Grounds Maintenance Update - September 2021
Blackstone National in the Fall
What a great time of year we are heading into. The weather is starting to peak for the best part of the season in my opinion. Football is on, baseball playoffs are around the corner, and leaves are going to be changing soon. This property is really stunning in the fall, and the nice red barn that just went up will go great with the foliage.
Since July 4th, we have received a whopping 20+ inches of rain. We have seen some, although brief, dry periods throughout the summer, but removing the water has been far more of a challenge than applying it. Funny how much can change in a year.
Course Conditions going into the Autumn
We are very pleased with how the turf has performed under these rather extreme conditions. When the ground is saturated as much as it has been, some turf functions begin to slow down and become out of our control. It is a scary feeling knowing the golf course hasn’t quite drained in full capacity, yet its going to be 90 degrees by lunch time. It forces us to have a plan B for just about everything, on a daily, or sometimes hourly basis. Mowing is difficult, and often harmful in these conditions, and with a busy golf schedule it sometimes means our mowing windows are closed.
Something that has developed over the last 30 days or so, are slight algae outbreaks just beneath the surface of the greens, or in some cases hockey puck sized patches of moss that fill in ball marks or small voids. With 20+ inches of rain and a couple very humid weeks, it is natural to see this in low lying areas, common walk ons or walk offs, or regular pin placements. This occurs from foot traffic compaction and mowing and rolling the greens repeatedly in wet conditions. The turf needs to be mowed, and while soft the roller is necessary to generate any kind of green speed at all. It can feel like nails on a chalkboard while we are performing these tasks, but they are a necessary evil during the busiest months of the golf season.
Even with the weather starting to work in our favor, it is important for us to address these issues now before they get out of hand. Most golf courses in the northeast are doing their full-scale aerations this week, mainly for this reason. It has been a long, busy, wet season and it is time for the greens to get a breath of fresh air. We won't complete our traditional greens aeration until October, but for the time being we are going to deal with these spots directly. Expect to see some sand filled holes, larger than the venting holes you’ve seen all season, in these low areas in order to facilitate drainage and to break through any sealing off that may be occurring. The largest area to be addressed would be no greater than 6’x 6’.
Regarding the Greens
While we are talking greens, lets cover speeds. It has been a long road since this time last year. Through every reclamation effort from last season, this last winter’s construction work, and through the spring and early summer, the greens surfaces improved daily. Getting through all that rain and various heat stretches was a huge accomplishment for the staff and shows a lot of their work is paying off. However, I must admit, green speed was not our highest priority for most of this season. Consistency, drainage function, turf health, and traffic management all ranked slightly higher on our priority list.
Mowing heights, rolling frequency, and growth regulation have all been tinkered with in order to increase speeds while keeping up with full tee sheets and limited days off. Some results we really liked; some results are still up for discussion. However, what I'm getting at here is that these very significant rainstorms will make any stimpmeter reading disappointing. 1 or even 2 inches overnight can be manageable to generate speeds on top of. But lingering storms that have brought 4, 5, and 6 inches of rain at a time like we have seen this season will result in soft, sticky surfaces. Even when it's not raining, the humidity brings condensation on the leaf blades, and it sometimes looks like we haven't mowed a thing an hour after cutting the greens.
There is far more to cover but I have tendency to go long on these. Ill likely post another update this month that is not so greens and rain specific.
Lastly and most importantly, a well-deserved congratulations to the clubhouse staff and all involved in the barn project. Completing a project like that during the most difficult two years construction teams have ever seen was no small task. Love is in the air!
We’ll talk soon,
Jake Ronchi, GCS
Blackstone National Golf