Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Here's What Happened and Why, What to Expect and More Entomology!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Wednesday, August 22, 2012 and it really August?  Oh my, where did the dog days go?  Oh well, who am I to complain about the weather :) ...this current pattern (although wet) is absolutely heavenly in regards to temperatures.  The bentgrass putting greens are actually excited and enthusiastic again and we are the same when it comes to maintaining them!  Real quick let me give you the weather update courtesy of my inner Jim Cantore...
Jim Cantore of The Weather Channel

Recall July brought an end to the drought in our region with 6.62 inches rain.  Thus far we have received an additional  6.71 inches rain in August with 5.73 inches coming in the last week of the dog days!  Needless to say but that is enough water to drown a whale (tic) let alone bentgrass.  This past week we have received nearly an inch (0.96 inches) as we performed some agronomic practices to the putting surfaces to assist their recovery as fall quickly approaches.

Thanks Jim!  If you have been to the course the past couple of days you may have been surprised to find the putting surfaces looking a little different.  No, we didn't aerate them (that is still nearly 5 weeks away) but we did perform another agronomic operation.  This past Monday the greens were verticut, fertilized, topdressed moderately and brushed.  The entire process looked a little something like this...

Debris Blown from Surface
Ready for Sand

Topdressing Applied
Brushed In

The process took nearly all day but the good news is we were able to effectively remove some excess organic material which builds up naturally in the upper portion of the putting surface as well as removed some tired leaf blades and make room for the sand.  Since ball marks do not recover during the dog days of summer very well, we have also reduced their size and the sand topdressing will both smooth and aid their recovery now the weather is more conducive for bentgrass growth and development.

What does all this mean in the coming days and weeks?  Quite simply it means smoother, firmer and faster putting greens as our fall tournament season fast approaches.  Ok, firmer when it quits raining but you know what I mean!  Yesterday the greens were double cut (mowed two times) and tomorrow the plan is to mow AND roll.  Also, we have already initiated gradual cutting height adjustments as we work our way down from the summer stress setting to our standard peak season setting as September is locked in our sights!  Thank you to the entire membership for another patient summer and my staff and I hope you enjoy the conditions of the golf course as fall golf quickly approaches!

In other news, late last week something was spotted on the golf course that caught the attention of one of my crew members who quickly called me over to take a closer look.  This thing was beautiful and hideous at the same time and to be honest...I didn't know what it was (thank God for the Internet)

Hickory Horned Devil Caterpillar
It's Big!

Turns out this was a Hickory Horned Devil Caterpillar and it was crawling across the 11th fairway.  My crew member was operating a tractor blower and spotted this critter from over 50 feet away because of its size.  It was nearly 6 inches long and close to 3/4 inch in diameter (normal size for one of these large caterpillars).  I scooped him up in a small shovel and released him near the creek at the edge of the woods before returning to do a little research.  Turns out this is the 5th and final instar stage just before pupation of the Regal Moth (Citheronia regalis) also known as the Royal Walnut Moth.

Regal Moth

The Regal Moth is the largest moth in all latitudes north of Mexico and to see a Hickory Horned Devil in that stage is definitely not something you see every day.  Turns out the caterpillar is harmless and easy to handle as pictures on the world wide web clearly indicate.  Oh well, just thought I would share with you bug lovers!

Until next time...

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton
Golf Course Superintendent

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Dog Days, Weather Channel, Pick Up Sticks, Bunker Renovation and Wise Guys!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"! Today is Wednesday, August 1st and the dog days of summer roll on!  Yesterday was a welcome reprieve from the heat but the long, hot days of summer are not over just yet.  You may be asking yourself what I mean so allow me to elaborate.  Most everyone has heard the term "dog days of summer" and knows they occur during the hottest and muggiest (most humid) part of the season.  In our latitude that period typically occurs for approximately 40 days beginning around July 3rd and wrapping up around August 11th.  The term comes from the ancient Romans who recognized the star Sirius, also known as the dog star because it is the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major (large dog) is in conjunction with the sun in late July.
Canis Major
Sirius will rise and set with the sun for a period of time and the Romans named the period for 20 days before and 20 days after the conjunction "dog days" after the dog star.  The Romans actually thought Sirius gave off heat due to the star's brightness and this heat in addition to the sun was the cause for the extremely hot weather associated with the dog days.

In my last blog post I described how the conditions of the golf course changed dramatically after an extremely dry June (1.58 inches total rain) became a wet, humid July in a short period of time.  I described how turfgrass diseases that affect bentgrass putting turf are most prevalent during hot, humid conditions and it's the humidity which is the most detrimental.  This is because the majority of turf diseases are caused by fungal agents and constant moisture is imperative for the growth and development of the fungi.  If you were paying close attention last time you may also have noticed how I specifically pinpointed July 3rd as the day when weather conditions changed to an environment more unfavorable for the putting surfaces as opposed to what we had been experiencing prior!

Although July wrapped up yesterday on a comfortable note it ended as the 4th warmest July on record and with a rainfall total of 6.62 inches!  The more amazing statistic is 6.25 of that came in a 10 day stretch between July 10th and 20th!  Yes, that much rain did wonders for our irrigation lake level and the bermudagrass is growing so fast it is difficult to keep up (especially in the rough) however, that much rain in a short period of time combined with high temperatures and extremely high humidity stressed several greens.  During these environmental stressful times we manage the putting surfaces accordingly.  Mowing heights are raised and some days the greens are merely rolled to ensure smoothness without mowing.  Everything we do is to help the bentgrass survive the day and live to see the next one.  With July now in the rear view mirror and dog days winding down we will soon be over the hump of summer 2012!

Moving on, have you noticed the rough lately?  Every year around this time the growth habit of the bermudagrass goes through this fundamental change and it drastically affects the difficulty of the golf course.  Right now the leaf blades are erect as if standing at attention.  Why is this significant?  It is significant because prior the leaf blades of bermudagrass were growing in an intertwined fashion (like a group of freshly dropped Pick Up Sticks). 
Pick Up Sticks
When the bermudagrass plants are woven together the ball sits up nicely, is easy to locate and even easier to hit for some.  However, with the days getting shorter (you hadn't noticed) Mother Nature is telling the bermudagrass to start preparations for the coming winter and the plant is literally "reaching for the sky"!  Why is this so important that I would mention it here?  Because, the weight of the ball will no longer be supported like it was earlier in the season and golf balls will begin to drop and the rough will become more penal and difficult...all while the height of cut is the SAME!  That's right, the rough will play entirely different with a mowing height that has not changed.  In fact, attempting to lower the height to compensate will only lead to more problems as the leaf tissue would be removed leaving behind stems with not enough leaf canopy to support the life of the plant.  Although this leads to very difficult scoring conditions this is entirely natural and happens every year as the turf progresses through its life cycle.  I hoped to bring this to your attention a little sooner this year so you would have a better understanding of how the grass changes as the seasons change and how these changes affect the way the course plays so as not to be caught off guard.  Remember, the golf course is a living, breathing thing and each day is different day...and there are 365 of them in a single year!

In other news, the right, greenside bunker on number two was recently renovated.  We removed ALL of the sand and exposed the entire bunker cavity.  Inspected the drain lines to ensure no problems existed and replaced with all new sand.  The project took two employees a couple of days but let's examine their work and results...
Sand is removed the "Old Fashioned Way"
The empty bunker cavity
New sand is compacted
Newly renovated bunker ready for play
Hopefully you are able to negotiate your way about the second hole avoiding the troublesome bunker.  If you do find yourself faced with the task of extricating your ball from the deep hazard I hope you find the execution of the shot easier than expected.  Next week we will perform the same process to the main practice bunker near the chipping green.

Lastly, I was making my routine rounds checking the course and watching the greens last Thursday when I noticed this foursome walking off the 5th green together and noticed their attire. 
Wise Guys!
I always heard wisdom comes with age and experience and I couldn't help but think to myself their mothers would have been proud of these gentlemen for knowing one should wear light colored clothing when outdoors during high temperatures... oh well, guess you had to be there!  That's all for now, until next time...

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton
Golf Course Superintendent