#12 @ Wild Horse

#12 @ Wild Horse

Monday, July 8, 2019

Maintenance update July 6

Summer just keeps rolling along and I apologize for not doing an update in June.  Days are flying by and we have already arrived at Member-Guest weekend.  This has become a very popular tournament and we always hope to have the course peak at this time.  It is good timing for that as the heat of summer hasn’t taken a toll on the turf and the wooga is shining with wildflowers.  This year’s participants will find some receptive greens as recent rains have kept the greens softer than usual, but they are still rolling nicely.  We don’t do too much different for the event other than a double cut Saturday and maybe another roll on Sunday just to get them rolling a foot faster than our normal green speed. 

Our normal summer routine for mowing is greens daily, tees and collars 2x/week, and fairways 2-3x/week.  Traps are raked usually on Monday and Friday unless rain necessitates more attention.  Add in weekly rough mowing, and this keeps the crew of 7 part timers busy mowing away.  They get a lot done in short order and I am thankful for their help.

I mentioned the wooga and the abundance of wildflowers earlier and it has been a stellar year for spiderwort and larkspur shown below.  We have mowed a couple more passes around the fairways to try to keep those areas more playable and we will begin mowing more rough this week and continue through July to keep the “wooga” in check with all this rain.

Speaking of rain we have had a lot.  Only irrigated two nights in June (other than watering in product).  This has been a blessing (reduced irrigation demands) and a curse (increased workload fixing bunker and cart path washouts).  The turf looks great now but I am expecting more root diseases as we enter the summer season due to the constantly waterlogged soil we have experienced in May and June.  Brown Patch (shown below) while not a soil borne pathogen has already shown itself on ryegrass in collars and I think that has been due to the excessive moisture we have seen lately.  In other words the course looks as good now as it will for a couple of months until we head into fall.   That being said we still expect great golfing conditions coming up this summer.  Hope you can get out to the Horse and enjoy.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Update May 8, 2019

We have punched holes in greens this week and now are waiting to topdress.  Probably going to happen next week considering the wet weather.  Again this spring we used small star and ¼” solid tines to aerate greens.  This combo gives us numerous holes for water percolation and root growth but disrupts the surface very little.  Putting quality is still pretty good and will quickly return to normal in about 10 days.  We are quite pleased with the greens condition right now with good root development and healthy turf.  The height of cut continues to go down and we are nearing normal mowing heights.  That coupled with increased rolling should get the greens putting well by late next week.

May is the time when the turf really starts to move-not much happens in April.  As you have probably seen there are some seedlings up in the winterkilled areas.  Warm temperatures should get them moving along better in the next couple of weeks.  As is normal in the spring, soil temperatures have been at the bare minimum to germinate seed so we are happy to see what we have so far, but more seedlings should be emerging soon and development will continue.  This should help those thin fairway spots fill more quickly. 

We will be trying a couple of new Poa annua control products on certain areas of some fairways so expect to see some discoloration or thinning in the next month in those areas.  The rest of the fairways and surrounds are starting to look better every day with density and color starting to really shine.

The prescribed burn was executed on April 8 on a large portion of the perimeter of the course.  Only the areas around 10, 11, 14 were left unburned due to an unfavorable wind.  The rough has been a little bit delayed this year with the cooler temps, but expect thick gnarly wooga due to the ample soil moisture available this spring.

I am still trying to find a good time for the first course tour of the year so stay tuned for date and time for that.

Expect the course to start to come together in the next couple of weeks.

 Jmahar@live.com with questions or comments.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Aerification Changes

Quick update on the aerification schedule that has been altered by the snow.  The surrounds aerification scheduled for this week has been postponed until next Monday 22 and Tuesday 23.  That will require us to move tee aerification into May 13-14.  Greens aerification remains set for May 6 and 7.

Much of the snow has melted but huge piles remain in some areas.  We are working on clearing paths to expedite getting back out on the course.  We are hoping to get back to golf on Thursday (18th) as the high school tournament is scheduled for that date.  If we are able to get back to golf before that we will let you know as soon as we know.

Thursday, April 11, 2019


You are probably sitting around surfing the net, watching it snow, peeking in on the Masters, and maybe wondering what's up at Wild Horse.  The wind and drifts are for sure-8" for us so no golf for awhile.  We will let you know when golf can be expected once we can assess the situation.  Turf areas will clear quickly but paths will be drifted so walking might be necessary for some time.

So what does the snow mean for us?  A definite change in the aerification schedule will be necessary and we will let you know those adjustments when we know.

We worked diligently to finish up fairway aerification and the burn this week before the storm.  Some have asked if that is all the burn and yes it is.  We wanted to get all of the perimeter done but that takes a perfect day to accomplish.  An unfavorable wind prevented us from burning around 10, 11, and 14.  Also our crew was wearing down and we didn't want to make a mistake.  We have started burning every other year rather than on a 3 year schedule.  Such as that is, it is not imperative to get all areas burned each year as we can pick up some the next year.  A huge thanks to my crew for their efforts each year to help manage the rough.

The ice damage that we have discussed prior is becoming more apparent as the turf greens up.  Whenever you incur damage it is sometimes difficult to determine whether it is best to "sow it or grow it".  It is always best in my opinion to grow it if you have enough surviving plants.  Why?  Because those viable plants will be at least 4-6 weeks ahead of any seedlings that you germinate so there is a huge time advantage by "growing it".  That means maximizing growth through extra fertility and limited mowing.  Many of our areas like those seen below fall into this category where there are enough surviving bluegrass plants that can fill in to achieve a desirable turf by the end of May.  There are fewer areas that incurred complete kills and will be seeded as soon as soil temperatures warm.  Those areas will take longer to achieve the density we want but expect them to be complete by the end of June.

A huge inconvenience to you and your game and our mowers is the escalating worm activity seen below.  Unfortunately there is no legal chemical control for earthworms.  There has been much research on cultural practices that reduce activity but no quantitative results have been achieved.  Recently though some products containing saponins derived from mowrah meal, green tea leaves, or seaweed have shown effectiveness at repelling earthworms.  We have purchased some of these products and are waiting for a warm spring rain to apply them.  Hopefully they work well for us and we can start cleaning up our greens and collars.

Enjoy your Masters weekend.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Spring Observations

Spring finally is in the air and we were able to open the course this past Friday March 15.  Thought I would share some observations on the course now that the snow is gone.  
This first pic is right after we removed the cover on the knob on #4 green.   As you can see the turf looks great under there, but the rest of the green also looks good just browner.  As expected the snow cover was good for the greens and they look healthy.  Expecting first mowing probably April 2-3 which will be about a week behind "normal".  

The next couple of pics show prairie vole damage that occurred on fairways under the snow.  They make little runways (seen in the first pic) and chew up the turf (second).  Only see this during snow covered winters when they feel safe under the drifts-otherwise they stick to the native grasses.  This damage is slight and won't be seen for long.

We have already mentioned the ice damage in previous posts that we were expecting.  Here it is on #5 fairway.  You will see it in varying degrees around all of our sump drains and anywhere large drifts laid for extended periods.  For the most part it was pretty superficial but 2, 5, 6, and 8 fairways have a some small areas that will need to be reseeded.  The rest should grow out of it soon.

The morning after the last rain storm I was checking out the course and found these steers taking shelter behind the plum thickets near 16 green from the brutal winds.  They left some tracks behind on 15 and 16 fairway and scuffed up 11 green seen below, but most of their hoofprints will fade away once mowing begins.  To my knowledge this is the third time that cattle have made their way onto the course.

Of course we had a lot of water on the course after the snowmelt and rain-probably as much as I have ever seen after a rain event.  Once the frost started coming out of the ground many of the puddles disappeared but as you can see from this pic of 12 fairway we did have some water to pump away. The soil moisture levels are saturated for sure so expect a bumper "wooga" crop!

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!