Thursday, February 18, 2016

What Do You Guys Do Over the Winter Part 2

In my last post, we looked at the equipment maintenance that needs to happen over the winter. While that occurs in the shop, there is plenty happening in the office. Plans are made for the upcoming labor needs, budgets are set, fertility programs are finalized, and the spray program to control disease and insects is finalized.

In looking at each of these areas, I take time to review what happened in the last season. What worked well and what could be done better. I look at how labor was spread through the season and if it was the most efficient use. Where did employees do well, and where do we need to increase training. Plans and training are developed and implemented

 After labor is set, the two biggest concerns I have are my plans for fertility and then disease and insect management. 

Fertility is fairly straight forward. Soil tests let me know what deficiencies there are in the soil which may adversely affect turf health. Once I know what the deficiencies are, I can create a fertility plan to address the problems.When a good plan is in place, the results over the season should be positive. Turf health increases with the correct application, just the right amount of fertilizer is used, and the instance of disease and insect damage is generally reduced because the plant is so healthy. 

The biggest challenge in planning is for disease and insects. I start of with an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program. This is an exercise in which I look at a variety of external factors effecting plant health. By looking at weather patterns and insect cycles, I can predict what type of diseases and or insects may be attacking the turf at any given time. Each type of disease and each type of insect requires different management. 

In some cases, some disease or insect damage is tolerable. But in many cases it becomes intolerable. The damage reaches what is called an economic threshold. The threshold is simply defined as a point where the damage is unacceptable to the consumer, in this case the golfer, and needs to be treated. 

Treatment does not necessarily mean I go and spray the affected area. Sometimes, how I manage water usage or fertility can be adjusted in order to alleviate symptoms. Other times, that simply won't 

Many diseases and insects require a preventative approach. By spraying certain plant protectants, I can prevent disease or insect damage from ever occurring. This is when the IPM comes into play. By looking at weather forecasts and insect models, I can be fairly certain of the problems I will be facing in the next week or two. 

Using my knowledge and experience of the chemistries available, I can make decisions on how best to approach the problem in a safe and economical way.  Once I determine the best actions over the season, I make my purchases of plant protectants and insect control products for the year. The products are inventoried and stored in a clean and safe location until I need to use them.
A fully stocked chemical room gives me plenty of options when it is time to spray

A well organized and clean environment makes decision making easier.
 Below are some pictures of a few of the different disease and insect challenges I face each year.

The Annual Bluegrass weevil is my biggest insect challenge. Miss the timing for the spray, and damage to playing surfaces could be severe.

Brown Patch is a typical summer time disease

Dollar Spot is a disease that can show up from Spring to Fall

Pythium is a disease that shows up when the heat and humidity are at the worst. This disease, if not treated before it starts, can wipe out large areas of greens overnight.

Friday, January 15, 2016

What Do You Guys Do Over The Winter ? - Part 1

Every winter I here the same question. What do you guys do over the winter? Some think its time to sit by the fire, drink coffee and play cards! We wish! While work doesn't need to be done yesterday, there is lots to do. Along with clean up of native areas and tree work, a tremendous amount of effort goes into equipment maintenance.
A fairway mower with reels removed, ready for a complete check over

During the season, each morning starts with an assortment of mowers and equipment serviced, adjusted, and fueled up to get the course ready for a new day. Most of the equipment goes out almost every day. Each piece is critical to the preparation of the course. If one piece is broken down, the whole system of course set up can be delayed, resulting in a course not prepared as expected by the golfer.

While it is nearly impossible to avoid equipment break down, we can manage it to get the most out of our machines. The work to assure the most reliable equipment is ongoing. The mechanic checks and adjusts equipment every day, but in the winter is when the real maintenance happens. During those cold windy days, the shop is humming.

Every single piece of equipment is pressure washed and brought into the mechanics bay for a complete service. Each machine needs to be evaluated, serviced, and repaired as needed. The fairway mower in the picture above will be looked at for frame wear, bearing and seal failure and have all filters and fluids changed according to the service manuals. The reels will be completely torn down, with new bed knives, and in the case of this one below, a new cutting reel to replace the worn one.

After repair, each reel is set up on a grinder. Both the bed knife and reel are sharpened to the point where they cut paper. The equipment is put back together and records updated.

All this is so important to keeping us up and running during the season. Some of our equipment is out for hours every day. The Rough Unit for instance, has 887 hours logged on it this season. The machine ran 8 hours a day for 112 days this year. That is equivalent to putting 53,000 miles on your car, in one year! Imagine how quick your car would wear out without good solid maintenance!

My next post will address some of the planning that happens over winter to make everything come together over the season.

As always, if you have a question, please send me an e mail at

Friday, January 8, 2016

Golf Course Winter Update

The crew is doing an annual clean up of native areas to reduce the amount of invasive weed species. Here they are between 6 and 18. Over the next two weeks they will go through all the native areas if the weather cooperates.

The  month of December brought weather and turf conditions never seen in my over twenty years of experience. At the end of December we were still seeing active turf growth across all playing surfaces. We actually mowed greens on December 30 this year!

As we enter January, conditions are changing. Temperatures below freezing at night and highs in the 30's to low 40's are helping move the turf into dormancy. Some frost delays will become the norm as we transition to colder temperatures.

To give you a quick overview of conditions, take a look at the following:


Mowed for the last time on December 30, we probably won't put a mower back on them until sometime in March. We are using a two cup system for the winter. Please move the flagstick to the unoccupied cup each time you play on a green. This spreads the wear until we can get back to changing cups on a daily basis.


Dormancy is setting in as temperatures plummet. Continue to replace divots and pour sand around the edge of the divot. Please continue to keep carts away from the surrounds.


The bunkers were washed out by heavy rains late in December. The greenside bunkers were repaired. However, the fairway bunkers will remain washed out as they are now frozen and can't be repaired till they completely thaw out. Over the winter, I suggest you take relief rather than hit out of a bunker.


The tee markers are removed for cleaning and painting. Please scatter your shots around the tee surface in order to spread the wear until the turf can actively recover in the spring.

Driving Range:

The range was filled and seeded this past month. Please feel free to hit off the mats but not the turf. 

Tree Work:

Dead and dying trees at the entrance to Hartefeld Drive were removed this past week. There will be more tree work done on the course over the next two months.

Snow Mold:

We will be treating all greens , tees, and fairways to avoid snow mold damage. Snow Mold is a term used to describe different fungal diseases that can do severe damage to turf over the winter.

I hope you found this informative. If you have any questions, please contact me at

Enjoy the New Year!

Gregory Byrne

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,