Winter is here and soon it will come to an abrupt end. The snow and ice will melt and the grass will start to turn that emerald green we all know and love so much. The smell of cut grass and dew in the morning will fill the air and everyone will start to get that good old itch to get out and play a round of golf. But before any of that can happen the winter projects must be completed and preparations must be done for the upcoming season.
One common question rings in my ear constantly “what does a maintenance crew work on all winter when the golf course is closed”. What are you working on? There is snow everywhere what can you possibly be doing all winter? These questions are easily answered and explained. Many things need to be accomplished during the winter time in order for the summer golf season to even take place.
When I walk into the shop every morning the sound of metal grinding and air powered ratchets fills the air. Our crew is working daily on sharpening rotary blades and reels for mowers so that when day one comes to be, the grass gets cut right and looks its best. Nothing worse then dull blades and ripped tipped grass on a course. Regular maintenance is also done on machines to make sure they are at their peak performance when the season rolls around. These are just the start of our winters; however take up a great amount of that offseason time. Cart signs need to be painted and cleaned up to look fresh. When it comes down to it there are so many little intricate things that I could mention that need to be tended to that this could take me all day. The easiest way to explain it is that anything you see on the course during the season, was worked on during the winter offseason. Not to mention that we also take care of all the snow removal for the buildings as well which this year has kept us regularly busy trying to keep up.
Every year improvements must be made and changes must be applied. These become evident when you step up to the first tee at the crack of dawn when the sun is just starting to peak through the trees to the east. You place your tee in the ground and when you place your ball you see the contrast of the white ball against the fresh striped grass. You hear the sweet sound of silence until you swing that club and crush your ball up the fairway disappearing into the morning fog lifting off the ground in the distance. The bold color of the flag in the distance gives you that target you so desire, therefore leaving you that old familiar sound of the ball falling into the white cup as you finish the hole and move on to the next. And so the season begins….
Spring is on the way!! The robins returned to the golf course last week and this little plumper is a fine specimen.
The course should be opening soon and looks to be in great shape!
The renovations are complete and the changes look fantastic. The updates, especially the new sand, will make the course more enjoyable to play.
We have several openings on the maintenance staff for the 2018 season. New Berlin Hills is a great place to work and play. Free golf for you and your immediate family (free golf cart too!) is a great benefit we are proud to offer. Feel free to stop by the maintenance shop anytime to see what we have to offer!
Renovations have resumed and things are looking great. The back nine bunkers should be sodded next week and the paths will be asphalted soon. We can’t wait for the finished product and the much deserved face lift this course needed. Things are shaping up nicely for a great season next year.
Come back and check out all the improvements.
I was fortunate to be selected to volunteer on the grounds crew at Erin Hills for the 117th US Open. Wow what a great experience. It was awesome to be a part of a team of seasoned professionals that were willing to put their egos aside for the greater good of a common goal. Besides the normal maintenance staff of 50 there were another 120 or so volunteers. It was neat to see the grounds crew groom the whole course to near perfection in a matter of a few hours. I met a lot of great people from Wisconsin and all over the world while I worked on the bunker and divot crews. The level of detail was amazing and the superintendents they have at Erin Hills are top notch. Below are a few pictures from the week.
The greens are growing in nicely. A lot of the Annual Bluegrass that was on the edge coming out of winter seems to have survived and where it didn’t bent grass is filling in those voids nicely. Construction continues on the course and things are looking better all the time!
Old man winter strikes again! It appears that some of the greens did not like the large fluctuations in temperature over the last few months. Crown hydration of Annual Bluegrass seems to once again be the culprit. Annual bluegrass (Poa) does not tolerate certain weather issues as well as Creeping Bentgrass, which came out of winter fine. Unfortunately this process is doomed to repeat itself periodically due to the large population of Annual Bluegrass on many of the greens, especially ones with shade issues. This year it seems the tees and fairways escaped with only minimal damage. The maintenance team will work hard to restore the greens this spring but patience will be needed as this process is often slow due to typical cool, cloudy conditions we have here in the spring. As soon as soil temperatures warm significantly, damage will disappear quickly. We look forward to another great season as renovations continue and the course continues to improve. Please follow these links for more information about winterkill of turf grass on golf courses.
The beat goes on. Although winter has taken a firm grasp, renovation activities on the course continue. Crews have been working on excavating and putting in a stone base for the paths on the back nine. Asphalt plants should open by late April to allow all work to be finished by Memorial day weekend. Let’s hope for a warm and dry spring!
The smell of fall is in the air and the leaves are falling fast. Golf course renovations have been ongoing since September, but unfortunately this unusually rainy fall has hampered some of the progress. We are excited about the changes that have taken place already and are hoping for a warm, dry stretch of weather.
Wow what a hot summer. Along with the humidity and ill timed rains, the high temperatures have certainly left their mark on the golf course. The course naturally goes through different phases during the season and this season is no different. The annual demise of both Annual and Rough Bluegrass has been more widespread this year than the past few. These scars mostly on the fairways will fill back in with time and some cooler temperatures this fall. This is also the time of year when the green speeds may slow down due to the difficult nature of managing predominantly Annual Bluegrass greens with the weather we have been experiencing the last month. Please check out these excerpts from local industry experts to learn more about what the maintenance team has been dealing with this year.
This is from Dr. Ed Nangle’s scouting report that was sent out on Sunday August 7th. Dr Nangle is part of the Chicago Golf District.
The week itself has been somewhat mixed. There has been a dry-down for some, but at this stage damage has been already done and the issue with green speeds has certainly come to the forefront as superintendents try to protect the greens through the brutal heat. One thing that has also almost certainly disappeared with the anaerobic soil conditions combining nicely with cruel heat is turfgrass roots. This means surfaces may become a little soft and inconsistent, so trying to judge best mowing heights is nigh on impossible. Remnants of Pythium can be seen in low spots and on some fairways, while further south unfortunately summer patch has made its way onto greens. Reports of grub digging have emerged already – indicating that the mild winter really did leave us a little off on the timing of various applications. It is just over one week, however, until Aug. 15 and so many are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.
Continuing to do the right things from an agronomical standpoint will win the day. Making judgment calls based on incoming weather conditions and staying calm in the face of adversity will get you through – no rash decisions! Our other annual issue – the disappearance of rough bluegrass Poa trivialis because it got too hot in the kitchen has really kicked in, and so the dormancy will leave a stain from now until the middle of September. Patience will be required as well as a lot of seed – get after it and finish strong!
This is from Bruce Schweiger’s scouting report that was sent out August 10th from the Turfgrass Diagnostic Lab at UW-Madison. Early in the hot stretch of weather the patch diseases were tops on the list of diagnosed issues. As heat continued the rains seems to come at the most inopportune times. From telephone conversations and Twitter it appears many facilities experienced floods, like the Noer, and/or just rain events after rain events.
These constant rains have saturated soils through out the Midwest. This has caused a switch in the issues arriving at the TDL. With all the rains stress diseases and abiotic issues are showing up. Pythium has been on the increase especially where we have a soil profile with a layer of organic matter. Due to the humidity and rainfall these layers are saturated and perfect breeding ground for pythium. In these cases a good aerification program can assist in diluting the organic matter and improving drainage for next summer.
Abiotic issues have been on the increase. These wet, hot, humid conditions are not allowing the soil profile to dry down. When the soils don’t dry they have a deceases oxygen content and thus un-happy plants. During these tough times with the goal for firm fast greens, sometimes our maintenance practices are increased. The extra rolling, topdressing, double cutting and possibly extra PGR applications can be very detrimental. I know the golfers do not see the issue, but after a few weeks of this with no recovery time the turf canopy declines. Where can we draw the line between a few complaints about speed that will in time lead to the complaints about bad greens? Just this week I have been dealing with a few Superintendents in this situation that after a few weeks of fighting speed are now in a battle with anthracnose, and it has been a battle.
If you have noticed a bunch of parallel lines on the greens this year that is due to a new procedure we have started called verticutting. Although new to NBH, this practice has been around for many years. Depending on how deep you cut in to the greens, the process can also be referred to as grooming. There are many benefits of this process including organic matter removal. When done before sand topdressing this process gives a place for the sand to go so it doesn’t sit on top and frustrate golfers and it also helps keep our greens mowers sharp. Please follow this link for more information.
Spring is near and we had our first robin sighting last week. Thankfully the golf season is almost upon us. It looks as though the golf course has come out of winter in good shape which is great news since there were some concerns in the area about ice damage relating to the rain we had in early February. Due to the short duration of snow cover this winter, snow mold pressure has been very light here.
Over the last couple months we have been working on several upgrades to the course. Twelve new large trees were planted on holes one and five and they should make an immediate impact. Tree removal is also happening all over the course. Most of the trees removed were Ash trees that were not treated for Emerald Ash Borer or trees in poor health. The city has been very helpful with this project as they have worked to inventory all the trees on the property as well as chemically treat some Ash trees that are important to the golf landscape. These changes along with future renovations will continue to improve your experience at New Berlin Hills.
The dog days of summer are almost over and the course has held up well this year although we have not been without our fair share of maladies. Two issues we have been dealing with are white clover and the annual decline of roughstalk bluegrass. White clover growth has flourished this year and has encroached into healthy turf areas. All the fairways have been treated for this weed and the associated scars are healing nicely and should be gone in fall. We will continue to treat the clover in the rough areas this fall as resources allow.
Poa Trivialis, commonly referred to as Rough Bluegrass, has also contributed to some of the brown spots in a few of the fairways. This grass is very light green in color when healthy and is often confused with Annual Bluegrass (Poa Annua). Rough Bluegrass does not tolerate hot, dry conditions very well and will go dormant under theses conditions. The brown color it turns in dormancy makes it look like the plants died but as soon as the temperatures drop and the rains return the plants produce new shoots and the brown disappears. This weedy grass is very hard to control and only a sod cutter or Roundup gets rid of it. We tend to just tolerate here since the length of time it is brown is normally only a few weeks in our climate.
Some of you may have noticed the greens have a touch of brown in them in patches. This is due to several reasons. Earlier this spring we applied some growth regulating products to try and reduce the amount of seed heads the annual bluegrass produces. This can cause the grass to turn brown when we get some cold, frosty nights like we had last week. We also have a bit of a fungus called leaf spot infecting some of the grass. This fungus mostly feeds on older leaves but since the grass is growing slowly it is more evident. The brown should go away with time as we get more consistently warmer temperatures, especially at night.
Spring is in the air, and the course is greening up nicely. The whole golf course came out of winter in great shape and we are excited for a new golf season and starting the process of evaluating the course for fall renovations. The renovations will improve many aspects of the course, especially bunkers-which will make us all happy!
What do you do in the winter? That is a question we get all the time. The following list doesn’t include everything we do but will help you appreciate and understand what winter golf course maintenance entails.