We have been accomplishing much of the preparations needed to get the course in playing condition.  The greens will be open for play on Thursday this week.  We mowed the greens today and will cut the cups on the greens first thing tomorrow.  There is still lots to do, but some things are beginning to take shape.

 The first time cleaning the bunkers is always a time consuming.  The process involves raking the grass face, then picking up all debris from the face of the bunker and out of the bunker itself.  Then we check the sand depth and move sand around if it is necessary to provide a consistent depth.  We use metal rakes to loosen the sand after settling through the winter.  This process will take more than one day to finish.

The irrigation system was charged today.  We do not foresee needing it for a few weeks, but it is nice to get it going and make any repairs that are usually need to start the year.  This will be a good opportunity to continue our irrigation auditing that we started last year.  More on that in a later post.

A few of the tees were mowed today.  The rest will be done tomorrow.  We also plan to mow the fairways and approaches tomorrow as well.

We do not have a date set yet to open the driving range.  We do want the temperatures to be warmer to allow for better divot recovery.
Each winter we spend time evaluating the prior year so that we can better prepare ourselves for the challenges that lie ahead.  By all accounts the summer of 2010 was a difficult year.  Courses throughout Chicago and across the eastern United States lost turf as the deadly combination of high heat and excessive rain caused cool season turf to collapse.  To understand the origin of the problem you actually have to go back to the winter of 2009-2010.  The summer of 2010 was preceded by the 5th longest winter on record in the Chicago area.  By March of 2010 we had already experienced 97 days where the daytime high temperature failed to reach 50 degrees.  Plant photosynthesis is very temperature dependant; it is greatly diminished at both high and low temperatures.  A long winter means the plant has a very shallow root system and that reserves are extremely depleted.  During the spring period the plant works to recover from winter damage, store carbohydrates, and develop the root system that it will need to carry it through the summer stress period.

When summer did arrive it arrived with a bang.  In 2009 the Chicago area posted only 6 days where the high temperature broke the 90 degree mark.  In 2010 that number was quadrupled with 26 days breaking the 90 degree mark.  This is consistent with Chicago’s trend of really hot summers occurring about once every 12 – 14 years.  The summers of 1983, 1995 and 2010 are etched in the minds of local superintendents as difficult years to keep turf alive.  To compound things, in 2010 the heat was combined with excessive rain that caused flooding and water logged soils.  Hot, humid, and wet is a deadly combination for cool season turf grasses.  Root zone oxygen is displaced as soil pore space fills with water.  Water logged soils retain heat at a rate 10 times greater than that of oxygenated soils.  Saturated soils that heat up during the day retain heat overnight, never cooling down.  When air temperatures climb above 85 degrees the plants ability to undergo photosynthesis begins to diminish.  As a result the plant rapidly uses up all of its stored carbohydrate reserves, (reserves that were deficient to start with due to the prolonged winter) and is left to starve to death as its shallow root system boils in a primordial stew.

In this weakened condition the plant is easy prey for opportunistic fungal diseases.  While fungi are always present, they are normally held in check by environmental conditions and the plants natural ability to fend them off.  Physiological decline of the grass plant leaves it vulnerable to a myriad of plant pathogens including: brown patch, waitea patch, summer patch, take-all patch, localized dry spot, fairy ring, dollar spot, anthracnose and pythium blight.  The relationship between the plant, the environment, and the fungi is typically referred to as the “Disease Triangle”.  In 2010 there is no doubt that the “Disease Triangle” was out of balance and the fungi had the upper hand.  Dr. Derek Settle is the plant pathologist employed by the CDGA; he is stationed at the Midwest Golf House.  As part of his service Derek makes site visits to local Chicago courses to help diagnose turfgrass related problems.  In 2009 Derek did site visits at 50 local courses.  In 2010 Derek received calls for site visits from 136 courses (we had Derek out a couple of times last year); this is the most calls that Derek has received dating back to 2006 when he was hired by the CDGA.

Granted, not all courses experienced turf loss, so this begs the question – why?  Typically the answer has to do with course micro climates.  You need not compare one course to another to find microclimates; you can identify microclimates within NCC.  The left edge of #5 fairway was hard hit by an outbreak of pythium, yet the 18th fairway was undamaged – why?  The truth is that there is a micro climate that exists on the left side of #5 fairway.  It is a low area that sits wet longer following rain events.  The dew burns off slower on the left side of #5 contributing to leaf wetness and disease pressure.  In the winter time the tree line along the fence on #5 shades the left half of the fairway causing prolonged snow and ice cover, this means the turf on that side of the fairway is weaker coming out of winter.  The combination of the tree line on the left and the hillside on the right reduce air flow over the fairway.  Stagnant humid air reduces the ability of the grass plant to undergo evapotranspiration (ET).  This is the plants cooling mechanism; it is very similar to how we cool ourselves through the process of perspiration.  Think about what happens if you sit in a hot humid steam room for too long.  Once you have had all you can take you leave the sauna and find relief in the cool air outside the sauna.  The turf does not have the ability “leave the sauna” and seek out the air conditioning and a cool beverage.  It has to survive long enough for relief to come in the form of a drop in night time temperatures.  As the air and soil temperatures cool down the plant finds relief.  If the temperature doesn’t drop, or is the soils are saturated with water and are retaining heat, then the relief does not come.  A surprise thunderstorm on a 90 degree summer night can be a superintendent’s worst nightmare.

So how do we build on this for 2011.  Sound agronomic practices are the key to surviving periods of stress.  Aerification, thatch management, proper fertility, proper irrigation, good drainage, proper air exchange within the root zone, good air movement over the turf, proper exposure to sun, good mowing techniques, proper stress management, adequate topdressing, the use of proper grass varieties, and plant protectant programs are all part of developing a successful turfgrass management program.  Each winter we evaluate and refine our program.

Related posts from last year:

I had a great visit to Farmlinks last week along with 20 others from the Chicagoland area.  Farmlinks is a fantastic piece of property with fantastic hospitality.  I was able to squeeze in some golf and clay pigeons amongst the education.  After we arrived, we listened to a presentation on slow release fertilizer types and their applications.

We spent Thursday morning touring the golf course with Director of Agronomy and Research, Mark Langner.

This tour usually includes a look at the maintenance facility and the equipment.  However, only two weeks before we arrived, a fire destroyed their maintenance facility and equipment.

After the course tour, we listened to a presentation on irrigation auditing.  Then in the afternoon I took advantage of their 5-stand to shoot some clay pigeons.  The next morning rounded out the education with the latest on fungicide chemistries.

The clubhouse at Farmlinks.
March 25, 2011 Scouting Report
Backwards temperature-wise: All Is Swell, Few Issues, Waiting for Poa Seedheads, Forsythia Flowers in Central IL, and Tim says http://gddtracker.net 

Chicago/Northern Illinois Update: Derek Settle -

Desi says it's Spring. In the landscape turf is about the first to respond with green. Next up, we look for the color yellow. Daffodils along with forsethyia lead the way, not to mention dandelions. Soon thereafter it's off to the races. Star magnolia is one of my favorite early blooming woody ornamental favorites (Mangnolia stellata for the connoisseur). I even saw my first earthworm this week on Sunshine Course. Spring-friendly, I named him Charlie as he ventured near a small patch in bentgrass that had caught my attention on Sunshine Course. It is still striking, following winter 2010-11 plant health looks terrific. I'm now saying, "Round 1 goes to us!" Besides the visual, sounds of spring were also with me this week. Redwing blackbirds barked "my territory" in a nearby wetland as they rode moving reedgrass seedheads. 

If you like the outdoors, everyone I know does, it is a nice time. We finally get to see how plant material made it through the winter. I tell you, from my office (outdoors), it looks pretty good. 

Click here to view the complete March 25, 2011 Scouting Report. 

Stay warm this weekend as we seem to be reentering winter, briefly I hope. 

Derek Settle, PhD 
Director of Turfgrass Program 
Chicago District Golf Association 
11855 Archer Ave 
Lemont, IL 60439
A few weeks ago Tim was invited to a meeting at Farmlinks with other attendees from the Chicagoland area. Tim had a scheduling conflict and deferred the invitation to me. Farmlinks is located in Sylacauga, AL and has an 18-hole golf course that is used as a research facility for a wide range of products used for golf course management. The course is also a highly rated public golf course.

Here is what the Farmlinks website has to say:

Blending three days of rest and relaxation with innovation and education, The Experience at FarmLinks is a one-of-a-kind teaching tool for golf course superintendents and sports field and grounds professionals. While enjoying championship golf, fine dining and Southern hospitality, guests witness ongoing research and demonstration and the industry’s most current – and some yet-to-be-released – products, services and equipment.

I will be representing NCC at Farmlinks this week, Wed.-Fri.  Keep updated with what I am doing through our Twitter account.

Farmlinks Website

Tim contributed an article to the monthly publication of the Midwest Association of Golf Course Superintendents.  This article appeared in the February issue and has been roundly praised by all who have read it.

Click here to download a .pdf of the February Issue.
I have been in the process of creating a new blog format.  This new format will have all of the same information that we have had in the past, but will better accommodate our increasing use of social media and videos.  The blog may be down for a period of time this weekend in hopes for the new blog to be available on Monday.
The Turf Scouting Report from Dr. Settle at the CDGA is out. This is the first volume of what is a weekly update of the turf conditions in the Chicagoland area.  This issue includes an overview of the winter weather, some minor snow mold reports, and spring education seminars.

Click here for the Scouting Report
In this issue: The USGA Education Conference, Maintenance Standards and Winter Kill.

The time has come to begin preparing the course for opening.  The course came through the winter in good shape and is beginning to green up.  The first step to begin getting the course ready will be a thorough cleaning of all the debris that has fallen.  There are a few small limbs down, along with lots of trigs and branches.  Getting all the twigs of the ground will make way for the rollers and mowers to go to work.

There are a few bunkers that still have snow in them, but I suspect that will melt over the next couple of days.  In the bunkers we will work on cleaning leaves off the faces of the bunkers and any debris that is in the sand.  Then we will begin checking sand depths and moving sand to achieve a consistent depth.

On the greens, we will roll them first to ensure the surface is smooth before we attempt to mow them.  We are watching the weather to make a decision on when to open the greens.  We do not expect them to be open this weekend.  Historically, we have opened the greens around the 25th of March.

It won't be long before the course is in playing condition!
The March 4th USGA Green Section Record is out.  This issue has a great article on greens aeration.  The article talks specifically about greens aeration but the information is no different for aerating all areas of the golf course.

Putting Green Aeration

Click here for the entire March 4th, Green Section Record
Here are a few pictures from a walk around the course on Tuesday.  The course is in good shape, and appears to have come through winter with little damage.  The top few inches of soil has thawed, but is still frozen underneath.  Our crew members that remain through the winter were able to get out of the maintenance building today to clean up a few limbs.

There are a few areas through the course where snow is still sitting around drains.  We expect there to be some snow mold damage once these finally melt off, but the grass should recover quickly.  The area that appears to have the most damage is on the bank of the creek along 1 green.  When warmer weather comes and the grass begins to grow, we will rake this area to remove any dead leaf tissue.  This will give the new growth a better opportunity to fill in more rapidly.

This picture is from the driving range tee and shows how much greener the grass is under the cover.  This difference will become more pronounced when we get warmer temperatures.  We hope this will allow the grass to come out of dormancy quicker to allow for better divot recovery on the tee for early spring use.
Next PostNewer Posts Previous PostOlder Posts Home