Our practice tee gets used heavily, and any effort made by the golfers to disrupt the smallest area in a manner that allows for the quickest recovery will help us keep the tee in the best possible condition.  I mentioned yesterday (Practice Tee and Chipping Green Schedule) that the scattered divot pattern is bad.  Creating divots in a line will disrupt less surface area.  This was addressed in a post last year (Practice Like a Pro), and we will post on the blog and in the clubhouse regularly this year about this method.

The pattern on the left side in the picture is how we would like divots to be taken on the practice tee. Placing the ball immediately behind the previous divot will make a divot pattern in a line and disrupt less area.  Both areas in this picture have had 25 balls hit from them, but the area on the left has disrupted much less area.  This picture is from "Dirty Divots,"a Golf Week article written by David Phipps, Superintendent at Stone Creek Golf Club in Oregon. (His blog can be found here)

The picture on the right illustrates how to create the preferred divot pattern.

Here is a video talking about this type of divot pattern from Dan Meersman, Superintendent at Philadelphia Cricket Club. (His blog can be found here)

The practice areas have not been open yet and will stay closed for a while longer.  At the green committee meeting Monday night, the decision was made to open them on April 12th.  We are planning to take advantage of this warm weather and allow the tee to heal further from last years use.  This picture, taken this morning, shows that the seed in the divots has germinated, but has not fully grown-in yet.

The practice tee receives a significant amount of use through the season.  That significant use, combined with random divot patterns, results in a large amount of disturbed area.  A simple change, such as how divot patterns are made, can help concentrate disturbed turf to the smallest area possible.  This will result in less wear on the tee, which can lead to the tee staying open longer in the fall and opening earlier in the spring.  The scattered divot pattern like you see in these pictures is bad.  The post tomorrow will begin to discuss creating a divot pattern in a line rather than scattered.  Flyers have been made for the clubhouse and we will be making regular post on the blog this year to remind everyone how we would like divots to be taken.  This will be another easy way for golfers to help us keep the course looking great for the other members and their guests.
It's not news anymore that spring, (or summer?) came early this year.  9 straight days of record temperatures has brought the grass to a stage that we would usually see in late April or early May.  The weather has come 4 weeks ahead of schedule, which has left us behind - on a relative basis.  The greens, tees and fairways have all been mowed multiple times, we have mowed some of the rough, and have already needed to make a spray as a result of the warmer temperatures.  We have been forced to do this with our early spring crew, which is smaller than we will have 4 week from now.  Last year greens were mowed for the first time on March 30th and tees, approaches and fairways were mowed the first time the following day.  A more normal pattern of mowing is once a week on fairways and tees through April.  We have been forced to use our labor to keep up with the mowing this year rather than our normal opening procedure.  We are making our way through the bunkers now, and getting the spring flowers planted.  Tee accessories, beverage stations and other course supplies will be out on the course soon.  This is one of the earliest springs we have had in 25 years, so come out and enjoy the conditions.

Here is a chart I created to illustrate the difference in temperatures from this year to last year.  The 2012 high/low temperatures are in red, and the 2011 high/low temperatures are in blue.  The string of 80 degree days for highs is obvious, but what brought the course progress along faster is the low temperatures.  This majority of the low temperatures this year, were higher than last year's high temperatures.  This allowed the grass to break dormancy and begin growing much quicker.  The 10 day forecast shows the unusually warm weather will continue with several days near 70.  If we were going to have 9 straight days of record high temperatures, I'm glad it happened in March and not July or August.  Let's hope mother nature gets all the warmer than normal weather out of the system before then.
Early Summer? 80°+ Nine In a Row, Dollar spot, Brown patch, Fairy ring, Waitea, Yellow tuft, Dandelions, Poa Seedheads, and Tim says KBG green up

Chicago/Northern Illinois Update: Derek Settle -

This season has begun (an understatement). We are out of the shoots on a racehorse named '2012'. This horse would travel faster than we had ever experienced. The trouble was, in a week we were still particpating in golf course superintendent education in places like Elcona Country Club in Bristol, IN and Arrowhead Golf Club in Wheaton, IL. In between symptoms had begun to appear, usually circular and of a color indicative of plant stress (yellow if you are Poa and a red-purple if you are bent). It would be a week of new issues: Rhizoctonia patches on a fairway (but which Rhizoc?), dollar spot beginning on a green and tee, continued development of fairy ring on greens, and yellow tuft flaring up in the usual wet fairway areas. Can you believe that was just on Sunshine Course in Lemont? Never have we seen everything begin all at once.

It had something to do with 9 consecutive days of highs that broke every record in the book and, that's 147 years worth! Now it has rained, it has cooled. It's officially spring and every bloom is vying for our attention: star magnolia, pear, redbud, saucer magnolia, forsythia, crabapples and viburnum. When out, take some time and just let it in. In short, enjoy this unprecidented spring!
Click here to view the March 23, 2012 Scouting Report.

Enjoy Spring 'officially' this first weekend (according to calendar. It even has begun to rain - right on cue!

Derek Settle, PhD
Director of Turfgrass Program
dsettle@cdga.org Weather Blog

Timothy A. Sibicky, MS
Manager of Turfgrass Research
tsibicky@cdga.org Research Blog
The patio furniture has been moved to the patio, which now makes the carts accessible. Carts will be available starting Thursday. The halfway house was painted today, and the water turned on yesterday. Service at the halfway house will be going soon. Our spring flowers arrived today, and we have started planting them at the entrance. The irrigation system was pressurized today. So far, only minor problems have been found. The record setting weather continues tomorrow, come out and enjoy the course before the 50 degree weather returns!
Forget Winter, More Like Spring or Summer. Updates Begin, Winter Conferences Over, Chicago's 80° F Highs, Poa Seedheads, and Tim Rates Fairy Ring!?! 

Chicago/Northern Illinois Update: Derek Settle -

Things have begun early in 2012 and so here goes. So far, within the month of March, we've seen high temperatures (˚F) go from 32 to our most recent of 80, 80 and 82 (March 14-16 on Sunshine Course in Lemont). It has meant rapid green-up of turf and much, much more. New all-time high temperature records for March for one! Golf courses in the upper Midwest have already hosted quite a bit of golf. Much of this is uncharted territory and so it is accompanied with much speculation, but if you are superintendent or crew your first applications have begun -Poa annua seedheads on greens for one. If you like flowers in the landscape then star magnolia, cornelian cherry dogwood, forsythia, witch hazel and daffodils caught your eye this week. 

If you are a turf specialist your phone began to ring, your email box filled up, and your camera got a workout. For my part, I was amazed in the field; fairy ring, moss sporulation, chickweed bloom, and a Poa annua seedhead or two. I also saw terrific plant health as we've experienced neither winter injury nor snow molds. We're out of the shoots early, we'll just combine art and science (golf turf management) a little earlier and learn new things along the way - 2012 begins! 

Click here to view the March 16, 2012 Scouting Report. 

Here goes a new turf season. Welcome aboard and happy Saint Patrick's Day weekend! 

Derek Settle, PhD 
Director of Turfgrass Program 
Weather Blog 

Timothy A. Sibicky, MS 
Manager of Turfgrass Research 
Research Blog
Last year this post was made on March 30th, the year before on March 25th.  This early start has certainly been unusual, but it is welcome.  It is always nice to get out on the course in the spring and start to prepare the course for the year.  Greens were mowed for the first time yesterday, and fairways will be mowed today.  Our hope is to have approaches and tees mowed for the weekend as well.

Yesterday afternoon we rolled the fairways to smooth the surface and get them ready for mowing today. Torres stayed late to get the rolling done.

With a stretch of weather like this, it is easy to forget that it's the middle of March.  We only have 3 guys on the crew at this point (and 1 is on vacation this week), so our preparations are being concentrated to the primary playing areas.  The rough will still have tree debris from the winter this weekend, and bunkers will not be raked.  On Monday we do have a portion of our crew starting for the season, with another wave starting April 1st.

Every year it’s the same – there is one day each Spring that tells golf course superintendents that it is time to start a new season.  For us the arrival of this day is as clear as the sound of an alarm clock going off.  There are any number of signs that tell us when the magical day has arrived; you drive your golf cart up to the clubhouse for coffee instead of your pickup truck, you don’t feel the need to close the overhead door as you leave the maintenance shop to head out onto the course, by 10 am you have to trade in your winter coat for something lighter, you notice the geese pairing up as they search out that prime nesting spot, one of your seasonal employees stops by the shop unexpectedly to ask about returning to work.  But perhaps the most tell tale sign is the feeling of the suns warmth on your face, and you just know that a new season is underway.

Preparations are underway for the 2012 golf season.  We plan to open the greens on Friday March 16th.  This is about 2 weeks earlier than normal, and will mark only the 3rd time in the last 25 years that the greens have opened prior to St Patrick’s Day.  In preparation we are blowing all the greens free of debri, rolling them to smooth out any imperfections caused by the winter freeze/thaw cycles and we are marking the edge of the putting surface in order to establish a uniform collar width.

The putting clock will open on Friday as well.  The short game area and driving range tee will remain closed for the time being.  The practice areas need to be actively growing so that they can recover from damage caused by ballmarks and divots.  Currently, soil temperatures are not high enough to support active turf growth.  The course restrooms are not open, so please plan accordingly.   We will open the course restrooms prior to the end of March.  This will be accomplished as our seasonal crew returns giving us the labor needed to clean the bathrooms and restore water service to the building.  Cart usage is still a few weeks away, again the turf must be actively growing in order to recover from the wear created by the carts.

As always, our plans are subject to change based on the weather.  Keep in touch with the pro shop or check back to the blog for current updates on course status.  The latest weather forecast calls for clear skies this weekend, take advantage of a rare opportunity to enjoy a round of golf at NCC on St. Patrick’s Day, and then stick around for corn beef and cabbage at the clubhouse.
The current weather trend has us planning the tasks needed to open the course earlier that usual.  We are noticing the grass beginning to green and there is no frost in the ground.  There has not been a solid frost in the ground for the past few weeks.  This time last year we still had a few patches of snow on the ground, and were waiting out regular night time temperatures in the low 20s.

As you can see in the 10 day forecast, temperatures will be around 40 at night, with sun and 50s during the day.  We feel like this will lead to an early spring.  We plan to get out on the course this week to begin the clean up from winter, which will be minimal.  Only some branches and sticks, then clean the greens, tees, fairways and bunkers of debris.

We do not have a date set for opening the greens, and do not plan to set one at this time.  We will be sure to let you know when we have that date set.  Until then, the course is open for play to the temporary cups.
We are back in the office today trying to get reacquainted with the day-to-day here at the club.  Our trip to Las Vegas (Golf Industry Show) was complete with education opportunities, recognitions, and opportunities to observe the most recent technologies available for managing the course.  Our education seminars spanned a wide variety of topics that will all be applied to golf course. Here is an overview:

  • managing tall grass areas - these areas were addressed many times last summer, and the area by the 17th tee will be changed this spring.
  • precision turfgrass management - using the latest instruments and GPS to gather as much information as possible to make the best management decisions. Many of these ideas we are already in the process of doing on a daily basis.
  • organic approach to golf course management - any information we can gather to always be more environmentally aware, while also maintaining playing conditions is great.
  • soil chemistry - a regular review of the interaction of nutrients in the soil is always welcome.
Aside from the education, Tuesday night's "Celebrate GCSAA" event included recognizing Tim as the recipient of this year's Leo Feser Award (Tim Wins Leo Feser Award From GCSAA).

Tim accepting the award on Tuesday night.

Visiting the trade show to find and learn about the newest products and equipment available was the other major event of the week.  No shortage of equipment and gadgets were found on the trade show floor.  Even a familiar green committee chairman was found!(pic)

The newest technology in greens mowers were on display, including this model, of which we expect 6 to arrive sometime this month.

It is always nice to see fellow superintendents and industry suppliers in a different setting, but a week is a long time to spend in Las Vegas. To steal a line from Kramer on Seinfeld, "I spent a month there one night." We are glad to be back, and were welcomed with more green grass than we left.  The process of opening the course will begin shortly.
It has been a busy week in Las Vegas, and more difficult to keep up with the blog than I had expected. We have posted pictures and updates to the twitter account. This is a picture of Tim receiving his award on Tuesday night. Other awards were given out and Peter Jacobsen spoke at the end of the night. Wednesday and Thursday were filled with walking the trade show floor, and today is filled with more education. It has been a long week and we are looking forward to getting back to the course next week.
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