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

Victoria National Slideshow