#12 @ Wild Horse

#12 @ Wild Horse

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Ball Roll Study

I attended an interesting session on greens trueness and measuring that parameter while at the Golf Industry Show.   For many years now golfers and superintendents (even though they won't admit) have been closely monitoring green speeds which has become somewhat of an evaluation critique of greens conditions.  Fast greens=good; slow greens=bad.  That really shouldn't be the end-all measure of a green.  In my mind a smooth, uninterrupted, straight-tracking roll of the ball is indicative of a good green.  This is referred to as the trueness of the green.  But how do you measure such?  Doug Linde from Delaware Valley University set out to find a way.   One method was simply to observe the ball roll and determine the number of hops and/or snaking action the ball made as it rolled.  There were obvious differences from one course to another as expected.  The other method of evaluating trueness was using a "putting device" similar to a stimpmeter to roll a ball from eight feet into a hole.  In that case 90-100% of the balls rolled "true" into the cup no matter which green they were on.  So that measurement could not statistically differentiate between greens like the visual assessment did.  Even after greens had been aerated 90% of the balls rolled into the cup with this device proving that a well struck putt will nearly always go into the hole no matter the green condition.  For comparison sake the average 10 handicapper will make 27% and the average pro will make over 60% of that same 8 foot putt.

So what do these studies prove?  First is that there is a difference in trueness of ball roll easily determined by the naked eye.  You have probably noticed that if you have played different courses.  We all strive to get that perfect billiard ball roll on a green but it may not happen.   However, the second study proved that even if ball roll isn't perfectly smooth, putts can still be consistently holed with the proper stroke. 

We have always prided ourselves on having the "truest" greens around and have felt that the golfers appreciated it.  The "eye test" certainly is important to the golfers evaluation of greens condition, but what may be more important is that no matter how "untrue" the ball roll appears it is still possible to putt it in the hole.   So next time you have to play on aerated greens remember that the most important aspect to making putts is a consistent stroke.

Thursday, February 16, 2017


The apocalypse might be near as I have joined Twitter.    I have always been hesitant to join Facebook,Twitter, Instagram and other social media, just because so much information on it is useless.  But I also realize that there is a lot of great information that can be valuable to me and others. I hope to use it to give updates on course conditions here at Wild Horse and also highlight other golf related topics.  So follow me @Josh Mahar5 to get some what I hope is useful info! 

Warm Weather

Amazing stretch of weather we are having.  What does that mean for the golf course?  It is always scary to have big warmups in February because the turf can start to grow and then you can get a major cold snap.  These wide swings in temperature during dormancy break can be potentially dangerous, but it appears there are no below zero type arctic chills ahead in the near future.  Also the ground is thawing and there is adequate moisture to avoid desiccation.  So this unseasonal weather isn't scaring me as much as it could in other years.  We have been watering greens with our deep-line system just to be safe, and they appear in good shape as of now.

Crazy as it seems, we are likely to start charging up the regular irrigation system today.  That will be one of the earliest charge-ups ever.  There was a year we irrigated on February 10.  Unfortunately it was  necessary to blowout again, but the turf was extremely dry that winter and needed irrigation badly.  We are not in dire need of irrigation right now, but it looks like by next week if this trend continues our turf might need a drink so we will be ready.

We have considered opening the course early on a limited basis but at this point we are sticking with our normal March 1 opening date.

Enjoy this spring-like weather and hope it gets you in the mood for golf.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017


Just got back from attending the Golf Industry Show and as always it has me excited to start to the season.  So too does this nice weather!! 

The biggest takeaway from the education sessions I attended was that the old way of doing things is now the new way!  Golf experienced great growth in the 80s and 90s and maintenance budgets were flush.  The level of maintenance and "extras" zoomed skyward and it became an arms race in conditioning.  Then 9/11 happened, the economy dipped, and supply overtook demand in the golf market.  Maintenance budgets leveled or constricted causing much angst among superintendents.  But in reality this reduction in resources might actually be a good thing.  Staffs have been reduced making prioritization critical to success.  "Fluff" outside of the playing surfaces is no longer a high priority.  Fertilizer and chemical applications are more scrutinized and watering practices are more conservative.  These thing together have a positive impact on protecting the environment.

I never liked the idea of over maintaining a course so it is refreshing to see many courses reverting to amore conservative style of maintenance before the golf boom.  Obviously there is a sliding scale of maintenance from Augusta to the local 9-holer, but overall sustainability is the buzzword. 

Wild Horse was built before sustainable became the buzzword in golf course maintenance but we have done many things that help it stay that way.  What are some of those ideals?  First and foremost is that the soil is great and we were able to build push-up greens thereby eliminating internal drainage and a special greens soil mix that might need to be replaced someday.  Also this allows us a never-ending supply of free topdressing.   Secondly the emphasis was on the playing corridors and the rest was left natural.  Therefore we can concentrate our irrigation and agronomic practices on the playing surfaces.  Also the climate helps keep pesticide inputs especially fungicides to a minimum. So Wild Horse has some built-in features that make it sustainable but we compliment those with our maintenance practices.  Our turf is kept lean and fertilized only to satisfy its needs.  Irrigation is used only to replenish evapotranspiration.  We try to run a lean crew also to keep our labor costs down.  All of these things make us "sustainable" which simply means that our resources i.e. water, fertilizer, pesticides, equipment, and money will not run out during Wild Horse's existence and the environment will continue to support our golfing grounds.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017


Not a whole lot new on the golf course as of late so here are some random musings to entertain your thoughts in the middle of winter.

Wild Horse has been blanketed with snow for over a week now which is a plus for our turf.  In addition it has received a couple of rains.   Rain in December and January in Nebraska?  Another sign of global warming?  Maybe, maybe not, but it seems  clear that the earth is warming considering the last few years' record temperatures.  How much man's influence is having on the weather is up for debate but most impartial observers would concur that the past few years have been extremely warm worldwide.  Perhaps the ice storms so prevalent in Oklahoma and Kansas will become more abundant here in Nebraska.  Lets hope not! but at least last week's storm moved on quickly and the moisture was good for the turf.

Winter is Conference and Show time for the turf professional and I recently attended the Nebraska Turfgrass Conference.  After you have been to these for 20+ years it is hard to come up with much new on the turf front but each session provokes evaluation of our current program and how we might improve it.   Many times though the most interesting sessions cover subjects other than turf but are relevant to our profession.   Here are some of the most interesting tidbits from those sessions:

In a session about retirement I learned about distributing your retirement income efficiently.  Most retirement discussions focus on building wealth for retirement but this was different.  How will you distribute that wealth once you retire?

There are no native earthworms anymore.   They have all been replaced by European species that have naturalized here.

One of our commonly used insecticides for grubs (imidacloprid) is 1/2 as toxic as caffeine.  Most chemicals get a bad rap but are really very safe!

A TV meteorologist provided insight into forecasting.  For those of you who have a keen interest in weather google Bering Sea Rule  and North Atlantic Oscillation Index which can provide clues for our weather here in the northern plains up to 2 weeks in advance.

The beetles are coming!  The beetles are coming!!  Emerald ash borers are now in Nebraska and will probably move west endangering all ash trees.  You may have seen this in the news and it will have a very damaging impact on our landscape.

Growing degree day models are becoming more important to turf managers for plant growth regulator applications, insect issues and disease prediction.  We have used these for awhile and modeling is becoming better at pinpointing application schedules.  Timing in turf management as in life is everything!

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln continues to be a strong turf research school and just built a new research facility on east campus.  It also is developing students for the real world through a rigorous internship program.   I'm proud to be a graduate of such a highly regarded program!

Golf architecture is heavily influenced by a superintendent's work.  How a course is presented greatly influences the design intent of each hole.

These are just a few of the various ideas presented during the conference.  Many did not have to do with turf management directly but golf course management is much more than just turf.  Many disciplines play a significant role in my job here at Wild Horse.  Hope these tidbits got you to thinking about anything!  Thinking is good!


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Season's Over

Yes it's that time of year again.  Time for that bucking bronco Wild Horse to finally slow down and take a nap.  It was a really great year for golf at Wild Horse.  The course came through last winter superbly and conditions were excellent all year.   We hope you enjoyed your many rounds out here this season. 

Winter can be a stressful time for turf with its cold drying winds and unpredictable nature.  We have discussed previously the hazards of wintertime and it is usually an anxious time for us as we have to "take what we get" for weather.  There are no guarantees to winter survival and many variables that might factor into the turf's vigor come spring, but we do a few things that hopefully help our turf winter well.

1)  Fall Aerification--We want a strong healthy plant going into winter and this process helps build a good root structure that can support a plant through stressful times.

2)  Fall Fertilization--Once again this helps build a healthy plant.

3)  Less Mowing--As you noticed this fall the grass got longer and shaggier which was by design.  The more leaf surface area a plant has the more carbohydrates it can produce.  These sugars accumulate in the crown of the plant creating a sugary antifreeze which protects this critical growing point from freezing.

4)  Heavy Topdressing--This serves to protect the crown of the plant from cold temps and dehydration much like a blanket protects you from the winter chill. 

5)  Fall Irrigation--Although grass plants have very little activity during the winter season, there could be warm spells during our winters that turf might actually uptake some water so ample soil moisture can be beneficial.

6)  Winter  Irrigation--This helps maintain crown moisture levels.  UNL Turf Team has done some research recently that shows a critical level of crown moisture must be maintained to prevent damage.

7)  Snowmaking--This once again acts as a blanket to protect the plant from severe cold.  Also maintains a proper crown moisture level.

8)  No Golf-  Traffic can create more stress on the turf and while it may now directly injure the grass, the added stress can be the tipping point between life and death.  There has been research that shows that excessive traffic can compromise crown health by crushing/damaging it enough to loose valuable moisture.

So there are several practices we perform to keep our turf plants happy and healthy through the winter.  Is one more key than another?  Probably not, but together these steps can help get our turf through its most stressful period of the year.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Business as Usual

Not much to report at Wild Horse other than we are moving quickly into fall which means the turf and golfing conditions are nearing their prime.  We have finished aerating fairways, tees and collars and the turf is healed up and looking good.  We won't aerate greens until October 3 so you have plenty of time to get in a great round here at Wild Horse under ideal conditions.

We have been pleased with the course conditions for the whole year, but maybe you have seen something we need to address.  Sometimes feedback is necessary to get better or address a situation we may have missed.  So if something seems amiss let us know so we can try to do better. jmahar@live.com

There is still plenty to do before the snow flies but the hectic summer season is slowing down for our maintenance team.  As mowing slows down for the season, we have other tasks to keep us busy.  We plan to mow down some more rough in October to allow some of the cool season natives a chance to get going early next spring and just to clean up the extra "hay" the rain made this year!  Also you will probably notice me on the sprayer a lot this fall as it is the time when we target poa annua and poa trivialis (unwanted grasses).   But every spray is not full of pesticides as many applications will be foliar fertilizer to boost turf health as we head into winter.  Also there will be a few bunkers that need excavated and refilled with new sand as they are starting to get too "dirty" from rain runoff that carries sediment into them.  Also we hope to get some more irrigation tweaks done before winter. 

We as a maintenance team hope we have added to your experience here at Wild Horse by providing a fun, well conditioned course to play on this year and will continue to look for ways to improve the course and your golfing experience.