Monday, May 31, 2010

The Art of "Dialing it in"

Yes there is an art to green keeping and an art to what I like to call "dialing it in". Getting the golf course in top condition and maintaining that form throughout the summer. Superintendents' all went to school to learn the science but the art of green keeping quite frankly comes from experience, it comes from within the individual, it comes from a team all working towards the same goal, providing ideal conditions day in and day out. A goal of exceeding golfers or in our case, members, expectations.

For us in the Midwest, dialing it in, is a process we must go through year in and year out. Our number one obstacle is always Mother Nature. This year we were fortunate to emerge from winter with no winter damage and an April that was one of the warmest on record. For our course, we are also in the process of converting our greens to creeping bentgrass and our goal is impact the surface with as little disruption as possible. Late April is when we typically aerate greens, so for the month of April we left heights of cut on greens higher than normal .125". It was during this process the bentgrass was out growing the poa annua, in fact the poa annua was really not growing at all, and because of the differences in grass type our greens were bumpier than we would have liked.

Once aeration was completed it was at that time that we could then begin to bring the height of cut (HOC) down to our standard mowing height of .085". Additionally at the time of aeration we used an organic based fertilizer on the greens. This application is intended to be our base for the season. Typically about the 3rd week in May we will make our first growth regulator application. The timing of this is based off past history when we know temperatures will be warm enough for us to make the application. Since the product we use can be detrimental to bentgrass if the weather is too cold, which can happen in May, we chose to wait so we do not cause any self inflicted damage to the greens. This year happened to be one of those years when we waited too long before we made the growth regulator application, the weather was too warm and the fertilizer released too soon and thus the greens were growing too much and that equaled slow greens. This is where the art of green keeping takes place. Apply the regulator too early and we could get burned by a cold weather snap, apply too late, which was the case this year and we were burned by the fact the weather warmed up too quickly.

Golfers need to remember we are dealing with a living plant and we are always dealing with Mother Nature, and most of the time Mother Nature will win. Its our job to manipulate Mother Nature and use our experience to try and out smart her.

Many times golfers return to the course in the spring hoping for perfect conditions and due to the weather, aeration, fertility applications, or the natural growth habits of the plants, they are left wondering why are the greens not good yet. I have to say, it takes time for us to get it right, and quite frankly it's not going to be great until late May. Our goal is to set the plants up so they are ready for the season. And during that process we are not always going to have the greens in great condition in the spring. Our goal is to condition the greens to run a marathon. We are not running a sprint. We're not trying to hurry up and provide good greens for a few days and then back off and rest the greens and then come back and do it again. Those are the times when inconsistent greens are provided. Running a marathon takes time, commitment and planning. Even a marathon runner doesn't run a marathon every time they train, they're bodies would crash from exhaustion. So too is the case with our greens, we want them to make it the distance and in the process there will sometimes be some obstacles we need to overcome before we reach our goal so we are ready to run the race.

For us the time has come and we are now ready for the season, we are ready to run the race.

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