Monday, August 12, 2013

The Best the Course has Ever Been

It's always such a nice compliment from members when they tell you the golf course is in the best condition it has ever been in. A few of us in the Grounds Department joke about this comment. So its better than last year when that comment was made?  Is the golf course is better than the 2007 Trans-Mississippi Championship event or the 1998 Curtis Cup?  When I sit back and ponder this question, I think yes the course probably is the best condition its ever been in and yes it probably should be.  Every year we try to improve upon the previous season.  Those changes don't even have to be major changes to our maintenance program.  Subtle changes and adjustments to our program maybe all it takes to help make the course the best it has ever been.  We certainly are not moving backwards and doing less maintenance or not trying to make regular improvements to the overall condition to the golf course.

The statement of the course being in the best condition ever, no matter how cliche' it may sound, made me take a closer look at some of the tweeks we made this year to our operation.

For a number of years we have been mowing the clean-up pass on greens with a separate greens mower. We do this for a number of reasons.  First, consistency.  We feel by having a designated mower we have a more consistent cut and less scalping into the collar. Thus consistent collar widths by having only one employee make cut, as opposed to each individual greens mower assisting with this task.

Secondly, the height-of-cut is slightly higher than the greens mowers. We maintain the hoc ever so slightly higher, .005" higher, to provide the turf with slightly more leaf tissue.  Typically we use solid rollers on the greens mowers and have always used a solid roller for the clean-up mower.  But this year we added a twist to the roller for the clean-up mower.  A solid roller is always going to be less stressful and less aggressive on the green than a grooved roller, but since the clean-up mower is never mowing a straight line and is always turning, we wanted to find a way to reduce the stress even more.  Hence we installed a roller with three independent rollers.  As the mower rounds the corners the rollers can move at their own speed, reducing stress even more.  This year the edges of the greens have held up exceptionally well.  The 3-section roller just may have a little something to do with it.  Thanks to Chris Tritabaugh at Hazeltine National Golf Club for the tip.

New to the golf market in the past few years is a product called Turf Screen.  Developed by former Superintendent, Scott May, Turf Screen is virtually sunscreen for grass.  I have provided the link to Turf Screen and Scott's website explains the product and how it protects the turf from harmful UV rays better than I can on this blog.  This is our first year on Turf Screen for greens and edge to edge this is the best I have ever seen our greens this late in the season.  Does Turf Screen have a little something to do with it?  It may.  I know our plants are able to go to lower soil moisture percentages before we even begin to see any signs of wilt.  We virtually made no other fertility changes to greens this year and the weather has been ideal for cool-season grasses, but I think a little credit will go to Turf Screen as well.

For the past 4 years we have been taking daily moisture readings of greens with a product from Spectrum Technologies called the TDR 300.  Early in the process of managing greens with the sensor my goal was to maintain moisture on the greens between 10-15%.  The goal being to provide firm greens and hopefully deeper roots.  The plan this year has changed. After struggling to keep the poa annua healthy on the dry side during the past two very stressful weather related summers, we have opted to maintain a higher moisture content between 15-18%.  Lower greens moisture provided us with little wiggle room on hot dry days.  Just a little extra moisture gives us the wiggle room we need. The poa annua is healthier and the greens are more receptive for players with higher handicaps.  The use of moisture sensors allow us to maintain more consistent moisture from green to green and allow us to stay ahead of any potential wilt that may occur.

Is the golf course the best it has ever been, as a few members have stated?  I like to think with the minor improvements we have made to our operation, that yes the golf course is the best condition it has ever been.

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