Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Bentgrass Greens in the Hot, Humid Southeast!

Summer officially arrived 11 days ago and with it came the temperatures we have become accustom to in Central North Carolina.  90 Degrees or more are almost a daily occurrence and the humidity is often the cause of afternoon thunderstorms.  The summer temperatures are great for outdoor activities and vacations, however they can cause serious issues with bentgrass greens on golf courses.

The greens at The Hasentree Club are creeping bentgrass, agrostis stolonifera.  More specifically, the bentgrass is a variety called Penn A-4.  Bentgrass is what is known as a cool season turf, meaning that it grows best in temperatures of 65-80 degrees.  The A-4 that we have at Hasentree is adapted to higher temperatures than many other varieties but still requires many cultural practices in order to keep it healthy and thriving.  

During the summer months the maintenance staff at Hasentree will spend countless hours "watching" greens in the afternoons during these hot days.  Our assistants spend their afternoons looping the golf course looking for any signs of stress or wilt (wilting turfgrass shows up as purple in color).  If the temperatures are extremely high we will often mist the greens down to use the evaporative cooling of the water to lower the temperature on the surface.  

"Watching" greens is the final cultural practice to keep greens alive through the summer heat.  There is much more that is done before the heat of the day to help reduce the possibility of wilt.  Our crew inspects each green every morning and takes moisture readings on a digital soil moisture meter as well as pulling cores to get a visual image of what is happening to the roots.  The assistants will pay close attention to areas that are chronically the first ones to show summer stress.

There are numerous additional practices that must take place before the heat sets in, and often during heat spells, in order to help ensure our greens survival as well.  For example, below is a snapshot of what our crew did this week before the long 4th of July weekend.

Monday June 30

Our crew took advantage of the golf course being closed to use solid tines and aerify the greens.  The solid tines do not pull a core but rather open holes and channels in the surface. Air movement and the ability of the roots to breath is the single most important thing we can do to help the plants.  These channels allow water and oxygen to more efficiently move into the rootzone.  The channels will also allow carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide to be released from the soil.  These gases, if left in the soil, would prove toxic to turfgrass roots.

Once the greens were aerified, we roll the green in order to smooth out the tufting that occurs with the solid tines.  Most of the time, a golfer wouldn't even recognize that this had been done after the roll.  Since we were closed, we then applied gypsum or calcium sulfate.  The gypsum will bind chemically to the salts that accumulate in the soil during the summer months.  The salts will become toxic as well to the roots if left alone.  

We applied the gypsum knowing that we were going to "flush" the greens that night.  "Flushing" is the act of applying a significant amount of water to the green in an attempt to fill the sand cavity that the greens are built in.  Once there is enough water to fill the entire depth of the greens cavity, it creates enough pressure to allow the water to drain quickly out the bottom of the green through the drainage pipe.  Once this happens it literally "flushes" and as it drains rapidly out of the green it also pulls the salts and other detrimental contaminants out with it.  Additionally this "flush" evens up the water throughout the rootzone and allows for more even moisture.

Tuesday July 1

We begin the flush very early in the morning and it still takes until around 8:00am to finish all 22 greens.  We are able to get the front nine greens done well before this time in order to stay ahead of play for the day.  Once the flush is complete we allow the greens to drain and then roll them to smooth out any softness that may still be there.

Later in the day, we went out and applied 0-0-25, potassium.  Potassium is an essential nutrient in the plant to strengthen cell walls and help the plant against the heat.  Potassium is also very mobile in the soil and whatever potassium was left in the soil was "flushed" out of the green along with the all of the detrimental materials.

Wednesday July 2

This morning our assistants applied a product called "Turfscreen" to the greens along with some preventative fungicide.  The Turfscreen is a pigment that also has the same products approved by the FDA for use in sunscreen for people, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide!  The turfscreen does exactly what sunscreen does for people, it protects the leaf blades from the suns UVA and UVB rays by reflecting them.  In studies that we  performed two years ago, we noticed a noticeable reduction in the surface temperature of the green when using this product.

Turf Screen - Enhanced Solar Protection

As you can see, a lot of careful attention and hard work goes into keeping the greens at The Hasentree Club in good condition and healthy.  As mentioned above, this is just a quick snapshot of what we do.  A lot of work throughout the year goes into maintaining bentgrass greens throughout the summer.  From fall and spring core aerifications to a strong fertility program to help build roots, everything that is done is well thought out and has a purpose.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Spring is Here!

The Hasentree Club- Spring Golf Course and Club Update

Winter seemed like it was going to linger forever at times.  It was certainly an abnormal winter for us here in Raleigh.  Lots of cold temperatures and even some snow and ice had us all wanting the warmth to return.  The weather over the winter did provide some challenges for us in the golf course maintenance department, however it gave us time to reflect back on last year and plan for this upcoming season as well.

Below is a comprehensive update of how we came through winter, some of the "Hasentree Happenings" and some of the improvements you will see while enjoying a round of golf on the course.

I think the biggest and most exciting improvement you will notice immediately is that the clubhouse is well on its way to completion.Although they are still looking at a late 2014 completion, it is really starting to take shape and look like someplace that the members will be able to enjoy for years to come.

Spring Green Up-
While winter seemed to want to hang on forever, we have greened up and are really starting to mow some grass and fill in where the bermudagrass and zoysia have come out of dormancy.  I had feared that due to the wet and cold winter, that we would find that there were large areas of bermudagrass in the fairways and rough that might not have made it through the winter.  I believe that we have escaped relatively unscathed!  The two pictures below are of #6 taken just 13 days apart.  The picture on the left is right after the grass broke dormancy.  On the right shows a deeper green color as the plant hardens off and starts to actively grow.

As is usually the case, we have some collar areas that did suffer from the winter cold and will need to be re-sodded.  With that said, there are far fewer areas than in past years.  The collar on hole #7 always seems to have the most issues.  We feel that these issues are due in large part to the considerable amount of shade that green receives all winter.  We will begin the process of removing the affected areas and installing new sod soon.  Due to the rough winter, many of the sod farms are either already out of bermudagrass sod or are not harvesting yet while they wait to get their turf healthy enough to sell.

We have tried several different varieties of bermudagrass over the past 4 years hoping to come across one that will handle the climate and environment of #7 well.  While the latest variety did better, as you can see from the pictures it still isn't the answer. We will continue to look for the best solution to the collar issues.

A New Look to the Play Supplies-
For the recent Member-Member Championship, May 3-4, we unveiled one of the new flags that we have purchased for the upcoming season.  It is simply the same design as the old black and white flag, but we changed the color to maroon and added the hole number to the flag.

We have two other designs that we plan to use for various Club tournaments.  All three of the flag designs are shown below.

We have also removed most of the old green plastic rope stakes as well as the thin, green and white rope, and replaced it with the stakes shown below.  We decided to use wood from cedar trees that are prevalent throughout the site and get rid of the green plastic.  These new stakes have a more natural look, in keeping with the overall theme of Hasentree.  The new rope is a thicker more durable rope that is in the same maroon and white color scheme as the new flags.

Summer Annuals Are In-
Our landscape crew has been busy over the past two weeks installing all of the annuals at the Golf Cottage and FAC.  The plants came in looking really good and after the installation, they look fantastic!  We added some new flowers in areas at the FAC as well on either side of the pool entrance.  Additionally, the beds at both the Golf Cottage, FAC and pool deck have been mulched and the area around the tennis courts pine strawed. 

Weed Control in the Fescue Areas-
One of the biggest issues that we battled last year on the golf course was the amount of weeds in the fine fescue "natural areas" throughout the course.  The weeds last year were due mainly to the extremely wet spring and early summer.  We feel that this broke down our pre-emergent earlier than expected.  The frequent rains also prevented us from making any herbicide sprays to control the weeds until they were too mature to be effectively controlled by chemical applications.

This year we made the investment in several new pre-emergent herbicides, in addition to what we have always done, to help prevent the weeds from ever getting started.  We also mowed all of the fescue areas down over the winter and physically removed any lingering weeds from the prior year.

We look forward to seeing everyone on the course soon!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Skies Cleared!

After receiving just under 2.0" of rain on the Monday of our greens aerification, the skies cleared and the rest of the week gave us great weather.  We were able to get all greens aerified by 1:00 Tuesday afternoon.  The rest of the day was spent cleaning the cores off the greens and getting them rolled and ready for topdressing.

The process began on #5 green early Tuesday morning.  One aerifier started on #5 and the other on #6.  They then work away from each other to efficiently move around the golf course.  We have a utility trailer that we use to shuttle the aerifiers to speed up the transport process.

Pushing the plugs to the edges of the greens allows us to avoid putting additional utility cart traffic on the greens that could cause unneeded ruts.  Pushing all the plugs off and picking up the piles is the most time consuming portion of aerification.

Once the greens are cleaned off and blown they resemble the picture to the left.  Once we get them to this stage they are ready for topdressing sand.  We back-fill the holes with sand to create channels for air and water to exchange freely.  This exchange is key to surviving the hot humid North Carolina summers.

We use approximately 48 tons of sand to fill all the holes and completely topdress the greens.  Once the sand is down, we allow it to dry completely.  At The Hasentree Club we prefer to use our turbine blowers to blow the sand into the holes.  In order to do this, the sand must be totally dry.  By blowing the sand in the holes we avoid bruising the plants by dragging the sand in with a drag brush.  In my experience, dragging the sand in causes extensive bruising that the plant must first heal from before beginning to heal over the holes.  I estimate that our healing time is sped up by at least 3-4 days by not bruising the leaves of the plant in the beginning.

A view from the seat of the Gator while blowing in  the sand on #14.
We hope to get the greens healed up as fast as possible.  The weather is a huge factor in how fast the holes will heal over.  Sunny and warm will get the A-4 bentgrass growing and allow us to begin grooming the greens back to the surfaces that everyone expects.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Off to a Slow Start!

Today and tomorrow, April 7th and 8th, The Hasentree Club is closed in order to aerify all 21 greens on the golf course.  Unfortunately the radar has looked like the picture above for the entire day.  We have received over an inch of rain and it has been HEAVY at times.

While it is possible to punch holes and perform the actual aerification in a light rain, today's weather has been beyond bad.  Most of the day has seen puddles and standing water on every green.

We are hoping for clearer weather tomorrow and Wednesday.  Sunlight and a breeze would make the topdressing process go smoother and quicker, however I am afraid we will be dealing with overcast skies and more rain.  Our crew will do all that we can to re-open the course as soon as possible, however it could be Thursday morning before we are able to get any holes playable.