This is the second post dealing with topdressing practices on the golf course. In this post I will explain our procedures and goals of our fairway topdressing program. As I stated in the earlier post, topdressing is the practice of spreading a light layer of sand over the turf. On the fairways we do this with a large material handler that has a set of spinners on the back that throw the sand as the sand is dropped onto them.

Ramon topdressing the fairways.

Refilling the topdresser.

After the sand is spread onto the fairways, the thin layer is dragged into the profile.

Thin layer of sand on the turf canopy.

Antonio dragging the sand into the turf.

Our goals for topdressing fairways are different from the greens. On the greens, our main 2 goals are for smoothing out imperfections on the surface, and aiding with decomposition of organic matter. On the fairways, aiding decomposition of organic matter is a benefit from topdressing, but, our main goal is to modify the soil profile. The soil in our fairways has a high amount of clay. This clay holds a tremendous amount of water, for extended periods of time, thus, delaying the drying time after a rain event. Incorporating a layer of sand on the top of this clay will provide a layer for moisture to dry more rapidly.

You can see sand at the top of the fairway profile.

This is a practice that has been implemented for an extended period of time. As the fairways are topdressed from year to year, the benefits will become more and more noticeable. The most notable benefits to playability will be firmer fairways and quicker drying time after rain events.
Last Tuesday we attended the Illinois Turf Expo at the USGA golf house in Lemont. This was the first year for the Expo at this location. We were able to view research plots for several different products, equipment demonstrations, and the trade show. The new wave of equipment technology for golf courses is heavily directed towards electric drives, and electric motors to operate the cutting units. I had the opportunity to operate a new mower from Jacobsen that is fully electric and could not help but think about how far equipment for golf courses has come.

Early mower for golf course use. The marketing notes the benefits of not using horses: "They leave no hoof-prints as horses do," "They are of no expense when not in use."

A new fully electric mower that will be available soon. This mower leaves no hoof-prints also!
This will be the first part of two posts dealing with topdressing on the golf course. I will highlight the greens topdressing practices in this post, and follow up with information on our fairway topdressing practices. Though the application process is similar for each, our goals are slightly different for both areas.

Topdressing is the process of applying a light layer of sand over the surface of the turf. The sand we use for this is similar to the material that was used to construct the green, and is stored in the green tank that is visible from the 10th tee. The tank is utilized to keep the sand dry which makes the sand easier to spread. After the sand is spread, we then proceed to brush the sand into the green.

There are several reasons for topdressing, our two main reasons:

Smooth the putting surface - As the putting surface is used, it begins to show signs of slight wear from many different sources, including spike marks and ball marks. This slight wear begins to create imperfections on the surface of the green. Applying a light layer of sand to the greens on a regular basis levels and smoothes these areas.

Assists with organic matter decomposition - Turfgrass forms a layer of organic material just between the grass blades and the soil. This organic matter layer is called thatch. Management of this layer is important for maintaining a surface for putting. Topdressing helps with the management of this layer. As the sand is continuously applied, it is worked into this layer and aids in the decomposition of thatch and allows the surface to remain firm.

These two benefits are the goals of the topdressing program on our greens. There are other reasons for topdressing programs, one is to modify the soil structure. Modifying the soil structure is not one of our goals on the greens due to the new construction. However, modifying the soil structure is one of our goals for the fairway topdressing program. Check back for more information on our fairway topdressing program coming soon!

This was the scene at the course around 7:00 am on Thursday morning. The rain continues to fall, and the forecast continues predicting more rain. Since Tuesday evening the course has received 2.4 inches of rain. This brings the total to 4.5 inches of rain in the last eleven days, with more rain still to come. Lets hope the rain stops soon!
Coyote near 10 tee on Sunday morning.
Once again the rain forced us off the course for the day. We were unable to get equipment onto to the course today, and hope that the forecast for tomorrow only brings light showers. We were able to take advantage of the beautiful weather on Monday and Tuesday. Monday is typically a big day for the green department. We take advantage of the course closure to do our heavy maintenance. Monday maintenance included fertilizing all roughs and fairways, irrigation repair on the driving range tee, topdressing greens and fairways (more information on these practices soon!), and mowing all areas on the course.

Rough Fertilizing

The local distributor of our fertilizer offers a service the we take advantage of for fertilizing our roughs and fairways. We had them out on Monday this week after being rained out last week. The fertilizer is brought to the course in 2000 lb. bulk containers and applied to the course with a fertilizer truck.

The truck and fertilizer waiting to go.

The advantage of this truck is it's efficiency. On Monday the truck spread 12,000 lbs. of fertilizer over 80 acres and was on the property for approximately 4 hours.

Refilling the fertilizer truck.

Fertilizer truck on the course.

You may notice some tracks in the fairways from the truck. These tracks will recover in a short time with no adverse effects.

Now is a good time to fertilizer turf. The summer heat is beginning to break and evening temperatures are getting cooler, this results in less stress on the turf. Fertilizing now will allow the turf to remover quicker from summer stresses and traffic, and provide a healthy stand entering the winter months. If you fertilize your own lawn, you should try to make an application in the next week.

Driving Range Tee Irrigation Update

The irrigation problems that I wrote about earlier have been repaired now. The contractor was in on Monday, and early Tuesday to make these repairs.

Pipe-puller used to install new pipe.

This week was spent working on some formatting changes to the blog to try and make it easier to navigate and understand. A snapshot of what is on the blog will be written on the clubs website under the Green Department Tab. We will be continuing to add information to, and modify the blog, in order to better inform our members.

Look forward this week to information on topdressing practices. What they are and why they are used will be highlighted.
It looks like the weather will try to be a little wet this week. We started off the week with 1.75 inches between Sunday noon and Monday noon.

We were unable to get equipment on the course today, but were able to get the bunkers cleaned up that had been washed out. The rest of the week, we will be concentrating on catching up with the activities that were missed today due to rain.

We have received a couple of inquiries into the condition of the driving range tee. There are a few situations with the tees we are battling with at this time. Two of them deal with irrigation system maladies, the other deals with a turf condition effecting the management of the turf.

We'll start with the irrigation system maladies. One of the problems is a result of the winterization of the irrigation system. The line that runs along the front of the front tee was not fully winterized. Water remained in the pipe through the the winter and froze, causing a large crack in the pipe for a large portion of the distance it stretches.

The sod that was dug up to inspect the pipe.

The company that did the winterization was out to inspect the pipe, and will be returning shortly to repair the damaged length. This problem only effects the line on the front of the front tee. There are irrigation heads that water the rough in front of the tee have been changed to full circle heads to water the tee as well to help this area along. When the pipe is completely fixed the area will be re-sodded and fully repaired.

The other irrigation problem is not as major as the first, but it has resulted in a few areas of wilt on the middle tee. This issue involves 2 lines on the back of the middle tee box. The valves controlling these two lines are not shutting off properly when they are run automatically. We have open them up to flush water through the valve to remove any dirt or rocks that may be interfering. The next step is to take them apart to identify which part is failing.

These two valves are currently being operated manually to water these areas.

The last issue that is present on the driving range tees, and likely to most detrimental to the health of the tee, is an organic matter layer on the surface of the soil. This organic matter layer is called thatch, which is undecomposed stems of the turfgrass.

This picture shows the thatch material between turf on top and dark soil.

This thatch layer is a result of the grass chosen for the tee. The grass chosen for the tees is an aggressive variety of bentgrass, called T-1, to aid in the recovery of divots. The aggressive nature of the grass also results in the more rapid production of thatch. To manage this thatch, aerification will be necessary to remove the material and provide holes for air and water to move into the soil. The benefits of aerification can be seen on the back driving range tee. The back tee was aerified after the fireworks event earlier this year.

If you have played since Wednesday the 12th, you probably noticed the water feature in the pond on 13 was not running. It is an electrical issue with the unit in the pond. This will require us to remove the water feature to fully diagnose the problem. At this time we do not know how long the feature will not be functional. We will keep you updated with the progress.
One of our big projects for the summer is the tree trimming that is currently underway. We try to do this trimming every 2-3 years. We started the project last week, and hope to be finished with the approximately 1200 trees by the end of next week.

It is a good idea to trim trees regularly to keep them in good health. Our goals for this project are to open sight-lines under trees to provide a shot, increase air movement through the tree canopy, and normal maintenance of the trees. Concentrating on the lower limbs allows for better playability for balls that come to rest near a tree. Improving air movement under the tree allows the turf, as well as leaves of the tree to dry quicker after wetting. Prolonged leaf wetness on the turf or the tree leaves can cause problems with diseases in both locations. The normal maintenance of the tree involves shaping the tree through removal of unwanted limbs.

After cutting the limbs, we salvage the larger pieces for firewood, and the smaller pieces get chipped into mulch and reused in several locations around the course.

When trimming a tree, it is important to do it correctly to give the tree the best opportunity to heal itself. Each limb on a tree has a collar. It is a raised area at the base of the limb.

Trimming the limb along this collar will allow it to heal more easily. Making a cut outside the collar will take it longer to heal. The portion outside the collar that is left will be aborted my the tree at the collar. The remaining piece will eventually die, rot and weather off. This process may take years. If a proper cut is made at the collar, the tree can immediately begin to heal.

And after a few more years...

The best time to trim a tree is in the late fall, or the early spring while the leaves are absent from the tree. We are not able to do tree trimming at these times due to other necessary projects. Our trees are mature enough, and we are removing only a small percentage of the foliage. So, this allows us to trim the trees in the summer, while avoiding any injury to the overall tree health.
This year we have been using a plant growth regulator(PGR) for the suppression of annual bluegrass(poa annua) in our fairways. You may have noticed yellow spots in the fairways from time to time this summer.

These yellow spots are annual bluegrass and it's response to the PGR. The product selectively regulates the growth of the annual bluegrass more than the bentgrass, giving the bentgrass a competitive advantage.

Annual bluegrass that is growing slower than the bentgrass

Injured annual bluegrass leaves

An area that has been treated, and is currently noticeable, is in 1 fairway. This is an area of excessive overlap with the sprayer, so the injured area has received double the rate. This overlap, combined with the stress from the current weather patterns has resulted in the damage showing on the bentgrass as well.

This type of program is successful with the suppression of annual bluegrass, it will not eliminate the annual bluegrass. If this program is not continued through the season, the bluegrass will recover from the damage. This approach is a continuous effort that will be sustained from year to year in an effort to slowly reduce the population of annual bluegrass.

Bill Frier made this Purple Martin birdhouse for Mary Lou Wehrli to exacting specifications. However, in researching, it seems Purple Martins need lots of space around their house. So Mary Lou's loss was our gain.

These feathered friends like condominium dwelling. As you play golf, you see them swoop over the fairways eating insects and lots of mosquitoes. Mary Lou applied the paint and NCC logo. It is now mounted in front of the Halfway House. Bill, a member of NCC since 1952, hopes the club will enjoy it for many years to come.

The ESA's and the ponds have matured wonderfully since the renovation of the golf course. These new areas are a perfect habitat for many different species of wildlife. We are lucky enough to have a Great Blue Heron spending time in our pond on 17. The pond on 17 is constructed with a shelf on the north edge of the green for the establishment of aquatic vegetation. This shelf is 8 inches deep for several feet into the pond before dropping off to the deeper portions. This habitat is perfect for the Heron who likes to wade in shallow areas and feed on small fish, frogs and aquatic insects. Certainly with any diet, digestion occurs. The birds typical flight pattern out of the pond is into the prevailing winds from the south, over 17 green. Whether the intestinal obligations are a result of the flight, or the flight is a result of the intestinal obligations, we may never know. Either way, 17 green is suffering from the results.

We are trying several options for managing the situation. We continue to plug out damaged areas on the green. This has become a weekly job to tend to. The decoys in the pond are there to deter the Heron. If a Heron is already in a pond, most Herons will look elsewhere rather than confront a Heron that is already in an area. Most recently we have installed a fence in an effort to get the Heron to stand on the far east side of the pond to prevent the flights over the green.

Our next effort will be a sprinkler that is activated by a motion sensor. When the Heron flies into the pond, the sprinkler should turn on to scare the Heron away before there is a chance to land. We hope this will move him to a different area of the pond as well.

We love having the Heron on the property. Our efforts are to try and move the bird to another area of the pond to prevent the flight pattern over the green.
Apple scab is beginning to show on several of the crabapple and hawthorne trees on the course. Apple scab (Venturia inaequalis) is most severe when spring conditions are excessively cool and wet (Like the spring we had this year). The disease is most noticeable on leaves and fruit of susceptible plants.

Healthy Leaf

Infected Leaf

If leaf infections become severe enough, the leaves may wilt and fall from the tree.

Healthy crabapples at the front of the clubhouse.

The crabapples around the clubhouse were treated this spring to prevent this disease.

Crabapple that has dropped it's leaves left of 11 tees.

There are several crabapples between 2 fairway and 9 fairway, and around 15 green that are showing symptoms of the disease. Several of the hawthornes around 15 green, 14 tee, and 13 green are showing symptoms as well. We anticipate these trees to start dropping leaves in the next couple of weeks as a result. The trees will continue to survive from year to year. The main detriment of the disease is a reduction in fruit production, making this disease a large concern for the commercial fruit industry.
As indicated by the divots, many of you know that the chipping green is back in use after it's expansion earlier this spring. The green was seeded in early April and has established well, considering the extended periods of cool and wet weather this spring.

The newly seeded portion is currently being mowed at a different height than the green, and we will continue to mow at this height while the remaining spots fill in. The white signs on the chipping area mark the new margin of the green. We ask that you please chip from behind these signs.

In accordance with the rules of golf, ESA’s are identified by an appropriate agency. In our case the agencies are DuPage County and the United States Army Corps of Engineers. The county will monitor our maintenance and upkeep of the ESA’s for a period of 5 years.
We continue to progress on track with expectations through the monitoring process.

ESA’s are marked with a combination of signage and traditional yellow or red stakes identifying them as either a lateral or water hazard. If a hazard stake has a green cap on it, then the area is marked as an ESA and entry is prohibited. If a player hits an errant shot into an ESA, They have the standard options available to them under the rules of golf – except that they cannot enter the area to retrieve their ball or play their shot. If the hazard stakes do not have a green cap then the area is not designated as an ESA and should be treated as a normal hazard. The signage that is used in conjunction with the ESA’s reads “Environmentally Sensitive Area- Entering This Area is prohibited.”

It is important that members understand the significance of this topic. When you bring a guest to the club, make sure that they are aware of the ESA’s. It is possible that your guest may not be familiar with how to apply the rules of golf as they relate to ESA’s (not all courses have designated environmentally sensitive areas). If you have any specific questions regarding ESA’s or how to treat an errant shot that has come to rest in an ESA, please contact the Golf Course Superintendent or Golf Shop.

Members often ask:”What can I do to help care for, and protect the golf course?” We ask that each member please consider the following items in order to keep the course in great condition.

1. Scatter cart traffic. One of our main goals is to improve beaten areas caused by cart traffic. We ask for everyones help in scattering the cart traffic. Don’t simply follow earlier cart traffic patterns.

2. Always replace your divots. Whether the replaced divot will live is for our crew to determine and to repair. Replacing your divot is a kind courtesy to golfers behind you.

3. Do not over-fill divots. Simply sprinkle a fine base in the divot. Overseeding will result in new grass growth being cut and killed by the mowers.

4. Repair your guests, and other ball marks on the greens, including your own.

5. Dispose of cigarette and cigar butts in the trash cans provided at each tee box.

6. Cigar smokers, please mind your ashes while putting.

7. Keep carts 30 feet from all sides of the greens. Cart destruction of playable areas surrounding the green is a key priorities.

8. Keep carts on the path around all practice areas.

9. Please be understanding when the Superintendent implements cart retrictions, or delays play on account of frost. Our goal is to provide the best possible playing conditions for all the members and their guests.
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