Late October is always one of my favorite times of the year. The color contrast on the golf course created from horticulturist Greg Stump’s hard work and beautiful design palette starts being replaced by Mother Nature’s vibrant display on the oaks, maples, and even tulips this year. As the sun starts to set on the 2018 golf season, the grounds staff and I have been busy finishing up fall agronomic practices, starting fall leaf clean up, and beginning late fall activities.
Many of you have asked me about areas that had thinned out in the intermediate and primary rough, like the area on 4 pictured to the left. These areas have suffered in the last 8 weeks from a combination of a fungal disease (called Gray Leaf Spot) and traffic wear from machinery and cart traffic. The early arrival of summer left many of these plants shallow rooted and over the course of the season, weakened to the point where wear and disease took their toll. We have seeded many of these areas with better varieties of grass, and have seen good recovery in many areas. With the end of the growing season here, any areas that are still thin will be seeded next spring. These areas will also be roped off to allow the seed to properly germinate and fill in before the heart of the 2019 season arrives.
The practice tee has also been a topic of discussion. With the major increase in use it has experienced in the last few years, a major challenge for us is to allow enough time for new grass to germinate and fill in before it is opened back up to use. This year, Tom and I started dividing the tee into 3 segments, to better distribute the wear and maximize the time the other sections have to heal. The divots taken on the tee are filled weekly by our staff. After a section is taken out of service, we heavily overseed the area. The tee also receives a monthly application of fertilizer. We will continue to experiment with different methods and seed varieties to better fill in the used sections and further provide you a quality tee to hone your skills on year round.
The blue and black tee on #17 is also being renovated. The rough in between the two tees have been heavily contaminated with Poa over the years, and its width has dramatically shrunk as well. The two will be combined into one tee with a gentle slope separating the areas, and widened back to its original size. The project is expected to completed by next week.
While the golf activity on the course has dwindled down, many jobs need to be accomplished before the real cold air shuffles its way here. The native areas are mown down for the year, cat tails are thinned in the ponds, herbicides are applied to take care of any weeds on the course, and ballwashers and other water features are pulled in for the year. Two major jobs ahead for us include winterizing the irrigation system, which will take place November 5-7. If you are out on the course these days, please heed caution as sprinklers are automatically turned on and off during this process.
The greens will have their annual deep tine aerification performed on November 5th as well. These 1/2″ holes, penetrating the soil profile about 8″, create three advantages: additional channels for spring root growth, aid in relieving any deeper compaction within the rootzone soil profile, and extra drainage capabilities for ice/snow melt to prevent ice formation on the plant surfaces. The greens are rolled immediately after being aerified, and these holes do remain open throughout the winter for the above mentioned reasons.
We also have begun other activities that will maximize turf health and protection from the severe winters that can visit our area. For the greens, that entails the following:
Raising mower heights. The height of cut on greens from the normal height of .120″ to .135″ slowly. Raising height of cut allows more leaf surface for the turf to maximize their photosynthetic capabilities and carbohydrate storage. Raising height will also lessen stress to the plant and create a deeper root system going into winter. While raising heights may not create the speeds that summer brings, it is best for the long term health of the greens going into winter.
Fertility and Plant Protectants. While we limit nutrients on finely maintained turf during the season to provide great playing conditions, the fall is the best time to feed the turf to maximize carbohydrate storage going into winter. The more carbs the plant stores, the quicker it will break dormancy when temperatures warm up in the spring. Winter can also bring the threat of snow mold to all varieties of turf on the golf course, and our sprayers will be out applying plant protectants to help prevent infection from those fungal diseases.
Topdressing. When growth has ceased for the year, we will apply a thick coating of sand topdressing to bury the crowns and as much leaf tissue as possible. This sand helps protect and insulate the crown of the plant from any extreme cold temperatures. This practice is very effective in protecting the turf from any potential ice damage and helps maintain a smooth surface when the course opens next year.
If you have made it to the end of this longer than normal blog post, thank you for reading. As you can gather, fall is the busiest time of year for our staff. If you have any questions, please reach out to me at email@example.com. Have a great week, and I still hope to see you out on the golf course!