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

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