Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Snow, not ice... this is a good thing!

I receive questions nearly every week asking how the current weather is affecting the greens. In determining the health of the greens, it is important to understand the different forces that can impact the grass negatively and understand what the ideal situation is. For us, the best thing that can happen is to experience a period of time with below 32 degrees to allow the ground to fully freeze then follow that up with a blanket of snow for insulation. In this scenario the snow acts as a blanket against the extreme cold that we experience here in the upper Midwest.

One of the difficulties in determining the health of the plant is that we are dealing with a living breathing organism and it is difficult for me to say exactly what is happening. I can only answer based upon what scientific data shows along with my instincts and experience. What I can tell you right now is that we are not currently experiencing any ice cover on the greens here at Kenosha Country Club, there was a small amount on the front right portion of #9 green but that has since been removed. Most of the greens have at least 70% snow cover and many are entirely blanketed which is a beneficial, natural insulation.

The snow that we are currently experiencing (December 21, 2010) has covered the golf course and we will have to wait a few days to determine if it is all good or if some has formed into ice.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Damage Caused by Storms October 26, 2010

As most of you probably know and experienced, on October 26 and 27 we had two days of very high winds and thankfully got away pretty luckily with little damage to the golf course and none to any of the buildings. This was the storm system that eventually produced a tornado that ripped a large section of roof off of the Case plant in Sturtevant, WI. Here at Kenosha CC we had many small branches down and a few larger ones but the biggest damage was a willow tree that fell on our 10th tee box. A picture is work at thousand words so I'll let them do the talking.

For a point of reference, in the final picture that is Nate our Assistant Superintendent and he is 6' tall.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Roots say: "AAAHHHHHH We can BREATH!"

A handful of times throughout the year I have utilized comparisons between the human body and the grass plant to better explain the goals that we have as turf managers. The crown of the plant is the brain and the roots are the vital organs. The blades of grass serve similar function to peoples skin, it utilizes sunlight to absorb nutrients, protects the plant, and can also be cut and allow pathogens and infections into the plant. This being the case, we can have a putting green that looks good but in fact isn't nearly as healthy as it appears, just as a 25 year old person can look great but isn't nearly as healthy as they appear because that person doesn't exercise, smokes, drinks too much, and has a poor diet. My goal as a turf manager is to get the plant as healthy and that means growing the roots, the past two days we have taken the biggest step to getting truly healthy roots.... Deep Tine Aeration.

The machine we are using this time is a Toro ProCore SR54-S, it is mounted on the back of a tractor and it punches a hole into the ground 1/2" in diameter and goes 8" into the soil profile. What this is going to do for us is to create a channel down into the profile that will allow for water and oxygen exchange and give those roots a place to grow unobstructed. Longer roots means that we will have a stronger plant, a stronger plant means it will be better suited to handle the stress of the summer. This process will be happening again in the spring when the roots are most actively growing and really give us an advantage going into the summer that these greens haven't seen in 5 or 6 years. Our greens have now started their cardio workout in preparation for running the marathon that is a golf season in the Midwest.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Recovery from weather damaged areas

As many of you already know 2010 has been a year of constant recovery for those of us on the golf course. Here at Kenosha CC we started in March and April trying to recover numerous greens that had sustained anywhere from 50% to 80% weather damage from a harsh winter. We worked diligently getting new seed into those greens and without ever closing a green to play we were able to have pretty good recovery, until the middle part of July when sustained heat and humidity once again set us backward.

It is due to the weather in the 3rd week of July that our 10th green suffered the worst damage and why we ultimately decided to remove both 10 and 12 from play temporarily and give new seed the best opportunity to survive going into the winter. Our process included creating slits in the greens with a Mataway seeder, applying seed with a fertilizer carrier, spiking the seed into holes, topdressing with sand, rolling the greens with a small drum roller, and finally keeping the seedbed damp. The final step was made more difficult from an 8" mainline leak going over the #16 bridge and during this time we kept the seed damp with an old sprayer with a hose fitted to it.

Now we are 8 days removed from the seeding date and the recovery is going very well as seen in the photos below.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

First year fun!

I found some time this morning to finally update the blog for the first time in a few months. Without a doubt this year has been an interesting one, for starters I came out to the course in March to find 5 greens that were at least half dead which wasn't the start that I was looking for. My 6th day on the job we began trying to rid the greens of ice including manual removal as well as snow blowing the greens and applying gypsum to melt the ice down. Both worked but were too little too late, the damage had been done as seen below.

A wet June meant not much for root growth, ours currently are anywhere from 1/2" stretching all the way down to 2" which didn't help us much as July has been HOT! Oh and our assistant left us the first of the month.

Now we are closing in on surviving July and the central for the irrigation system is down and the local distributor doesn't have parts in stock to get us running but that doesn't matter because the electronic butterfly valve that regulates flow out of the pumphouse is stuck closed for some reason so even if the central was working we couldn't push water anyway.

How do we deal with it? Trash pump hooked up to the line we use to winterize the system in the fall. We are working on setting that up right now and in a short time we will be hand watering the greens with the pressure from the trash pump.

What doesn't kill me will only make me stronger, I really hope this makes me stronger!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Beginning the Recovery Process


This week some of you may have noticed that we have begun the recovery process to get newer and better grass to fill in where the winter had taken it's toll. The reason that I stress NEWER and BETTER grass is because as with most things, technology is helping develop grass varieties that can withstand stress better. They are more disease resistant, require less fertilizer, and can handle extremes in temperature better which leads to less winter damage. The greens here at Kenosha Country Club are mostly poa Annua or Annual Bluegrass, this is a very opportunistic plant that has an amazing ability to fill a void in weak or dead turf. Nobody did anything wrong that resulted in the course being comprised of mostly poa Annua, it is just what happens over time and until very recently there was no real way to get rid of it short of killing the green and starting from scratch. Now there are chemicals as well as fertility programs that will encourage the stronger bentgrass while discouraging the weaker poa Annua. A newer course like Strawberry Creek is able to take advantage of this and along with the newer chemical technology can virtually guarantee that the weaker grass (poa Annua) will never intrude into the pure bentgrass stand. The other way to accomplish this is like Westmoor CC did and shut down for a number of months to kill the greens and start over.

Starting now with the practices that we are taking on, my goal is to increase the population of bentgrass to the point where our winter injury is minimized because there is a stronger plant there. We will be doing a number of things to accomplish this and the first step started a week ago with spike seeding and continues with slit seeding on Monday April 19.

This image shows the small holes left by a small hand seeder, the process was to spike the area, spread some seed, then spike the area again to work the seed into as many holes as possible.

This shows the vertical mowing or verticutting that was done on Monday. This is the best option for wide area seeding at this point in time because it allows the turf to remain smooth while creating channels for the seed to drop into.

All of this is to start a seed bank that will be ready to go when the soil temperature gets up to the necessary 55 degrees. The trick is that just hitting the magic 55 number isn't the all, we need that to sustain over a period of a week or more for the seed to remain viable. Given this, we will continue to seed these areas as frequently as once a week until the greens are fully recovered and at that point we can get into our standard maintenance practices and work toward perfect putting surfaces. Until then rest assured that we will do all we can to maintain smooth surfaces until the greens have recovered.

Keep your fingers crossed that the weather warms up, the faster that happens the sooner the golf course will be pristine.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Into the looking glass

As the weather seemingly is taking a more permanent turn for the better, I am able to get a better look at the golf course and give a more accurate assesment of the condition coming out of the winter. I have been having some colleagues out over the past week to look at the course with me and gather ideas for how to best recover from some of the damage that the golf course has endured. Yesterday (Monday March 29) I had three visitors go around the course with me, Tom Befera, Paul Bastron who is the Superintendent at Glen Flora in Waukegan, and Scott Bartosh. It was very nice to finally meet Scott after some phone conversations and exchanges of email, and I appreciate the time he gave me to go over some of the historical points about the course. In talking with both he and Paul I found out that courses along the lake from far Northern Illinois up to about Mitchell Airport have all recieved some level of ice damage or crown hydration injury as it is called in our industry. I would like to assure everyone that no disruption to the putting surface will be done, in an effort to repair damaged areas, until the soil temperatures can sustain seed germination and the growth of a new plant. We will have smooth putting surfaces even if they don't look perfect.

I am anxiously awaiting the warm up to 55 degrees in the soil so that I can finally start what I was hired to do which is maintain the golf course. While we are waiting for those soil temperatures to rise (currently 38), you will start to see some more employees working on the course and not just myself with a backpack blower on the greens and tees. Wednesday our long time crew foreman Rene will be coming back to work followed by almost the entire crew on Thursday so that the course will hopefully be cleaned up for the weekend.

While clean-up is going on the rest of the week I will hopefully be joined by another Superintendent from a lakefront course, Tim Davis who is Superintendent at Shoreacres in Lake Bluff, Illinois. Tim has been the Superintendent at Shoreacres for 26 years and is well aware of the unique micro-climate that exists being right next to Lake Michigan like we are and I look forward to learning from him later this week.

As I end this post I would like to wish anyone reading a Happy Easter Sunday, hopefully the weather sustains through the weekend so we can enjoy some time outdoors. As always, best regards and I will be updating again in two weeks.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Opening Day

Mark the record books, Kenosha Country Club is open for play on March 16, 2010. With a short amount of nice weather in the forecast I decided that it would be good for everyone to get out and play a little this week. After Friday it looks like the weather is going to turn back toward cooler temps for the next few weeks which will hamper progress a bit but this is some pretty good bonus golf that everyone gets. Over the rest of the week our concentration is going to be toward clean-up of all the sticks and debris left from some minor flooding back in December.

I hope that everyone enjoys the following couple of days in the sun, it looks as though it's going to be short lived but should be putting smiles on peoples faces for the time being.

I am going to try to spend some time around the clubhouse to get to know some faces and names but if I see you on the course be sure to wave me down, I look forward to meeting all of you.

Until next time,


Monday, February 22, 2010

Winter Work for the Grounds Department

As I type this, we have once again been covered with snow but thankfully not the 12" that was predicted but closer to 6". Thus far the winter has been pretty moderate with no extended periods of extreme lows and no real melt off either with the exception of the last week of January and the current 15 day forecast shows much of the same weather we have been having recently.

Since I began here on January 18 quite a lot has been happening, I have of course been meeting with vendors to figure out which products best fit the needs of the course and working on writing my chemical and fertility programs to highlight bentgrass health with the hopes of increasing that population. I have been spending time getting to know and work with both Mike Kudrna, our Assistant Superintendent and Dann Steltenpohl who is the club's mechanic. Through this I am hoping to address the most serious equipment needs to get the golf course heading in the right direction and more specifically targeting the greens.

A fair amount of time has also been spent on the golf course tending to the greens that have been under snow and ice all winter. Throughout the first week of February Mike and I spend most of our time removing the snow from the greens as best as possible with the equipment that we have. After the snow was cleared to within 1" of the putting surface or ice I applied gypsum which contains a large amount of calcium. This has a few benefits, first and foremost the calcium will aid in melting the ice regardless of sunlight. Many people apply something dark whether that is fertilizer or a safe tracker or dye in order for the sunlight to warm that product and melt the ice, at the time I looked at the forecast and there was no sunlight predicted in the next 15 days according to accuweather.com. The other benefit is that gypsum is a standard deficiency in many mid-west soils therefore it will provide benefit to the subsurface while not giving any flushes of growth in the spring the way a fertilizer like Milorganite would have.

Aside from those items and the obvious snow removal from the parking lot I have had the opportunity to meet with the other employees of the club as well as a number of the members and I am starting to get very antsy and wanting spring to get here so we can get on the golf course and get the property ready for a great 2010 golf season.

Until next time I hope everyone is enjoying the Olympics, especially the USA Hockey game last night! I look forward to seeing everyone around this spring and summer.