#12 @ Wild Horse

#12 @ Wild Horse

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.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Another IDP, more drainage, and wildlife

We were able to install another Irrigation Driven Sump Pump this week on #12 just in time for the 3 inches of rain we have received in the past 2 days.  You can read more about this system in this post.
It worked so well we decided to do another this year in this big basin in front of 12 green.  We have steadily worked to improve the drainage at Wild Horse and it was a great relief to not have to pump  water with transfer pumps after a hard 2 inch rain.  Here are a couple pictures of the install.  My crew of 2 for this project and I were whipped after this day!

Below is a good picture of the winterkill area in front of 7 green.  You can see exactly where the water (ice) stands and thus why it incurred damage this year.  This is the next drainage project that we need to tackle to move that water out of this small depression.

I love the wildlife that calls Wild Horse home.  It always makes my day to see turtles, bunnies, pheasants, indigo buntings, and the numerous other species that are around.  Below is a picture of a ornate box turtle that must have just crawled out of his hibernating lair-notice the dirt still visible on his shell.  He quickly found himself a snack-notice the worm in his mouth.

Unfortunately nature can be harsh-this picture shows the destroyed nest of our pet turkey down by the irrigation well.  She raised some poults last year down there, but won't be able to again this year.  Sure will miss seeing her down there.

Just a little bit of what went on this week at Wild Horse.  Course continues to improve and we look forward to making more progress this week just in time for a three day golfing weekend!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

May Update

A nice May shower going on now-hopefully bringing June flowers- A month behind the normal saying.  That pretty much explains the situation this spring.

We have heard some grumblings about the fairways and their conditions which was partially explained in these previous posts Ice Damage and Roundup Trials.  We are not as concerned as most are.  Sure we would like it to be perfect, but some of the small voids seen are dead annual bluegrass which is what we wanted to accomplish.  Give it a bit of time and they will be back to normal.   The past week's warmer temperatures have spurred some growth but we still remain  a good two weeks behind a normal schedule.

Greens have healed up nicely following aerification.  They still have some sand up in the verdure but once that works in we will be able to lower our height of cut which should help speed them up.

Looking forward to some nice spring golfing weather--hope you can get out to enjoy the course.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Course Tours

I have decided to do something new this year which is to give short course tours about once a month.  These will be about half hour in length and will include a short walking tour of a couple of holes.  It will be an informal discussion that will allow you to ask questions or point out some of our inefficiencies!  This will allow you the golfer to better understand what we are doing and hopefully better appreciate Wild Horse.  The topics will vary from month to month depending on the season so we will strive to make each session new and informative.  We will try to schedule these at various times and days so hopefully your schedule will allow you to attend one or all of these sessions.

The first of these tours will be April 30th at 4:00 PM which happens to be the start of greens aerification so some of the discussion will be about that necessary practice.  We will meet at the clubhouse and proceed from there.  Hope to see you there!

Burn and Snow

The burn went well last Tuesday.  We covered a lot of ground burning all of the interior rough.  Should make the rough more playable this year.

Luckily we didn't get the 6-10 inches of snow predicted because the 3 inches we did get piled up pretty high on the back of 12 green.  The black soot picked up by the winds can clearly be seen in these piles in the plum thickets.  Monday 16th will be no carts as we continue to clear cart paths.  Should be back to normal golf on Tuesday.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Spring update

A month ago I reported that it was starting to green up and that same report still applies!    We have mowed greens twice is all.  We had done that by March 12 last year.  Slow cold spring for sure!  Greens are in good shape though and should get better as we start mowing more consistently.

Today is prescribed burn day.  We will be burning the interior rough areas on the both the front and back nines.  Lots of area to cover but we look to have a great day to do it.

Aerification continues on fairways between the weather and mechanical breakdowns.  Only completed 4 holes thus far but hope to get much more done this week.  A reminder that greens surrounds aerification will be next Monday and Tuesday.  

Fairways and surrounds continue to slowly green up and the ice damage we talked about previously is becoming more apparent.  Most of those spots the damage is pretty superficial and just needs some time to green up.

Think WARM

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Masters Week

Masters week is here and that brings out the best players in the world and this guy has them down pat.  A little reprieve from boring turf stuff!
Always amazed at comedian's ability to do impressions-hope this gives you a chuckle.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Roundup trials

Here are a couple of pictures of our Roundup trials from last fall.  As you can see there is some thinning to the turf, but this strip is greener than the rest of the fairway around it.  So why is that?  The green turf left unscathed is the bluegrass that we want.  The dead stuff is ryegrass and poa, but why is that strip greener?  The bluegrass does green up quicker in the early spring and also the reduction in competition allows it to get whatever little bit of nitrogen fertility available now without having to share it (with the dead ryegrass).  Basically lower number of plants in that square vying for that same amount of fertility so it appears slightly greener.  Interestingly though the bluegrass greens up quicker now, but the ryegrass will strongly outgrow the bluegrass in the next month.

Read about what we have done with these test strips and what we were hoping to accomplish in this previous post. https://whgcturf.blogspot.com/2017/06/poa-control.html

So what have we figured out with this experiment over two years time?  Unfortunately it has not been as effective in eliminating poa annua as we had hoped.  Timing of the application is critical and there seems to be a window in the mid-September to mid-October period that seems to be most effective.  As we have increased rates the effectiveness increases but it also becomes too damaging to the ryegrass and bluegrass.  So while it hasn't been a total success it has shown some promise and we may still utilize this cheap alternative to poa control in certain situations. 

We will throw some seed into the thinnest areas but the beauty of bluegrass is its ability to spread through rhizomes (underground roots) so in most areas we will promote that through a bump in fertility.  As mentioned above though, the newer varieties of bluegrass definitely take their time to get growing in the spring so don't expect much until we get into mid-May and then recovery will be quick.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Ice damage

Just starting to green up and can begin to see some of the anticipated ice damage to ryegrass in our low areas on fairways.  Ryegrass is pretty susceptible to this kind of occurrence but we rarely have winters that contribute to it.  Last time we had much significant ice damage was probably 15 years ago.  Much of what we have this year is not very severe and may cause some thinning in most spots, but a couple hollows might get some seed to help recovery.
 Here is a large area on #17 that iced up as the snow was melting.  In the middle of this brown spot you can see the patches of green which is all bluegrass.  That occurred from the last icing event that killed the ryegrass in this area.  On our sandy soils the ryegrass actually thrives better in the lower hollows that hold more moisture, until we have ice and then it is vulnerable to winterkill.

Here is another example of a small depression that has had ice damage in previous years indicated by the predominance of bluegrass.  But you can see the patches of ryegrass that have started to regain a foothold here until this winter.  It's a bit early to tell if these patches will partly recover or not.  I am expecting that some plants will survive and the bluegrass will expand and many of these areas will be unnoticeable in a month.

It is interesting how each species finds its' sweet spot in the differing microenvironments.  On our exposed mounds bluegrass really dominates the sward as it can handle both the droughty soils and winter exposure better than ryegrass.  Cart path entries and exits are dominated by ryegrass that can withstand traffic better than the blue.  So there is a definite benefit to having a mix of species and varieties as each has its own strengths and weaknesses.  This is the time of year when you can see the varietal differences more so as they green up quicker or slower or growth habit is more easily detected.  Once they have greened up and begin growing the ryegrass and bluegrass are nearly indistinguishable resulting in a more uniform turf.

More on ice damage in this previous post:

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Spring Schedule

Wild Horse opened on March 9- a beautiful day to get back out on the course.  Since then the weather has been the usual March up and down but we know to expect that from Nebraska springs.

The spring maintenance schedule is very similar to year's past.  Irrigation charge-up and audit will keep us busy the next week as we will inspect each and every head and valve on the course to make sure they are working properly.  If not, we make needed repairs and identify needed adjustments to arc rotation, spacing, etc. to tackle later in the year.  Also we note yardage markers that are absent.  We had been lax in doing this in the past couple years because we figured most everyone used rangefinders for yardage.  We have learned that there are still many people (like myself) that rely on sprinkler yardages so last year we made an emphasis on updating those and will continue to look for missing yardages during this spring's irrigation audit.

Aerification then will begin in earnest in April.  As we have mentioned before April is the prep month where many of our agronomic practices are done to set up the course to perform later in the year.  Below is the aerification schedule for this spring:

April 2-13  Fairways-we will do one or two holes per day weather permitting.

April 16-17  Greens surrounds-back nine one day front the next

April 30-May 1--Greens-3/8" solid tine so no cores pulled and relatively small holes
May 2- Topdressing greens to fill up aeration holes.
Depending on weather, we expect greens to be nearly fully healed by May 12 and back to "normal" by May 19.

May 7- Tees

We appreciate your patience during these processes and try to work quickly to get out of your way and get the course back to normal.

Still pretty brown out there right now but we can see some green shoots starting to come on in the past couple days-won't be long now.

Monday, March 5, 2018


It looks like we will be able to open the course Friday March 9.  Lots of snow melted this weekend and the frost started to come out of the ground allowing much of that snowmelt to finally soak in.  Perhaps you wondered why we weren't open this past weekend.  First we had cleared snow drifts from paths as best we could, but there still remained some ice and snowmelt that would have made some stretches of paths unpassable.  Most of that has now melted and paths are firming up.  Also the frost in the ground had held a lot of moisture on the top of the ground which would have easily been damaged by cart traffic.  Also cups could not have been cut and old cups still had ice and snow so no pins would have been set.  So despite the nice weather it wasn't feasible to open the course.  We appreciate your patience and look forward to opening this weekend.

The course is looking good and should green up quicker than other year's when moisture was limited in the winter.  We are looking forward to a great 2018.

On a sidenote I have been considering doing a short course tour perhaps monthly this summer to give me the opportunity to educate you about the course and what we are doing.  Also it would give you the opportunity to ask questions-just don't beat me up too badly!  I have not decided on day and time yet but was considering 4:30 on Monday or Thursdays just before league starts but let me know if another time might be more appropriate.  I hope to take a short walking tour of a couple of holes and point out interesting features that you may or may not have noticed during your round at Wild Horse.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Opening Day

We are just 10 days from March 1st our supposed Opening Day.  It is hard to believe with the snow flying outside my window and zero degree windchill.  We will try to keep you posted on when you can tee it up at Wild Horse as best we can.   As of right now with the amount of snow still around it would be likely that the first few days of golf will be walking only.  That is speculation right now and weather changes quickly so check back regularly for updates.

Monday, February 12, 2018


GIS-what is that?  That stands for the Golf Industry Show which was recently completed in San Antonio, TX.  It is hosted by the GCSAA and NGCOA which stands for the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America and National Golf Course Owners Association respectively.  There are over 550 exhibitors and 13,000 attendees to the largest trade show in the golf course management industry.  With over 100 seminars available it is the most comprehensive education source for golf course management employees.  
I was fortunate to attend this great event again this year and am always impressed by the magnitude and scope of this great game.  I think that most attendees love browsing at the newest, greatest toys on the trade show floor and learning from experts about a myriad of topics from weed control to utilizing technology to track all inputs into a golf course.  But time and time again most attendees, myself included, value the networking opportunities and conversations debating turf management.

I was especially excited to be able to take in a round of golf at Austin Golf Club with some of my closest superintendent friends that I have worked alongside at one time or another.  A special treat that day was being able to visit with a special friend and Wild Horse architect Dan Proctor who is doing some bunker work on Ben Crenshaw's home course.  As I walked away from the course that day I was reminded that it is the connections and friendships that I referenced above that makes my career special.  I am forever indebted to Dan and Dave Axland for bringing me down to Wild Horse and giving me a chance.   

My takeaway from the GIS is that technology continues to evolve and invade what was once a lower tech industry.  Great advancements have been made on the equipment side of the industry in the past twenty years but now the focus is on data collection and analysis to drive decisions and conserve inputs.  Sensors collecting soil moisture and nutrient levels and then relaying that data to GPS sprayers that precisely apply needed inputs is where turf management is going.  These technologies are driving agriculture advancements and are beginning to make their way into golf course applications.  The goal is to use technology to reduce inputs for environmental and financial benefit while still maintaining high quality playing conditions.  These principles have been utilized by most good superintendents for awhile but now we are able to use technology to quantify our decision-making process.

I am grateful to be able to attend the "show" and believe it gives me great perspective to see and evaluate the big picture of our efforts at Wild Horse.  I always come back motivated for the season but Mother Nature has other plans for the start of the season.  Wild Horse sits under a blanket of 3-4 inches of snow right now.  This has been one of the longest snow covered winters we have had in recent years and I expect the turf to respond nicely once spring arrives.

Only 17 days by the calendar until opening day.  Guess we will see if we make it by then!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

What do you do in the winter?

This is the golf course superintendents' favorite question.  We do not go into hibernation or migrate like the other animals of the world, but our pace does slow down tremendously from the summer season.  I would be lying to say we are busy in the winter, but there are plenty of things to do in preparation for summer.  Equipment maintenance, accessory refurbishing, winter irrigation and/or snowmaking if necessary, strategic planning and ordering of fertilizer/chemical needs, and continuing education are a few of the things that I do during the winter.  Oh, and recharge my batteries.  I love the summer season, but it can indeed become a grind that would be unsustainable for 12 months/year.
Last week  I attended the Nebraska Turf Conference in Omaha put on by UNL and the Nebraska Turf Association.  It is always good to visit with my fellow superintendents and others in the industry and take in some seminars concerning our industry.  Sure there are always turf management and pest control strategies, but a couple of interesting presentations were given concerning off-turf topics.  First was a discussion of personality types and how they affect workplace dynamics.  You may have done some of these tests to determine your "personality type" defined by colors, animals, acronyms (ISTJ, EIFP), etc.  This discussion was just a slightly different way of looking at those personality types and how they interact in the workplace.  I always find these interesting and feel that an awareness of what makes people tick can help all relationships.  Many of us that grow grass for a living are usually not really "people -persons."  I know you are shocked, but that side of the job is important to be able to develop communication strategies for employees, employers, and customers.   The guys that go far in our profession are able to do both-deal with nature and with people.
For those that are familiar with the tests I am an ISTJ or the analytical type which happens to be the smallest group of our population.  Therefore I must remind myself that my way of thinking is often the outlier in a group, but by being aware of that I try to adjust my communications with the rest of the group whether it be employees or customers.  If you haven't ever done one of these tests-google personality test and find out what you are-it will be be very introspective and help you understand how you (and perhaps others) view the world. 
WOW! a turf guy delving into psychology and sociology- I better get back to what I know and that is turf.  Wait! now I also know about synthetic turfs from another presentation that examined them in comparison to natural grass fields.  Obviously us "real" grass growers are hesitant to accept field turfs, but this presentation did a good job of showing the real and hidden costs of installing and maintaining synthetic turf fields.  These fields are often sold as "maintenance free" but that is far from the truth.  If they are indeed maintained that way they consistently fail prematurely.  So I guess the take home message is if you are on a city or school board that is considering such fields do your research and really understand the maintenance and replacement costs for synthetic turf fields.   Nearly every time, natural turf will be more cost efficient long term and injuries will be significantly less than synthetic turfs.  Try as we might with all the technology we have, Mother Nature still does many things better than we can.

Hope you didn't read this to learn about turf or WHGC conditions or you have been disappointed to this point, but finally a quick update on the golf course.  Snow cover has been consistent and persistent which is great during this frigid stretch.  Took a walk around yesterday and most greens are still snow covered and looking good at this point.  Still a couple months away but the lengthening days signal spring is just around the corner.