Friday, July 29, 2011

Hydraulic spill

I am still holding out hope that the hydraulic spill on the 17th West green will still recover without needing patching which will be good.  With the West greens renovation coming up in 3 weeks the area should recover fully.  There are some other brown patches on the 17th West green and they are from the application of a product to control Wintergrass.  There were only isolated patches in the green so rather than spraying the entire green I opted to just spot apply.  The Bentgrass takes a bit of a burn but should grow out without any problems.

Wintergrass spot sprayed

Recovering oil spill 17 West
Over the past few weeks we have been lifting some turf in the low run-off areas of some of the West greens and re-shaping them to allow the water to shed off the green in times of heavy rain.  Most of these areas have built up over time with the constant movement of water and soil /sand debris over them and have thus far prevented water from getting off the green.  Once again after the renovation you will barely know we have been there.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tree root pruning

I had a demonstration last week of a root pruning machine and we used it along the left side of the 4th River fairway which is one of our worst for root invasion.  Impressed is the mildest response I could give as the machine did everything that the sales rep said it would which is quite a rare occurrence these days!  The machine has two blades about 300mm apart that slice even the biggest roots very cleanly which means that there is less chance of disease entering the severed root and affecting the tree.  It slices down to 290mm which will pick up all the roots we would require and there is virtually no surface disruption.  Any root pruning I have done previously has been with a trencher that means a lot of cleanup and potential damage to the root system.  The rule of thumb with tree roots is that they will extend out the height of the tree from the trees dripline in search of water and nutrients which means that our greens, tees and fairways are literally root infested and turf health is obviously affected.  I would expect that the fact that the root is cut in two places that there will be no regrowth and therefore the roots that are exposed in fairways will eventually disintegrate.   At this stage I am hoping a contractor buys a machine so I can hire it and do some further investigation but I am sure we will see a chalk and cheese situation on the 4th fairway.  Watch this space and the left side of the fairway!

The machine in action

The finished result

Some "victims"

Ground surface root

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Green speed

Probably the most talked about topic on a golf course and definitely bordering on the most controversial.  Everyone wants fast greens but it can’t always be delivered 12 months of the year, particularly in our climate and with the player numbers we put through.  The Stimpmeter is a device that measures green speed and until recent green firmness devices, was the only definitive measurement available for putting greens.  No other measurement was available and the quality or otherwise of greens was in the eye of the beholder, or the person holding the putter as it were.  I have now been a Superintendent for 25 years and it has always been the case that the players who score well are the ones who think the greens are spot on and those that score poorly think that the greens are no good.  But I digress.  The Stimpmeter is a much maligned piece of equipment that was introduced by the USGA after a fellow by the name of Ed Stimpson had developed it to be able to quantify greens on a golf course.  It was intended to assist in attaining consistency throughout a golf courses greens and allow Superintendents the opportunity to vary the maintenance of their greens to try and achieve consistency.  Unfortunately it has become a real pain as golfers hear of the ridiculous target speed of 14 feet for the recent US Open for example, and want that for their own course.  I have played greens that I have personally measured at 13 feet and believe me for the average golfer they are almost unplayable.  Put that sort of speed on our River greens with their undulations and they would be unplayable.  The following is taken from the “Stimpmeter Instruction Booklet”;
“Stimpmeter Readings on American golf courses generally range from 7 feet to 12 feet, depending on many factors (e.g. Slope, Contours, Green Size, Grasses, Weather, Budgets etc.). Experience shows that trying to keep the speed above 10 feet on a consistent basis usually causes difficult-to-manage turf problems and is not recommended.”
The effect of wind and slope is most important when considering your target speeds and that is evidenced by The Open Championship wanting speeds of 10 feet for the entire week and if you looked at the greens at Royal St Georges last week, they ran quite well.
Be all that as it may, I decided to measure the greens this morning (which is something I do fairly regularly for my own information) and to publicise the figures here.  The most important aspect of using the Stimpmeter is to take your recordings on a flat section of green which is not an easy task on either of our courses.  So the numbers from this morning were the 10th West green which was running at 11 feet exactly and the 4th River Green which was at 9 feet 4 inches.  There was too much play elsewhere to get any other readings but as I said finding a flat area is a real challenge at Cool Tweed anyway.  For example it would be absolutely impossible to get a reading on West greens 2, 3, 9, 11, 12, 13, 16,or 18 and on River greens 1, 2, 3, 6, 10, 11, 13, 14, 16, 17 or 18 due to the slopes.
I once heard a saying (obviously from a Superintendent)  that "It's about time we put the GREEN back in to greenspeed".  Amen!!
It was nice yesterday when a fellow Gold Coast Superintendent played at Cool Tweed and complimented the quality of the River greens for this time of year and said that he would gladly swap them for his.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Open

I have had a few members ask me about the dark green rings that were evident on most greens at Royal St Georges during The Open Championship and can report that they were a disease known as "Fairy Ring".  It is a very common disease of turf and is especially prevalent on sandy soils with low nutrient levels and on the dry side, which perfectly describes the conditions at Royal St Georges.  There is no known control for them other than lifting your fertiliser input which means more growth which is something you don't want at tournament time.  We get them occasionally at CTH and I generally fertilise to remove them but then the ducks like the lush growth which creates another problem with the resultant droppings.  They don't always end up forming a ring however and are found in all sorts of situations, especially forests and have 3 main types.  The first is one that produces a rush of lush growth such as at The Open, one that has a dead ring of grass and one with a ring containing mushrooms.  I was interested at The Open that they had several hole locations very close to infected areas which would mean a difference in the turf surface, although there didn't seem to be any effect on the roll of the ball.
And just on The Open, wouldn't you have loved to have placed the bet on the ticket below!!!

Hmmm if only this was mine and I had bet $20!!

Friday, July 15, 2011

A lot of tree work carried out this week by outside contractors including the removal of about half of the stumps that we have on the courses.  The 9th West green has also been opened up and you can expect to see a very fast and obvious improvement in the quality of turf on this green.  Over the past 2 to 3 years it has been under performing and under constant stress at all times of the year.  The view from the 9th fairway now gives the impression that the greenside bunkers on 4 River are actually part of the 9th West bunker complex.

Following on from last weeks post about the River greens and the weather that has just arrived, read cloudy, cold and rainy, is the very reason that the greens need to be protected.  A lot of the players in the Championships last week were disappointed with the slow speed of the greens but at least they were consistent and fully grassed.  It was interesting to note this week that with the West greens running very hard and fast only 4 players bettered their handicap in the Wednesday comp and only 7 Vets in the Thursday Vets Comp….so perhaps not everyone can handle fast greens??  In the 3rd round of the Championships only 15 % of the field broke their handicap so it wasn’t too easy out there anyway.

The Open Championship is underway and it’s amazing to see the aerials of the course and see just how much land is there.  It’s also amazing that the fact that Royal St Georges is a male only Club as is Muirfield, and yet there is none of the outcry that Augusta National has been enduring over the past few years.  It is common to take your dog with you when you play many courses in the British Isles and I read once that Royal St Georges had a sign on the 1st tee that read “No dogs or women allowed”!!

Well I hope the weather forecast is wrong as we have had 12mm of rain so far and it has already dampened the courses which were in great condition given the weeks weather and amount of play this week.  Good luck to all the Club Championship competitors and to our mechanic Craig Plowman who takes an 8 shot lead in to the final round in A Reserve.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The River greens

With the Club Championships on the River course this week end I have had a number of Members ask if the greens will be fast.  Unfortunately at this time of year with Couch greens the answer is no.  The River greens are under a lot of stress at this time of year from overuse in a low growth time and more importantly shade.  Shade is probably the most critical factor and there are seven River greens with substantial shade problems.  This means that the maintenance of all the River greens at this time of year is predominantly based around the needs of those shaded greens.  Greens such as 7,8 and 10 for example have no shade issues and could be mown much lower and pushed to the limit with not to many problems.  Greens such as 5, 12 and 13 on the other hand would literally fall over if their mowing height was dropped at this time of year.  My main goal at this time of year is attempting to maintain a healthy cover of grass over all the greens and a consistent speed.  If I could be guaranteed that the weather would continue fine and sunny as it has been this week then I may take a chance and push them but it would only take a few dull cloudy days for that to backfire.  I would much rather have Members playing on fully grassed greens in 6 weeks time rather than dirt or temporary greens.
On the West course on the other hand, this is the time of year that I can push the greens and allow them to dry out and mow quite low.  Their time of stress is obviously summer time when the heat is on.

I took some photos of the 12th River green on Tuesday this week to demonstrate just how much shade it has.  Indeed the back 4 to 5 metres of the green received virtually no sunlight at all during the day.

12 River @ 10.00am
12 River @ midday

12 River @ 2.00pm

They say a picture paints a thousand words and although they are not great pictures they clearly demonstrate the shade issues the 12th has to deal with.
The course however will play very well after the staff had a big day of blowing and mulching debris on the River course today.  Hopefully there will be no wind overnight or tomorrow and the players will be greeted with very clean conditions on both courses tomorrow.

And the sight that no Superintendent wants to see.....a dreaded hydraulic oil spill on the 17th West green.  It happened on Thursday morning and hopefully we may not lose too much turf.  The area to the right of the main spill (which is the darkest colour) was only sprayed and the machine was only mowing its first green for the morning and it was very cold so hopefully the oil wasn't too hot.

Hydraulic oil spill on 17 West green.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Wet fairways

Verti drain in action on 10 west fairway

A beautiful winters day today but still a few fairways very wet.  The verti drain aerator which is a deep penetration aerator was out in force today to try and help some of the wettest  fairways get some air and start drying out.  It is a very slow machine but hopefully will have some positive effect on the condition of the fairways.  We also did a few areas adjacent to the shaded buggy paths while we were out there.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Over the rainbow

A rainbow over 18 West green
Well I am well and truly over the rainbows no matter how beautiful they may be.  Preparations for the Club Championships were progressing quite nicely until Tuesday evening when 25mm of rain was dumped on the courses.  Thursday night followed up with another 13mm which has both courses saturated.  The worst part of it from my perspective is the effect on the greens.  This is the time of year when the West greens are at their best and they were firming up perfectly in readiness for Round one to provide a hard and fast surface.  Unfortunately that won't be the case but the greens should still putt well.  This morning there were persistent showers that prevented us from mowing three greens and we were unable to roll.  I am hoping that the greens dry sufficiently for us to get the rollers out tomorrow morning.  Good luck to all the players in all grades.

I still can't respond to Roy Gamma's comments on pitchmarks so I will post the reply below that I sent to Roy direct;
Thanks for your comment Roy
The West greens do have unusually large pitchmarks which I put down to the Bentgrass being grown in the sub tropics.  The Glades and Arundel both have Bentgrass greens and suffer the same issues and damage from pitchmarks.  There is no doubt that the Bentgrass is weaker when grown up here and certainly prone to more damage than down south.
As you say the desired result is to have as much grass visible on the surface and nicely flattened out which is best achieved using the correct tool and using a twisting motion to move the grass in to the middle of the depression.  To help achieve this I would prefer that the “divot” was replaced. 
When I started playing golf my Dad told me that every time your ball lands on a green it will cause some damage that will need to be repaired and that if you take the time and use the correct tool an excellent repair can be made.  They don’t have to be perfect but an unrepaired mark that is mown over will take 4 – 6 weeks to recover against a few days for a repaired mark.
We have handed out complimentary repairers previously but found it had no impact on repairs.  It may be worth another try so I will raise it with the Greens Committee.