Monday, September 23, 2019

"Hard as a Rock" ... Literally

Each summer all areas of the golf course are core aerified at least four times. Aerification is the mechanical process of removing a core, which among other things reduces compaction by loosening the soil. It also creates air space in the soil. 

Turfgrass on a golf course endures significant stress and compaction from golf play, golf cars and maintenance equipment. By decreasing compaction, aerification helps to bring a resurgence of growth. The process is vital in maintaining a healthy stand of turfgrass. 

Construction of the golf course at Olde Florida was challenging because soil was at a premium. Consequently, when the golf course opened in 1993, a significant amount of rock remained beneath the fairways, tees and rough. This has created serious challenges with aerification since day one. 

During the golf course renovation in the summer of 2000, after the turfgrass was eradicated and removed, all of the fairways were tilled and most of the rock was physically removed. It was a very lengthy and tedious task, but it was necessary so more advanced aerification equipment could be utilized in the fairways. The newer, improved aerification equipment provides tighter spacing and greater depth, ultimately providing a greater reduction of compaction.  

The two short drone videos and the pictures below provide a visual understanding of the differences in the fairway and rough aerification equipment that is utilized at Olde Florida.  

Fairway aerification on #1
The list price on the Toro 1298 aerification unit, 
which came on the market in 2007, is $40,000 
Until this year it was only used on fairways at Olde Florida  

Rough aerification on #2 tee complex
The list price on this Toro 686/687 aerification unit is $4,000
Tines and other items damaged by rock can be removed and replaced relatively quickly and inexpensively
Until 2016 these units were used on the fairways and the rough at Olde Florida  

Rough aerification on #1
Fairway aerification in the background

Golf car traffic around tees and greens has become a serious issue at Olde Florida. The traffic, which has creeped closer and closer to greens and tees creates a significant challenge in maintaining a healthy stand of turfgrass in the busy winter golf season. If golfers, and thier guests would maintain a greater distance from the tees and greens with their golf cars, ideally not parking on the grass while putting or teeing off, it would help improve turfgrass quality tremendously. 

Due to the significant compaction existing in these highly trafficked areas, this summer the agronomy staff embarked on a significant project of subsurface rock removal around tees and greens. The fairway aerification unit was utilized to locate subsurface rock. Two to three staff members followed the unit at all times flagging each rock that was struck. Additional staff was then utilized to dig up and remove the rock. 

Aerification this summer on #16 greens complex

Flags marking subsurface rock waiting removal on #18 tee complex

Rock removal on #15 tee complex

Rock removal on #15 tee complex 

Rock removal on #7 greens complex 

The goal of this project is to eventually remove enough rock so the agronomy staff can utilize the more advanced, higher quality aerification equipment in the rough. It will be a multi-year project with tee and green complexes being the highest priority. 

Friday, August 30, 2019

Collar Renovation

One of the projects completed this summer at Olde Florida Golf Club is the renovation of the collars that surround the TifEagle greens. The turfgrass that was selected for the new collar is TifGrand. Released by the University of Georgia, the variety has numerous positive attributes including a semi-dwarf growth habit, dark green color, and it can withstand numerous environmental stresses including shade and heavy traffic. This is a link to additional information on TifGrand Bermudagrass.

The eradication of the existing collars began in early May using research performed over several decades by top university researchers. The process involves multiple, very specific applications of non-selective herbicides over an extended period. This is a link to the Bermudagrass Eradication Research.

The collar on #11 green prior to eradication.
A 48" swath has been marked for the initial herbicide application 

The collar on 11 green prior to eradication.
A 48" swath has been marked for the initial herbicide application

After three applications, over a four-month period, the dead turfgrass was cut with a walk behind sod cutter at the deepest setting (approximately 2 1/2"). The dead turfgrass and thatch was removed and a small walk-behind rototiller was utilized to loosen the subsurface. Greensmix (sand and peat mixture) was added and compacted.

The TifGrand sod used on the collars was harvested from our supplier in Adel, Georgia Pike Creek Turf.  I personally inspected the TifGrand field at Pike Creek Turf earlier in the summer.

Pike Creek Turf is also a grower of TifTuf, which is the variety we used this summer to grass several tees at Olde Florida. Therefore, while I was at the farm I also inspected the TifTuf field. On the same trip I made a visit to a golf course in nearby Tallahassee, Florida that was in the process of a complete rebuild/renovation. They had chosen TifTuf for everything except the greens.

This is a link to a previous blog entry that I published about the renovation of the tees at Olde Florida to TifTuf Bermudagrass.

After the TifGrand instalation, the sod was hand watered numerous times. The Toro Hydroject and vibratory tamp were also used to smooth the surface. Seven days after installation, a walk-behind reel mower was used to cut the new collar at .650". The mower was lowered each subsequent day and the current height of cut on the collars is .400". We will continue to Hydroject weekly, and mow daily until the desired height of cut is achieved.

This is a link to the vibratory tamp being used on the collar on #4 green Vibratory Tamp Video.

The Toro Hydroject being used on the collar of #15 green.
A Hydroject injects high pressure water into narrow channels.
The process increases rooting and smooths the surface. 
The initial cut on the TifGrand collar at the practice putting green.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Trees and Turfgrass

In addition to the terrific Rees Jones designed golf course, one of the more pleasing aspects of the golf course at Olde Florida is its natural setting. Often, when I give a tour I park my golf cart on the path, walk up a tee slope and stand on the tee. With the natural setting, and tree lined golf holes, Olde Florida is truly a special piece of property.

Hole #1 at sunrise at Olde Florida Golf Club  

One challenge with trees that golf course superintendents, and others must routinely address is the fact they grow, produce seed and multiply. Therefore, due to light requirements, on occasion the need arises to remove a tree to continue providing acceptable turfgrass quality. More often, at Olde Florida trees are trimmed. Trimming trees and cleaning underbrush in select areas is one of the projects the Olde Florida agronomy staff has embarked on this summer.

Here is a link to a short, but well-written article written by the USGA Regional Director of the Southeast Region on the subject of trees on a golf course

As the article details, one of the primary reasons for trimming trees is to maintain the necessary light required for turfgrass growth. The daily light requirement for bermudagrass has been researched by numerous university turfgrass specialists. As a generality, it's suggested that a minimum of 8 hours of sun is necessary to provide quality turfgrass. However, there are numerous factors that need to be considered including; light intensity, light quality and light duration. Other considerations that must be taken into account are, what is the use of the turfgrass, how much traffic does the area receive and what is "acceptable quality".

In addition to increasing the intensity and duration of light, tree trimming and cleanup of underbrush at Olde Florida reduces weed populations along the perimeter of native areas, reduces debris to be cleaned off turfgrass after a wind storm, provides a cleaner look and finally it enhances the playability of the course.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Turfgrass Tee Renovation

This summer, in addition to the routine cultural practices of aerification, vertical mowing and sand topdressing, the agronomy staff will undertake a couple of in-house projects. One of the projects is the renovation of eight individual tee surfaces. The tees that will be renovated are:

  • III/IV tee on hole 3
  • III/IV tee on hole 4
  • II/III tee on hole 6
  • Championship, I and II/III tee on hole 7
  • II/III tee on hole 8
  • III/IV tee on hole 11
  • II on hole 14 

Original constructed in 1992 and grassed in 1993, Olde Florida was renovated in the summer of 2000. During this renovation all of the existing turfgrass was eradicated and replaced. The original turfgrass variety on the greens, TifDwarf was replaced with TifEagle. TifEagle, which had been in testing for 10 years, had just been released the year prior as an improved ultradwarf turfgrass variety. The fairway and rough were re-grassed to Certified TifWay 419, which was the standard at that time.

As is commonplace on warm season golf courses, especially golf courses with a 12-month growing season, since the renovation of 2000 the turfgrass at Olde Florida has been contaminated with different strains of bermudagrass. In itself, this is not a major problem. With increased maintenance and extra care, the agronomy staff can manage the different varieties and produce a golf course with healthy turfgrass that provides the membership and their guests with a good playing surface for many years.

The different textures and colors of the numerous varieties of bermudagrass can be just cosmetic, but at times some of the varieties become extremely challenging to maintain to the desired level. This is often seasonal and dependent on climate and/or pest pressure. Since a large percentage of the membership are not year round residents, often the challenges with the different varieties are unseen. 

This is the case with the eight individual tee surfaces that we are renovating. They are the tees that gave us the greatest challenge early in the 2018/2019 winter golf season. The varieties, or one of the varieties on these tees did not do well when the daily summer rains ceased. In late October and November of 2018, my staff worked diligently on these tees with numerous spot treatments (granular and foliar fertility applications, solid tine aeration, light vertical mowing to cut stolons and encourage upright growth, nematicide applications, etc.) Fortunately, within 4-6 weeks we had the them looking similar to the remaining tees on the golf course.

However, I would like to avoid another year of this added effort on these tees so we will be eradicating the existing turfgrass and re-grassing with a new, single variety. This is not new, or unusual. Since the renovation in 2000, we have renovated close to a dozen tee surfaces and sodded them to Celebration Bermudagrass. However, this summer we are doing more than the usual one or two, so I thought a communication piece would be helpful.

In addition to the individual tees that we have resurfaced in previous summers, we also added or moved over a dozen tees to adjust the length of the golf course. We also reconstructed the driving range in 2015. All of the turfgrass used on these projects has been Celebration. Here is a link to information on Celebration Bermudagrass  

I am still a big proponent of Celebration, but I would like to experiment with another variety that we would consider using if someday we renovate the entire golf course. Or, a variety that we might utilize if we do additional partial renovations or other projects. The variety is TifTuf. Here is a link that you can follow to get more information on TifTuf Bermudagrass  

Since the renovation of Olde Florida in 2000, turfgrass researches have released a number of new varieties, such as Celebration and TifTuf. Some of the advantages of the new varieties include improved drought, wear, cold and shade tolerance. This is a link to a video that details the drought tolerance of TifTuf Bermudagrass. Another positive of renovations/replacement with these new varieties is consistency of leaf texture and color.

The process of renovating the eight tee surfaces this summer is fairly simple. Several applications of a non-selective herbicide will be applied during May and June. After we feel we have achieved an acceptable level of eradication we will remove the dead turfgrass, raise and smooth the surface with a sand/peat mixture, then sod the tees with TifTuf. The tees will remain open until the new turfgrass variety is installed, and they will reopen as soon as the turfgrass has sufficiently rooted to avoid damage. This should be within two weeks of installation.    

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Golf and the Environment

Playing a round of golf at Olde Florida Golf Club involves much more than just hitting golf shots and making putts. Like many golf courses, part of the experience is the interaction with the surrounding natural environment.

With only 100 acres of maintained turfgrass, on a total of 220 acres the property we manage provides habitat to countless species of wildlife. In particular, the 30 acres of ponds and shoreline, along with the 90 acres of native upland forest at Olde Florida provides habitat and food for approximately 50-75 species of birds.

In addition, we have introduced nesting structures for Purple Martins, Bluebirds and Screech Owls. The nesting structures have been very successful over the years. I have written about them several times. In March of 2018, I wrote a blog entry, Olde Florida Golf Club is "For the Birds"... Literally, not Figuratively. In the post I provided an update on the success of the Purple Martin houses behind the championship tee on hole #2. Also, in April of 2018 I posted Olde Florida Golf Club "Gives a Hoot". In this entry I detailed the successful Screech Owl program we have established.

I am pleased to report that in 2019 we are equally successful in assisting Purple Martins and Screech Owls fledge their young. As of the last week of April, three of our Screech Owl boxes are being  utilized. Combined they are currently housing five eggs and four Screech Owl hatchlings.

Clubhouse, April 2019

Hole 5, April 2019 

Hole 17, April 2019

Also, both Purple Martin houses are occupied. Currently there are a total of 8 nests with 18 eggs and 9 Purple Martin hatchlings.

Purple Martin House, April 2019

Purple Martin Hatchlings, April 2019

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

A Sincere Thank You for a Year to Remember

"A Sincere Thank You for a Year to Remember" is the title of my Presidents Message in the February issue of Golf Course Management. It begins with: 

At this time of year, it is common to reflect on the past while keeping a focused eye on what the future will bring. This year, that process has been even more poignant than ever for me as I look back on the previous seven years as a GCSAA director and especially last year as I served as GCSAA president. 

The remainder of the message can be found here:  "A Sincere Thank You for a Year to Remember."

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Where Everyone Knows Your Name

"Where Everyone Knows Your Name" is the title of my Presidents Message in the January issue of Golf Course Management. It begins with:  

“Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.
Taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot. 
Wouldn’t you like to get away?
Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.” 

While attending a recent industry meeting, a good friend and I engaged in a conversation about his current position. This individual is a respected professional who has served in a variety of roles in his career. He informed me that his current position was obtained in large part because of his interpersonal skills, not his considerable grass-growing ability. He added that the individual he replaced also had sound agronomic skills, but that person was more comfortable behind the scenes. 

The remainder of the message can be found here: "Where Everyone Knows Your Name."

Friday, January 4, 2019

Finding a Healthy Balance

"Finding a Healthy Balance" is the title of my Presidents Message in the December issue of Golf Course Management. It begins with: 

When I was in fifth grade, I was awakened one night by red flashing lights outside my home. Disoriented and frightened, I scurried to the front door in time to see my father being loaded into am ambulance on a gurney. In the coming days, we learned dad had developed diabetes and suffered a diabetic seizure. 

The remainder of the message can be found here:  "Finding a Healthy Balance."