Saturday, May 30, 2015
Here is a turf lesson in simple terms.
FCO greens are primarily Annual Bluegrass AKA-Poa annua. Poa is a winter annual and is considered a ‘weed’ in the turf industry. This turf is very susceptible to winter damage due to its low tolerance to cold temperatures and its extremely high susceptibility to ice damage. Over the course of winter, there are 5 main causes of winterkill that we watch for.
1) Low Temperature.
2) Desiccation (death from the drying during winter)
3) Ice Accumulation
4) Crown Hydration
How does this relate to FCO and primarily #2,#11 and #14 Greens you ask? Last winter, we had several freeze thaw cycles through the months and this actually causes the potential for damage to increase on the putting surface. Add opening the course and playing on frozen greens (like we did the first week of February) on the top and we’re increasing the risk to damage the greens. On top of playing on frozen greens, the three greens mentioned are located at the low points of the property meaning all moisture will drain and accumulate to these areas. During the day the snow would melt and surface drain down the fairway and collect on the low points of the greens. At night, the water would freeze and turn to ice. Over a 2 week period, those areas accumulated a 5-7” layer of ice which prevents gas exchange which limits the oxygen and increases carbon dioxide to toxic levels creating turf loss.
What can do we do to prepare the greens for winter? Before we shut down, we apply a heavy layer of sand (topdress) to the greens. In doing this, we are attempting to protect the crown of the plant (the growing point) which decreases our chance for winter kill. We also protect the plant with a fungicide so we avoid Pink and Grey Snow Mold.
What was done this Spring when the issue was identified? We seeded these areas 2x, topdressed, needle tined and fertilized. Those are all the correct steps to bring the green back, BUT we continued to allow foot traffic on these areas causing any seedlings that germinated to get destroyed by foot traffic. With the extremely wet and cool spring, this was not a successful route. Those greens needed to be roped off and ALL traffic should have been eliminated. We eventually got to a point where sod was the only way to repair the greens so they are playable for summer. We used our nursery green to repair #2 & #11 and they are healing nicely. We decided to strip ALL of #14 and bring in sod from a sod farm and re-grass the entire area.
How long will they be GUR or Closed? #2 & #11 were completed 11 days ago. The roots are just beginning to take and I envision this to be open in the next 10 days. I am NOT going to rush opening the area and lose all progress we made. #14 will be closed for a minimum of 2-3 weeks (open for Fun Fest for sure). The sod needs to ‘take’ (root) and then I will need time to mow down and prepare like all the other greens.
I am going to reach out to ISTRIC which is a soil testing company and get some tests run on my greens. There may be an underlying issue with what’s going on. They will run some in depth tests and give strong recommendations on aerification, topdressing materials, fertilizer, etc. This will not be cheap, but will only improve the condition of the greens. It has to be done. Also, I have set up a meeting with a seed salesman and he is going to give a recommendation on what type of seed we should be using and we will create and aggressive overseeding program in attempt to incorporate more bentgrass in the greens.
In closing, over my 3+ years at FCO we have made HUGE strides to improve this facility. The issue that we are dealing with now in VERY stressful and know I am doing everything in my power to repair these greens. I need/will change my management philosophies and do more to protect this course. I have been too ‘player friendly’ and it’s not helping. I have heard hundreds of times “this is how we always do it” and “we’ve always opened first” and honestly, that’s not getting us anywhere. We need to do things for the right reason and not because its what’s been done in the past. There will be push back from a group of members, but I will take that rather than what we’re dealing with now.
Posted by Nick Leu at 7:34 AM