Friday, May 15, 2015

Fairways, A Work In Progress

Since 2009, I've been making efforts to reduce Bermuda contamination in our fairways. Some have questioned this practice and wonder why we should we do anything to them, they look great. If I was wanting to make life pretty simple for myself, I would just have the guys mow grass day in and day out. Play golf with members and couple times a week or maybe take a loop around other clubs in the area. Heck, why do anything except keep it green and keep it mowed. Sorry to say I'd quit if I was not allowed to attempt to make improvements to the property in the many ways we have over the last 7 years. I find improvement stimulating and at the same time challenging. I realize killing turf and not being able to repair it all at once is difficult for some. I don't necessarily like to see bare spots but as I've mentioned before, short term pain for some long term gain.

In the 1990's, the club made a decision to install zoysia at about  $ 250,000.  Bermuda contamination is probably at 25-30% and continues to increase. There are a number of reasons why we should make every effort to encourage zoysia.

  • Zoysia is a superior playing surface and stays in better condition during dormancy which lengthens the golf season.
  • Zoysia is more cold tolerant and not subject to winter kill like Bermuda which usually occurs every 5-10 years in St. Louis. 1991, 1995, 1999, 2005, 2013. How do you remember those dates? As a superintendent you remember the bad years.
  • Zoysia allows the ball to sit up better than Bermuda.
  • There are relatively lower cost combination of chemicals which does show positive results in Bermuda removal.. 

Specifically four fairways were chosen to begin our work because of their lack of Bermuda, Four, seven, off the tee on 8 and 13 were worked on over a couple of years in the beginning with good progress. We did take off in 2011 and 2012 because of green issues and severe heat/drought respectively in those two years. The Bermuda made gains back after no activity. In 2013 I did a few more spots and last fall I decided it was time to be pretty aggressive. We would never make any large scale gains if I did not get more aggressive. Along with about 10 acres spot sprayed last fall, I believe there were some Bermuda damaged from the cold we experienced in February which was actually colder than last February. The combination of our two sprays last fall  brought on some pretty significant loss. The staff has laid about 600 yards(5,400 sq/ft) of sod in the previous 3 weeks which is about the total area of 4 green. With the rain last weekend and our inability to mow any grass at all on Monday, I made a decision to do no sodding this week. We were behind in our mowing and trimming the course and our staff worked diligently over the last 4 days to get the course cleaned up. In my inspection around the course today I only saw a couple of holes that trees were not trimmed around. We have sodded areas on #5, 7, 12 and 15 as well as  the stump holes that were created in late April.

If the weather cooperates next week, I would expect to do another 2-3 pallets next week and each week until the areas have grown back in or we have replaced them.  We've been putting in about 40 man hours a week toward sod removal and replacement. I've been personally involved in marking areas. I know some of the areas are rather patchy that we are doing but the perimeter of many of the areas will fill back in. With the amount of Bermuda that we have if we did not allow them to fill back in we would have dirt for a long while until they grew back in or we had time to repair.

I do plan on hitting some areas with large patches of zoysia next week to knock back the Bermuda that is coming up through these spots. If I do not reduce this competition, all will be lost. Over the last 10-14 days there has been great improvement in some areas but I know there are still areas with no turf. Warm and humid nights that we experienced last weekend as well as this weekend will continue to improve these areas. We have not fertilized as of yet and will not do so until the patch disease has calmed itself down in the fairways. Once that takes place which is usually sometime after Memorial Day, we will give the warm season turf a shot of fertilizer. The combination of that and warmer soil temperatures will move the turf further along. As I told everyone in our committee meeting Wednesday night, I expect 99.9% of the fairways to be in perfect condition by Invitational Time the last week of June or sooner. Sorry to say because of shade and drainage issues, I would always expect to have some slight wear issues in heavily shaded tree corridors.

We intend to do some light aeration and slicing in June which should help to improve conditions and reduce stress.We will also perform some deep-tine aeration as well. This will be done in early to mid-June so as not to interfere with The Invitational. Feel free to stop me and talk about these efforts/ I painted most of the areas last week for the 2-man qualifier and ran out of time and used nearly 12 cans of paint. I don't like using 12 cans of paint, especially in marking fairways but we will see great progress in the next couple of weeks.

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