Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Greatest Gift of Gardening is the Restoration of the Five Senses

If you haven’t noticed we have slowly been redesigning the landscaping around the clubhouse and have begun to head towards the putting green.  Most recently we have redone the first bed that you see when you pull into the parking lot.
We started by removing all existing plant material and then lowering the bed to reduce the mounding.  The existing plant material was overgrown and was beginning to become an eye sore.  By reducing the mounding rainfall will no longer wash the mulch away and will reduce maintenance throughout the year. The new plant material that was chosen should give colorful interest from spring all the way through fall.
In the front of the bed there is Vera Jane Sedum that will give some summer interest but, mainly in the fall.  Behind that there are Dwarf Butterfly Bushes that will produce color all season until the first frost.  Behind the Butterfly Bushes there is My Monet Weigela that will bloom pink in early summer.   On the sides there are coral colored Drift Roses.  These will have consistent color from early spring all the way to fall.  In the other half of the bed there are Autumn Embers Encore Azalea’s.  This variety of Azalea blooms three times a year.  Then on each end there are My Monet Weigela and along with some Yellow daylilies.

Keep your eyes open there will be more colorful changes to come.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Stresses of Summer Newsletter

Stresses of Summer 

Summer has been here for a while and isn't going anywhere soon. We have seen a variety of weather ranging from cool and dry to hot, wet, and humid. Weather heavily dictates how we approach the course from an agronomy stand point. It effects when we mow, what chemical applications we apply, how often we roll, and the overall set-up of the course. The latter is what effects members and guests the most. Our main objective is to provide championship conditions throughout the entire year while maintaining a healthy playing surface.

During the summer there are many factors that cause turf stress. These factors include: high temperatures, high humidity, heavy traffic from golf, and traffic from maintenance. The only stress factor we can truly manage is that caused by our agronomy practices. Routinely mowing and rolling greens may provide quicker greens, however, these actions are detrimental to a plant that is already battling stress. Greens may be a little slower in the summer as we may periodically skip mowing them for a day to give them rest, especially during hot, wet cycles. This provides the most important asset of the course a day to recover during a period when everything is trying to weaken the plant. It is vital to ensure that the greens come out of summer, healthy and are strong enough to be pushed during the fall when the weather is more favorable to providing lightning quick greens.


Fans are another tool that are used to battle the stresses of summer in Southern Indiana. These large fans cool the turf canopy by as much as 15°F. This in return cools the soil profile resulting in a better growing medium for roots. The stronger the roots in a plant the better prepared the turf is for handling stress and being able to come out of summer healthy. Along with cooling of the canopy and soil the fans provide air movement which can help with the drying of the greens reducing disease pressure.

Cart Restrictions 

Fairways are under stress much like the greens but they also have to deal with the stress of golf cart traffic. Most of you are aware that we will keep carts on traffic due to the course being too wet. We will also keep carts off of certain fairways during periods of high stress to protect the entrances and exits of the fairway. Many of the short par 4's only have one entrance or exit leaving no room to move traffic patterns. This leaves us with the only option being to close the hole to cart traffic. Every hole is assessed on a daily basis and when we begin to notice traffic areas becoming weak or showing signs of stress it is vital that we restrict cart traffic to ensure the overall health of the playing surface.


On fairways and tees we ask you to fill divots with the divot mix provided. Throughout the year we continue to refill divots with mix and seed. However, during the summer it may seem like divots are not growing in. This is due to the seed not germinating because the high temps force the seed into dormancy. As cooler temperatures arrive in the fall the divots will begin to fill in. Divot pelts should not be replaced in divots as they will not root or grow back in during the higher temperatures. It is best to fill all divots with mix and wait until fall for the seed to germinate and fill in the divots.


Depending on weather conditions, the maintenance staff can be seen handwatering the golf course throughout the afternoon. It can be done to cool off the plant reducing heat stress on the plant or it is done to provide water to the plant. Our irrigation system can provide water to large areas in a very nonspecific manner, this causes low areas to become wet and stay wet. As we handwater we are able to apply water to very specific areas which allows us to provide even playing surfaces throughout the course.

Overall the goal of all of our agronomic practices is to reduce stress on the turf during the summer months while still maintaining championship conditions. We assess and evaluate the golf course on a daily basis and determine what practices will provide championship conditions to our golfers while still maintaining a healthy stand of grass.


Gerald Smith
Assistant Superintendent

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Maintenance Middle of the Stretch

The last article written was about the training and the efforts put into preparing our turfgrass for Opening Day. We compared this to the spring training of baseball players. These long seasons require dedication, proper management, and hard work throughout the entire year. Players run wind sprints, go through defensive drills, and take batting practice to get ready for the season. We discussed to get ready for our season and provide consistent playing conditions, that we would be grooming, rolling, and double cutting throughout the spring.

With 162 games in a regular season, I happened to look at ESPN the other night and realized we are 14 days away from The ALL-STAR Game in Cincinnati, OH, the halfway point of the season. Thinking about it a little bit, I couldn't help but continue our comparison to baseball players. The comments coming from our course appear to be positive, and we are hitting the middle of the season as well in our golf season. Unfortunately, our team is not able to keep a score of wins and losses in our season, or stats on how many RBI's, home runs, and stolen bases we have had. If you consider luck on tournament weather for this season, we are at the top of the leaderboard.

The All-Star break is crucial for teams as it symbolizes the half way point, but also gives the players five days off in the middle of the season. This helps the players take time to rest their bodies and heal. With the cool temperatures that have moved in and look to remain for the next few days, our bentgrass is able to do the same. On the surface, we have been consistent with good playing conditions, fast greens and an overall healthy look. Our "record" seems to be right where we would like it to be to finish the race and close with a very strong September and October.

Looking a little closer into the middle of the season you will also find that the injury report for teams are starting to rapidly grow. We have trained for these moments, but there are so many more factors that play into staying healthy. Weather is a large factor in the health and strength of the roots in a plant. I ask that you look at the roots of the plant as the muscles in your body. After continuous stress the roots begin to fatigue or stress in these conditions and the smallest error in judgement can cause detrimental damage. This is the reason you see players stretch a little more, do light jogs vs. wind sprints, and begin taking I.V.'s vs. drinking electrolytes. We have seen mid-90's for three- quarters of this past month and over seven inches of rain. These kinds of conditions on bentgrass are not as typical for the months of June. With the lack of wind movement, high heat, rainfall and high humidity the roots tend to boil in these conditions as there is nowhere for the water to go. Plant roots have optimum growth with soil temperatures in the 50-65 degree range. When soil rises above 80 degrees we begin to see root heat stress which can be the onset of root die back if the managers push the plant to hard. At the soil temperature of 100 to 112 degrees it is inevitable you will have root kill. Saturated soil temperatures take longer to decrease because of its density. So even though we may have a few cool nights here and there, it takes multiple cool days to lower the temperature of your soils.

This is where team doctors, physicians, and technology can come into play. I would never claim to be a doctor, but our team is continually diagnosing the turf on a daily basis. We compare notes with our "medical" team, look at root structure, discolorations, examine tissue tests, and consult with leading professionals to make the best decisions possible. We definitely have our bumps and bruises right now, but with constant improvement to the native areas, monthly venting of the fine turf and timely pesticide application to the course we are making strides in the right direction for another great year. Victoria National is known for being one of the most challenging courses to not only play, but maintain in the country. The conditions of southern Indiana, the size of the property, the steep terrain, and untimely weather are all factors. Having the support to use the best chemistries for applications has been another key factor to our success. Understand that one full application to our fine turf is approximately $12,000(bi-weekly) during the growing season.

As in baseball, the success of a team, from the players to the staff depends on a solid foundation from an ownership. With their support, we have been able to give the turf the things it needs to stay healthy and ready for the season. Being able to use acid injection into our irrigation system has given us the ability to change the pH of the water and break down unwanted bicarbonates in the soil. Shared capital contributions from the membership and ownership have also provided new irrigation boxes allowing for greater control of when, where and how to add water to the spots needing the most attention. Removal of dangerous, unwanted, and invasive species of trees has assisted with air movement and sunlight to our greens. This factor alone has been a MAJOR improvement to our playing surfaces and care for our #1 asset in maintenance.

We will be prepared to go on the defense as we go into the second stretch of the season if needed. These practices could include raising height of cuts, rotating cart traffic on holes lacking traffic exits, or running fans to keep surfaces cool. At times, my decisions may not be popular and could be questioned by some, but it is my job to make sure that I make the best decision decisions possible to ensure that our turfgrass is healthy for the entire season.


Kyle Callahan
Golf Course Superintendent

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Build It and They Will Come

In today’s society bats can be perceived by people as a nuisance and do not realize their contribution to the ecosystem, which can give them a very poor reputation. 70 percent of bats eat insects making them an important member of our ecosystem by keeping insect populations in check. The particular bats that have a taste for these little protein packed snacks can eat up to tens of thousands in one day. According to wildlife studies a single brown bat can consume up to 1000 mosquitoes in one hour. 

            At Victoria National we take great pride in being able to take part in preserving wildlife and our ecosystem. As an Audubon sanctuary, our team decided to help out our furry winged friends by purchasing 5 triple celled bat houses. Each of these comfortable bat homes can hold up to 250 bats. This may sound like too many bats for one area but when spread over the property, these bats will help more than just the ecosystem. The consumption of insects such as gnats and mosquitos will enhance the golfers experience on our evenings spent on the course.

            Bats are very beneficial and by being nocturnal, should have no direct interaction with our members and guests.  With our new bat boxes we can do our part to conserve our ecosystem and make our summer nights more enjoyable. Let’s all welcome the new furry winged members to Victoria National.

Casey and Dylan constructing our new bat houses

Bat house installation.  Once again big thanks to Casey and Dylan 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Cart Path Renovations

This past week our crew has pushed hard and accomplished a great deal in preparation for our upcoming tournaments.  One of the larger projects we have completed was a cart path renovation on hole number 10 along with a few other areas including the front entrance and our haul road to the maintenance facility.  We installed 6 truck loads of concrete which totaled out to be roughly 60 yards.  Overall, the installation went incredibly smooth due to the experienced crew members we have on staff.  Thank you to the membership for being patient and allowing us ample time to complete this project.

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Importance of Late Fall Feeding on Cool Season Turf

One may think that spring and late summer fertilizer applications are the most important but for cool season turf grass it is the late fall application.  A late fall application is typically made after the 3rd hard frost of the season.  At this point the turf is no longer growing and preparing for winter.  The higher the level of nitrogen the better the fertilizer will be for root production and assisting in the storing of energy.  The plant is able to take up the nitrogen and help store reserve energy (carbohydrates) in the plant for overwintering and earlier green up in the spring.  If a plant is lacking carbohydrates in the fall it will not recover from the summer stress nearly as good as a plant with a larger reserve of carbohydrates.  Another key factor is to help the turf by increasing the root depth and growth in the spring, in return establishing much stronger root system. 

The picture above shows how much quicker the turf recovered in the spring after aerification with a late fall application.  The top half of the picture received fertilizer, while the bottom half was covered by a check board and did not receive any fertilizer.  The picture was taken approximately a week after the fairways were verticut. 

Timing is a major factor in determining when you make the application.  If you apply too early the plant shoots (leaves) will grow excessively which can increase disease pressure during the winter.  Late winter application have no negative effects to the turfgrass whereas a spring application can inhibit root growth.  With spring applications the top half of the plant uses all of the carbohydrates to increase shoot growth, all while stealing the carbohydrates from the roots which are also trying to grow and increase at the same time.  Better carbohydrate storage and increased roots produce an overall healthier and a more stress tolerant plant.

The picture above shows number twelve fairway where we used a check board to show the results of the fertilizer application.  The application was made in early December and was the very last application made to the fairways before the picture was taken.  This was also the same day of our first fairway mow of the season in mid-March. 

Check boards are used often in the turf industry to test new and old products.  We use them with almost every application that we make on the course.  A check is basically a small piece of plywood that covers the turf and doesn't allow the product to be taken up by the plant.  As you can see, the turf that has been fertilized in the late fall has remarkable color compared to the check, which is still yellow and not growing nearly as much. 

Aaron DeLoof

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A New Twist to Volunteering

As the golf season draws closer, The Big Ten Championship and The United Leasing Championship are just around the corner.  Victoria National will host these events back to back this year starting April 24th-May 3rd.  For these tournaments to be successful, volunteers from all over the country attend the event to give a helping hand.  From a golf course managers perspective, it is very difficult to lose even one key member of your staff.  Therefore, Victoria National is trying to put a little twist on the volunteering experience in hopes to make it more beneficial.  Golf Course Industry Magazine recently covered our experiment in its latest issue http://www.golfcourseindustry.com/digital/201502/files/7.html
By providing educational events for our volunteers we are looking to set the trend in the golf course industry to make volunteering at tournaments more appealing for not only Superintendents, Assistant Superintendents, and AIT's but also for the General Managers and Golf Course Owners around the country.  For more information on volunteering please contact Gerald Smith at gerald.smith@victorianational.com

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Cart Path Construction

The Victoria National Agronomy Staff recently completed a cart path construction project to add an extra cart path entrance to reduce cart traffic. 
Hard at it with our new Steel demolition saw

The finished product will allow us to switch between two
entrances in the summer months to reduce cart traffic.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

#3 Pro Tee Expansion

As an agronomy staff, we have stepped back to look at problem areas on the course during the summer months.  With the Big Ten Championship and the United Leasing's Championship this year along with normal wear and tear, we have decided to expand the pro tee on #3. 
Small tee size results in excess divots and foot traffic

A 238 sq. ft. tee was expanded to 600 sq. ft.

Victoria National Agronomy Team

Kyle Callahan
Director of Agronomy 

Nate Herman
Golf Course Superintendent

Gerald Smith
Senior Assistant Superintendent

Aaron Deloof
Assistant Superintendent

Seth English
Assistant Superintendent

Josh Staats
Assistant Equipment Technician

Casey Underwood
Irrigation Technician

Winter Greens Conditioning at Victoria National

February 11, 2015

Dear Members:

I hope everyone is enjoying these timely weekends where we get snapshots of the spring-like weather that is just around the corner. Having the opportunity to play in the winter is rare for top clubs in the Midwest and especially with winter temps like we have seen the past two seasons. This past weekend we enjoyed seeing some of our members out on the course, and they seemed glad to be outside for a change. I can tell you with confidence that our staff is as excited as you are to get the golfing season started.

Over the weekend we did have a couple members that made comments about our greens.  We feel that there needs to be some clarification about our agronomic practices. Yes, we do have some tournaments that are nationally recognized less than 100 days away, but in no way, shape, or form have I made agronomic decisions based on these events. All of our schedules, decisions, and cultural practices are for our membership and the benefits of the golf course. We have done our best to communicate to the membership decisions that are made here at Victoria National.

The decision I made in November was to verticut the greens and inject sand into the top 6" to dilute the higher amounts of organic matter. By staying aggressive, we feel this will help with firmer, healthier greens in peak summer. This will also allow for better ball roll because the greens will not be as spongy as you have seen them in the summer months. Minimizing the thatch on playing surfaces helps reduce the water content in the top layer. The question that arises is "When is the best time to be "aggressive?" The last thing as a superintendent I want to do is open in March and tear greens up for an extended period. Tearing up greens in the late fall is not a good option either as this is the period our membership enjoys this club the most. L-93 bentgrass has a reputation for being dark, dense, and aggressive that makes it a world-renowned creeping bentgrass that is best suited to handle this transition zone climate. Local clubs do not have the same cultivars as we do and can have different cultural practices based on the organic matter it produces. With L-93 being aggressive, we must be aggressive to control the amount of organic matter. Victoria National's expectation is to simply be the best, not just locally, but to be nationally known for our course conditions. The decisions that are made for aerification are always difficult and debatable, but most understand the necessity of it. These aerifications and processes are done to ensure conditioning during our peak season of golf. It does encourage me to think outside of the box and do things like hand drilling into the greens to remove black layer, sand injecting, deep-tining, and grading in the late fall/winter.

The verticut lines that our membership are seeing is not the full reason for why golf balls are following the lines or bouncing over them. As most would recall, shortly after the process was complete, we had multiple compliments of how well the ball was rolling and had no issue with our process. What has changed from then to now? Freeze and Thaw. The heaving and excess water that remains on top of the greens from the heavy rains that are followed by cold temperatures cause the greens to move. The "seams" from the verticut are the easiest point for the turf to heave. A great example of this is to think about the joint cracks in your driveway. If you did not have those cracks, you would begin forming cracks in your concrete from the soil contracting and expanding. As a superintendent I could easily have put a roll on the greens and made it more enjoyable for the members, but the consequences of rolling and sheering off roots due to ice crystals, constant moving, and continuous shifts in the soil before spring has really arrived would have completely erased everything we have been doing for the past 3 months. Although it was 60 degrees for 2 days, please do not forget Thursday of last week we had a low of 16 degrees. Wet soil/sand does not fluctuate to the same temperatures as the ambient air. February 9, 2015 at 3:00p.m., (after the two great days of golfing weather and mild temperatures), our soil temperatures were still at 37 degrees. Below are a few links that I have found to further explain why we did not mow or roll greens as well as why we need to restrict carts to paths in the winter when soil temperatures are at the freezing mark. Also If you have not received the previous newsletters or would like more educational explanations, please email me at kyle@victorianational.com, and I will be glad to email them to you.

 This photo depicts footprints after Freeze & Thaw on #6 green.
Picture taken February 10, 2015

In closing, through the winter months, please know that we want great conditions on a daily basis, no matter the season. However, this freeze-thaw effect "ties our hands," and we choose to let the turf be to protect the roots. Sand is also used to protect the crowns of the greens from foot traffic, desiccation, and crown hydration.  On these days, don't think we forget about golf, it's just Mother Nature holding us back. Golf through the winter months is what makes the transition zone unique, and we love to see people enjoying the course year-round.


Kyle Callahan

Out With The Old And In With The New

What do golf courses spend their time doing during the winter months?  We have heard this question too many times to keep count, but what most do not realize is that this is a time in which turfgrass managers can spend time "catching up".  Here at Victoria National the winter months can be expected to be just as busy as the summer by tackling much needed construction projects, irrigation upgrades/projects, tree removal, etc...  The pictures below show just a glimpse of what Victoria National has spent doing with our winter.  Special thanks to Leibold Irrigation, Inc for the control box installation and thanks to BAM Chase @BAM_Chase for the Thor Guard installation.

This is picture of our old Rainbird PAR + Control Boxes
This is what I'd call a rats nest! Much needed upgrade
Upgraded from Rainbird PAR + to the new Toro boxes
Another shot of our new satellite boxes
The Lighning protection unit we installed on
 our clubhouse had a camera installed to observe
weather conditions and storm movements
This winter we decided to install 4 new
 Thor Guard Lightning protection units. 

We have spent the last month completely renovating
our intern housing in the maintenance facility. Here
is a picture of the finished project.  Huge shout out
to the staff that was involved in this project.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Winter Newsletter


We hope that you all enjoyed your holiday season and that the New Year brings excitement and joy to your life. The maintenance staff was able to relax, enjoy time with family and regroup before heading into 2015. We are truly excited and feel that 2015 will be a special year. As most of you know, Victoria National will proudly be hosting the Big Ten Championship, April 24th-26th and the United Leasing Championship, April 27th - May 3rd. These ten days of championship golf will be an exciting and busy time for the Victoria National team. With the early dates of these tournaments there is plenty for the maintenance staff to do in preparation.

December was a successful month. The tasks covered in the last letter were all completed and some additional projects were tackled. We finished a practice referred to as "dabbing" on our greens. "Dabbing" is the process of using a specific herbicide that will reduce the encroachment of Poa Annua onto our Bentgrass greens. This process is best done during the early spring and late fall because Poa is at its weakest during cold weather. By minimizing the amount of Poa Annua on our greens we are able to provide smooth and consistent putting surfaces during the golfing season.

Drill and fill was another agronomic practice that we did on greens. This process involves drilling a hole 5/8" in diameter and 18" deep into the green. It removes a black layer that has built up in the soil profile which causes poor root growth and reduced drainage. New sand is then introduced into the holes and will help with resolving these issues. This process can be contracted out to companies that have machines capable of performing drill and fill; however, the spacing of their holes is further apart at 7.5" and their depth is only 8". We constructed our own template that allows us to manually drill and fill holes. By using our own format and tools we are able drill 350 holes in the same area that a contracted company would only produce 78 holes and we go more than twice as deep. Changing of the soil profile through drill and fill allows us to provide an optimum playing surface that is consistently firm and true throughout the entire green.  
Drill and Fill - each board has 350 holes 

Blue grass rough sod will be laid over the newly shaped mound on #3 
Those of you that have been out on the course recently have probably seen the changes to holes #2 and #3. The mound on the right side of #3 has been shaved down and reshaped. Before the course opened the green for hole #3 collapsed into the water and was moved to its current location. This causes for an unfair blind shot into any pin located on the right side of the green. In 2012, Tom Fazio commented that had he been given time he would have addressed the issue with the mound. The shaving down of the mound allows for golfers to visually see the top of the flag for most pin locations. The difficulty of the hole still remains intact but now a golfer is no longer penalized with a blind shot into the green from the fairway. 

Over 100 loads of soil were removed from #3 and used to fill in the deep gully that was in the rough on the right side of #2. This area will be sodded as blue grass which will allow an entrance way to the fairway for carts. By moving cart traffic patterns throughout the summer we hope to be able to have extended cart access to the hole.

As we move forward we will continue to remove trees and bushes that are both unsightly and pose a safety risk. Areas are being thinned out to allow for the landscape and the flow of the golf course to be promoted aesthetically. Many areas are too cluttered with trees and growth that it does not look appealing from the course.  The idea is to have the overall view and layout flow from one area to the next with everything appearing in place and aestetically pleasing. Safety also plays a major factor in determining whether or not to keep a tree.  Cottonwoods are a good example of a tree that will be removed due to safety.  Due to their weak wood structure and shallow root systems, Cottonwoods have a tendency to break or become uprooted. This can cause serious damage not only to the golf course but to a person as well.  Besides physical damage to trees there are also trees that are unhealthy  that also need to be removed.  This may be from disease, age or animal damage.

We will continue to work on native areas. All of these areas have been mowed down and sprayed with a pre- and post-emergent herbicide. Next we will begin burning the native to promote a healthier and more even stand of grass and it will remove the under growth and debris that has been left behind from mowing. The herbicides that are applied are just like the ones you use on your home lawn in the spring and fall. They are used to prevent any new weeds from growing and also get rid of weeds that are already present. Aesthetically it will begin to look outstanding and these processes will increase the likelihood of finding your golf ball in the native. Our goal is to produce a native area that would be comparable to that of Whistling Straits or St. Andrews. 
Whistling Straits
 hole #13 Native Areas

Irrigation satellite controls are being replaced this winter. The satellite boxes themselves need to be replaced and the controls inside of them are due for an upgrade. This upgrade will give us the ability to control every irrigation sprinkler individually. By doing so, we can select how much water to run in certain areas depending on need. This will provide the golfer with a more even firmness across fairways and approaches as watering will be done more specific to every hole and every area.  
An old irrigation satellite box that will be replaced

A ball resting in a head that is too low and needs to be raised 
Also, raising and leveling of irrigation heads is an ongoing process that will provide a better playing surface as the irrigation heads will be flush with the turf. This will lower the chance of a golf ball coming to rest on top of the head causing an unfair and unfavorable lie. It will also improve irrigation coverage by allowing the sprinkler to function properly and not have the arc of the water impeded by the turf.  

Our mechanics are performing annual maintenance on all equipment. This ensures that all equipment is ready to be used during summer and that it is operating at a high level. Regular maintenance not only extends the longevity of our equipment but directly correlates to the conditioning of the course. When equipment performs as it is designed to, the finished product is more consistent throughout the course and allows us to provide optimum playing conditions throughout the season.

We are very excited for the upcoming year and cannot wait to see everyone on the golf course in the spring.

Victoria National Slideshow