Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Greens Update

This winter was definitely not kind to our putting surfaces and we have a encountered a severe amount of damage on all 19 greens.  The primary cause, was a layer of ice that had developed on top of them starting in early January and lasted for 55 to 85 days.  Coupled with the tremendously cold winter and significant snowfall, many South East Michigan courses are suffering winter damage.

Last week we started on our journey to recovery.  We have decided our best approach is to regrow our playing surfaces from grass that survived the winter, Annual Bluegrass (POA) seed that exists in the soil, and incorporating a newer variety of Bent grass seed.  There are many steps to our recovery, with the foundation of it being time and patience to achieve positive results.   Our first step in our process at Forest Lake, was incorporating the Bent grass seed into the existing green.  Below is start to finish of seeding the greens;

Verti-cutting double direction to create channels for bent grass seed to fall into
Depth of first verti-cut slice

Cleaning up thatch and debris from verti-cutting
Several cartloads of material were collected through this pocress
Spiking the greens 3 different directions to allow more slits for seed to fall into
Drop spreading seed in 2 different directions
Bent Grass Seed
Topdressing to cover seed and to help for good seed/soil contact
Applying starter fertilizer to boost nutrition to provide food during seed germination
Rolling to also help with seed/soil contact
Water, Water, Water.  Very important to keep seeds and young plants moist during establishment
Covering all of the greens to increase temperature and humidity during germination
We are hoping to see our first results of germination after 7 days.  We have already seen some positive results in new active growth from the existing turf.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Course Update

Spring is officially here!  Even though at times the weather still has that end of winter chill.  We are definitely going to have a late spring warm up, which will slow greening of the turf.  This severe winter has offered many challenges on grass wide spread through Michigan. Rough grass areas and bunker faces are matted down and snow mold is apparent in many areas.  The extended period of snow cover, creating slow cool and wet melting conditions all played major factors.  Most of these areas are very resilient and will bounce back after some raking and the first few mows this spring.

Receding snow bank on #18 Right side bunker
Some of the bigger challenges at the start of this golf season is "Winter Kill" damage we did suffer on shorter mowed areas.  Tees and fairways that have winter scars on the golf course, will rebound fairly quickly with some spiking and warm weather. Our main focus over the next several weeks will be inter seeding our putting greens to help stimulate growth in thin areas and areas of turf loss.  Covers will be used on our greens to help raise the temperatures and to create a "greenhouse" effect to accelerate the recovery process during cooler temperatures.

Covering the putting green

#8 green
Finally it would not be spring without cleanup.  Special thank you to the maintenance crew in working very hard at cleaning up branches, leaves and sticks wide spread across the golf course. 

Typical scattered sticks coming out of the winter
Cleaning up the corners of the course

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Greens Committee Winter Damage Report

Winter Damage to Turf in South East Michigan

There have been many reports and news stories about the severity of the winter Michigan residents lived through in 2013/14.  It has been labeled the “worst winter in modern times”.  Record totals for snow fall as well as sub freezing temperatures were amongst many records that are close to being broken.  Temperatures ranged an average of 6-10F colder for the most of this winter.

As many area golf courses and their superintendent’s look to open up the doors to the 2014 season, there are still many hurdles in their way.  Snow banks are apparent on north facing slopes and in shaded areas by trees.  The deep frost layer is still trying to make its way out of the ground providing moist soft conditions.  The playing surfaces have a very inconsistent look from tan to lush green.

On April 1st, Forest Lake sent 5 representatives to an educational session at Oakland Hills C.C. regarding winter damage.  This event was attended by over 200 people from club board of directors, greens committees, superintendents and golf industry representatives.  The panel of speakers consisted of Dr. Jeffrey Andresen (climate specialist) MSU, Dr. Kevin Frank (Turf grass specialist) MSU, Dr. Trey Rogers (Turf grass professor) MSU, Robert Vavrek (Agronomist) USGA, and Steve Cook CGCS (Director of Agronomy) Oakland Hills C.C. All of the attendants shared 1 thing in common, their concerns of winter impact on their golf courses.  The seminar outlined; how winter damage happens, where we stand as a region and some solutions on how to recover from potential damages.

Ice layer accumulations started developing at Forest Lake early January ranging from ½” to 3” on our putting surfaces, with snow 18” to 30” on top of that.  What does all of this mean?  The winter hardiness of Annual Bluegrass “POA” which make up our greens, tees and fairways at Forest Lake can start declining at 45 days under ice.  With the brutal temperatures and no melt conditions our ice layers remained on our greens for 65-75 days, despite the efforts of our greens crew removing snow and trying to accelerate melt.

Due to very cool temperatures in late March, and similar temperatures forecasted through late April, traditional spring green will be delayed up for 2-3 weeks.  Our biggest fear is the potential for some “winter kill “damage, where the grass fails to grow after warming conditions.   If we do experience some damage, it is the extent and where the location of the damage occurs, that will dictate how we get the course in playable shape.

Our first goal is to assess any problems that may of occurred this winter, and figure out the best management practices to re-establish grass where needed, and to open our course for members.  Proactive steps we take to grow grass in the spring will lead to healthy turf and great playing conditions.    Using ropes to direct cart traffic, painted ground under repair areas, and provisional greens may be solutions if we encounter areas that have turf loss. 

Information will be available daily at the First Tee and Pro shop regarding rules of conduct on the golf course this spring during recovery.

Greens committee