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.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

USGA Regional Update

Dark And StormyJULY 7, 2017By Jim Skorulski, agronomist, Northeast Region

Ominous storm clouds signal an oncoming front and the potential for dangerous lightning.
Wet and soggy conditions have been common across most of the Northeast Region this season. Wet weather has saturated many golf courses and flooded others, disrupting maintenance and course-conditioning efforts. Fortunately, the wet weather has not severely affected turf conditions because temperatures have mostly remained moderate. However, continued wet weather combined with warming soil temperatures will reduce turfgrass rooting and could prove fatal. Turf managers are taking advantage of any dry weather to catch up on spraying and topdressing practices that have been disrupted by the rain. Hopefully the weather will also allow an opportunity to vent putting greens. Venting will help soils dry and re-establish gas exchange in the root zone. The USGA webcast, “Venting Aeration – A Benefit to Putting Greens,” further illustrates this popular cultivation technique.
Stormy weather patterns also bring concerns about lightning and the dangers it presents for workers and golfers. A properly functioning lightning detection system is the best defense against lightning. Lightning detection systems provide advance warning of incoming storms and let facilities know when conditions are safe to resume outside activities. However, not all golf facilities have lightning detection systems and there may be times when workers and golfers have to determine for themselves when it is time to seek shelter. Here are a few tips that workers and golfers can use when severe weather approaches:
1. The time between a lightning flash and thunder can be used to determine how far away the lightning strike occurred. Sound travels at a speed of about 1,125 feet per second (343 meters per second), equating to about a five-second count per mile (three seconds per kilometer) from the time of a lightning flash until the clap of thunder is heard. A count of 10 seconds between a flash of lightning and the clap of thunder means the lightning strike was approximately 2 miles away. Many were taught to count one second for each mile between a lightning flash and thunder, which greatly overestimates how far away the lightning strike occurred.
2. The “30/30 rule” is used by many to determine when it is time to head for shelter. The rule says that lightning poses a threat if it takes less than 30 seconds to hear thunder after a lightning flash and people should wait 30 minutes after a storm passes before resuming outdoor activities. The problem with the 30/30 rule is that the numbers are arbitrary. Using this method does not help to determine if a storm has sufficiently passed or if another storm is approaching. The best approach is to take cover as a lighting storm approaches and remain there until you are sure the storm has passed or until an all-clear signal is provided.
3. Lightning will often strike a tall object, but not always. Taking cover near smaller trees or objects hoping the lightning will strike a taller object may get you in trouble. Lightning can strike the ground or smaller trees, endangering anyone close to those areas. The only safe place to take cover from a storm is indoors or inside a closed vehicle.
4. Lightning never strikes twice is an old myth. Lightning can indeed strike the same spot multiple times if conditions are right.
July is also the time for field day demonstrations at Rutgers University and the University of Massachusetts. Field days provide an opportunity to see research in progress, to observe the newest grasses and to view the effectiveness of various control agents. Field days also provide an opportunity to interact with colleagues, which seems to be more and more difficult to do with everyone’s busy schedules. It is never easy to leave your golf course during midsummer, but try to attend one of the university field day events even if just for a few hours in the morning to support the university and gain valuable information that will make you a better manager. We hope to see you there.