22 April 2014

The Fifth Season

There's a fifth season this year, sandwiched in between what's been dubbed the #WorstWinterEver and the Spring That Never Arrived:  that season is "patience," and we are in the midst of it.

April 15, 2014:  The high this day was 32 degrees.  Five days later,
it was 71 degrees and you were playing golf with carts.
We were dealt a hard blow by winter this year.  Half of our greens received winter injury either from the form of ice sheets that we could not melt, or from the crown hydration injury that followed.  We remain confident saying we did all we could to mitigate the damage.  When your putting surfaces are almost 95% poa annua, the most susceptible of all grasses to winter damage, every winter is a roll of the dice.  This year we definitely got snake eyes.

We have done all we can do to speed up recovery.  Covers have been purchased for all of the injured greens.  These covers help insulate the turf and create a greenhouse effect during the day to speed up growth.  Our irrigation system is fully functional, and we are frequently syringing our greens throughout the day to keep them from drying out.  The greens have been slit-seeded with Alpha creeping bentgrass.  We are mowing them with walk mowers every Monday and Thursday.  We are fertilizing them once a week and protecting them against disease with fungicides.  We have all the right tools and are using all the best products available.

We have done, and are doing, everything in our power to heal our greens and get them open for play.  Now we need Mother Nature to cooperate.  We need warm days and mild nights.  Unfortunately, Mother Nature doesn't want to cooperate with us this spring.  We have been told by climatologists to expect an abnormally cool spring, and while we have seen some stretches of warm weather, the cooler weather seems to dominate the forecast.  Not a great golf forecast, and certainly not a great recovery forecast.  We are seeing some improvement day by day, but slim gains right now.  Even the healthy turf doesn't seem to know what month it is.

It will take time.  You can't expect to experience the worst winter on record and bounce back in a couple weeks.  Especially not with a cool spring forecast.  Recovery will be a marathon and not a sprint this year.  So as you wait at the finish line, I will say it again, we are in that "fifth season" right now.  


Using some of the best products on the market to boost recovery.  We are applying light, frequent rates of fertility.

This week we began core aerating fairways that were damaged by ice.  We follow this up with verticutting and dragging the cores back into the holes, then overseeding with bentgrass and topdressing.  Note the pattern of shadows and the area of dead turf.  Not a coincidence.

#7 Fairway after aerating, verticutting, and dragging.  Seed and topdressing to follow.

Covers are removed from greens twice a week to allow for mowing and fertility programs.  Mowing triggers a response in the turf, making it want to grow more.  Areas will fill in faster with frequent mowing.

A peek under the cover on #5 Green showing the poa annua in recovery.  There is also a lot of new bentgrass plants, but it will take time and warmer temperatures for this area to fill in.

FACT: Turf needs sun to survive, recover,  and thrive.  This area on #15 green was damaged by ice in a shaded area and it will be the last area on the golf course to heal.  Trees may be nice to look at, but they are detrimental to the health and recovery of our greens.

15 April 2014

Spring Set Back

We woke up with a fresh coat of snow on the ground, another 2" that was enough to break a 130-year-old record for the snowiest winter in SE Michigan history. 

Also saw more damage from yesterday's powerful wind storms. The spruces behind #4 green, which were weak to begin with, were uprooted at some point in the day.

We are not entirely sure what this weather will mean for our turf. No doubt it is not good for it after a week in the 60's and 70's. Time will tell. 

14 April 2014

A Straight Line Blows Through the Hollow

Today we experienced straight line winds that caused quite a bit of damage to the property.  Shortly after work began in the morning, wind gusts picked up around 50-60MPH.  We pulled our crew off the golf course, and then watched as trees were snapped and covers blown off the greens.

Straight line winds typically accompany thunderstorms and are often confused with tornadoes due to the similarity of destruction.  However, unlike tornadoes, straight line wind damage is generally found in a "straight line," hence the name.  Debris is commonly found in parallel rows.

The trees that fell include two rotten spruce trees behind #15 green, and three spruces on the left side of #7 fairway.  The maple just left of #13 green was mortally injured when half the tree snapped off, and it will now need to be removed.

We will spend the next few days cleaning up the debris following the powerful winds today.

10 April 2014

First Impressions

This is the golf course about a month ago.  Bear that in mind.  The turf
is going to be very slow waking up this year.
Some of you may be taking to the course for the first time this weekend.  Just remember, the turf is just beginning to wake up from a long winter slumber.  Please be sure to replace all divots and fix all ball marks.  The back nine is currently closed, and greens #4, 5, 8, 9 are also closed on the front.  Please stay off the greens that are closed, they are in a healing process and any traffic now will further delay their opening.

09 April 2014

Snooze Button

We have seen the turf begin to respond positively as temperatures have begun warming up this week.  But it's not like flipping a switch.  Right now our turf appears to be hitting the snooze button.  Even the turf tucked in under the covers isn't doing much of anything.  And it won't, not until temperatures warm up consistently and soil temperatures get warmer.

Climatologists have told us that we should expect a cooler, wetter spring than normal, accompanied by fluctuating temperatures.  This week has been very warm, but next week looks to be diving back down again.  As long as the weather is up and down, we can't expect to see our turf doing much.  Areas with more shade will be weeks behind areas that receive full sun.

Today we are discovering how deep the frost remains in the ground as we begin making repairs to the irrigation system.  We can't even dig up heads right now because of the ground frost.  Carts will not be allowed out until the frost is out of the ground and the turf begins growing.  We also want to minimize traffic on areas that may have been injured over the winter.  It's too early to tell right now.