Turf Research: It Impacts all of Us

Annual Bluegrass plot at the Daniel Center
 established from aerification cores donated
by Elcona CC

You may not be aware of this, but did you know that you, as members of Elcona CC, play a vital role in promoting turfgrass research?  It’s true.  Every year, each one of you is billed for the annual donation to Evan’s Scholars and the Midwest Regional Turf Foundation (Purdue University) and every year I have the privilege of presenting your check to the MRTF at our annual Green Expo that is held in Indianapolis at the Convention Center. Needless to say, this gives me a tremendous sense of pride, not just for my industry, but for Elcona as well.

Now, more than ever, your donation has become critical. Even with funding for turf research decreasing by an estimated 20-40% across the country and federal grants disappearing almost completely, the donations from Elcona CC have remained strong. Since 2006, you have donated $40,000 to various projects that have been conducted at the Daniel Turf Research Center at Purdue as well as at Elcona.  In the last 2 years alone, Elcona has been a research site for several  projects (click photos below) and has also made non-monetary contributions as well.  Two years ago, a large dump truck load of aerification cores from our greens was taken from Elcona to the Daniel Center at Purdue to establish research plots that consist primarily of Annual Bluegrass (click photo above).

Testing herbicides for pre and post
 emergent control of goosegrass on
Elcona’s Practice Tee (2010, 2011)

Research to determine timing for Summer Patch
applications on one of Elcona’s green
nurseries (2011)
Scouting for White Grubs to establish models
for determining if preventive treatments are
 necessary (2010, 2011) Holes #12,13

One of my favorite studies that we have been a part of the last two years was focused around topdressing sand that is applied to greens and how much and what particle sizes are picked-up after application during regular mowing practices.  This study was not associated with Purdue, but was done with Mavis Consulting Ltd who completes and analyzes our soil tests each year. The fascinating results of this study can be found here

Separating clippings from sand for topdressing sand study
performed at Elcona for Mavis Consulting Ltd. (2010, 2011)
Because of the increased scrutiny of turf regarding its use of fertilizer, water and occasional need for pesticides and the perceived negative impact on the environment, we must plan for a future of significant restrictions if not elimination of some of the tools we currently rely on. It is entirely possible that water restriction will eventually be mandatory across the country and that the use of pesticides could be eliminated all together in certain parts of the country. Without research, we lose the ability to prepare for these scenarios and lose a valuable opportunity to develop new turfgrasses that require fewer inputs leading to a better environment.  For an easy-to-read explanation of the benefits of turf and turf research, please click here.

Another link that can give far more information regarding the state of research in the turf industry can be found here on the Turfresearch.org website.

Satellite view of the Daniel Research Center
at Purdue University

Please take a minute to click on the photo above showing a portion of the 25 acre Daniel Research Center at Purdue University. While I don’t expect you to understand what is being done on each plot, you can at least get an idea of how extensive turf research really is and the size and scope of some of the ongoing projects.

The takeaway message is that turf research is and always will be vital to the turf industry and the environment.  Government at both the federal and state levels needs to be aware of the importance of research and the private sector needs to continue making research a priority.  For the members at Elcona Country Club, thank you for your part in this equation. It does not go unnoticed.

For any of my peers that regularly visit this blog, if you are interested in starting a program similar to the one that is established here at Elcona CC, please feel free to contact me and I will get you all of the details you need to start a program at your facility.

Special thanks to Dr. Cale Bigelow and Dr. Frank Wong for their willingness to discuss this topic and for providing me with valuable insight. Many thanks also to Turfresearch.org, the Purdue Turf Program, and the MRTF for serving as a tremendous resource for information in our industry.

What’s the Plan?

Before I get too many questions about the new #18 green, I thought I would make an attempt to answer some of them ahead of time.

Current health of #18 green

The mild winter and early arrival of spring has been a blessing for the maturation of the green.  I couldn’t be happier with the health of the green at this point.  Roots are actively growing and the sod seams are slowly beginning to disappear, but there is still a lot of room for improvement prior to the fence coming down.  Unfortunately, the green cannot be opened based solely on maturation.  There is area in particular that must be improved before the green is opened and that is the actual playability of the putting surface.

First mowing on the new green

Because we stripped and re-laid the sod from the original #18 green to keep the putting surface consistent with the other 17 greens on the golf course, there is a lot of unevenness to the playing surface that needs to be corrected before opening.  Many frequent aerifications and topdressings will be done over the next several weeks to correct this problem.  During this process, the green will be unplayable, so there is no point in opening it for play at this point.

I realize that everyone is “chomping at the bit’ to get out an play on the new green, but the maturity and playablility indicate that it just isn’t ready yet. Your patience will be well rewarded on May 5th when we plan to open the green.  As always, please feel free to contact me with any questions.

The first topdressing last fall. This has been done several times
and will continue to be done many more times.

Early Season Expectations

First mowing of the year on #18 fairway. Pretty easy to see
what has been mown and what hasn’t!

What an unbelievable start to the spring! The golf course is open and all of the playing surfaces, except for the rough, have been mown at least once so far.  The unseasonably warm weather has brought some bonus early season rounds and has kept the Grounds Department on our toes.  As I write this post, it is 70 degrees outside and the sun is shining which is creating some wonderful growing conditions for the turf.

Having said that, please keep in mind that the average temperature for this time of year is 45 degrees and that my staff and I will manage the turf as it is appropriate for this time of year.  What does that mean?  It means that mowing will be done as the weather and growth dictates and other practices, such as raking bunkers, will be done on an as needed basis.  Please understand that seasonal employees are brought back based on historical dates that have been determined by weather as well as budgetary guidelines set for the year and that we will not be fully staffed until Memorial Day.  If the weather continues to remain warm for an extended period, I may need to re-evaluate returning dates for some employees just so we can keep up with the growth of the turf.

Until then, please get out and take advantage of this great weather and thank you in advance for your understanding regarding our early season conditions.

Productivity in Las Vegas? You bet! (pun intended)

What do education, published research results, networking and David Feherty have in common? You probably answered “nothing”, so let me give you the answer. All four were prevalent in Las Vegas this past week at the 2012 GCSAA Education Conference and Golf Industry Show.

Anthracnose updates

This event is held each year in varying cities and is attended by golf course superintendents, owners, builders, architects and equipment/product manufactures and distributors from around the world. Without a doubt, it is one of my favorite weeks of the year as it allows me to become exposed to new technologies, research that is being conducted as well as reconnect with fellow peers from throughout the world that I have developed friendships with.

The Business of Golf

Whenever I take classes, I am constantly reminded of how much my profession has changed over the years, but that is a topic for another day. This year’s classes that I registered for included Best Management Practices for Anthracnose and its genetic history, The Business of Golf, Advanced Excel for Budgeting, Using Social Media for Communication as well as a few others.

A very small portion of the Trade Show floor

Of course, there is also the Trade Show which takes a couple of days in itself to get around if you have a lot of items to review and/or purchase.  It is literally miles of aisles worth of products and equipment all related to managing turf in some capacity.  It makes for a long couple of days and some very sore feet, but it is also a good opportunity to speak directly with manufactures as opposed to the distributors.

One of the highlights of the week was the Opening Session Keynote Speaker, David Feherty.  If you have seen or heard him on television, I can assure you that he’s as engaging as you would think and even more “colorful” than you can imagine.  He took the stage at 8:15 am and had 45 min to talk.  By the time he was done with stories pertaining to his life, american citizenship, the golf industry and his extraordinary support for our military, it was about 9:30 am.  Truly an amazing individual that I could have listened to all day. I am really hoping that the entire video is released at some point so you can see it.  In the meantime, a brief interview and some of the highlights are in the 10 min. video below.

David Feherty from GCSAA TV on Vimeo.

It was a fantastic week, and this trip never fails to re-energize me and get me ready for the season. Yes, I was able to confirm how bad of a poker player I really am so there shouldn’t be any concern that I will be leaving to join the World Poker Tour. It is, however, safe to say that I am officially ready for spring so, keep an eye out for new posts on everything that is happening on your golf course.