What a difference a month can make. So far this month we have received 6.42″ of rain and unfortunately one storm packed a punch that had our chainsaws out the following morning. The staff has done a wonderful job cleaning up the golf course and repairing bunkers after each storm. Combined with normal to above normal temperatures (finally!!!), and all turfgrass on our property is growing like gang busters. For our operation, this means having blowers out daily for clippings and applications of growth regulator around fairways and greens.
A few of you have joked with me that with all the rainfall, why has Zimm’s Creek on #15 dried up? We continue to have electrical problems with the pump that gets the water from the pond to the top of the creek. We are working diligently with our pump contractors and will get the creek flowing as soon as possible.
This rainfall also has impacted the growth rate on greens turf, and coincidentally, green speed. We are doing all we can to return green speeds to where you are more accustomed to seeing them, via growth regulator applications and getting back on our topdressing schedule. But I also wanted to take this opportunity to discuss green speed and how we do our best each day in producing consistent and enjoyable greens on a daily basis.
It has been and always will be a top priority for me to keep the greens as consistent as possible while maintaining a healthy playing surface. It is not uncommon for speeds to vary from day to day based on our rolling program and other external factors. During a typical week of the peak season we will roll on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. University research has shown that rolling more than 4 times/week in conjunction with a daily mowing schedule is the threshold before the turf can become overly stressed and show signs of decline . This is especially true for Poa annua, the predominant turf on our greens, in the heat of the summer.
There are many other items that factor in to green speed, which include:
Moisture Levels: What can affect moisture levels? The two main culprits are rainfall/irrigation and humidity. It’s no secret that firmer/drier greens tend to be faster and soft/wet greens lead to slower speeds. We combat this as much as possible by hand watering the greens in the summer and using products to help move water down through the soil profile leading to a drier, firmer surface.
Weather: What happens to your yard after it rains? It grows and typically grows much faster than it did before it rained. Rainfall provides the turf with clean, usable water that helps to flush elements from the soil that tie-up nutrients, therefore making the nutrients readily available to the turf. Nutrients lead to healthy turf which can lead to additional growth. Believe it or not, lightning also plays a large role. The unbridled energy of a lightning bolt shatters nitrogen molecules in the air. Some of the free nitrogen atoms combine with oxygen to form compounds called nitrates that mix with the rain. These nitrates are a powerful natural fertilizer that any plant can readily take up and thus increase its growth rate.
Nutrition: The turf needs food to be healthy. Just as with humans, the healthier it is, the more active it tends to be. Healthy turf will grow more than unhealthy turf.
Growth: Turf is a living, breathing entity. It doesn’t just grow at night when most of us are sleeping, it grows during the day as well. This means that the greens will usually be slower in the afternoon than they are in the morning. If they didn’t grow, we wouldn’t have to mow them every day.
Topdressing: Typically in season, we apply and broom in topdressing sand, and the amount of sand varies based on the rate at which the plant is growing. Topdressing sand helps smooth and firm up the surface of the greens. A smoother surface provides less friction on the golf ball and a faster speed.
Growth Regulators: Growth regulators work and work very well, but despite what you may think, they do not completely stop growth, they merely slow it down. Over the years we have found a schedule that will provide very consistent results from day to day, minimizing surges in growth, but like everything else, the performance of the product is dependent upon several of the factors listed above.
I would encourage you to spend a few moments before each round on one of the practice greens. They are maintained the same as the greens on the golf course and will give you a good reference as to what the greens on the course will be like.
Finally, our department lost a long time family member last week. Many of you may remember Benny Kauffman, who faithfully worked Elcona’s fairways and rough for 27 years, before retiring in 2015. Benny was a true American, serving our country during WWII, and working as a butcher for 30 years before coming to Elcona. He still came out to visit us for coffee every once in a while after retiring from Elcona and was an accomplished wood worker. He will be missed.
I appreciate your reading my longer than normal blog post. If you have any questions about the golf course, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am more than happy to discuss any topics with you! Thank you for reading and I will see you out on the golf course!