26 August 2014

The Pinehurst Experience

Fortunate to have been invited down to Pinehurst Resort for a couple days to learn about the renovation of Pinehurst No. 2 and the challenges of hosting back-to-back U.S. Opens.  The mornings have been spent in the classroom and the afternoons have been spent touring the many golf courses and facilities at Pinehurst Resort and seeing how a world class operation works from the inside-out. Many thanks to our friends at BASF for making this experience available to golf course superintendents. 

22 August 2014

The Day the Rains Came

Give our team some credit.  This year has been a climatic challenge from start to finish.  Add repairing the golf course after the highest single day rainfall in 89 years to our resumes.

20 August 2014

Feeling Pressured

Early morning view of #2.  The air is thick with humidity this week,
and conditions for disease development are very high.
A superintendent's early morning hours are generally spent surveying the golf course and taking note of turf condition, checking the irrigation system, and identifying areas needing more attention.  One of the most important jobs during that early morning drive is scouting for disease activity, especially when weather conditions are favorable for disease development.

At Plum Hollow, we regularly treat greens, fairways, and tees preventatively to discourage the onset of disease.  Once a disease takes hold, corrective treatments are expensive, require more follow up treatments, and will leave the turf in a weakened state that makes it vulnerable for more disease further down the road.  As we approach fall, our entire focus must be on creating healthy, strong turf that can survive what is expected to be another harsh winter in 2015.  A preventative spray program is necessary for maintaining healthy turf.

This week, the disease pressure is through the roof.  Highs in the mid 80's, nights close to 70 degrees, high humidity, and heavy rainfall potential is a potent recipe for the perfect storm of diseases.  How do we know this for sure?  We use the rough as our "check plot."  We don't fertilize or treat the rough with fungicides, so when disease pressure is high, the rough will be the first area to get infected.  After last night's rainfall, our morning scouting tour of the course revealed a lot of active dollar spot in our rough.  If we didn't treat our greens, fairways, and tees with fungicides, they would be in the same condition as the rough right now.

Active dollar spot in an untreated area of rough.

Greens and fairways are treated every 10-14 days, depending on weather, time of year, plant condition, and other environmental factors.  We try to stretch treatments on tees to every 21 days, but we generally see disease breakthrough after 14-17 days.  We strive to get the most out of every chemical application, not just from a dollar standpoint, but also from an environmental one.

Dollar spot outbreak on #3 Tee.  This is what happens when you try
and get extra days out of a chemical application.  Breakthrough.  Now this
area is lucky to make it 14 days before becoming infected again, and
we will be chasing disease here almost until the snow flies.
There are other methods of disease control at our disposal instead of just throwing chemicals at a problem every time.  Disease impact and severity can be reduced by various cultural practices, including adequate fertility, rolling more frequently, adjusting mowing heights, mowing with sharp blades, dragging dew off fairways, adding drainage, micromanaging irrigation, and implementing a weekly topdressing program on greens, just to name a few.  

We are always attempting to balance turf health and environmental impact with the expectations of our members and playability of the golf course.  We can control some things, but we can't do anything about the weather, and the weather will always dictate disease activity.  When daily "tournament playing conditions" are the expectation, as they are here, then regular chemical usage will always need to be a necessary component of our maintenance program.