#12 @ Wild Horse

#12 @ Wild Horse

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Aeration Already

We will start aerating fairways this Sunday.  We try to accomplish as much of this at night to minimize the effect on play and to finish in the shortest time possible to return the course to "normal."

"Isn't that early to aerate?"  is the question I often get and yes it is but we do it for a couple of reasons.  First my staff is still at full capacity to get this large task done quickly.  Secondly, by this time of summer the fairways are usually in need of some air and water infiltration.  So while it may be a little warm to perform this task it has actually worked quite well for us.  Our turf seems to perk up a little bit after this practice and recovers quicker than it would if done later in the fall.

The rest of the fall aeration schedule is as follows:

August 29-30  Greens surrounds

September 6-7  Tees

October 3-4  Greens

Gnarly "Wooga"

We have been blessed with really great weather this summer.  Lots of rain  (nearly 22 inches in the past 4 months) and only a few really hot days.   The course is really looking good considering it is the first of August.   All that rain has prompted lots of "wooga" growth with the bluestems reaching 6 foot in height.  Unfortunately that has made many areas nearly unplayable prompting the question of "why don't we mow it all?"  If we were to mow it all every year we would start changing the composition of the rough from a variety of grass species  to a limited stand of bromes and bluegrasses.  Yes playability would be better short term but over time the stand would actually become thicker and denser without the variety we desire.  So we are carefully selecting areas and timing of mowing to both improve playability  and maintain a desirable pallet of grasses and forbs.  It is a balance between trying to make the rough more playable and keeping it healthy long-term. 

We are done mowing rough for the summer but will do some again late fall to change up our timing of disturbance.  Prairies are best maintained through disturbances that are not done repeatedly year after year during the same time frame.  Random types of disturbance and timing prevents favoring one species over others thereby maintaining good diversity.  We think our plan is sound but in years like this with excess rain the rough will be very difficult.  My best advice is to keep in the short stuff-we spend lots of time grooming that area in hopes you use it!!

Friday, June 3, 2016


I am sure many of you have seen pictures of the hailstorm that occurred on May 27 at Wild Horse.  Here are some of pictures of mine and explanation of how we went about recovery.

The first 5 pictures show the huge amount of hail that fell.  It was 3-4 inches deep everywhere on 6 and 7 fairway and then waned a bit as you moved north and east but it definitely drifted significantly as you can see in the day after pictures.  Luckily it was pea to nickel sized and did not do any damage to greens.  Its intensity was dramatic though. 

The next 3 pictures illustrate the amount of rainwater that collected in our low spots.  The last of these three pictures shows us still moving water off #1 fairway.  That pump had been running for 12 hours at that point.  There was also another pump on the left side of the fairway for 8 hours and it had just been moved when this picture was taken.  We had 4 inches in our rain gauge and most of that came within 30 minutes.  A true deluge that led to significant runoff.   We ran 4 pumps from 9 PM that  night to 5 PM the next afternoon to move water out of our catch sumps.  We usually need to do some pumping after big rains but the large amount of water with this storm complicated the removal because there was not many places to pump the excess.

The final couple of pictures show the devastation to #6 cart path.  That path was becoming an erosion nightmare anyway so we decided to build a new path up to 7 tee.  The damage to cart paths might have been the biggest issue with this storm. We were able to scrape most of them back into passable shape by the next afternoon.  Some required a few loads of rock and gravel to make them drivable again and while some are still not ideal we continue to work on them as time allows.

Bunkers also eroded badly but we were able to get them back to normal by Tuesday.  Similarly to the cart paths some of them still need some touch up work but are playable once again.

So quite a storm that centered up on Wild Horse but  it is pretty much back to normal.  The hail was definitely picture worthy, but luckily for us it was small and greens damage that could have lingered for a couple of weeks was avoided.


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Greens aerification and rough managment

A rainy day gives me a chance to write up a new post since it has been awhile.  The course is looking pretty good and should really jump next week with some sunshine. 

Next week (May 2 and 3) we will be aerating greens similarly to last fall.  We use a 3/8 tine but go slowly to poke a lot of holes.  Our goal with the numerous holes is to impact a large amount of surface area and give roots lots of growing spaces.  The smaller hole though should be able to fill faster than a larger 1/2" or 5/8" hole like we use in the fairways.  We want to minimize the healing time but still get the agronomic benefits of aeration. 
We went several years without aeration or very small needle tine aeration.  We felt like we were able to manage thatch adequately with topdressing, but our greens were starting to become slightly compacted and the root structure was declining so we have implemented this new regime of spring and fall greens aeration.  We know you all hate having to putt bumpy greens but we are confident that our greens will be better off because of this practice.  In fact we are already seeing improved rooting due to last falls' aerification. 
Everyone wants to know how long until greens will return to "normal" after an aerification.   That is always tricky and depends quite a bit on the weather.  Soil temperatures are still a bit cool which can hamper recovery but we are hopeful for a warm week following the process which would improve recovery.   Usually within a week putting quality is pretty good and within 14 days the greens are pretty much healed.  We make every attempt to heal them by timing fertilizer applications to promote accelerated growth right after the process.  Also we may skip a mowing or two to help them maximize their growth potential.  This can lead to slower greens for a few days but the "back to normal" will be realized sooner.

I apologize for not having a picture of the next topic discussion but it is pretty easy to see if you have been out here.  I am referring to the brown strip around the edge of first cut of rough.   Late last fall we applied roundup to kill the unwanted bluegrass that was dominating this interface between rough and fairway.  By spraying late in the season the native warm season grasses that we want are not harmed and only the cool season bluegrass and bromes are killed.   It may look like it is all dead in that strip but there will be some warm season grasses come back in there as the season progresses.  Unfortunately there are some areas that were nearly 100% bluegrass that will be pretty bare for awhile but over time natives will reestablish.   The other problem with having open ground is the potential for weeds but we will try to keep them under control through the season.  

You can read more about our rough management philosophy in a previous post but our goal with this process is to avoid the rough becoming too thick along the edge of the fairways.   It may take a few years to get to the composition of grasses we want in that area but in the meantime it should make for easier ball spotting and playability.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Course Update

Usually March is a hurry up and wait kind of a month for our maintenance practices.  You want to get going with mowing, fertilizing, aerification, and such but the turf really isn't ready for it due to the normal March schizophrenic weather.   This year has been a bit different though with several nice days to get some projects done.  As usual this time of year we have been doing some touchups on bunkers and cart paths, but we have also been able to get some minor sodwork done around the edges of some greens to replace some weak turf and eliminate some ridging along the green/collar interface.   Also we reshaped a couple of areas to eliminate runoff into bunkers most noticeably along the left edge of #1 green.   New tees on #15 and 17 have been shaped and await seed once the time arrives for that.  Yesterday we pulled off our prescribed burn and blackened a good majority of the course.  And we have even got a jumpstart on fairway aerification due to the early spring.   So I am quite pleased with all we have accomplished this month which usually isn't all that productive.

We have mowed greens three times now, but are still waiting to mow fairways and tees.   They tend to green up and then sit there and don't do much until soil temps climb into the 50s.  All is looking good and we should start mowing consistently in a couple of weeks.

Leopard Greens

There has been a couple questions asking about the yellow spots on the greens.  Those spots are poa annua that we dabbed Roundup on to get rid of.  Early in the season the poa gets a head start on the bentgrass making it easier to pick out the clusters of poa to target with nonselective herbicides.  We have worked hard to keep our greens relatively free of poa through our cultural practices and this is another way to keep poa populations to a minimum.   As you may have noticed some greens have more poa than others and there may seem like lots of spots because they are so noticeable, but the overall population of poa is under 1%.  As the course ages, poa will continue to invade but we will always be trying to keep it out to maintain high quality pure bentgrass greens.  These spots are much like ball marks and will fill in with bentgrass when the turf starts actively growing.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Green Greens Already!

Here's a picture of our first greensmowing of the year-- Looking pretty good.  This took place on March 3 easily the earliest we have ever mowed.  Most years our first mowing occurs around the 20-25th of March.  Last year with the severe winter and cold spring was the latest first mowing and that occurred on April 5.   Definitely ahead of schedule this year and turf looking good.

Below is a picture of a covered knob on #7 green.  It looks worse than the rest of the green which is not usually the case for covered turf but it can and has happened a couple of other years.   This is one reason we are not gung-ho on covering all our greens.  During warmer winters the turf can stay too active under the covers and continue to use soil moisture leading to dessication.  Or the still active turf can get hit by a cold snap that it hasn't prepared itself for.   So while covers are often beneficial  they do not guarantee turf survival in all winters.   The damage you see below is pretty superficial but recovery will take some time.   A couple more days under that cover without water though and that turf would have been toast.