#12 @ Wild Horse

#12 @ Wild Horse

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.


Saturday, July 30, 2016

Aerification 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.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Aerification Schedule

Wow, spring has sprung which means aerification is just around the corner.  Here are some dates we plan on poking holes to help you schedule your golfing days to avoid our "mess".

April 5-6 Greens surrounds (one nine per day)

April 7-15  Fairways (couple of holes per day)

May 2-3  Greens  (one nine per day/ other nine will be closed)  3/8" holes should be healed in about a week

We do our very best to get this done as quickly as possible and recover the turf so play disruption is minimal.  Aeration is the cornerstone to building a great turf so we appreciate your patience and understanding when we perform this necessary task.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Opening Day

Wild Horse will be opening on schedule March 1 with carts allowed.  Each opening day brings anticipation from you the golfer but we as a maintenance  staff are always anxious to get back in the swing of things too.  Here are some reasons we are excited to begin another great season of golf at Wild Horse.

1)  The turf is looking great!  Winter has been much more kind to us this year so greens and fairways should be coming into spring in fine shape.

2)  New greensmowers!  We just received a new model of greensmower that we are anxious to use this season.  While there will be some minor differences to adjust to for us, this new mower style should provide an even better quality of cut resulting in a smoother putting surface.  With the recent weather we might get to use them earlier than ever!

3)  A bolstered fairway mowing fleet.  We purchased a used fairway mower to give us more reliability and flexibility in our fairway mowers.  Our fairway area of 54 acres is nearly double that of most other courses.  We spend around 800 hours mowing fairways in a season so having dependable equipment is crucial.  

4)  A completed transition to bluegrass/ryegrass greens surrounds.   We have talked about this often in other posts and we are thrilled with how well this transition has went.  While it might not seem like too big a deal to many of you, switching turf species with relatively little disruption is tricky but will pay dividends long term in how we manage that turf and how it affects playability around the greens.

5)  Better looking bunkers.  This is a subtle nuance that you will probably not notice.  However a before and after picture would clearly detail the last fall's renovation of some of the bunkers to a more rugged look.   Over time bunker edges had become too "smooth"  so we tried to return them to the blowout styled edges that were originally conceived by the designers.

6)  An intact staff.  I am very lucky to have a great group of guys that really like coming to work and take pride in providing a great product for you to enjoy.   Many have been with me for a few years and I am happy to say they all return for 2016.

7)  Last but most exciting for our facility is that the lodging cabins are nearly complete and ready for your stay.  This is a whole new venture for Wild Horse that we think will add to your experience here.

Monday, February 8, 2016


It's been several years since we have had a snowstorm like we had last week.  I forgot how much snow can pile up in certain places as seen in the picture just above.  It took us an hour to get this far on the cart path from the parking lot to #1 tee.   We will continue to clear out some cart paths so that we can start to get around the course and possibly be ready for carts on March 1.  That is still a long ways off so we will see what Mother Nature deals us in the weeks to come.

The top picture shows #1.  As you can see all is white except the fairway and green.   The second picture shows #9 green completely void of snow.  The wind whipped all 10" of snow off the turf and deposited it in the rough or beyond.   So all the benefit of a good snow was unfortunately negated by the strong winds.  The turf only has 25% coverage and greens even less than that with 10% covered.  That being said the turf still looks pretty good at this point of the winter.  We are looking forward to getting back out on the course and starting up the golf season. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

What we like to see

Here is what we like to see in the middle of winter.   A nice snow cover on all of the turf on hole #1.  It was not a heavy snow but it provided some moisture and cover everywhere.  The turf is looking pretty good so far this winter.

I welcome any questions or inquiries about what we do or why we do it a certain way.  I can continue to write about what I find interesting on the course but really want to hit topics that you find intriguing.   As we progress through the winter I hope to keep updating consistently to get you in the mood for golfing this spring.  Feel free to email me at jmahar@live.com with topics you might want to learn about here at Wild Horse.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Rough management and playability

One of the most difficult areas to manage on the course for proper playability is the rough or "Wooga".  The rough should be somewhat penal as that is inherently its role.   Our feeling is that a shot into the rough should be findable but cost the golfer a half shot.  By that we mean the golfer should be able to advance the ball back into the fairway but not all the way up to near the green (thus a half shot penalty).   Sometimes our rough can be more unforgiving than that.   While we try to address that concern through burning, haying, and irrigation management there are some situations that are out of our control that can lead to difficult playing options.
One of the most common complaints we hear is that the rough is thickest along the edge of the fairway so a small miss is more penal than a big miss.  That is definitely not fair or preferable to us.  Much of the blame goes to errant irrigation but that is mostly untrue.  While some spots do receive irrigation overspray from sprinklers we have really tried hard over the last few years to eliminate that as much as possible by moving sprinklers in or out for more precise coverage.  There will still be some drift but it is minimal. 
One of the biggest problems for that area along the edge of the rough is seen below.  It is the amount of snow that piles up along those areas.   Wind sweeps snow off the fairway and deposits it along the edge.   A couple of these events can deposit 2-3 inches of extra moisture in that strip which can mean the difference between playable rough and unfair rough.   There is not much we can do about snow blowing into the rough but we have started periodically mowing a couple of swaths around the outside of the primary rough cut to make that strip more even with the rest of the rough.   Also this fall we aggressively applied glyphosate (Roundup)  to those areas to thin out the bluegrass that wants to thrive in that wetter environment. 
There will always be some luck as to the lie you might get in the wooga but we are cognizant of the conditions out there and try to make them as fair as possible while still maintaining the look of a links course with "unmaintained' rough.

Snow blown into edge of rough


It was nice to hear from some of you that missed my blog when its tab was put under the members login section.  Now it is easily accessed from the main page.  You have not missed much as there hasn't been a new post in over 3 months-shame on me!!  I appreciate hearing that there are a few avid followers which will motivate me to be more timely with my posts.

It is the dead of winter now and while we haven't had much snow here at Wild Horse the little bit we have had has been good cover.  For the most part it laid down pretty well and provided decent protection for the greens.   Also the mild December without many real cold overnight lows has kept the turf a bit green and looking good for the end of the calendar year.

We have started a new process this year to try to avoid the calamity of winterkill we experienced last year.  It is SNOWMAKING!!
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Snowmaking on #2 Green

We are very new to this process and are learning as we go about what kind of conditions are necessary to make good snow, the equipment necessary to do it, and other little things that can complicate a relatively simple process if all goes well.  We have not done much snowmaking this year because the first half of December was too mild even at night to do much.   Since then we have had some snowcover provided by Mother Nature, but are starting to lose that now and will probably try to get some snow laid down in the next couple of weeks.  

So why make snow?   Because it seems we never get much snow anymore!!   Even this year when many places north and west and also east have received snowfall we have been mostly left out.  And we know from experience that snow is the best insulator against cold temperatures and also provides moisture when it melts.   So we thought what better way to "cover" greens than with snow rather than expensive, labor intensive greens covers.   Will this guarantee survival?   No there are no guarantees in the natural world but we think it will really help our grass survive in most cases and also come out with more vigor in the spring.

So we are still in the learning process with this new tool but we think it definitely has potential.