February 17--It seems like I get the "Are you doing anything new this year?" question as the season starts. Most of the time the answer is "no, not really" which answers their question accurately because they are talking about anything new that they will instantly notice. No new tees, filling in 16 bunkers, or cutting 10 inch holes are planned so it is true nothing new is in store this year that will drastically change the course. That said though we continually look to tweak and improve our agronomic programs from year to year. There are some minor changes that you probably won't notice but should help the course in the long term. In actuality the most crucial part of our program is diligence and persistence whether it be pest control, cultivation, proper fertilization, etc. So the key to keeping turf at its highest level is not a magic bullet or "something new" but a continued, consistent program. That is why you see us doing many of the same things i.e. aeration, topdessing, etc. year after year. The biggest mistake to be made is thinking our turf looks good so we can skip this or that. So expect to see us doing many of the same practices but we hope to do them a little better and more efficiently each year.
We are excited about the upcoming season. Some of the projects we have worked on the past few years should really show their benefits this season. The greens surrounds transition to bluegrass and ryegrass although not fully complete is going well and should provide excellent playing conditions this summer. Our sand traps have been much better in terms of playability and shape due to our continued focus on them during the fall. We often reshape, excavate if necesssary, and refill bunkers as needed and they are much better than 10 years ago. No one is ever happy with bunker conditions but we have tried to make them penal (as was their design) but recoverable with a good shot. Our irrigation controller upgrade last year went smoothly and this winter has given me time to fine-tune that program. We expect to utilize it to its fullest potential this year and while it may be difficult for the golfer to discern we are able to irrigate more efficiently and use less water. This should subtly lead to better overall turf conditions. Another improvement over the years has been in the "wooga". Our goal when we started burning on a regular basis was to reduce the bluegrass population, control unwanted weeds like sandburrs and ragweed, and make the rough more playable. Although the playability of the rough can be an issue during high precipitation years we think we have accomplished most of those goals. Can it be better? Yes, but the health of the prairie in terms of plant diversity and the aesthetic value of the native flora is much better than when we first started banging balls around this pasture.