Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Cultural Practices, Oakmont, the USGA, and Nature!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Tuesday, June 28th and I want to recap what's been transpiring on the golf course lately, tell you a little about my trip to the US Open, and then share something neat with you.  I will also make you aware of what to expect on the course over the coming days as we are about to close the book on June with July only 3 days away!  

When we last gathered here we were in the middle of putting green aeration.  This is a small, hollow tine aeration that serves to bridge the gap between our March and September aerations.  Our climate in conjunction with our busy golf schedule in late spring makes it impossible for the greens to survive the entire summer without this breather (see what I did there).  You see oxygen is vital for root survival and our small tine aeration immediately following Memorial Day helps provide oxygen to the root zone before the greens enter the heat of battle (I did it again).

Last week we core aerated and topdressed all tees.  Fairways, approaches, and surrounds were topdressed with sand and then aerated using solid tines.  Now you may be asking why are we not removing a core on the fairways when we do so on greens and tees.  Remember the greens and tees are constructed from sand while the remainder of the course is composed of Piedmont red clay.  A couple of years ago the decision was made to implement a fairway topdressing program in an effort over time to establish a sand cap on our fairways to improve drainage as well as fairway firmness and smoothness.  
First Pass On No. 8

Almost Finished

Slow and Steady

In order to establish the sand cap it is necessary to avoid pulling clay soil to the surface and incorporating into the canopy like we did years before.  Another benefit of this process is we avoid the muddy tire tracks and muddy foot prints on the greens and clubhouse carpets, and more.  Last year we topdressed the fairways twice (July and August).  This year we have targeted three applications during the summer bermudagrass growing season.

Just prior to the week of fairway topdressing and aeration I had the good fortune to attend this year's US Open at Oakmont Country Club for two days.  I had never been to Oakmont before so it was a real treat to see firsthand all the work accomplished restoring this classic course.  You see Oakmont CC was designed by Henry Fownes and he was inspired by the great links courses in Europe.  Over time and like many other courses throughout America the decision was made to "beautify" the golf course by planting trees.  After many years those trees grew too large and encroached on the golf course negatively impacting not only the original architecture but also turf health.  The club embarked on an amazing plan to recapture the original design and removed thousands of trees.  In case you didn't have the opportunity to see it, here is a VIDEO LINK to the Golf Channel piece by Matt Ginella that tells the story about how Oakmont turned back the clock.  PSA, this video is 18+ minutes in length.  The end result is simply amazing as I can testify it is quite breathtaking standing on the grounds gazing out across the entire course.

No. 9

No. 3 With The Famous Church Pews

Different View of No. 3

Staff and Volunteers Prep 10th Green Prior to 2nd Round

Speaking of the USGA, last week we were visited by Pat O'Brien, agronomist with the USGA Green Section.  Pat was traveling through the Charlotte area with his summer intern, Eric Reasor, a graduate student studying weed science at the University of Tennessee.  

Pat O'Brien and Eric Reasor

Closer Look at Fairway Topdressing

Via our contract with the USGA as co-hosts of the upcoming 2018 US Mid-Am we receive one complimentary half-day visit each year from now till the tournament, so I was happy to greet Pat and Eric and show them around Carolina.  Pat has visited and consulted here in the past and is familiar with the golf course and some of our agronomic programs.  One area we did focus our attention on is our natural/native areas.  

When you combine a dry early spring with a wet late spring you get a weed population that requires extra attention.  In case you wonder why that is, pre-emergent herbicides must come in contact with the soil in order to be effective.  Below average rainfall in March and April limited the effectiveness of our herbicides in the natural/native areas.  May brought nearly 6 inches rain and with that comes sufficient moisture to germinate the weed seeds existing in the soil.  It's definitely a bumper crop of Mare's Tail this year!

Mare's Tail
But the staff has diligently worked their way through the golf course removing the Mare's Tail and other unwanted weeds.  In fact, the fescue is peaking at the moment and those areas really accent the golf course.  I shared a few photos last Friday demonstrating how well the guys "cleaned up" those areas.
Unfortunately, our broomsedge areas are struggling due to the surging population of Mare's Tail and Dogfennel.  Pat, Eric and I walked these areas and upon closer inspection were encouraged by what we saw down below.  The desirable warm-season grasses are just beginning to flush out.  The decision was made to mow these areas now in an effort to clean them up.  We will follow with a herbicide application a few days later and this will eliminate the unwanted plants providing room for our desirable warm-season grasses to flush out and establish over the coming weeks.  We will also hand seed some fescue into any voids in an attempt to alter the overall composition of these areas going forward.  Now, we will only be mowing the predominant broomsedge areas, the fescue areas are performing to expectations and will remain untouched.

Personally I never tire of seeing nature.  I don't know of too many golf course superintendents that do not appreciate all that Mother Nature has to offer.  Last week was a rare one as I saw a coyote late Tuesday evening while aerating fairways.  Wednesday brought the opportunity to see not one, but two turtles laying eggs.  Both nests are marked and we are making the effort to not disturb them. Thursday completed the trifecta as a small bird decided to land on my head.  The little fellow's first attempt at flying landed him smack on top of my hat!  My assistants Ben and David got a good laugh while capturing the moment.  How neat is that!

Evening Stroll

Laying Eggs No. 8
Laying Eggs No. 16

My Little Friend!
If you have any questions, comments, or concerns about these or any other course related topics please do not hesitate to ask.  I'm always available.  Until next time...

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG