#12 @ Wild Horse

#12 @ Wild Horse

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Spring? Expectations

Winter is hanging on with no end in sight.  Looking at the forecast for the next ten days and there are no highs above freezing.  That means Wild Horse will be closed until at least St. Patrick's Day and probably beyond.  Luckily we have snow covering our turf during this latest cold snap.  

We are as anxious as you to get out and get started on the season.  What can you expect this spring?
Well the winter has been hard on people but the ample moisture and snow cover should bode well for the greens.  Most years require some winter irrigation, but that was not necessary this year and the turf remained under a snow blanket for much of the winter.  We remain optimistic about the condition of the greens once spring arrives.
There is likely to be some ice damage due to extended periods of snow and ice in some of our bowls in fairways.  It is difficult to tell the extent at this time.  The link provided above tells you more about this kind of damage that will occur two years in a row after not so in over 10 years.  Thus the difficulty judging winter's affect on the turf.

Also expect some thinning on fairways #1, 6, 7, 12, 14 due to our aggressive Poa control efforts late last fall.  You can read more about that here .  This thinning is patchy and occurs where there was a predominance of ryegrass and Poa.  These areas will be reseeded if damage is extensive enough, but most spots will fill in with the surviving bluegrass.   Extra fertilizer will be applied to these areas to facilitate recovery.  Turf will be slow to recover however, until good growing conditions arrive in May. The first couple of times you play it may be noticeable but by mid-May they should be back and better than ever.

Our cart path work was cut a bit short last fall by the snow and cold, and we haven't been able to make any progress this winter so expect some piles of material and bumpy paths in a few spots this spring as we try to finish up some of that work.  Erosion has cut many paths over 1.5 feet and we are trying to replace that material lost especially around tees to alleviate the large step-up to some tees.  We plan to install steps (like on 13 tee) on #4 green/silver tee to make that tee more accessible.  Hopefully the fill on the rest of the paths will help around those more difficult to access teeing areas.  Bear with us as we try to improve those paths.

Aeration schedule will be similar this spring as in years past:

April 1-April 12-- Fairways (one or two holes per da)

April 15-16 --       Greens surrounds

April 22-23--       Tees

May 6-7--           Greens (mini-tines similar to last fall)

Monday, January 21, 2019

Turf Conference Presentation

I was honored to be asked to give a presentation at the Nebraska Turfgrass Conference.  Dr. Bill Kreuser of UNL thought the attendees could garner something from our innovative way to introduce more bluegrass into existing fairways.  We also talked about our management of our bluegrass/ryegrass fairways and how we try to keep them Poa-free, but the main focus was on our transition from fescue/bentgrass surrounds to bluegrass.  You can read more about that in this previous post.
This kind of transition to bluegrass from any other established stand of fescue, ryegrass, or bentgrass had not been very successful previously for most turf managers.  We were able to utilize a new chemical (Tenacity) to achieve a great bluegrass stand that has improved the playability around the greens.

As time goes on new chemistries become available to help us attack problems, but we also lose some older chemistries that allow new problems to arise.  It is a never ending search for the best management practices given a set of resources.

Tenacity at work 3 years ago

Rows of bluegrass coming up here

Friday, January 18, 2019

Turf Conference

I attended the annual Nebraska Turfgrass Conference in Omaha this past week.  It is always a good networking opportunity that reveals much about the state of our industry.
The most discussed topic was the difficulty in finding good help whether that be general laborers or qualified Assistants and Mechanics.  Turf programs are putting out very few students now and assistants and internships are going largely unfilled.  If you want a summer diversion you could easily intern at some great clubs like Pebble Beach or Pine Valley.  There are several reasons for this lack of qualified people but three main ones stand out.  Golf participation has been stagnant so the building of new courses and new opportunities are limited for turf grads.  The tightening of the golf market has also reduced resources at many courses limiting the pay scale for assistants and mechanics.  Combine these two main issues and it is hard to persuade people to pursue a superintendent career when they may be stuck as an assistant for several years making a barely feasible wage.  Finally, golf course maintenance is work and sometimes requires long hours and dedication that many youngsters do not find appealing.

I have been fortunate to have two long time assistants/mechanics during my tenure here at Wild Horse.  That stability and experience definitely helps produce a better product on the course.  As far as workers are concerned we have shifted from a younger staff to a workforce of retirees.  That has been of necessity as high schoolers have more activities and less time for work.  But also the younger people have shown little interest in our summer crew positions as of late.

Golf course superintendents are having to be creative in finding and keeping staff.  Flexibility in scheduling is critical as is being more wage competitive.  Also efficiency is of utmost importance because crews are smaller and less experienced than ever.  Being a good manager is key to utilizing worker resources most effectively.
I am always proud of our crew that does their best to keep Wild Horse at its best.  I ask you to thank them when you see them this summer.  They are becoming a more rare breed all the time!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Winter Work

Wild Horse received a nice blanket of snow in early December and it has remained on the ground covering the entire course up until now.  We feel like if we get one month of snow cover during the entire winter, our turf survival is much greater.  Snow has been on the ground for two weeks now so we are off to a great start.

Late fall had us busy with cart paths but that got cut short by some cold temps in November and ultimately this last snow. We will be back at it in the spring.  Our focus is on smoothing the transitions from path to fairways to avoid that annoying "BUMP" you receive as you travel over.  These areas are in need of constant attention as erosion continues its timeless work on unturfed areas.  Also we will be building up some paths around tee boxes that have lost lots of material to wind or water erosion.  Hopefully this will make the access to these boxes (4 and 13 in particular) a bit easier.  Nearly 2 feet of material has blown away in the last 20 years-a slow but constant change that needs to be addressed this spring.

Once the weather turned cold we have moved inside for our work.  Our most important task is to service our mowers and sharpen reels.  Reel and bedknife grinding is the cornerstone to good quality cutting units so we are diligent in making sure each reel is ready to perform come spring.  I enjoy grinding reels so that is my task while mechanic Todd disassembles and reassembles them and replaces bearings and seals as needed.  Here's a short video of the grinding process.

We also go through all accessories like rakes, trash cans, signs, tee markers, etc and repair and paint those.  Not all that interesting but necessary. 

Hoping you all have a great holiday season and Santa leaves you a new putter in your stocking!

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Bleach Blonde

We are still maintaining the course under normal conditions but starting soon we will be raising the height of cut on greens and minimizing mowing to let the grass get ready for winter.   Greens aeration awaits on October 15, but we will be using small solid tines so putting quality should be OK for the remainder of the month.

As you have seen if you have been out to Wild Horse lately we have been dyeing our hair (turf).  (Unfortunately I haven't taken a picture of it to show).  No it's not the peroxide used by you wanna be beach blondes.  It is a chemical called Tenacity that has turned 1, 6, 7, 12, and 14 fairways white.  This is an attempt to control Poa annua as we head into winter.  The bleaching is most pronounced on the ryegrass and the bluegrass is unaffected so it is quite interesting to see the different types of grasses exhibit their reaction to this chemical.  What looks mostly uniform under normal conditions is now a patchwork of green, yellow-white, to bleach white turf.  Again the bluegrass handles this chemical well, but the ryegrass can struggle with it especially in higher traffic areas like on 12 fairway.  Some ryegrass will be sacrificed and the remaining bluegrass will fill in.  I liken this process to cancer chemo or radiation where you go to the brink to kill the bad cells which can really make a person feel sick but the end result is the bad cells (Poa in this turf case) are killed off and the remaining good cells can thrive.

We have also done this application on greens surrounds but they do not show as much whitening because of a higher population of bluegrass, less cart traffic, and also less compaction.  Our goal is to clean these up so they look really good next spring minus the poa seedheads.

We have always focused our poa control program in the fall using Prograss, but we are mixing in more Tenacity this fall for a change in chemistry to fight resistance.  We will still be using Prograss in certain areas this fall and look forward to trying a new chemical next spring in our battle against Poa.  It takes diligence and persistence to try to keep fairways and greens as poa free as possible, but it is a long term program that can keep poa populations at a minimum.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Fall Aerification Schedule

I guess we are rounding the corner into fall.  School is starting next week and so too does our fall aerification (even though it is summer)!

The schedule and technique is similar to prior years, but we will be utilizing our new toy-a larger beast of an aerator.  It should be more reliable and productive minimizing the time it takes to get this critical process done.  Cleanup of plugs still requires dry weather to facilitate the breaking and blowing of cores, but we hope to be able to get out of your way as quickly as possible.

August 12-16  Fairways with our normal 5/8" coring tine.  We do 2-4 holes per day.

August 27-28  Greens surrounds with same 5/8" tine.  Front nine one day back the next.  If you play later in the day you can avoid most of this "mess".

August 6-7  Tees

October 15-16  Greens with solid mini-tine so not much disruption.

We try to do as little as possible to greens during prime golfing season thus our early and late greens aerification dates.  We hope we can continue that and still accomplish what we need for the turf  and still give good conditions during peak season.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Oh much too long

Nope not talking about the wooga (although it is) but about the time since last blog post.  I apologize for not being more diligent about getting a post written.

Thanks to those who have attended the course tours this year.   We keep hoping for more attendees but we are starting to gain a few more followers.  Attendees have responded favorably to these sessions so hopefully these tours are educating and informing.  Last month’s topic was greens management from A to Z.  We even divulged a couple of our top secret maintenance practices!  And broke out the stimpmeter for some fun.  Hopefully you can make it to our next tour sometime in August.

Some topics from previous tours included aerification techniques and their necessity, a look at some ice damage (seems like long ago), our greens construction here at Wild Horse, wooga management, irrigation and mowing schedules, and a look at some of our hole design intent.  So you can see we cover all kinds of topics in an hour.

One question we received was about our mowing heights on fairways.  We cut our fairways at 7/16"  just below 1/2" which is what I would consider a standard height of cut on fairways.  People often comment on the "tightness" of our fairways.  This is probably more a product of our management rather than height of cut.  Lean ferility, judicious irrigation (not overwatering), and a good quality of cut is what keeps our fairways tight.  For some people the small amount of grass under the ball is intimidating but in our opinion is the best way to manage a linksy, bouncy golf course.

The course is really looking good this late in summer. We had a stretch where we had several irrigation issues and the course got a little too dry.  Cart tracks and severe browning occurred on hills. We like to keep it dry but that stretch was too hot and too long between irrigation cycles. We got through it and the course revovered nicely with a welcome rain.

Hard to believe but aerification is just around the corner wih fairway aerification starting August 12. We will post the fentire  schedule in a future post so you can plan accordingly.   We will be using a new aerator this fall and are extremely excited to see its productivity in action.

 Appreciate all of you who have travelled to see WIld Horse this summer and if you haven’t made it we hope to see you soon.