Friday, August 26, 2016

Finishing The Race:

The 2016 Olympic season is over and again the United States dominated in the medal count.  It was exciting to watch our very own Lilly King walk away with two gold medals.  Her success in Rio was because of the extensive training, hard work and dedication to her goals of winning.  Here at Victoria National we have been running through our own “Olympic run” to finish the race strong for 2016.  Unlike the Olympic Games, the race for healthy turf and great playing conditions is a nine month marathon vs. a two week competition.
2016 has been very stressful on the turf due to the extremes of the weather.  June was hot and dry with average temperatures in the mid 90’s. July followed up with a combination of being very hot, very humid, and very wet.  Now August has been a combination of all these conditions.  As we look at the comparison of Olympians to the management of turfgrass, it becomes apparent that there are many similarities when trying to finish a competition strong.  Both must go through intense training, proper conditioning and overall maintaining the health of the “body”. 
Over-working the “tissues” by not having the proper oxygen levels, nutrients, and water can cause serious damage overall.  Plants and humans require a lot of the same things when it comes to how the organisms work.  We aerify multiple times to encourage oxygen levels in the soil, which is no different than an athlete going into a hyperbaric chamber to increase oxygen levels within the muscle tissue.  The plants do not have the luxury of taking breaks like athletes, or having “off days” in the middle of the summer. 
This summer has been “the perfect storm” as our daytime temperature was consistently above 90 degrees F.  Nighttime temperatures have consistently been in the upper 70’s (minus 3 days this past weekend). We have received untimely rains that have saturated the soils and depleted the oxygen in the soils, along with soil temperatures that have been consistently at the 80-90 degree mark with little decline at night.  Relative humidity has been extreme during both days/nights causing inadequate evapotranspiration (ability for water to evaporate or plant to “sweat”) for the soils to dry out.   With all of this combined the roots of our plants have been in decline causing us to water more frequently than we would like to.
Cool-season grasses can handle the conditions explained above, but it becomes difficult for the turf to survive without intermittent breaks in these extreme conditions during the summer months.  These intermittent breaks in the weather usually bring cooler nights, less humidity and a chance for the plant to recuperate.  This allows the staff the ability to bring firm and faster conditions as the plant can be pushed a little harder.  This summer has been a continuous 400 meter race with very few breaks, even during the nighttime.  

We will finish the race strong and keep our eyes on the gold, not without a few cramps and aches on the way to our finish-line, AERIFICATION.  While protecting our turf and achieving our goal we must make some decisions for the fine turf.  Compounded cart traffic on fairways during these conditions this year has begun to cause damage to the weak areas no matter how carefully or respectful they are driven and sharp turns seem to accentuate the damage.   Due to the circumstances, I am asking that carts remain in the roughs and request the players walk to their shots on the fairways until we are able to get through aerification.  I am optimistic that after September 15th, conditions will be more favorable for turf health and carts can access fairways with no damage.  This is the best compromise for our Agronomy department to ensure healthy turf and an enjoyable experience for our members and guests.  Please continue to scatter where applicable and avoid weak areas, repair ball marks on greens and sand fill divots on fine turf.  After aerification we also request that pelts are replaced back in the fairways as optimal weather draws near.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Producing your own garden:

Last spring we made the decision to begin our own Herb and Vegetable garden from scratch. What seemed to be “simply” one more thing added to the list has definitely been a learning experience for us. After “careful” planning, consulting, and purchasing of plants we quickly realized that gardening takes patience and dedication.
     The first year we planted everything slightly late and thought things were going really well, but the weeds took over and we realized that our soil structure was not the greatest for our garden.  We spent this past fall trying to improve the soil by adding aerification plugs and grass clippings to help aide in soil structure.
   This year we felt more prepared and by early spring the garden was prepped and ready for a great season.  Spring started out very well with our plants quickly rooting and what seemed to have had good growth, but something still looked off as the vegetables and plants looked stunted compared to others in the area.  Luckily we had a good rapport with a master gardener who thought we needed to have more soil/ compost to give the soil the ability to retain more moisture and nutrients, thus allowing a healthier and more robust plant.  
     My recommendation would be that if you are getting ready to plant a garden, to go ahead and get your soil tested for not only heavy metals and nutrients, but your soil structure.   It would also be beneficial to build a relationship with your local master gardeners prior to planting your garden.  There is a lot of good literature, apps, and how-to-guides for gardeners, but there’s no one more knowledgeable than your local gardeners.  These folks can minimize your headaches by guiding you to proper varieties, plants, and resources to making your garden a success.  
In the end, we were able to add a granular form of humus and organic matter to alter the nutrient holding capacity of the soil directly associated with the plant.  The amount of vegetables we have pulled has been slightly less than average, but the second half of the season we have been very fortunate in our yield.   This year we are pulling cantaloupes in excess of 10 lbs. regularly.  

-Written by: Tony Oxley 
Victoria National Horticulturist

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


Hand watering is not just important it is imperative. It is imperative to providing championship caliber conditions on a daily basis. It is imperative to having healthy and vigorous turf. It is imperative for providing fast and firm playing surfaces. Hand watering is imperative for meeting our members’ and guests’ expectations and allowing them to play challenging, fair and enjoyable rounds. Hand watering is imperative on a top 50 golf course in the transition zone.
                It is common knowledge that grass needs water to survive the summers and stay healthy. However, it is not common knowledge for how that water needs to be applied on golf courses. Victoria National is a beautiful course but with that beauty comes challenges. The hills and undulations cause a headache for water management. We cannot rely solely on irrigation as the slopes will dry out but the valleys will collect water and become wet and soft. Because of this we can only use automatic irrigation as much as our wet areas allow us to. Hand watering must be used to supply the dry slopes and hilltops with enough water to allow the bent grass to grow healthy and survive the hot summers in the transition zone. Another area that we hand water frequently is the rough. The rough requires more water than the fine turf but we cannot run the heads to supply that amount because the same heads water the rough and the fine turf. Due to this reason we must add extra water to the rough using hoses and hand waterers.
                A more meticulous method of hand watering is that which is done on greens. Victoria National members and guests expect fast and firm greens. The best way to each this is keeping your greens dry. However, there is a fine line between keeping them dry and keeping them too dry. Allowing your greens to dry out not provides championship playing conditions it also provides the plants with a healthier growing environment. During the hot and humid days the plant will begin to suffocate and the drier they are kept it allows the roots and the leaf tissue to breath and exchange freely transpire and exchange oxygen. Again, there is a fine line between healthy dry and being detrimentally dry. A tool that we use to determine this is a moisture meter. Many will see our staff checking moisture levels on greens using these tools throughout the day. They tell us when, where, and how much water we need to apply to greens to provide them with the optimum moisture level from both a health and playability stand point.
                One last watering technique that we use is that of syringing. On greens this is done using a hose where the turf is lightly and quickly watered. The reason behind this is to cool the canopy of the turf while not adding any water to the soil. This will take place on hot and humid days where the soil moisture level is not moving because of the humidity but the heat of the day stresses the turf out. On fairways and tees we will use our automatic irrigation. The irrigation heads will run one full revolution applying enough water to cool the turf canopy and give it a break from the heat while not saturating the soil.
                It is a simple concept that grass needs water to survive, and during the heat grass needs more water to survive. But on a golf course, especially one, designed like Victoria National, with Championship expectations, and placed in the transition zone, supplying this water is more than just being straight forward. Watering this course is an art form that requires knowledge, precision and more than anything dedication.

Written by: Senior Assistant Gerald Smith

Friday, July 8, 2016

What will be changing in your budget for 2017?

In the next month most superintendents will begin losing a little more sleep with thoughts of turf loss due to unforeseen circumstances.  Combine that with sales representative ready to talk about early order/ capital purchases and you have a full plate.   So I ask you to finish the sentence:  I could not do my job without….. Did you say your irrigation system or what about that new greens mower purchased last year? 
Depending who you ask it seems there is a different answers from each department to what their #1 asset is.  Golf course management today has now become only a small portion of the complexity that superintendent’s face.  The first thing that SHOULD have come to everyone’s mind first should be your staff.  Without a good team built around you, your equipment is basically useless.  You need a team that can safely mow, keep the turf alive, fix the equipment, and prepare the course for daily play.  Some may say well that is all me….  Well you are considered staff as well. 
This next season consider setting a line item in your budget for staff.  Finding staff nowadays is already difficult, and by taking the time to train, re-train and retain good staff will show great dividends to your course conditions.  If you look at most common budgets there is always money set aside for your other assets.  Equipment has a repair and maintenance line item, right?  Your irrigation system has a line item for repairs and maintenance.  Why should there not be a training/safety line item for staff in every budget?
Simply three hours a month to do training with your entire staff present will not only be educational for them, but can also open your teams eyes to safety issues or bad habits that can be detrimental to turf in the heat of the summer.  For Victoria National this is vital because we are an 18 hole golf course that sits on over 420 acres of extreme terrain shaped by coal mining. It is unlike any course you have ever seen.  Simply getting around the course safely is difficult enough, yet alone trying to manage it.  

I hope most superintendents’ have a great Owner/Membership that is willing to send you to GIS or other shows to further your education.  But are we doing the same for our staff? Here are a couple examples of items that can fit in this category: Training day, team building (Bowling?), Safety Glasses, Earplugs, Dust masks to prevent Silicosis, Safety consultant, McCord Safety Videos, Skin Cancer screening, and purchasing bulk sunscreen. 
In another article we will also discuss about how your “break room” is being utilized to its fullest potential.

Victoria National Slideshow