Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Before You Know It!

Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Tuesday, July 31st and it's time for another update.  Before we officially close the books on July... Really?  Seems only yesterday summer was just getting here after a slow start and now we only have one more month till football season!  Before you know it August will also be a distant memory and we will be knee deep co-hosting a USGA Championship.  But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves just yet.

Earlier this month we were closed two days for fairway aeration (you may recall this was originally scheduled for mid June and due to conflicts we pushed the operation to the week after Independence Day.  The fairways were solid tine aerated using 3/4 inch diameter tines and topdressed with 300 tons of sand.  
We are planning one more topdressing in a couple weeks, before the summer growing season comes to an end.  The spread rate will be slightly lighter (about 250 tons) and the material will only be dragged in, no aerating.

June and July have been quite dry as we have only received about 4 1/2 inches total rain the past two months.  As a result the water level in our irrigation reservoir is down several feet and the golf course shows the telltale signs of drought stress with sporadic discoloration.  On the bright side, the dryer than average conditions permit us to control the moisture on our bentgrass putting surfaces.  Despite a warmer than average first two months of summer, the greens have performed exceptionally well and I'm quite pleased with their current status.
Granted, I'm not attempting to put the cart before the horse as we still have one more challenging month to go, but considering this is the best condition we've ever been entering August, I like our chances.

Last week we had another walk through with the USGA as we continue to count down the days to the 2018 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship.  Whether you're counting down to the first round of competition (Sep 22), the first official practice round (Sep 20), or just the Monday of Championship Week (Sep 17) it's less than 60 days away, closer to 50 actually and will be here before you know it!  This was the first course visit by tournament director Bill McCarthy since late April and we spent the entire morning last Wednesday examining the golf course and current conditions.  
We looked at winter recovery, turf density, mowing heights, fairway widths, hole locations, tee placement, and more.  Overall the USGA is very pleased with the current conditions of the golf course and we talked about taking measures over the coming weeks to preserve and protect turf conditions prior to the tournament.  It will be here before you know it.  

You've probably already noticed rope positioned across the fairway exit just shy of Number 4 green.  This is to aid our ability to grow thick rough just right of the green (constant cart traffic compacts the soil and restricts the turf's ability to grow vigorously).  We've also placed ropes along the cart path edge down Number 11 in order to limit traffic and aid the rough growing on the right side of the fairway.  In the coming weeks you will probably begin to see similar measures taken as my team and I continue to identify areas that aren't performing to tournament expectations. #StayTuned

Also, the overall height of cut (HOC) in the rough will be raised.  The rough is currently maintained at 2 inches (our normal topping point in a growing season).  The USGA is requesting a minimum of 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 inches for the championship.  When you consider the challenge our rough currently produces you can imagine what will happen when there is more of it between your clubhead and the ball.
Now before you go thinking that simply means maintaining a 2 inch rough until the tournament then simply not mowing that week, I'm sorry to tell you it doesn't exactly work that way.  You see, believe it or not the days are already getting shorter and the reduced photoperiod impacts Bermudagrass growth.  In fact, by late September when the championship arrives the turf will most likely be growing very slowly, if at all depending on weather conditions.  Thus, in order to produce thick, challenging, dare I say penal rough we will be making that final HOC adjustment sooner rather than later.  In the meantime Head Golf Professional Bobby Cox and his staff are reserving lessons to assist you with finding the fairway more frequently. :)

In other news looks like our resident Blue Heron has a new friend.  I managed to stop and capture a photo of the two stalking the creek in front of Number 16 this weekend.  Hope you enjoy.
That's all for now.  I've got to wrap up a few things before tomorrow's meeting with the Greens Committee, then it's just 31 more days till the end of meteorological summer.  Believe me, it will be over before you know it.

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

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