once again and have a Happy New Year.