Pheasant Run GC Turf Department Maintenance Blog


Its a Process

It’s a process is quite likely my favorite Tiger Woods quote. It seems as though it is his “go-to” catchphrase when his game is less than stellar. Golf course maintenance has its processes too. And the fact that turfgrass is a living organism, subject to the natural elements can make “the process” a long and arduous one.

A dominant number of golf courses in the Toronto area suffered severe damage from last winter’s ice storm. Many of the great golf courses in Canada have made decisions to rebuild, re-sod and essentially start over. The majority of these golf clubs are member owned facilities (private clubs) who access members and carry on with their process. Why rebuild? Poa annua had/has become the predominant grass on many (it’s actually most) golf courses in our area. By renovating, these golf courses are starting over with Creeping Bentgrass. Bentgrass, especially the newer cultivars, are able to handle the weather extremes (hot/humid, cold/icy) we deal with here in Ontario.

As much as it’s a luxury to be able to simply rebuild. Golf courses driven by public green fees like Pheasant Run cannot afford to “hit reset” and switch to Bentgrass. Or can they?

Poa is an amazing putting surface when all the stars align. When its good, it’s really good. But when its bad, it’s not pretty. There are tools now available to golf maintenance that can allow us to push Bentgrass. The conversion is slow, it may take 2 years, 5 years or 10 years nobody really knows. But Poa/Bent greens will always have some Poa in them, it’s just going to take managing them to have the Bent that gives you a chance to win that battle. How do you manage greens for Bent to win?

There are a number of things we’ve done with some success, and there are also some things that have occurred that I can’t explain. Doubling our Bentgrass population on putting surfaces that were 75-80% Poa in the spring seems like a small leap for now. But it is certainly something positive we can build on going forward. A few changes we have made the last 2 seasons include;

Sand top-dressing, and lots of it. We are up to 14 sand applications in 2014.

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We made the switch from grooved rollers to smooth roller. This allows the grass the “lay over and spread out”.

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The photo below shows the Bentgrass “laying over”. By rubbing my hand against “the grain” (I can’t believe I just used that word) you can see how the Bentgrass spreads;

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We began using TDR300 Moisture Meters last season. The TDR’s measure moisture levels at a 3 inch depth. We will typically take 8-10 readings per green and add water where it’s needed via a hose watering. Poa thrives in wet environments, and to promote Bentgrass we need to water less. Below are the readings from a couple different greens;

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One of the biggest adjustments we’ve had to make is just not spraying. Yes we still apply chemicals for long-term survival of our high maintenance turf areas. But in some cases allowing turf (namely Poa) to simply suffer (read die) and allow the Bent to creep into those damaged areas. Or below, plugging in new T1 Bentgrass from our greens nursery to replace diseased/damaged turf;

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Here is what a plugged T1 Bentgrass area looks like. The new damage will also be plugged out at a future date;

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I won’t use this platform to shill for any products or fertilizer’s. Our use of a wetting agent (holds water in the soil to promote equal distribution) and a new fertility product that has improved our overall turf health have been big contributors to our Bentgrass population surge also. But those types of claims are hard to quantify, and that’s why I won’t promote them until I get more years of proof. We have also stopped vertical mowing (promotes minimal disruption) and implemented an over seeding program at times of peak germination. Below are T1 Bent seedlings emerging from aeration holes;

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The good changes I can explain have been discussed here previously. Sodding damage as opposed to seeding this spring has produced a nice putting surface. Above is 1 Highlands in April, while below is the same green this morning;

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The unexplained are like the picture below where a snow mobile created ice damage on 9 Highlands green. And yet it has recovered and come back almost 100% Bentgrass;

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What does all this technical mumbo-jumbo mean to the golfer? Hopefully a better putting surface that’s less prone to disease and winter and summer damage. We will continue on this path of promoting Bentgrass, doubling a population that was dwindling is a huge feat. But doubling it again is most likely unattainable, so the process will slow. As long a the process is progress, we all win.

 

Andrew Hardy

Superintendent

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Agronomics vs. Economics

It has been brought to my attention a few times this week that some feel we are “making a mistake” by going forward with greens aeration next week. I just thought I would take a few minutes and explain why its been an industry-wide practice to perform aerations in August or September. Most golf courses in Northern North America do their aerifying in August or September, and most who don’t certainly wish they could. Aeration is a messy, labor intensive and time-consuming golf maintenance practice. But the fact is that it is one that is completely and absolutely necessary.

The removal of old material from our greens not only opens up air chambers, but, it allows us to refresh the soil with fresh channels of sand. You can see from this picture taken last September the fresh white roots that have generated from the August aeration. Simply put, without strong roots, grass will fail.

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Now I get it that after a tough year with our greens last year that we shouldn’t be doing extra aerations. But the fact is, that if it wasn’t for the 3 aerations we performed in August, September and October last year. Our greens wouldn’t look like they do today. And believe me it hurts no one more to rip them up starting Monday than me. Learning from past errors of letting aeration go, or simply solid tining greens has shown us that our greens WILL fail without aeration. This timing is also critical for us as most of our summer students will be returning to school soon. By maximizing our labor pool we are making the entire aeration process easier. This will allow us to run basically “around the clock” with split shifts early in the week (fingers crossed the weather forecast is wrong) and have all 30 greens done in a day and a half.

Below is a picture of the core size (1/2″) we took in last years aeration (size of a dime);

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And here is a picture of the 1/4″ tine we used yesterday on our greens nursery (hole isn’t much larger than the head of a typical screwdriver);

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This year we have the ability to pull this smaller plug, and many more of them (achieves more removal than our old aerator at 1/2″!!) because we have rented a newer aerator for this aeration. In turn, we will have a much shorter heal time, and have the greens back in top condition quicker. The new Toro 648 gives us far more flexibility than our old Toro Greens Aerator or Vertidrain will with regards to spacing and aggressiveness. The impact will be a week, as opposed to, a couple of weeks.

The Toro 648 with the Turf Pride core collector (core collector means a lot lees shoveling);

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The last 2 seasons we have changed how we have communicated greens aeration. In the past, we used to just go ahead and do it without pre-warning to customers. The last 2 years we have announced it and are offering an additional rain check to your paid green fee experience. I hope that this clears the air as to why we are aerating, and I hope you understand why we are doing it. But most importantly we hope you understand why we are doing it now.

Andrew Hardy

Superintendent

 



Non-Traditional maintenance practices

Many of you who played yesterday morning will have noticed that we tried something new on all three nines. Removing tee markers was a sample project to see how players would respond to it, promote some conversation and reduce some maintenance man-hours. It was likely one of the more short-lived attempts at change we have made here at Pheasant Run. We modified our thought process in the afternoon and placed one tee marker out on the edge of the tee in line with the permanent Golf Association of Ontario markers (which are located in the center of each teeing area with red, white and blue disks).

Though most of you hated it, as a purist (and low single digit handicap player) I personally loved how clean it looked;

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Why did we try this? Well in previous years we have attempted and/or made other significant changes (returned areas to a natural growing state and the fairway/tee mowing pattern to name 2) to the golf course for one major reason….reducing maintenance costs. Tee markers in the rules of golf are for “competition” play only. Seeing how we really only have 2 serious competitions a season that require physical tee markers, the thought was “do we really need them?”. One of the daunting issues with golf is that quite simply “its just too hard” of a game. By removing the markers, we had hoped that the stigmas attached to us (maintenance staff) determining what course you play for the day would be replaced by you the player determining your course.

It’s just the straight facts that golfers are not ready for radical change right now. And that’s ok. We have modified this setup by placing one marker on the edge of the teeing area:

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This setup will remain in tact for the rest of the season except for club events including; the Club Championships and the 27 hole Classic.

On the weekend my son and I had the opportunity to play the new “Yellow” tees. And it was an enjoyable experience and really gives you a different perspective of the golf course. I hope that many others (judging by the divots, some are) will use them and have some fun;

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Enjoy the nice weather and play with an open mind, after all it is “just a game”.

Andrew Hardy

Superintendent

 



New teeing areas and Thinking outside the box

This will my first time posting on consecutive days in a long time. But I just wanted to bring to light some minor changes on the course. First, you may or may not have noticed the addition of yellow tee blocks on all of the fairways and some tees and approaches. Call them what you may “Junior tees”, “Forward tees” and/or “Family tees”. Below is an example of the markers past the bunker on Highlands 2 fairway.

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They have been placed to play about 1500 yards on each nine with the hopes that they will see use from new players, juniors and family’s. Below is the junior camp using them on Southern Uplands.

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We are also going to try something experimental on Monday with the regular teeing areas. We have a green fee special taking place on GolfNow and expect to be busier than usual. So we will be removing all the tee markers (red, white and blue) for Monday and Tuesday. Why you ask? We are going to allow players to play the length/difficulty of course that they desire without the parameters of “predetermined teeing areas”. Let the debate ensue………….

Andrew Hardy

Superintendent

 

 

 

 

 



Greens rejuvenation

This will be my first post to the blog in some time. An extremely hectic spring that has transitioned into a very busy summer has me looking twice at the calendar and having a hard time believing that its mid-July. The one thing that has been consistent this year so far is the lack of consistency with the weather. As I sit here today it is 10 degrees Celsius on July 17th. I cannot remember another July where we have had this sort of cool weather in the mornings. The cooler weather in the mornings is a nice break from the usual hot and sticky conditions that we are used to in a typical summer. The cooler weather also allows us to push things a little more than we would normally be able to.

While spring always seems to produce challenges and make extra work for us. This spring was not any different in the extra chores and tasks that we were faced with after one of the coldest winters ever. It has been well documented the number of golf courses that sustained damages to their greens, ranging from total loss to smaller areas of damage like what we incurred here. Though many high-end private clubs went the route of re-sodding or total renovation. Clubs like ours were left to grow back from seed, allow the Poa annua to rejuvenate itself or sod the patches like we did. Though we did decide that the damage on Southern Uplands 2 green was significant enough (not to mention the green and its history of misery) to totally rebuild the green and surrounds.

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The picture above highlights the steps in the renovation process. The biggest changes in the new green complex include no more bunkers (there were 2) and the green is built up and a drainage swale was routed around the outside to keep water off (the major issue we have faced on this green each spring). The heavy rains (we resorted to tarping the green after rain washed the first 2 seeding’s of the green away) we have had in recent weeks has shown us that the swale works as it should. The green currently has about 60% coverage, but, we are not putting any kind of timeline on the hole being fully open at this point. So the hole will play as a par 3 for the foreseeable future. Total cost for this one green will fall in the $15,000-$20,000 range, so think about what the clubs who are totally renovating all 18 greens are faced with financially. And you will have answered your own questions as to why more clubs “don’t just get rid of the Poa greens”.

The other greens that we faced issues with had areas (some big, some small) sodded. While these areas are visually unappealing to the eye right now. History has shown us that sod is a quicker means to repair than seed, but that’s just our opinion. The greens we sodded have been nursed along since early-May and the greens have been maintained at a different height of cut. As of yesterday we were able to (with a huge assist to mother nature) mow the sodded greens down to the same height as the rest of the putting surfaces.

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The picture above highlights where Highlands 1 green was in April, the work that went into sodding most of the green and what it looks like today. While we will all stare at that sod for a while. the fact is that beyond looks this green along with the few others that were sodded play almost exactly the same as the rest. While many may view this process as a bit ugly and unconventional, it worked for us.

Enjoy the weather and have fun on the course.

Andrew Hardy

Superintendent

 



Hub of Activity

It seems as though each spring has its own way of being very busy. With the transition into a new golf season, the “to-do” lists seem endless. I’m unsure what it is about this season, but, the facts are that this has been (and will continue to be) the year of the to-do list.

It has been much documented about the number of golf facilities in Ontario that suffered serious turf damage from last December’s ice storm. While we were mostly unscathed from the storm. The slow melt, standing water issues and extensive snowmobile damage we sustained are the “fish we have had to fry” this spring. On top of regular golf course maintenance we have had a full list of repairs and upgrades take place late last fall and early this spring.

Past years and experience has told us that sometimes waiting for seed to fill in our damaged areas isn’t always the best option. In the past few years we have sodded damage to gain the full impact from repairs sooner, this allows putting surfaces to match others on the golf course in a shorter time-frame. We were quick to decide to sod some damaged areas on a few greens, and mow them at a higher height of cut until they are ready for the full pressure of mowing at .120″. Below are a few snapshots of the before and after;

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An example of what a lot of snowmobile traffic can do to a green can also been seen here;

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We have also re-sodded the Blue/White teeing ground on Uplands #1;

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We also completed the green surround renovation at Highlands #1 green that was started last fall;

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We will also be seeding the chipping green on the driving range next week. We used much of the turf there for repairs on other areas of the golf course while our new bentgrass nursery grew in after being seeded last August. The new chipping green will be much larger than the old one as well and should be ready for activity before the end of the summer;

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While all greens are now in decent condition (I more critical of that then you’ll ever be) it was decided yesterday afternoon that the green site at Uplands #2 was not going to recover fast enough. This green has been a source of many pains in my 8 years here and would likely continue to be an issue going forward. While we had considered fully re-sodding the green with Bentgrass from our nursery as Bentgrass is able to handle more of the issues harsh winters and hot and humid summer present than mixed stands of Poa annua and Bentgrass in sites such as Uplands 2.

Bentgrass plugs in great spring shape;

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A distinct line where we had sodded an area a few years ago on Uplands 2;

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So starting this morning we are moving forward with a full renovation and re-build of Uplands 2 green, bunkers and green surrounds. The process began this morning with marking existing irrigation and the area that we will be renovating. Monday an excavator will be on site to begin the process of moving earth to build the green up and make a drainage swale around the back of the green to keep the green free of water. This project had been discussed for a couple of years now, but the time to move forward is now given the slow healing of the water damaged areas on this green. We have already stripped all of the sod away from the green complex and will discuss the future location of the green with consulting golf course architect Ian Andrew on Monday morning.

Uplands 2 from behind the green;

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And from about 100 yards out in the fairway;

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How the green site looks today;

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What does this mean for golf on that hole in the interim? The hole will be shortened to a Par 3 for the next few weeks while construction takes place and sod is laid and allowed to establish. While temporary greens are not fun for players or those who manage golf courses, it is necessary in this case. The great thing about this project is that not only will we have a new green, green side bunker and stand of bentgrass, but, the greens new location will make for a better golf hole. I will keep everyone abreast of how the process is going right through to completion. The management of Pheasant Run thanks all of you for your support and understanding during this time of progress and club improvement.

Andrew Hardy

Superintendent



Small Successes

I would suppose saying that I have done my fair share of promoting our environmental rap sheet would be a gross understatement. But as a company we take a great amount of pride in our track record in finding a balance between golf and environment. On one of my course tours recently I happened to notice something in one of the re-naturalized areas. As part of our involvement in attaining Audubon Certification beginning in 2009, we embarked on a project to take a large amount of maintained turfgrass (approximately 40 acres) out of play and allow it to return to its natural state. While these re-naturalized areas would provide contrast, reduce inputs (fuel, fertilizer, water and pesticide usage) and create areas for wildlife. It seemed as though this process would take years to produce wildflowers and regenerate native plant life.

It was certainly nice and certainly encouraging to see many small pine seedlings beginning to grow in the area between 1 Midlands green, 2 Midlands tee and 6 Highlands green;

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While very small for now, these small trees are the true essence of what we were looking to achieve in these areas on the golf course;

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It’s always nice to see a vision from many years ago coming to fruition. I am very proud of another environmental achievement taking place, and its a bonus that these trees won’t affect desired areas of turf in the future. A true win-win.

Andrew Hardy

Superintendent

 




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