Thursday, May 15, 2014

Firm Greens and a Fungus Among Us!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Thursday, May 15th and the rain appears to have set in, so there is no better time than the present to blog about what's going on at Carolina Golf Club.  Earlier this morning there was a tornado warning issued for Mecklenburg County, but fortunately we were not affected.  Since my last post the month of May has brought some much needed warmer weather to our region.  Thirteen of the past fourteen days have seen high temperatures at or above normal, and for the past eleven consecutive days temperatures have been in the 80's F!  That is good news for our bermudagrass tees, fairways, and roughs!  The golf course is looking more and more each day like her old self rather than some semi-dormant piece of land that overslept and is trying to shake off some cobwebs.  Granted there is a cold front associated with this rain we are currently experiencing that will bring some chilly morning temperatures the next few days, but I do not expect to see any adverse effects on our bermudagrass playing surfaces.  That is good news with our Member-Member Championship and the North Carolina Amateur Championship right around the corner!

Last week was our annual Member-Guest tournament and many of you had very positive things to say about the condition of the golf course.  I want to thank you on behalf of my staff for your kind words!  After the damaging winter and cold spring I was starting to worry about this year's event.  I mentioned to several members in conversation maybe the golf course had looked better in the past this time of year, but I really don't think it had ever played any better.  The fairways were firm and fast and I was paid the ultimate compliment by one of our members when he said, "Matthew the greens are so firm it is hard to find a ball mark!"  When you have bentgrass greens, that's the way they should be.

I do want to share with you some information about our bermudagrass turf, and explain some things you may be noticing and possibly curious about.  The first is thin areas.  Currently on the far right side of the first fairway along with some areas on five, eight, fifteen and eighteen you will find turf that is suffering from winter injury.
First Fairway
Although all the golf course turf was affected by the harsh winter, these areas were more greatly compromised by their individual environments.  On the first hole this area stays in constant shade caused by the shadows from the line of trees on the south side of the fairway.  In 2010, this turf actually suffered winter kill and had to be replaced with new sod, but a closer inspection this year shows many surviving green plants.

It's Alive!

The other areas I mentioned were compromised by the extremely wet conditions experienced this winter.  Nearly 20 inches of rain fell on Carolina between December 2013 and March of this year.  Throw in another 8 inches last month and these areas spent more time under water, even with internal drainage.  Last week we verticut these damaged areas to break up the crusty layer that formed and was inhibiting bermudagrass regrowth.  We will pay these areas extra attention with fertilizer treatments and topdressing and everything will be good as new before you know it.

Another bermudagrass topic I want to discuss is a fungal disease commonly called Spring Dead Spot (SDS).  SDS is noticeable after the bermudagrass breaks winter dormancy and is seen as mostly circular, depressed patches of straw-colored turf.  The patches may range anywhere from 6 inches to 3 feet in diameter and are slow to completely fill in and grow over with healthy turf.

Spring Dead Spot
SDS typically occurs in mature turfs (more than 5 years old) and with our golf course renovation/restoration occurring in 2008, we now find ourselves dealing with this issue.  SDS is a confounding turf disease because it is incited by three different fungal pathogens Leptosphaeria, Ophiosphaerella, and Gaeumannomyces each with their own specific environmental triggers, thus the severity of SDS may not be consistent from one year to the next.  What we do know is although the disease symptoms appear in the spring, the fungal agents living in the soil typically infect the plants in the fall, as the plant begins to enter winter dormancy.  Last spring we noticed SDS in certain portions of the golf course and mapped those areas in order to apply fungicides last fall.  We are mapping the course again this year for the same purposes, and also to compare the severity from year-to-year.  Also, I  was recently asked by the Virginia Tech Department of Turfgrass Pathology to submit samples for some research they are conducting on the disease, so hopefully our assistance will benefit us down the road.

Earlier I mentioned the comment about the firmness of our putting surfaces.  In order to promote good water infiltration and assist oxygen entering the root zone it's important to vent the surfaces regularly.  This past Monday we vented the putting greens with needles tines and then rolled the surfaces smooth.  The holes are so small you don't notice them but they work like magic and are critical to the long term health of our greens.
During the venting process intern James Dennett spotted this view from behind the 6th green and shared it with me.  The clouds really caught his eye, especially in black and white!

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton
Golf Course Superintendent

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