Monday, September 14, 2015

Greens Aeration : How Do They Do That?

Hi Everyone,

It's been a long time since I've used the blog to touch base with all our members, but we just aerated greens and no other thing I do results in so many questions.

Of course the first thing many a golfer associates with aeration is  the greens are going to be covered in sand and almost unplayable for something short of eternity. Nothing seems to get golfers more worked up. So why do we put you through this torture?

First off, I have a love/hate relationship with aeration. Aeration is a lot of work. Lots of planning goes into deciding what the greens need. What are the soil deficiencies?.  How much and how do we manage thatch accumulation from the season? What size tines should I use?  What will the weather be like? Is all the equipment in good running order? Does any training need to be done so the crew operates efficiently that day?

As for the day of aeration, it's a long one!  Starting at 5 am,  the day usually goes till 5 pm. The whole crew is pretty whooped at days end. So why would I like all this work?

Simple, no other thing I do has a greater impact on the health and future performance of the greens. A seasons worth of mowing every day at .100 inches, rolling, foot traffic, disease and insect pressure, hot and humid weather, and no rest take  their toll. Soils get compacted, some nutrients are a little out of balance, and soil to air to water ratios are off. I like to say the greens get tired. They need to be rejuvenated and nothing works like aeration, and when the greens are healthy and happy, so am I!

So, what happens that day when I close the course? I decided to document with photos and show you what we did last week!

Starting at first light :

The first operation is to mow the green to create a smooth and dew free surface.

The dethatching reels are used to remove excess thatch from the green

After dethatching, a core aerator is run over the greens, pulling cores every 2.5 inches
It takes about 8 hours to aerate all the greens. Operators are changed through the day to provide relief from walking backwards with the machine.
The putting green, dathatched, aerated, and ready to be dragged.

Plugs ready to be dragged

Dragging the plugs breaks up the soil from the thatch. This is a fun job, you get to break taboo and drive a cart on the green! Don't get any ideas!

Once the plugs are broken up, the thatch is blown together and removed from the green.

Dry sand is applied next

We apply over 35 tons of sand to the greens by the time we are done!

The sand is then dragged into the surface for even distribution and to fill the holes

The brushes used to drag the sand.

After the sand is brushed in, a roller is used to smooth the surface

The finished product! Holes from aerating, and grooves left from dethatching are filled and rolled. Bring on the water!

It was crucial for all aspects of the aeration to go through without delay. The day was hot and dry, if we did not get finished in a timely manner, we risked the greens getting too hot and dry.

The day after aeration we added soil amendments and just enough fertilizer to move the healing process along

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Some More Happenings on the Course

 Bunker edging is progressing around the course. Each Spring the crew will travel around the course edging the turf around each bunker and making sure sand is distributed evenly. After edging is complete, we will repair the lining that is showing through some of the bunkers.
 Flower planting has started too. A variety of annuals and perennials will be going in over the next few eeks to add to the beautiful setting around the Clubhouse.
The Range is progressing. While a cold Spring held back germination on the range, recent warm weather has made the seed pop. I will be evaluating the condition of the range weekly and will open it as soon as the grass shows a good root structure and density to hold up to the rigors of practice hitting. In the meantime, please stay off the turf to give it every chance to root and mature. I suspect it will be several more weeks till we can open it.

Warmer Days Are Finally Here, Some answers to my most frequently asked questions.

After the coldest start to a year since the mid 1800's!, the weather has finally turned with consistently warm temperatures. The golf course has come to life and lots of work with it. I'm going to cover several different topics in today's post to answer the most common questions I've been getting.

Tops on the list is:

We have a lot of Poa Annua in the fairways, what does this mean?, I thought we would have only Bent Grass.

Yes, we do have a good amount of Poa in the fairways. It was very evident over the past few weeks because of all  the seeding the Poa was doing. All those puffy white seed- heads in the fairways is the poa setting seed as it does every Spring. The seeding is coming to an end and soon you won't see any seed-heads.

Back in the Fall when the project to convert to Bentgrass started, the product used to kill the existing fairway grass was glyphosate (Round-Up). Glyphosate does a great job of killing existing vegetation. However, it does not kill off any of the seedbank that exists in the soil. As you saw this Spring, Poa produces quite a bit of seed. This seed rests in the soil and germinates when conditions are good in the Fall, the same time the fairways were killed.

Shortly after killing the fairways, they were aerated and seeded with Bentgrass. The aeration. while helping to make a good seedbed for the Bentgrass, also pulled up existing Poa seed and made a good seedbed for the poa too.  The result is a mixed stand of Poa and Bentgrass.

This is not a terrible thing. Over time, I will manage the fairways to promote the growth of Bentgrass while slowly decreasing the population of Poa. This is done through a variety of means which when accomplished, will leave you with a 90% or better stand of Bentgrass. The change will be slow so as not to kill off all the Poa at once. I expect it to take about three seasons to get to 90%.

Why did the greens take so long to heal from aeration?

When we aerated on the 14th of April, the weather was still cooler than usual. Shortly after the aeration, we experienced four frosts within the following ten days. This type of cool weather slows recovery. No matter there was plenty of fertilizer and other goodies to get the greens healed. They simply do not grow when the soil temperatures are low.

On top of that, I performed a very aggressive aeration. In all, we removed a .4 inch pug from the greens every two inches. In all, it took nearly fifty tons of sand to fill the holes back in. I did this to open the greens up and add variety of amendments they were much in need of. Healthy greens start with healthy balanced soils, and that we did not have. The aeration and amendments was a step to getting the greens into great shape and stand up to the pressures of play all summer long.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Greens Aeration

After an epic winter, were finally getting a taste of warmer weather. The fairways and tees are transitioning beautifully from dormancy to full blown green. Trees and shrubs are finally starting to bloom. The greens also look great. After making it through the cold snowy winter without any problems, we started cutting and rolling about two weeks ago and the reaction from the turf is great.

In order to keep the greens healthy and putting like they are today, we'll be aerating them this coming Monday and Tuesday. With the soil temperatures coming up and the days getting longer, the time is perfect.

The whole process really begins tomorrow (Thursday the 10th) with the first fertilization of the season. By giving the greens some nitrogen I can prime them for the upcoming aeration. Over the weekend, you'll start to see the greens become emerald green in color as the fertilizer pushes the turf to grow. You may notice the pace of your puts slow a little as they start to grow faster. By Monday, they will be growing rapidly and be ready for aeration.

The first day of aeration will cover the putting green and front nine greens. A .4 inch tine will pull a core about 3.5 inches long every two inches on the surface of the green. As the cores are pulled, our maintenance crew will scoop them up and remove them. Sand is then applied to the surface of the green followed by several different applications of soil amendments.

The soil amendments are chosen after reading soil tests I did late last Fall. These tests allow me to identify deficiencies in the soil and plan remediation to correct the problems.

Once all the materials are down, they get dragged into the holes and watered in. If all goes well, most of the holes will be healed in 7 to 10 days and green speed can be brought back to current standards.

Aeration is a lot of work, the days are long and the work can be very hard. However, the benefits are great. Besides helping to correct soil deficiencies, we loosen compacted soil, allow for good air exchange, and make room for new roots. It all adds up to healthy turf that holds up when going gets tough this summer. If you asked me whats the most important practice I use to maintain a great course, it is without a doubt aeration.

Take care and enjoy the course,


Friday, March 14, 2014

Day by Day

As winters go, this past one is the type our kids will talk about when they get older. Lots of snow, cold and windchill. To top it all off ,it was so bad, many of us learned a new weather term to describe what was happening, the dreaded "polar vortex". Damage and disruption are the norm. Potholes are everywhere, trees are torn up, roofs and structures are revealing lots of damage. The question I'm getting is, How did the golf course hold up?

Overall, I'd say the answer is quite well. While we did see a fair amount of tree damage, the turf  looks great. Fortunately, the course had a good cover of snow before the excessive cold temperatures hit. This cover protected the turf from extremes and damage from play.

Normally, I don't mind seeing golfers get out all winter to break that cabin fever. However, considering the new grow in, the sharp reduction in traffic was a good thing. There will simply be less wear and tear to recover from as soil temperatures rise and the grass comes out of dormancy.

As for playing the course, Frank, Alex, and I are evaluating on a day by day basis.

Tips for the upcoming season:

Carts and the New Bent

The new bentgrass fairways and tees will be coming to life soon and I'm going to need your help taking care of them in this crucial first year. These grass plants are young, and like any other living thing they need time and nurturing to become strong and mature. Consider your fairways and tees to be made up of "baby bentgrass". Over the season the grass will continue to expand its root zone and fill in thin areas. We can help by just being careful.

When you get to take your cart on the fairway for the first time this year, please remember theses plants don't have a strong root system yet. Sharp turns and hard breaking with your cart will damage the turf. Keep your distance from the surrounds and try your best to vary your path around the course. To often we all get into a rut of traveling through the same areas day after day. This causes compaction and weak, thinning, and eventually dead turf.

10 green March 14, 2014

Looking up 18 fairway, March 14 2014

The view from 5 tee, March 14, 2014

Should I replace my divot or fill the divot with sand?

   If you take a divot and it holds together, replace it. That divot has a good chance of growing back if put        back. It has no chance if it is not replaced.

   If you take a divot and it falls apart, fill the divot with sand.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Ice Storm Clean Up

Last weeks Ice storm was the worst winter storm we've encountered so far this year. All across the Deleware Valley trees coated in a thick blanket of ice gave way under the weight. For many people it meant days without power and or property damage. For Hartefeld, the majority of the damage was concentrated around the clubhouse and main entrance. Some of our mature oaks and pines took some damage and left us with quite a mess.

Today we began the clean up. Crews from Arader Tree Service brought in trucks, chippers, and boom lifts. Along with the clean up, the damaged trees are being pruned to give them the best chance for recovery. Our crew is helping out too. Much of the debris is frozen to the ground. With a back hoe, our crew is pulling the debris loose so it can easily be fed into the chippers. The majority of the damage will be cleaned up today.

As the weather gets better, we will go out on the course and clean up the rest of the damage. Below you can see pictures of some of the damage and the clean up efforts.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Welcome to "Through The Green"

Winter at Hartefeld

Welcome to "Through the Green", a blog dedicated to informing you, the golfer, about what it is we do to maintain the golf course at Hartefeld National. Throughout the year I'll be posting articles about current happenings on the course. You'll learn about green speed, bunker maintenance, turf disease and so on. I'll also include tutorials on how golfers can help maintain the course in peak condition, whether it's how to repair a ball-mark, the best way to use the driving range, or even directions on replacing a divot,  I'll include it all as the season moves along.

The blog also includes an easy contact form you can use to ask me any questions or leave a comment. If you have any topics you want me to cover, this is a great way to let me know. The blog includes links to Club weather information, the Club website, USGA, and the Golf Course Superintendents Association.

In the Spring you'll find a new page updated with seasonal pictures of each hole on the course. If you have any great pictures please send them and I'll include.

I'm excited to get started this Spring. Since arriving in late October, we've been working hard to get ready and come out with all cylinders firing. The whole management team, staff, and members I've met really made me feel welcome and comfortable from the start. Some great things were accomplished recently and many more great things are to come!

See you soon,