Monday, November 18, 2013
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
We have just recently finished up our fall greens Aerification for 2013. As I have explained in previous posts, this vital agronomic practice is extremely crucial for the long-term health of our bentgrass putting surfaces. Aerification achieves three important objectives. It relieves soil compaction, it provides a method to improve the soil mixture around the highest part of a green’s roots and it reduces or prevents the accumulation of excess thatch. The condition of a green has a lot to do with what goes on below the surface. In order for grass to grow at 1/8-inch, it must have deep, healthy roots. Good roots demand oxygen. In good soil, they get the oxygen from tiny pockets of air trapped between soil and sand particles. Over the course of time, foot traffic from golfers, mowing equipment, etc. compact the soil under the putting green surface. When the soil becomes compacted, the tiny air pockets become crushed and the roots start becoming deprived of necessary oxygen.Without oxygen, the grass plants become weaker and will eventually wither and die.
Aerification is a mechanical process that creates more air space in the soil and promotes deeper rooting, helping the grass plants stay healthy. In most cases, the process is done by removing cores from the compacted soil, allowing for an infusion of air and water that brings a resurgence of growth. The spaces are then filled with sand “topdressing” that helps the soil retain air space and makes it easier for roots to grow downward. Older greens are often constructed of soils with significant amounts of silt, clay and fine organic particles that are prone to compaction. Filling aerification holes with sand improves drainage and resists compaction. The periodic introduction of sand to a green’s top layer can over time, avoid or postpone expensive rebuilding or renovation of greens.
Finally, actively growing turf adds to a layer of organic matter on the surface. This layer, called thatch, is an accumulation of dead stems, leaves and roots. A little organic matters makes for a resilient green, but too much invites diseases and insects. Topdressing with sand can prevent thatch buildup, and aerification is one of the best ways to reduce an existing layer and prevent an excess of thatch from becoming established.
On another subject, we have officially broken ground on our new Turf Care Facility. This facility will be state-of-the-art. It will be large enough to easily accommodate up to 30 employees, house all of our maintenance equipment inside of buildings and be environmentally sensitive (which is becoming more important every day). We are looking forward to the completion of this project and I will include updates on how the construction process is progressing with future blog entries.
As always any questions, comments or feedback is appreciated.
We'll see you out there!
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Severe drought on turfgrass, trees and shrubs have been extremely evident over the past 2 years and it takes large quantities of rainfall to eliminate drought conditions. The 2011 rainfall total for Norman, OK was 27.88 inches (9.5 inches below average) and 2012 rainfall total for Norman, OK was 22.37 inches (15.02 inches below average). That put Norman, OK 24.52 inches below it's average rainfall totals entering 2013. However, since Jan 1st, 2013, we have received 29.41 inches of rain in Norman, OK to date. That is 8.72 inches above average rainfall for the same amount of time. This has helped in lifting Norman, OK out of it's current drought situation.
The onset of drought has allowed us to see the major flaws of our irrigation system, and, has allowed us to make additions, adjustments and repairs to it's functionality and it's efficiency. Our current irrigation system has been in operation since 1995, when the last large-scale golf course renovation occurred. Since that time, there have been many small-scale golf course improvements and additions over the years. By adding and/or removing irrigated areas, we have changed from the original design of the irrigation system and it's functionality and efficiency are no longer what they were before. When we have normal rainfall events throughout a given year, those fallacies in the system are not as evident. However, when there is a drought situation and having to rely heavily on an irrigation system to keep the moisture levels of the golf course to acceptable levels for plant health. It is then, that those fallacies become obvious. That is why have joined forces with EC Design Group to build an Irrigation Master Plan to go along with our Facility Master Plan that was put together by Tripp Davis & Associates Golf Architecture. Now, as our facility continues to develop according to the Facility Master Plan, so too will our irrigation system along with our Irrigation Master Plan.
As stated before, there is nothing that can replace the plant health benefits of rainfall. But, a well designed and efficient irrigation system can help supplement the golf course during the time periods between rain events.
As always any questions, comments or concerns is always appreciated.
We'll see you out there!
Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Oh what a beautiful morning! That was always the first thing that ran through my head while I was driving into work at 3:45 am each day during our hosting of the 2013 US Women's Amateur Public Links Championship. It takes a certain level of organization, a great sense of humor and a positive attitude to be able to host Championship golf. With the USGA conducting 13 National Championships a year and the PGA, LPGA and Senior PGA Tours conducting a certain number of tournaments and championships a year, not everyone in this industry gets to experience the hosting of these special and prestigious events.
We are extremely fortunate, in the sense, that we have hosted two USGA National Championships in the past 4 years! Having hosted the US Amateur Public Links Championship previously in 2009, we were much more prepared when we were asked by the USGA to host the 2013 US Women's Amateur Public Links Championship.
What most people do not realize, is the high level of turf maintenance required to conduct such Championships. Below is an article written by Robert Vavrek (USGA Agronomist) that was featured in the USGA Green Section Record in April 2013. This article explains what host clubs do to prepare their clubs to challenge the best golfers in the world.
Course Preparation for a USGA National Championship — What’s All the Fuss?
The high level of turf maintenance required to conduct a U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur, or any other USGA national championship may surprise the casual player as much as the hardcore golf enthusiast.
Golfers raved about course conditions after the recent club championship. The greens were smooth — slick as ice. And how about those impossible “never been there before” hole locations? Fairway striping patterns rivaled the intricate mowing patterns of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. Bunkers have never been firmer or more consistent. Perhaps you hear the ultimate compliment in the clubhouse . . . “We could have hosted the U.S. Open today!” Assume the playing surfaces could indeed challenge the cream of the world’s professional and amateur golfers. Could you sustain this high level of course conditioning throughout an entire week of competition? Before answering, let’s discuss the scope of maintenance practices associated with hosting a typical national championship. To put it another way, just what is so
special about course conditioning for a USGA national championship and why?
In general, well-conditioned golf courses mow greens every day and roll two to three times per week during peak months of play. Collars, tees, fairways, approaches, and intermediate roughs are mowed three times a week, usually Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Roughs, green banks, and bunker banks will be mowed once or twice weekly, depending on turf growth rate. Bunkers will likely receive some attention each day.
No doubt, there will be a higher level of expectations and more intense maintenance for a special event at any public or private golf facility. Those additional hours spent grooming the course will probably be spent “burning in” the intricate striping pattern across fairways and producing the firmest bunker conditions possible. Extra rolling and mowing will certainly produce the highest green speed of the season, and, maybe, just maybe, the rough will be allowed to grow a half-inch higher. In contrast, most facilities will find it
necessary to increase the frequency and intensity of maintenance operations throughout the week of a USGA national championship. Granted, maintenance standards for daily play at a few elite facilities may already meet or exceed some of our expectations for course conditioning, such as green speed or bunker maintenance. However, any attempt to maintain a golf course at the peak of championship
readiness would be unsustainable from both a turf health and economic perspective.There is no “one size fits all” set of course conditions for all U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur Championships. Green speed, the firmness of greens, fairways and approaches, mowing frequency, the establishment and maintenance of a graduated rough, and many other broad and specific aspects of course conditioning for the competition will be determined and documented in cooperation with the host venue during site visits made by the USGA’s staff person in charge (SIC) in advance of the championship. The SIC will be assisted by USGA Executive Committee members, other members of the USGA Rules and Competitions staff, the regional USGA Green Section agronomist, as well as the golf course superintendent, golf professional, and other representatives
of the host venue. The course preparation memorandum generated from site visits will serve as a road map
for course maintenance in the years, months, and weeks leading up to the event.
Go no further than practice facilities to find significant differences between priorities for daily play versus a championship. Most golf facilities prepare the course for daily play first and then allocate equipment and labor to practice areas at their convenience. In contrast, practice greens, tees, and short-game areas must be ready at first light to accommodate players who have early tee times at a championship. Having lights on at least some of the maintenance equipment is a bonus when mowing is required before dawn. In fact, facilities that host championships often use transportable banks of lights to illuminate practice areas for extra-early morning maintenance; it is that important. On the other hand, you won’t find many guests anxious to putt while the crickets are still chirping during the club invitational, unless, of course, they happen to still be on the property after the previous evening’s clubhouse festivities.It is no surprise that golfers who compete for a U.S. Open Championship are more likely to be familiar with the host venue versus golfers competing for a U.S. Amateur Championship. However, some of the field at a championship will be playing the course for the first time during practice rounds. Consequently, the USGA strives to provide the entire field a consistent level of course conditioning from the first practice round through the final day of competition. Practice rounds need to be meaningful and representative of conditions experienced throughout the competition. Practice rounds are not the time to ratchet up green speed by two feet or grow an inch of rough. No doubt, some minor adjustments to the course will likely be necessary during practice rounds, but generally the overall play-ability of the course should remain consistent throughout the competition. Furthermore, playing conditions in practice bunkers, the height of cut on practice tees, the firmness of chipping greens, and the speed of practice greens should represent what players will experience on the course. The practice facilities are going to get a workout, so hole locations on practice greens need to be moved daily, and a similar high level of maintenance will be necessary on practice tees as players rotate to new turf each day. There will be no shortage of divots and debris to remove and divot holes to repair on short-game areas. For some players it may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to compete for a national championship, and the goal is to make it the best experience possible for the golfer.
PUTTING GREEN COMPLEXES
Putting surface maintenance schedules will usually need to be modified prior to practice rounds to achieve a predetermined level of speed. In general, greens will be double cut and rolled daily to maintain a smooth, consistent surface. An evening mowing operation, when labor and time are more available, can help maintain green speed without adding to the stress of completing multiple maintenance operations across the green complex ahead of morning play. Mowing frequency, heights of cut, and rolling operations will be adjusted up or down depending on the rate of turf growth, weather conditions, and other factors that may affect the health or play-ability of the putting surfaces. Green Section agronomists work closely with turf managers regarding growth regulator applications and ancillary maintenance practices, such as brushing greens, that may be useful before and during the competition.Collars and the first cut of rough adjacent to collars will be mowed each day. Many find that mowing the first cut of rough with rotary push mowers to be the best option for minimizing mechanical stress to turf on green banks and bunker banks associated with a more intense level of maintenance.
Fairways, approaches, and intermediate roughs will be mowed daily during a championship. Fairways can be mowed during the evening after play to accommodate staffing or equipment limitations, but they will have to be dragged to remove dew in the morning before play. Divots will be removed and divot holes leveled with an appropriate repair mix — often a combination of sand, soil, and peat — between each round of play.
Any tee that may be used for the competition will be mowed every day. The course preparation memorandum will document which holes have options for alternate tees. In addition, netting is needed to protect the prime areas of turf before and during practice rounds on any championship tees where the use of irons would cause significant loss of tee space. Netting may also be needed during and before practice rounds to protect turf in localized areas of fairways that have a history of excessive divots, such as in collection areas, due the unique architecture or topography of the course.
Bunkers will be raked daily, preferably during the morning just ahead of play. Rakes are to be positioned outside of bunkers, parallel to play, and preferably along the outer edge of the bunker where they are least likely to come into play.
A challenging rough that places a premium on shot selection and execution from the tee is an important aspect of setup at all USGA championships. In recent years, the concept of a graduated rough has been adopted. Graduated rough employs incremental increases in mowing height as the distance away from the fairway increases. This provides more options for players who hit a slightly errant shot to advance the ball, whereas players who miss fairways by wide margins face increased difficulty. The specific width and height of each graduation for each hole will be determined at site visits made well in advance of the championship.Presenting golfers with a well defined graduated rough requires additional maintenance equipment and labor compared to mowing the entire rough at one height. Slightly lowering the rough is a fairly straightforward procedure, but raising the height of a semi-dormant, non-irrigated rough would be a challenge and is perhaps impossible to achieve during midsummer, especially at facilities that utilize cool-season turfgrasses. Consequently, most facilities establish championship-length rough during spring when the turf is growing vigorously. Daily play may be inconvenienced before the event, and the use of carts in the rough will need to be curtailed, more so in the weeks just prior to the competition.
FIRM AND FAST
When the weather cooperates, every effort will be made to present players with a firm, fast golf course from tee to green by limiting the amount of irrigation applied to the turf. Depending on the event, the firmness of some or all greens will be measured at least once a day using the USGA TruFirm device. TruFirm values will be used to determine when and where water will be applied to putting surfaces. Constant vigilance of TruFirm readings and adjustment with hand-watering will help ensure similar levels of firmness between greens and prevent greens or portions of greens from becoming excessively firm.Ideally, the firmness of approaches will equal or exceed the firmness of putting surfaces to provide the option of run-up shots to the putting surface. Firm playing surfaces provide maximum reward for well-executed golf shots. The standard practice of using automatic irrigation to water the golf course at night will usually be suspended
during the week of the championship. Greens, tees, approaches, and fairways will be sparingly hand-watered as needed to maintain healthy turf. Extensive areas of excessively dry turfcan be watered with automatic irrigation during the evening when hand watering is not practical. However, any automatic irrigation will need to be carefully monitored by the maintenance staff and manually cycled on and off to minimize the potential for sprinkler malfunctions. No doubt, a week of drying out and firming up the golf course for a USGA
competition will be a unique challenge for most golf facilities. The importance of developing a comprehensive cultivation and topdressing program to prevent excessive thatch accumulation well before the event cannot be overemphasized. Equally important are the timely use of plant growth regulators and wetting agents.
THE DRY RUN AND LOGISTICS
Play will begin from the first and tenth tees during practice rounds and for at least the first several days of the championship. USGA staff will meet the hole-changing team on the first and tenth tees to set tee markers and then proceed to greens for final determination of hole locations. All course maintenance will have to be completed ahead of the USGA staff as they proceed hole by hole, in order, on each nine to set up the course for competition. Keep this in mind when determining the appropriate amount of equipment and staffing to have available at the event.Weather is the wild card at any championship. Lightning is the most common problem to cause play to be suspended for an extended period of time. The worst-case scenario is the need to prepare the course the next morning for a shotgun start to finish a suspended round and then complete a
change in course setup prior to starting the current day’s competition. It is wise to plan for the worst and hope for the best, so have a contingency plan for this situation and an estimate of how early the course could be ready for a shotgun start should a suspension in play occur. Knowing when the course can accommodate golfers after a suspension is important to the media, spectators, the USGA, and, most of all, the players. The best way to anticipate and address the unique challenges of preparing any golf course for an U.S. Open or U.S. Amateur Championship is to schedule a dry run of maintenance operations a year prior to the competition. Schedule the dry run as close to the same week as the competition to experience similar weather conditions and day length. Document how long it takes to complete each task and take into account increased travel time associated with unfamiliar or circuitous routes employed to avoid galleries, concessions, or any other hindrances related to a specific competition. In addition, it never hurts to have several key course maintenance staff attend at least a few days of the previous year’s championship.
In summary, this article is not meant to define an all-encompassing set of best maintenance practices (BMPs) that prepares your golf course for a USGA national championship. Every
facility and competition poses unique challenges that require unique solutions, which is why a considerable
amount of time is spent visiting host sites in the years prior to an event. In the end, it comes down to producing fair, challenging conditions capable of identifying a national champion, while also fulfilling the once-in-a-lifetime experience for everyone who qualifies for the competition.
Friday, May 10, 2013
One of the most important daily tasks of a golf course maintenance department is setting up the golf course for play each day. A golf course that is set up properly can be challenging, yet fair and create an experience for golfers that they greatly enjoy. On the other hand, a golf course that is set up poorly or incorrectly can be a complete disaster and can lead to a lot of questions and complaints from the members and patrons of that facility. The entire set up process, starts at the teeing ground and finishes at the hole location on the green. We pride ourselves at Jimmie Austin Golf Club, by creating an experience for each and every one of our members and patrons, by putting a strong focus on our golf course set up methods. In our continued effort to provide an exceptional experience, we have recently purchased and have implemented a new hole location program called ezLocator.
The ezLocator program was created by Jon Schultz of Richardson, TX. He came up with the idea after playing numerous rounds of golf at his home golf course, . After one of his rounds, he and his golf friends were discussing the fact that they were seeing the same pin positions weekend after weekend. That is when John decided to take action and create ezLocator.
One of the great things about ezLocator is the ability to precisely map and track hole locations over an extended period of time. It allows us to utilize the maximum amount of each of our greens and to limit consistent traffic in certain areas. A useful feature that we have recently used, is the ability to isolate certain areas of each green for specific amounts of time. For example, if I have a tournament or championship coming up and I know where the hole locations will be, I can isolate those specific areas of the green and “save” those locations for that specific event. From an agronomic standpoint, I can also isolate areas that are struggling or just need a break from consistent traffic. This will help the overall health of the turf in those specific areas.
By utilizing the ezLocator system and implementing it with our other set up methods, we are adding one more tool to an arsenal of tools that we use each day to provide an exceptional golf course to the members and patrons of our facility. This system is slowly gaining popularity as Merion Golf Club has purchased this product and will be utilizing it when they host the 2013 US Open Championship this June. We will also be utilizing it when we host the 2013 US Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship immediately following the US Open Championship.
This product can have a great impact on Resort and Public Access facilities that receive a lot of play. By using this system, a facility would be able to locate numerous hole locations and use every square inch of pin-able and putt-able areas of their greens. This will help alleviate some of the issues of a heavy traffic golf course.
There is a significant cost associated with the initial start-up of this system, but having purchased and continually using this system, I truly believe the benefits greatly outweigh the costs. I recommend anyone interested in this system, visit the ezLocator website at http://www.goezlocator.com or contact Jon Schultz by phone (972) 231-4040 or by e-mail email@example.com . I assure you, that this system has helped us become a more enjoyable facility, and, I know that it can and will help other facilities as well.
As always any questions, comments or feedback is always appreciated.
We'll see you out there!
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
There is a saying in Oklahoma, "If you don't like the weather here, wait five minutes and it will change!" However, in my profession, these constant fluctuations in the weather patterns makes it extremely difficult to predict when the bermudagrass is going to break dormancy The pictures below are looking down #9 fairway, one year apart on April 15, and depict vastly different golf course conditions.
Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club #9 fairway, April 15, 2012.
As you can see in the photo above, the trees and bermudagrass were actively growing and green. In March of 2012, the temperature was an average of 14 degrees above normal and never dropped below freezing. Additionally, the rainfall was approximately three inches above normal for the month. These optimal conditions created higher soil temperatures, that allowed the bermudagrass and trees to break dormancy and actively grow, while allowing the ryegrass overseed in the fairway to slowly lose its dark green color.
Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club #9 fairway, April 15, 2013.
The differences in the photos from 2012 and 2013 are incredible. As you can see above, the ryegrass overseed is dark green, the bermudagrass is still in the process of breaking dormancy and the trees are just beginning to leaf out. In March of 2013, the temperature was an average of 12 degrees below normal and we had 11 days that were at or below the freezing mark, four of those days the temperature was 25 degrees or lower for several hours. The rainfall for the month of March was also approximately two inches below the average for the month.
This year’s weather has created lower soil temperatures and obviously less than optimal early bermudagrass growing conditions. However, with the recent rainfall and warmer temperatures, the bermudagrass has finally began to break dormancy and begin growing.
We will begin to promote growth with several fertilizer applications in the month of April. However, it will be the beginning of May before the photo on the bottom resembles the one on the top, putting us at least a month behind where we were at this time last year- what a difference the Oklahoma weather can make.
As always, any questions, comments or concerns are always welcome.
We'll see you out there!
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Aerification is the mechanical process of creating air space in the soil that promotes a healthy rooting system for natural turf. Healthy rooting systems are an integral part of a successful golf course management program. Turfgrass on golf courses sustain a significant amount of stress and constant pounding due to foot traffic and maintenance equipment. By removing cores from the compacted soil, an infusion of air, water, and nutrients enhance the turf by bringing a resurgence of growth, and keeping the turf durable during stressful conditions. Failure to perform this simple maintenance can result in poorly drained soil, thin Turfgrass stands, and continued problems with disease.
The Turf Care Facility staff has perfected this process and has it down to an art. We have a multi-step process, that when finished, leaves the green fairly smooth and putt-able.
This year, we are utilizing a Graden Contour Sand Injection unit after we aerify the greens. A Graden Contour Sand Injection unit is an aggressive verticutting machine, that allows the cutting reel to float with the undulations keeping a very consistent depth of operation. The main benefit of sand injection is that as soon as the grooves have been cut, dried sand flows and accurately fills the grooves before any traffic such as footprints or wheels are able to close the grooves.
By utlizing a Graden Contour Sand Injection unit, we are able to remove large quantities of organic material from the greens and replace with fresh sand while not inhibiting recovery times. We have also found that after utilizing this machine, surfaces have instantly been firmed compared to areas cored or not cultivated. Incorporation of this quantity of sand by dragging would have led to rough abrasion on the tender plants, but, by using the Graden Contour Sand Injection unit, it reduces these issues as we ll as having many more benefits.The Graden Contour Sand Injection unit is not a 'miracle cure' but can play a very important role in a Turfgrass Management program.
As always any questions, comments or concern is always appreciated.
We'll see you out there!