RCC Blog Spot
From the Superintendent
"Patience is a virtue" and "slow and steady wins the race" are two sayings that best describe the mindset one needs for successful turf recovery after such a damaging winter season along with a cool damp spring. This applies to both golfers and superintendents alike throughout the Northeast. Understanding what it takes to fill in the damaged turf may not reduce anxiety about “getting the greens back”, I never have liked that phrase, to playable conditions, but it may help you see why things happen the way they do.
There isn’t anyone who dislikes turf damage more than turf managers. It definitely adds to the stress levels to produce conditions that please what can be a finicky clientele. Recovery takes time and It doesn’t matter how many holes or slices are put in the ground or pounds of seed used, recovery is all about temperatures. When the soil temperatures move closer to 60 degrees seed germination occurs and the soil becomes active which, in turn, makes both existing and applied nutrients available for plant uptake. Soil is a very active substance full of microbes that work well only with warmer temperatures. Once those 80-degree temperatures kicked in the turf really began to respond to the earlier fertilizer applications and the conditions improved dramatically.
Earlier in the season, I answered, in jest, the question of when the first green would be open for play with a date of August 2020. Now, I knew that certainly wasn’t true. But what was going through my mind was that extensive turf damage takes multiple seasons for recovery. Obviously, weather is a major factor for recovery success. However, wear and tear from golfers and equipment has a negative impact on recovery so it all becomes a balancing act. We are asking a lot of a little seedling to germinate, grow and then fill out in an environment mowed at an eighth of an inch, topdressed with abrasive sand, walked on, mowed, rolled and kept on the dry side. There is probably more seed that germinates and dies than survives. This is why over seeding will continue throughout the season to try and increase the number of surviving plants. A dormant seeding in November will be the last application of 2019.
I’m sure you’ve noticed all of the holes dug on the course to repair irrigation breaks. To date, there have been about 30 repairs needed. The frost that created all of the moon craters earlier in the season wreaked havoc on an ageing system. The larger holes were needed to replace steel pipe and service tees with plastic and upgraded sprinklers. These have been in the ground for 25 years or more. You may not have even noticed the many repairs made to plastic elbows and sprinklers as they were much simpler to fix. I guess the positive side of this is that upgrades are being made to the system albeit out of necessity to have the system operable. I foresee this trend to continue throughout the season as the system is used more frequently and those rusted weak lines give out.
Even with these two time-consuming issues, the crew has been able to get the course in terrific condition. The filling in of the 16th bunker, started last November, along with bunker edge repairs on holes 1, 7, 11, 12, 16 have been completed. New sand was added to greenside bunkers on 1 and 7 with new drainage and sand scheduled for 14 green left bunker in the coming weeks.
There are still many ground settling issues around drainage catch basins exacerbated by the deep frost conditions. These need to be addressed to prevent possible injuries and damage to the drainage system and mowing equipment.
I hope you are enjoying the course as summer arrives in full force. Remember that these course conditions are a product of many hours of work, years of good cultural practices and programs that continue throughout the year.
- John Clark