Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Hand Watering

Throughout the summer I have been asked several times “why are you still hand watering after installing a new irrigation system?” The biggest misconception with the installation of a new irrigation is that coverage will be perfect and no hand watering will ever be needed.

The new system that was installed is extremely sophisticated and highly efficient, that being said there is no such thing as perfection. Our coverage is far superior to most courses in the metro area and even with that there still will be times that we have to “touch up” areas on the golf course with hoses. Some of the factors that cause hot spots are; soil compaction, slope, exposure, wind and even thatch. All of the factors combined on a course with terrain and exposure issues like CCCP create many opportunities for hand watering.

Now that we have the ability to water the fairways separately from the rough we can create fast and firm conditions in the fairways. This is where the use of hand watering is key, because as hot spots show up in the fairways we can target these areas only with additional water. Sure it is easy to turn on a sprinkler head that has a 55’ radius to water a hot spot that is only 5 square feet, but from an agronomic and playability stand point that is the wrong choice.

After the new system was completed, I began tracking my water usage through the entire golf course and it has shown some impressive numbers. For the last two months I have used an average of 40% less water in the fairways than the rough. These numbers confirm what I have been saying about Bentgrass fairways all along, that they need less water than the surrounding Bluegrass rough. It has now become common to see drives hit in the fairway and roll out 30 to 50 yard from initial ball contact.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

It’s a Mystery

This morning in the darkness when I approached the first green something could be seen on the surface, but wasn’t sure what it was. As I got closer there appeared to be a white foam pile on the green in a couple of different places. After I blew this material off with water from my hose it revealed that the turf underneath was burnt and dead.

I am not sure what this material was, but there were signs that other non golfing activity took place around the green the previous night. There were empty bottles and all of the bunker rakes were in a pile, fortunately no other damage took place. Unfortunately this area appears that it will have to be re-sodded to repair the damage, we will make that decision tomorrow.

The mystery foam
Damage revealed underneath

Friday, August 14, 2009

Off Color

In the fairways there are many areas that are discolored causing the fairway to look splotchy. This discoloration is the result of successive PGR (plant growth regulator) applications that target Poa Annua.

Discolored Poa Annua

Throughout the season we have been applying a rotation of different PGR's to the fairways on a weekly basis. The Poa is finally being discolored and weakened due to the cumulative effects of the chemical regulation in combination to warm weather finally arriving. Although the Poa is not dead, it is severely hurt and this will allow the Bentgrass to out compete it for surface area on the fairway. This is one of my key agronomic techniques that helps us control the level of Poa Annua populations in addition to tipping the scales in favor of Bentgrass the desired species.

Monday, August 10, 2009


The month of July brought us 3.75" rain which was very beneficial to the golf course as a whole, but the bunkers did not fare so well.

This summer, we had three major rain events that completely washed out all of the bunkers and required them to be restored. Each time the sand moves around in the bunker it becomes contaminated with silt,soil and pea gravel. These components are fine on their own, but intermixed with high quality bunker sand is a major problem.

As the year has progressed the drainage of the bunkers has degraded to the point of having to pump out some bunkers after normal irrigation cycles. The once open pore spaces in the sand are now clogged with silt and soil not allowing water to freely flow through and enter the subsurface drain tile. Ultimately these problematic bunkers will have to be addressed by replacing the contaminated sand with new clean sand that will once again allow free flow of water into the drainage systems.

The other problem with the sand comes in the form of pea gravel contamination. This does not effect drainage, but it does cause playability issues. In order to restore the playability of the sand we must remove the pea gravel. This is being done with the use of a hand held sieve that selectively removes the larger particle size of the gravel. This is extremely labor intensive due to the fact that the gravel is completely mixed with the sand and every time you rake it more gravel is brought to the surface. Just when you think you have it all more comes to the surface.

Close up of the pea gravel in the sand

The hand held sieve

Monday, August 3, 2009

Mid Summer Soil Correction

We have recently begun to apply our mid summer gypsum application to greens, tees and fairways. The gypsum is used to help flush the high levels of sodium that is found in our effluent water.

Over time the soil takes on the characteristics of the water, which in our case is a very bad thing. Our water source is very high in both bicarbonates and sodium which destroys soil structure and makes growing high quality turf a difficult proposition. As the soils mirror the water quality, they become poorly drained, compacted and the essential elements become bound up in the soil.

In an average year over 550 lbs of sodium per acre is applied to the golf course from irrigation alone. It is no wonder why the golf course responds so positively to natural precipitations cleansing effect. When the heat of the summer hits and rainfall intervals begin to stretch out this is when we struggle most with our water quality and our compromised soils. The gypsum is applied at yearly rates approaching 2500 lbs per acre in efforts to help swing the pendulum back toward healthy soils.

There is a lot of truth in the old statement that "you are only as good as your soil".

Gypsum being applied to a fairway

Close up of Gypsum on a fairway

Saturday, August 1, 2009


With the cool and wet weather we have been experiencing this season we have developed a new issue with moss encroaching into some of our greens.

Silvery thread moss (Bryum argenteum) in putting greens is becoming a widespread occurrence throughout the country. It can creep into a green virtually unnoticed, until suddenly it seems as though it is taking over the entire playing surface. Once established, moss is extremely difficult to control and almost impossible to eradicate. Chemical control measures are often tough on turf, and slow in killing the moss.

A close up of moss on a putting green

Treated moss dying

Over the years we have occasionally had moss issues on some of the mounded areas on the greens that receive extra hand watering. In the past we have simply cut out the moss and treated the area like a ballmark to promote recovery. This year has been a combination of chemical treatments along with physical removal and to date i have not been happy with the results.

We will continue to be diligent with the treatment of this problem and make sure that the spread does not continue. If it is not one thing it's something else.