Monday, April 9, 2018

A great article on the Augusta syndrome by Mike Bailey

Ten reasons why Augusta National shouldn't make you green with envy

It's what's known in the golf course maintenance business as the "Augusta effect," and high definition TV has only amplified it.
Over the past 30 or 40 years especially, the maintenance staff at Augusta National has set the standard extremely high for golf course superintendents everywhere.
Golfers watch the Masters on TV and salivate over the beauty and perfection. And if you've never been to Augusta National during tournament week and think that maybe that's just the way it looks on television, think again. It is that perfect.
Peter Grass, the newly elected president of the Golf Course Superintendents Association, knows how unfair this is to superintendents.
"Superintendents are being asked to do more with less -- less money, less staff and less water. There are high costs directly related to golf course management," said Grass, who is superintendent at Hilands Golf Club in Billings, Mont. "However, golfers' high expectations have not changed. They still want their courses to be impeccable. Despite the challenges, superintendents also want their courses to offer exceptional play on healthy turf. Every day, they strive to provide the best possible conditions to customers."
Eric Bauer, the director of agronomy at the new Bluejack National Golf Club north of Houston, knows a little about trying to emulate Augusta's conditioning. The exclusive course, which was designed by Tiger Woods, has a definite Augusta look to it, and it's expected to have that Augusta look.
But even then, with a generous maintenance budget at an exclusive club, Bauer will tell you (below) that there are other ways Augusta National has an advantage.
So yes, Augusta really shouldn't be setting the standard, as it were; it's unattainable for all but a very few. Here, then, are 10 reasons it's unreasonable for most golfers to compare their home course to Augusta National Golf Club.

10. Good help is hard to find, but not for Augusta National

Augusta National gets the very best people to mow greens, blow leaves, rake bunkers and put out fresh pine needles. "If you were to ask a majority of superintendents today labor is becoming more and more a challenge," Bauer says. "Today's worker is getting harder to find and motivate."

9. Augusta also gets the best volunteers during Masters Week

When you see that army of mowers sweeping the fairways after play each day, those aren't members of Augusta's regular maintenance staff; many of those guys and gals are superintendents at some pretty high-profile courses around the world, doing specific tasks normally associated with regular crew members. In fact, just go ahead and multiply the crew by 10 during tournament week and imagine most of those guys with mowers and blowers having turfgrass degrees. That's Augusta National.

8. Augusta attracts the very best young talent, too

What budding superintendent or tech wouldn't want to work at Augusta National? Every year, the club gets flooded with resumes from all over the country and from the very best turgrass schools. As Bauer says, "Augusta probably has its pick of the best of the best coming out of school or wishing to complete internships, only to have the opportunity to put ANGC on their resume."

7. No carts are allowed at Augusta National -- ever

Forget the 90-degree rule, this is an all-walking, caddie course that is not going to be ruined by those pesky golf carts driving all over its pristine fairways. (Ironically, Club Car is headquartered in Augusta, Ga.) So, right there, Augusta National gets a lot less wear and tear than your home course.

6. Augusta National isn't natural

Not to imply that the folks at ANGC are doing anything harmful to the environment, but you don't get conditions like that without spending a lot of money on pesticides, herbicides, wetting agents and the like. So if you're the type who likes your golf course as natural as possible, you can forget it looking like the one on Magnolia Lane.

More: So you want to be golf course superintendent?

5. Greens Stimped at 13 and above would slow down play

If you want really fast smooth greens, think about the average golfer. Inducing three- and four-putts all over the place -- especially on weekends -- would grind play to a halt. Who wants that?

4. Perfect conditions and affordable green fees don't go together

It takes pretty much an unlimited budget to produce perfect conditions, and the members at Augusta not only have deep pockets, but they get a boatload of TV money, too. Of course there are a few private clubs and even some resort courses around the country that have close-to-perfect conditions, but they aren't exactly affordable for the masses. So if you're looking for any kind of value golf, you really have to learn to overlook a few flaws.

3. Without a lot of play, great conditions are easier to maintain

Though Augusta National isn't in the habit of disclosing how many rounds they get (ANGC staff isn't even available to comment for articles), you can bet it's less than your club, unless you're a one-percenter. Much less. There are days where Augusta might get two or three groups, and that's not abnormal. Without much play, it's much easier to give a golf course some serious TLC.

2. What's wrong with firm and fast?

It takes a lot of water to make a course as green as Augusta National, which has an incredible irrigation and drainage system that keeps it from getting soggy. For most courses, that kind of watering would mean an awfully soft golf course, the opposite of say, Chambers Bay near Seattle, which was heavily criticized for its brownish-green look during the 2015 U.S. Open. But let's face it, most golfers want their drives to roll out, and they want to be able to bounce a ball up onto the green, which is very difficult if you're watering a course to keep it super green.

1. No summertime golf at Augusta National

On TV we see Augusta National in all its glory with the azaleas in bloom, the fairways and greens perfect and the weather conducive for growing cool-season grasses. In the summer, that doesn't work so well, so the course is closed, and it doesn't have to endure the stress of hot weather with people taking divots and making ball marks on its perfect greens. As the GCSAA's Grass says, "Superintendents face challenges from Mother Nature, whether it's a rough winter or summer drought conditions. But, superintendents are problem solvers, and they know the best ways possible to deal with whatever Mother Nature brings."

Friday, February 16, 2018

Should We Do It?FEBRUARY 16, 2018By Elliott Dowling, agronomist, Northeast Region

Playing golf on soft or partially thawed greens can result in damage like excessive ball marks, thin turf or footprints that linger into spring.
Excitement for the upcoming golf season begins to build during late winter. While some golf facilities in the Northeast close for winter, others continue to allow play depending on the weather. When the weather is favorable, allowing play usually is a fairly simple decision. However, the decision becomes much more difficult when the weather fluctuates between extremes. Mild and sunny days in February and March might be enticing to golfers, but lasting turfgrass damage can result when winter play is allowed under the wrong conditions.
Playing golf during highly variable winter weather can result in turf damage. During late winter, cold snaps often follow periods of warm temperatures. Under these conditions, turf is extremely vulnerable to injury from traffic. Play during a sudden thaw can be especially damaging because the upper 1 or 2 inches of soil can defrost while the underlying soil remains frozen. Traffic under these conditions can shear turf roots at the interface between the thawed and frozen layers. Such shearing can compromise turf health come spring.
Frozen soils also cannot drain. When precipitation occurs, the surface of frozen soils will remain saturated and prone to injury. Soils also dry slowly during late winter due to short day length and cool temperatures, so even unfrozen soils will be slow to dry and firm up after precipitation. Soft surfaces are more vulnerable to damage from foot traffic, ball marks, rutting and compaction.
It is important to remember, no matter how thawed or frozen the soil is, turf is unlikely to be growing during winter. Grass that isn’t growing cannot recover from damage until spring. Therefore, turf damage that occurs during winter can have a cumulative effect that lasts until warm weather arrives and the grass is able to recover.
Before allowing winter play ask, what is the purpose of winter play? All golf facilities welcome additional rounds, but sometimes allowing play during winter presents more costs than benefits. Keep in mind that winter play under the wrong conditions may result in a net loss due to the expense of repairs or slow spring greenup.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Winter Project Update

Winter projects are moving right along this year. Over the past winters we have performed our spring greens aerification during the winter. We have experimented with different techniques so we can achieve our USGA recommended 20% surface disruption. During this time we exercise the most disruption allowing us to achieve our goals. This is very important during this time, our member play is down and we do close the greens for these agronomic programs.  This year we opted to target the top 1 inch of the green surface. We regularly test the top 4 inches and our test concluded we needed to be target the top. We used a machine that slices a 1 inch deep line and then is filled with sand right behind the unit. This is a wonderful way to have firm and fast greens during the summer months. For our second program, we will use our deep tine machine that will poke a hole 12 inches deep. We then will drop a line of sand and manually broom into the holes. This will help with drainage and increase the rooting on the greens. Once the deep tine program is complete (fingers crossed by next week), we will cover the greens until sometime in mid-March.

Other notable Projects:

  • Golf Course wide tree pruning. This will increase sight lines, shade mitigation and improve air flow. 
  • Curbs have been installed on 3 green, 4 green 5 green, 18 green, 9 green, and 10 tee along the cart path edge. This will cut down on wear and the staff having to repair every year. 
  • Fairways have been verti-cut, aerified, and top dressed and currently we are finishing up the deep tine.
  • Rough has been aerified
  • The rough around #5 green has been replaced with new sod.
  • Our new tee on #17 is coming along nicely and we hope to have this completed by March. 

The Graden Machine in Action

Pushing off left over debris

Deep tine machine going 12 inches deep

Sand ready to be pushed into the holes 

Finished product
#18 green side curb addition

#10 Tee curb addition

Friday, October 27, 2017

USGA Regional Update

Deep Root Zone Modification In Fall For Better Putting Greens In SummerOCTOBER 20, 2017By Paul Jacobs, agronomist, Northeast Region

Drill-and-fill aeration is one of several options that can improve a putting green root zone profile beyond the capabilities of conventional core aeration.
Deep root zone modification of soil-based putting greens can provide significant, long-lasting benefits and mid to late fall can be a great time to do the work. Conventional core aeration practices typically affect the upper 3 to 4 inches of the root zone profile and may not fully address internal drainage issues. Over time, conventional core aeration performed at the same depth can also leave the underlying soil compacted. Implementing a program that targets deeper portions of the root zone profile can improve internal drainage, turf rooting and overall putting green performance. Putting greens with drainage systems tend to benefit the most from deep root zone modification.
Several options exist for deep root zone modification and each has its unique benefits. While one technique may be highly beneficial in one situation, it may not be the best choice for others. Consider the following options to supplement your conventional cultivation practices:

Drill and fill – This process drills holes up to 12 inches deep into a putting green on 6-inch centers, removing soil and backfilling each hole with sand to create deep sand columns in the root zone profile. The process can be labor intensive, but it infuses a significant amount of sand deep into the root zone profile that provides long-lasting benefits.
  • Ideal applications – Putting greens with poor internal drainage – e.g., soil-based putting greens.

Deep-tine aeration – Most commonly this process is performed with solid tines that can penetrate up to 10 inches deep. Solid tines do not remove material but they fracture, loosen and alleviate compaction in subsoils that are not reached by conventional core aeration. Deep-tine aeration generally requires no cleanup and surface disruption is minimal.
  • Ideal applications – Relieving compaction in all soil types. Perform deep-tine aeration during late fall to create open columns for drainage during freeze and thaw cycles.

Sand injection – Machines can use high-pressure water to inject sand into a putting green root zone profile. The sand channels created by this process often mimic the shape of a water droplet – i.e., narrow near the top and wider at the bottom. This method does not infuse sand as deeply as drill and fill, but it is faster and much less disruptive to the playing surface. Performing sand injection immediately after deep-tine aeration will help infuse sand deeper into the profile; however, no material is removed from the profile during sand injection.
  • Ideal applications – Putting greens with excess organic matter in the upper 2-6 inches of the soil profile and soil-based putting greens with a shallow – i.e.,1- to 3-inch deep – modified root zone.

Each of these practices can improve putting green performance when used in the right situation, but they are not replacements for conventional core aeration. However, implementing one of the above practices can improve drainage and alleviate compaction deep within your putting greens. For more information about which option is best for your facility, contact your regional USGA agronomist.