Chicago/Northern Illinois Update: Derek Settle
Lessons learned. Weathermen's words are now kind. Chicago's Tom Skilling wrote, "It becomes difficult for temperatures to warm to early summer levels this late in the season." Our days continue to shorten and tree shadows continue grow. Nevertheless, the final days of August are to be hot - a few more 90s forecast. It continues to remind us that summer 2010 was a difficult experience. It turned out to be consistently wet and warm. Heat intolerant Poa Trivialis and Poa annua caught our attention from the very beginning - too consistent! Meanwhile, bentgrass suffered physiological decline - during peak midsummer heat we were too wet for too long. Even Kentucky bluegrass faltered - overly wet soils exacerbated root damage by summer patch. 

From a plant health standpoint, summer 2010 was a "booger bear" so to speak. Few breaks in heat and humidity occurred. The Green Committee asks, "Why just us?" News accounts tell us that other areas of the country were possibly worse off. No amount of budget can provide a pristine look if shortcomings exist - they always do. For example, we usually deal with poor drainage somewhere. It makes sense since many golf courses benefit urban areas by providing a watershed. Streams and lakes will overflow their banks on occasion - 2010 for example. Golf courses with significant turf loss in 2010 are often a story of enduring an especially hot summer AND a flood event or two or three ... Peak heat is largely now behind us and turf recovery has begun - naturally. Overseeding bentgrass and adding new tile lines ASAP - lessons learned.

Click here for the August 27th Turf Scouting Report
If you have visited the club since last week you undoubtedly noticed the condition of the putting green.  The damage on the putting green is the result of a verticutting and topdressing done last Monday.  The putting green is notoriously the weakest green on the course due to the amount of traffic that it receives.  The topdressing applied last Monday was the first time it had been topdressed in over 4 weeks because of the hot temperatures that we were receiving.  We decided to topdress last week because of the cool temperatures that were forecasted, however the green was not strong enough yet to withstand the stress.

We have decided to close the green until further notice to allow the green to heal.  The chipping green will be available to putt on while the putting green is closed.
All of the areas in the fairways that will be overseeded have been completed.  The seed that was planted first is beginning to show now.  This picture is of the driving range.  You can also see where one of the rain events we had washed out a portion of this area.  We are still planning on sodding some of the worst areas on the fairways.

We started to overseed the intermediate cut around the fairways and the walkways today.  Most of the damage in these areas is the result of a disease called summer patch.

We did test an area on the hill in front of 3 green.  It is obvious this test didn't go well.  We will explore other methods for adding seed to this area.

The areas that have been seeded will remain roped of for a few weeks.  We are also changing our mowing frequency in these areas to favor the new seed.  These areas will be mowed less frequently.  As a result, the grass in these areas will be longer for a period of time also.
Here is yet another article recounting the difficulties that have been presented by the weather patterns this year.  This is the Midwest Breezes feature in the August issue of the On Course magazine.  Click here for a copy.
Chicago/Northern Illinois Update: Derek Settle

Unkind! It looked as though we had completed our last test - an especially hot period with a total of 6 days straight of 90+ degrees (Aug. 9 to Aug. 14). Our forecast was a cool break. And so we waited. On Tuesday, Aug. 17 it happened and Chicago's high temperatures were unable to cross 80 degrees. Amazingly, we learned 2010 had set an all-time record for a consistently warm summer - 46 days straight of daytime highs at least 80 degrees. Summer 2010 now holds number 1 with 1955 number two at 42 days. For my part I have watched this season unfold with usual diligence - life of turf is entirely dependent on weather that is sometimes unkind! 

Summer 2010 is now compared to two other summers of recent Chicago memory (1988 and 1995). Hot summers seem to hit the upper Midwest about once every decade. For example, up to this point, 2010 now ranks as the 9th warmest with an average temperature of 75 degrees. Interestingly, years that experienced significant turf loss in superintendent's memory are also highly ranked (1988 = 2nd warmest and 1995 = 5th warmest). For newer golf courses and young superintendents early in their career, this has been their most challenging season. From start to finish problems have been continuous and difficult. Unkind summer 2010, are you finished yet? 

This weekend should be kind - another cool down expected.

Click here for the August 20th Turf Scouting Report
from: Louisiana Rice
 One of the most often quoted lines from the movie Caddyshack among Superintendents and Assistants usually is only used for a laugh among ourselves.  However, today we found Chinch Bugs on the golf course.

"I'll be the head greenskeeper...hopefully within six years.  That's my schedule.  But I am studying this stuff so I know know, like...chinch bugs.  You know...manganese.  A lot of people don't even know what that is...nitrogen."

While there is a species of Chinch bugs (Southern Chinch Bug, pictured) that can cause significant damage to St. Augustinegrass in the far south, the Common Chinch Bug, which we have in this part of the country, is less of a problem.  While I have see damage from Chinch Bugs it has never been extensive enough for control.

Chinch Bugs are insects that have piercing mouthparts that they use to suck juices from the plant.  They feed above ground on the leaves.  The damage from their feeding looks like small dried patches, which can become large areas of dried grass when Chinch Bug populations are high.  We will treat these areas soon that are exhibiting the most excessive damage.

This is a picture of the bunker on the right side of 15 fairway.  The damage on the face of the bunker is the result of a large Chinch Bug population.

Another view of the bunker on the right of 15 fairway.

Here is a picture of 2 Chinch Bugs in the turf canopy.  Click on the picture for a larger view.  The bugs were very difficult to capture.  They are very small and move quickly.  For a size comparison, the sphere in the upper right is a prill of fertilizer from a recent application.

Can you find the Chinch Bug in this picture?
In a previous post I discussed the optimum temperatures for the growth of turfgrasses (Turfgrass Temperature Stress, Part 1: Optimal Temperatures).  In that post I mentioned that if there is water available to the plant, it is rare heat stress occurs.  This is where a balancing act is need when managing turf in hot temperatures.  Water has several unique properties that can help or hinder what we are trying to accomplish on the course.

Turfgrass uses a process called transpiration to cool itself, just like we use perspiration to cool ourselves.  The turf draws water from the roots up to the leaf surface to evaporate.  The moisture draws heat from the leaf surface and surrounding air to complete the process of evaporation.  This causes the leaf surface to cool. If there is water available for the plant to complete this process, it has the ability to continually cool itself.  A few factors may limit this process.  If portions of the root mass of the plant have died as a result of excessive soil temperatures, there will be fewer roots available to pull water from the soil and move it to the leaf surface. This will require much more frequent watering to keep enough moisture in the upper zone of the soil, and available for the plant.  Another factor that may limit this process is the humidity of the air.  The more moisture there is in the air, the less the moisture will be evaporated from the leaf surface, preventing the plants ability to cool itself properly.

The presence of moisture is also a catalyst for the development of diseases in turf.  Excessive soil or leaf wetness can lead to the development of diseases.  When the plant is weakest during the summer months, it is also most vulnerable to pathogen infestations.

The summer heat on cool-season turfgrasses can be quite a balancing act.  Providing enough moisture for the plant to cool itself, but at the same time preventing excessive moisture that may cause the development of diseases.  This requires a well calibrated irrigation system coupled with diligent hand watering.
Talk of one inch hoses? Lots lately. This week's summary will share what impressed me on golf course visits - besides tan patches of dead grass. Here's what. First, intensive water management is not easy. By hand it looks simple yet it's difficult - how we avoid Poa annua wilt. Talk of 'brown is green': Otherwise known as 'Poa annua is dead when brown'. Second, a return to sympathy for golf green health as mowing heights are adjusted without regard to speed. Talk of mowing heights: below 0.100 inch during a record hot July-August, 2010 is plain dumb. Third, a good attitude - without which superintendent and crew could not do their job during a rootless/ruthless summer. Talk of no sleep: is unhealthy. Forth, good skepticism - understanding news of a disease from a bygone era is stuff of a bad superintendent dream or a 1980's memory of Toronto bentgrass. Talk of bacterial wilt: the usual problem green with midsummer physiological decline (poor drainage and/or lacks air movement). Suggested treatment for all the above: raise the mowing height. Preaching to the choir I suppose. Presently, height of cut is up, our modus operandi during an especially hot summer across the U.S. Back to the story which focuses on week two of August. Hot, hot, hot. Today, we marked our 6th straight day of 90+ degree highs on the calendar. Talk of rootless plants and ruthless weather is real if you're experiencing life as a turfgrass manager during season number 2010. That's a lot of talk for turf.

August 13th Turf Scouting Report
We had a small whoops today while mowing around the pond on 13.  Our operator traveled a little too close while on a slope and skidded into the pond.  Thankfully employee and equipment will both be fine.

If you have not read the previous post highlighting a recent article published in the Wall Street Journal, it gives some basic information about how heat has declined the conditions of many courses this year.  Over the next few posts, I am going to expand on what was printed in that article and try to give some more detailed information about heat and how it can effect the turf conditions. And, moisture plays a big part in this.

Like many living things, there is a set of environmental criteria that will provide turfgrasses will optimal growing conditions.  Unfortunately nature lacks any remorse for our situation and many times conditions lay outside of the optimal criteria.  When the environmental conditions-in the case of this post-high temperatures, are outside of that criteria, turf lacks the ability to sustain normal growth.

Warm-season and Cool-season grasses

There are 2 types of grasses, warm-season grasses and cool-season grasses.  As you can probably figure out on your own, warm-season grasses can tolerate high temperatures and cool-season grasses are better suited for cooler climates.  We have cool-season grasses on the golf course.  Optimal temperatures for cool-season grasses are 65-75 degrees F for shoot growth and soil temperatures of 50-65 for root growth.  Optimal temperatures for warm-season grass are 80-95 for shoot growth and soil temperatures 75-85 for root growth.  The plants are able to survive in temperatures outside of these parameters, however if those temperatures exist for an extended period of time, the plant will begin to decline.

To establish an understanding of the differences between these two grasses and their response to heat, and other environmental factors, an understanding of their differences in photosynthesis is needed.  Turf gathers carbon dioxide from the air through the process of photosynthesis as a start to the many processes in uses to stay healthy.  When carbon dioxide is collected from the air, it first attaches itself to an enzyme that is then moved through the plant.  This enzyme is different between cool-season grasses and warm-season grasses, with cool-season grasses getting the short end of the stick.  The enzyme in cool-season grasses can also capture oxygen, when this happens, a useless compound is formed and given off by the plant (this process is called photorespiration).  During periods of intense sunlight and high temperatures, this process of diverting potentially useful energy is taxing on the root system, shoot growth, color and ultimately plant health.  The enzyme that exists in warm-season grasses cannot bind to oxygen so in the presence of high temperatures and sunlight the capture of carbon dioxide is not decreased.

This wasteful process of photorespiration decreases cool-season grasses ability to sustain the processes that are necessary to generate new shoot growth and new root growth.  To add insult to injury, the optimal temperature range for root growth is lower than the range for shoot growth.  This means that the roots of the turf plant are more sensitive to extreme soil temperatures.  Recently, we have regularly found soil temperatures in the low 80s on the course, coupled with air temperatures in the 90s.  If soil temperatures exist outside the optimal range, this can cause root death and a decrease in the amount of roots available for the plant to capture water.

So this brings us back to the beginning of the post-how moisture plays a part in this.  Hopefully with my next post I can make sense of how water fits in with all of this.
A Difficult, Unkind Season: Humidity and highs set records, Physiological decline rules, Anthracnose BSR affects bentgrass, Dollar spot takes off, Pythium is a regular vocabulary word, Brown patch amazes us, Summer patch ruins lawns and roughs, Tim summarizes brown patch data and Nick says TLC.

Click Here for August 6th Turf Scouting Report
We have begun attempting to reseed the areas that have been damaged by pythium.  The areas with the lightest damage will be allowed to grow back in on their own.  Other areas, like this area pictured on the left, will be over-seeded. Our plan for the worst areas will be to sod the damaged areas.  The areas we plan to sod are portions of 1 approach, the dip in 2 fairway, and portions of 5 fairway.

We did reseed the area at the bottom of the driving range on Monday.  However, we believe the seed was all washed away with the storm we received that night.

The process we are using to seed these areas involves aerating them with small solid tines to punch hole into the soil.  Then we run our seeded over the area.

From the Wall Street Journal:

Brutal heat has greenkeepers fighting to save their courses from ruin

The sustained record-breaking heat across much of the U.S. this summer, combined with high humidity and occasional heavy rain, is killing the greens on many golf courses. A handful of high-profile courses have already had to close, and if the heat continues, others are likely to follow. Golfers themselves deserve part of the blame for insisting that putting surfaces be mown short and fast even in weather conditions in which such practices are almost certain to ruin them.
Huntingdon Valley Country Club outside Philadelphia, which dates from 1897, shut two of its three nines two weeks ago because of serious turf disease caused by the hot, wet weather. The Philadelphia area in July had 17 days of 90-degree-plus weather, six more than average, mixed with flooding thunderstorms of up to 4 inches.
Members at the Golf Club at Cuscowilla, east of Atlanta, received letters this week that the club's highly regarded Ben Crenshaw-Bill Coore course would be closed for eight to 10 weeks so that the wilted greens can be completely replanted. The Ansley Golf Club broke similar news to members about the club's in-town Atlanta course. "The continued, excessive heat and humidity have put our greens into a critical situation and the possibility of saving many of them is remote," said a letter from the grounds-committee chairman. Even Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, N.Y., the site of five U.S. Opens, is having serious weather-related problems with its turf.

The U.S. Golf Association last week issued a special "turf-loss advisory" to courses in the Mid-Atlantic states, urgently advising greenkeepers to institute "defensive maintenance and management programs" until the weather crisis ends. Most of the danger is to greens planted in creeping bentgrass and annual bluegrass (also known as poa annua).
"Physiologically, these are cool-season grasses that do very well when the air temperature is 60 to 75 degrees," said Clark Throssell, director of research for the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America. "They can cope with a few days of 90-degree weather every summer, but when that kind of heat lasts for days at a time, they have extreme difficulty."
Temperatures for weather reports are measured in the shade, but greens baking in the midday sun can reach 120 or 130 degrees. When grass spends too much time in soil that hot, it starts to thin out, turn yellow and wither. Most bentgrass strains will collapse entirely with prolonged exposure to 106-degree soil. The grass doesn't go dormant—it dies.
Grass does have a mechanism to cool itself. It's called evapotranspiration and is analogous to perspiration. The roots draw up water from the soil and it evaporates through the plant's leaves, dissipating heat. But when greens are scalped to a quarter-inch, an eighth of an inch and even shorter, the leaf surface available for transpiration declines.
Prolonged heat causes other problems. One is that root systems shrink, sometimes to within a half-inch of the surface, reducing the amount of water drawn up to the top. Humidity and heavy rain make things even worse. Humidity retards evaporation, while soggy soil stays hot longer than dry soil does. Puddles and saturated soil also create barriers that prevent needed oxygen from getting to the roots.
Even when the combination of these factors doesn't kill bentgrass and poa annua greens outright, it weakens the turf significantly and renders greens more susceptible to fungus and disease.
Bermuda grass, by contrast, thrives in temperatures in the 80s and 90s but cannot survive cold winters. That makes Bermuda the logical choice for courses in the Deep South. High-prestige clubs in the so-called transition zone, which includes parts of Georgia, the Carolinas, Tennessee, Texas and the Midwest, have long put a premium on having bentgrass greens because of Bermuda's historic liabilities as a putting surface. Bermuda greens were coarser, bumpier and had problems with excessive "grain," caused by the bristly blades growing in one direction (generally toward the setting sun) instead of vertically and thus unduly influencing the speed and direction of putts. Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, claims to be the first course south of the Mason-Dixon line to install bentgrass greens, in 1936. Hundreds of clubs have followed since.
But they pay the price, even in years with less brutal summers than this one. Colonial, for instance, has five or six fans around every green, stirring up 25-mile-per-hour breezes around the clock to help keep the greens cool. The club in summer has four full-time employees who do nothing but hand-water the hot spots on the greens every day. "Keeping the greens alive till that first cool spell in September is all we hope for," said the club's head pro, Dow Finsterwald Jr.
When hot weather hits bentgrass courses, course superintendents also raise mowing heights. That yields more leaf surface and improves evapotranspiration but can slow down putts by a foot or more on the Stimpmeter, which measures green speed. "Better slow grass than no grass" is a mantra among greenkeepers, but the pressure from golfers to keep the greens rolling fast is relentless.
During the hot summer of 2007, ground crews at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, home of the PGA Tour's Tour Championship, tried every trick in the book to keep the club's bentgrass greens healthy. They hand-watered each green every 30 minutes during the hottest days, just enough to cool off the grass blades but not enough to add moisture to the soil. They ran fans and cut the greens with walk-behind mowers rather than heavy triplex riding machines, to reduce stress.
But nothing did much good. "It's such a helpless feeling. You watch the greens turn yellow and you know they're going to collapse, but there's just nothing more you can do," said Ralph Kepple, East Lake's superintendent.
For the 2008 season, East Lake replanted its greens in one of the new "ultra dwarf" strains of Bermuda that are hard for most golfers to distinguish from bentgrass, in terms of performance. The club is pleased with the decision, Mr. Kepple said—especially this summer.
Augusta National, the home of the Masters 90 miles east of Atlanta, is in an area that is often 10 degrees hotter in the summer, but it easily maintains bentgrass greens. The main reason: The course is closed for play in the summer. That's a luxury very few courses can even consider.
—Email John Paul at
This week provided another round of troubling weather for the turf.  An effort to repair one area on Monday was all for not on Tuesday morning.  This is a picture from 3 tee on Tuesday morning after 2.5 inches of rain.  Water was running through the course for the majority of the morning on Tuesday.  Water still remained in 16 fairway into the afternoon as well.

Tuesday afternoon we were able to get out onto the course to fix the bunkers for Wednesday's play.  However, the turf was too wet to allow any equipment out.  We are just beginning to catch up on the mowing that was suspended due to the wet conditions on the course.  The rough, fairways and approaches will look long for a few more days until more mowings can be completed.

Wednesday morning started off well...

A fast moving storm came through early Wednesday morning.  We did not receive much rain, but 16 fairway had not fully drained from the day before and we were left with some water standing in 16 fairway again on Wednesday.  The 2 storms combined for over 3 inches of rain.

We are curious whether this tree by 6 fairway got struck by lightning.  There are a few fresh scuff marks on the bark, and this large branch fell during the day on Thursday.

We fear this area on 16 fairway will have some dead patches after this round of storms.  There was standing water in this area on Tuesday afternoon, and standing water again during the day on Wednesday.  We do not think it will be a large area, but some thinning in the dark areas in the picture.

We were asked to test another product recently.  Thankfully, this test will not turn out like the last test(click here).  This product is a GPS mapping system for our spray equipment.  We currently are only utilizing the mapping system for this test, but additional features can be added, including more precise boom control, and steering capabilities.  These types of systems are regularly utilized in the agriculture market but are just now being adapted for use on golf courses.  We were asked to use it for a couple of weeks and give feedback on which features were useful and what type of features we may want added.

This picture shows the control that we use on our sprayer on the left.  The GPS mapping unit is the screen on the right.  It utilizes a common GPS signal that is free to use.  A more precise GPS signal can be acquired but it will cost money.  As this technology is advanced further the free GPS signal will become more precise.  Most of the agriculture industry uses a more precise GPS signal that can be acquired through a subscription through a local co-op or similar organization.

This picture shows the graphics on the screen as you are spraying a product.  The blue line shows the area that has been covered.  A small red line can be seen also, this indicates an area of overlap.  As you are spraying, the unit will direct you with arrows if you are skipping an area or overlapping too far.  This is where the steering control can be used.

A feature can be added to this unit that turns the spray booms on and off automatically.  When you begin to apply, you can trace the area you want covered.  As you drive over this area, the unit will turn the spray booms on and off automatically as you drive in and out of the area.

After an application, the data can be downloaded from the unit and a print-out of the application details is available.  There is also a file that allows a map to be dropped in to Google Earth and printed out for record keeping purposes.

Even though this technology has been around for several years in the agriculture industry, it is in its infancy for the golf industry.  I do believe this technology will become more common for the golf industry in the years to come.
July 30, 2010 Scouting Report
July 30, 2010 Scouting Report - Hot and Harsh, July ends: Midsummer flooding, Bentgrass and Poa greens decline, Pythium blight, Brown patch, high Fairy ring levels, Summer patch, Tim thinks about Dollar spot resistance, and Nick says Stats 

Chicago/Northern Illinois Update: Derek Settle
Harsh. That is a word that comes to my mind today, though it is associated with a younger generation. Sometimes you learn new words as appropriate. Season 2010 is a good one for new words, since this weather feels uncomfortable, uncontrollable and new. We did predict this season would be difficult based on history. We knew two mild summers back-to-back were too good to be true. And so it goes. It rained like no other beginning Friday July 23 and did not stop until sometime the next day. The aftermath strained Chicago's rain gauges. For example, Oak Park, a west suburb, received 7.9 inches. Harsh. As if in a dream, the superintendent at Oak Park Country Club felt Splashwater Country Club was where he woke that day. The photos he shared told a story of significant flooding. Midsummer, it was the worst case scenario as peak temperatures are already testing photosynthetic plants in their capacity to endure heat stress. 

Click here for a copy of the July 30th Turf Scouting Report
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