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No one likes Aerification but unfortunately it is a necessary procedure.  This year we need it more than ever.  The soils have been saturated for so long the aerification will allow them to "breath" and creates some good opportunities to seed better varieties of grasses.   We are scheduled to Aerify greens and fairways next week.  Hopefully the weather will cooperate. 

As I expected the rains have played havoc with some of the poorly draining areas on the course. 

(image)Poorly draining areas have no chance with this weather.  (image)Two problems:  Water logged soils heat up and "cook" the turf and displace the air so the roots suffocate.  

(image)If the turf doesn't completely die it can get thin and weak.  We need some dry weather and some cooler temperatures wouldn't bother me either.   (image)Another problem with all this rain is disease.  This white growth on top of the grass is from Dollar Spot.  We just don't  have the resources to treat all of our roughs.  We are doing everything we can to keep the course in as good a shape as you have come to expect.  Hopefully some better weather is right around the corner.   

We had two Black Swallowtail Butterflies hatch recently.  The caterpillars are easy to find.  If your growing parsley at home and something is eating it, look for these fellows they very well may be the culprit. The large band of yellow tells you that it is a male.  I know T.M.I. 


Thanks to Tom for this video he took the other day while he was working in the half way house.  He spotted this handsome fellow out searching for a quick snack.       

Just an average July...

Being the hottest month of the year, when you are growing turf in July, it's never a whole lot of fun.  However, this past month seemed particularly challenging, with hot, dry conditions early, and humid, wet conditions later.

What came as something of a surprise, is that when we closed the books on July, 2018, as a whole, it was pretty darned average.

Yes, below average temps at the end of the month, offset hotter conditions in the beginning, and we finished July less than one half degree above average.  We also ended the month only 5% above average in precipitation.  Golf courses just west of us were not so lucky in the limited rainfall totals.

Another interesting stat is that, even with 16 days in the 90's in the Philadelphia area, as we enter August, we have only had one heat wave this year.  A heat wave is three consecutive days with temperatures in the 90's, so the week straight of 90+ at the end of June and beginning of July still only equaled one heat wave.

Fortunately--sarcasm intended-- it appears that we are now going to get our second official heat wave during early August.  Looking ahead to the middle of this month, with aerification and Master Plan work starting, we really hope that AccuWeather had a glitch on the forecast for the 15th.

One thing is for sure, we won't shed a tear if this is the last heat wave of 2018.  Even the "average" months take their toll.
Around the Grounds

The summer of 2018, is proving to be a challenge for turf managers across the country. In the Ohio Valley, a slow start to the spring did not allow for significant root growth, followed by a foot of rain in May and June and finally a 3 week period of a lack of rainfall with over 30 days over 90 and nightime temperatures in the high 70's did not allow for much recovery for the Turfgrass plants. So far, the staff has done an excellent job on the course while being involved in the Legacy project on a daily basis.

Rough Renovation Trials:

One of the most deficient areas on the course are the multiple types of turfgrasses in the rough, with high populations of Annual Bluegrass the inputs and consistency are a challenge. The grounds team, in the coming weeks will apply a non-selective herbicide between 11 green and 10 fairway followed by seeding of a mono stand of turf type tall fescue to determine if these techniques could be used in a wide scale renovation in the rough areas.



The "grow-in" of the practice area continues to move well even considering the weather conditions. The new putting green has excellent density and we are slowly lowering mowing heights. Significant gains in quality should be noticed in late August and September when the days become cooler and shorter.

The bentgrass tee, with multiple rain events is behind the rest of the areas, we finally have an OK stand of turf to work with, along with additional drainage we should make some headway over the coming weeks.

The Zoysia grass tee and target greens continue to move in a positive direction, in the coming weeks we will continue to lower mowing heights, aerate the tee and make herbicide applications.

Our timetable to open the Practice area is not clear at the moment, it will be determined by the progression of the construction and and turf health. For updates please follow us on twitter @pobrienhpgcc or the grounds blog.


Pat O'Brien

Grounds Superintendent


(image)Posted with Blogsy

Wet, Wet, Wet.  However it could be worse.  We have had a little over three inches of rain this week.   I have heard others getting much more but its more than enough for us.  Twelve and Thirteen fairways are our worse draining.   We have had to stay on cart paths for them for most of the week. We have used caution this week,  A couple of days we did not even get a chance to mow greens.  Ball roll has suffered but pushing the turf during extreme weather events can only lead to disaster.  We will live to fight another day.  Hopefully things will dry out soon and we will be back to normal. 
(image)One benefit is we have plenty of water.  A full irrigation pond at the end of July is a nice thing to have.(image)We have once again set up our Monarch Aquarium in the foyer.  We all ready have one chrysalis and many caterpillars.   We also have a few Black Swallowtails that have pupated.  We are a official Monarch Habitat site as well as a Monarch Way station.  It is important to show that golf courses can provide habitat for monarchs as well as other pollinators.  Our industry is constantly under attack by people who feel otherwise.  

Seems like we also post this kind of picture every year.  Please make sure you apply your insect repellents and sun screen on while standing on the pavement.   


Finally we had the pleasure of hosting John Lampkin, and company to do a butterfly count.  Another way of showcasing the environmental benefits of golf courses.   They found over 15 different species of butterflies.  The  butterfly of the day was a Common Checker White.  Don't let the "common" fool you its a first for us and Allan said he has only seen  two others in all the  time he has been reporting.  I posted a picture at the bottom of the Blog.  
Occupational Wellness-Finding Satisfaction
Occupational Wellness is the ability to achieve a balance between work and leisure time, addressing workplace stress, and building relationships with co-workers. It focuses on our search for a calling and involves exploring various career options and finding where you fit. Your attitude about work is a crucial influence for occupational development. Occupational wellness allows …
Working the New Guy
(image)Last week we received delivery of our new Groundsman TMC48 sod cutter.  It replaces a 20 year old ryan sod cutter that was on its last legs.  What we like so far, and the main reason we purchased it, is that it doesn't shake the operator uncomfortably like other models do.  We are removing 9,000 sq ft of sod this week for initiation.
Take All Patch

Following up on the last update...

The disease has done it's thing and we are now left with the symptoms from which to recover.  Recovery efforts involve spot treatments with hand tools like a spiker and a seed/fertilizer cocktail.  We will be taking care of these spots with frequent light watering (just where needed) to encourage seed germination.  As we feel necessary, we may plug some areas out with turf from our chipping green (we don't have a nursery green).  In the case of hole number 8 we will use a temporary green periodically in order to give our efforts a chance to succeed.  Hole 8 is by far the weakest link in terms of this disease and we are limited in ways to keep traffic out of the areas where turf is thin.  Some greens are completely unaffected and some have just a patch or two of infected turf.

The disease cranks up in cooler weather in areas that are poorly drained, higher in pH, and compacted.  The symptoms appear when the turf is under stress from things like high heat, drought, traffic, etc.  Treatments to avoid this issue next season will begin this fall and repeat in the spring.  We did this prior to this summer, but obviously didn't see the results we expected.  We'll revisit the plan and switch products and/or timing this go round.

Here is a quick read on Take All Patch

(image)Max is using the spiker to put tiny holes in the surface. 
He'll spread a light rate of seed and fertilizer and then brush it in the holes.
(image)This is one of the patches from last summer

Summer Struggles

This has been a roller coaster year and now we are fighting a new challenge.  From June 25th to July 21 we received just .19" of rain and had extremely high temperatures during that time.  We were all very thankful to receive a steady soaking rain on July 22nd to give us a much needed break from hand watering.  The temperatures backed off as well which was nice.  However, it's now rained 14 of the past 17 days and we are hot again.  Humidity, air and soil temperatures, and soil moisture are all way too high for bentgrass to be happy.   Greens will not be firm and fast in this weather although it's not because we're "babying" them as many may believe.  It's just a fact of bentgrass life in the mid-Atlantic. 

We are battling a disease issue at the moment as a result of this weather.  Samples were sent to Blacksburg on Monday and we got feedback today.  Despite treating preventatively and scouting daily, conditions have been perfect for disease on turf (especially bentgrass putting greens).  Treatments for Take All Patch will begin tomorrow.  This is an odd diagnosis for older greens, but it's the same issue we battled last year.  Typically it's associated with newer greens.  Of course it's raining as I type this so it may be too wet to treat in the morning. 

(image)Shade covers most of 8 green until almost 10 AM
(image)I'm still limber enough to get on the ground for a closer look
(image)My camera on top of the lens actually worked although a more powerful microscope was
needed in order to make a diagnosis. 

If your sitting at home thinking that at least the course is getting a day of rest.... think again.  I am very concerned with the forecast.  They are predicting a heat wave for the next few days.   Hot is exactly what we don't want.  Saturated, water logged soils heat up more than dry soils and heat can kill grass as fast as anything.   Just like you and me if the plant can not cool it self off it will dye from being too hot. 

(image)We are always concerned about greens.   We are fortunate that our greens drain very well.   This not only helps with play ability but in times like this the quicker they can drain the better.   

(image)Some what more concerning are areas with no or poor drainage.   When we get this much rain we have many areas with no drainage.   A full pond does not help with drainage.  There is no where for the water to go.   Only time will tell how we make it through next week.   My fingers are crossed that it stops soon and gives the course some time before the heat builds.    
(image)Our first Monarch hatched yesterday.   Thanks Colleen and Katie for giving him the proper send off.   

Blue Birds are doing well.  These fledglings are ready to leave the nest.   

(image)Speaking of leaving the nest our Ospreys are doing great.  Chicks have taken their first flying lessons and are ready to move on.   Lastly, its been an interesting week.   Lots of rain, and soggy conditions.   Credit to staff who have worked through it.   All the drains on the course have been cleaned.  We are up to date with our preventative fungicides to help prevent any disease.   What ever happens these next few days we will do everything we can to keep the course in the condition we have come to enjoy.   Fingers Crossed. 

Monday Maintenance

The rain has stopped for the time being and with the course being closed today I thought it was a good time to try out our ninja coring tines on our 648 aerator. These tines pull cores that are roughly 4 mm which is as small as you can get. They have all the benefits of the larger tines (compaction relief, water infiltration, gas exchange, etc.) but without the disruption to play. The process is simply aerate, blow off the cores, and then roll the green, extremely easy and very effective. We will do this once a month during the summer months going forward.

Using Smart Guided Sprayer GPS System Technology
Applying fertilizers, pesticides, wetting agents, and other plant protective products to golf courses is simply one of those tasks that has to be performed to provide the healthy, quality conditions demanded by today's golfers.  Golf course superintendents are always looking for ways to reduce the need to spray, to find ways to more accurately apply the products to ensure they are being applied where they are intended, and to reduce expenses and use of natural resources.

On a typical sprayer used on tees, approaches, and/or fairways, eleven nozzles are combined into three "sections" or "booms". Four nozzles on the right, three nozzles in the center, and four nozzles on the left.  The down fall to this system is that when one of the nozzles on the right boom needs to spray, all four of the nozzles spray.  This results in overspray of product outside of the desired area which wastes products and water.  It can also cause harm to turf which might be sensitive to the product being applied on one area.

One of the best assets that has come along for golf course superintendents in a long time is individual nozzle control made possible by the integration of GPS technology on to the sprayer.  Earlier this season we were able to purchase the Smart Guided System GPS sprayer control system for our greens sprayer.  This system allows us to map the different areas on our course such as greens, approaches, fairways, and with the individual nozzle control apply the fertilizers and chemicals within 2" of exactly where we want them.

This technology has been a complete game changer for us.  By being able to apply the products only to the greens surface and not having to account for overspray with a non individual nozzle control system we have reduced our square footage sprayed on our greens from 130,000 square feet to 98,000 square feet.   This has resulted in a reduction of products and water used by  over 23%.  Our approaches have seen even bigger savings with over 33% reduction in products and water needed since we control which individual nozzles spray and which ones do not.

Here is a video of an application of product to #18 green at Harrison Bay.  As you watch it you can see the individual nozzles (indicated by the 1-11 circles at the top) turning on and off as needed and as they enter and exit the boundary of the greens surface which is outlined in green.  I have our greens set up to spray 6" outside of the actual boundary of the green so you will see a little activation outside of the green but it can be dialed in to spray any area we choose. The video pixelated a little during recording leaving a couple gaps but all the area was sprayed.

Here is an example of an application of product to #15 approach at Harrison Bay.  Again as you watch the video you can see the individual nozzles turning on and off.  The approach is outlined in green and the golf green is considered an "obstacle" and will not have any product applied to it.  We can spray these narrow areas between the green and the bunkers without fear of spraying products on the greens or overspraying the area as the Smart Guided System will turn on only one nozzle at a time if that is needed.

Set up of the Smart Guided System was easy and with the mapping attachment we chose to use, which mounts to the front of the sprayer, we can drive around our course mapping all the sites or areas we want to record.  It is a simple process to record the areas and they are saved in the "cloud"

We have looked at several different GPS sprayer control systems and decided on Smart Guided Systems due to ease of use, the ability to adapt to our existing sprayer, and the very economical price compared to other GPS systems on the market today.

Whether it is the Smart Guided System, or another manufacturer of GPS sprayer control, reducing the amount of products used, the water needed to make each application, and the ability to greater protect the environment and non-target areas from over application of chemicals is here and very accessible to most every golf course.  The savings we are seeing in products used compared to previous years will allow us to pay for this system in one season and provide better playing conditions for our golfers and guests.
Integrated Pest Management
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combination of common-sense practices. IPM programs use current, comprehensive information on the life cycles of pests and their interaction with the environment. This information, in combination with available pest control methods and the innovation of management, is …

Keeping grass alive this time of year is hard enough but we have been dealing with a few added issues that honestly we could do without.   
(image)Just what we needed on a Saturday afternoon.  This fell across the cart path behind 13 green.   I  didn't have time to do anything with it because I was watering greens that afternoon. 

(image)I warned the Sunday staff that they would have to spend some extra time.   They did a nice job and got the limb cleaned up and out of the way by early afternoon.   

(image)On Monday  we had no power to the halfway house.  We must have gotten a lightening strike.  Mike our General Manager got in touch with our utility company and got them here by early afternoon.  Of course it was not an easy fix.  The cable was found to be broken and it is under ground.  Once they found where it was broke they had to dig it up to make the repair.  Mike said they finished some time after 10:00 pm.   By that time I was snoozing away hoping for no emergency calls (which I never got)  This is picture of the new transformer box we got out of the deal.  A big shout out the the crew who did the work.   I thought I worked long hours!!!

(image)Of course with lightening strikes come Irrigation problems.   Red is not the color you want to see when doing a communication check.   Luckily we did get some rain out of the storm so we had a little time to fix.   We are up and running now with no problems.  Just in time,  its 88 degree's with little humidity.    

(image)The rain did give us just enough time to install this short walk way for our ladies.   It is a low area that was soft much of the time.  Now there is easy access to the tee.  

All in a weeks work.  As the saying goes its always something.  

Goldilocks Time

If you play the course early in the day, and think the fairways are soft, they very well may be.  When we go through periods that require us to rely exclusively on the irrigation system, moisture uniformity is challenging to achieve, often leaving some areas too firm (aka, dry), and others on the softer side.

There are several factors which contribute to consistent moisture levels--or lack thereof.  For example, the soils on the golf course are quite varied, ranging from fast-draining gravel, to dense clay.  The golf course's topography also leads to exposed mounds drying more quickly than their surrounding swales.  However, probably the single greatest factor impacting moisture uniformity is the irrigation system.

Laurel Creek's irrigation system was designed in the 1980's, and has sprinklers spaced 80' apart.  That is a good chunk of land for a head to cover, and conditions can differ greatly within that area.  Generally speaking, irrigation systems in our region work well to supplement rainfall, not replace it.

In the picture below, you can see some pretty dry turf only 20-30' from the closest sprinkler.

Given the limitations of the system, it will take a full eight hour irrigation cycle to run greens, tees, fairways, and the primary rough for an average of just 15 minutes per sprinkler.  At this time of year, with moisture loss around .25" per day, we are operating in a deficit irrigation mode.  That is, even when running a full cycle, we are not replacing all of the water lost each day.

Where sprinkler coverage is incomplete, portable roller base sprinklers are used to supplement.

Hand watering is another primary way we target specific areas without running the irrigation system excessively.  It is not unusual for us to devote over 1,000 man hours in a season to hand watering.

Without question, water management is one of the most challenging parts of properly maintaining the golf course at this time of year.  Too much water is not good for plant health or playability, and too little water can obviously have its consequences as well.  While this may lead to that Goldilocks feeling (it's too wet here, it's too dry there), the good news is that sooner or later the heat will break and the rain will come.
One in a Million

This past week, Bill Roberson, one of Laurel Creek's original members, and a friend to so many, passed away.

Through business, his love of sports, and his extensive charitable work, Bill knew thousands of people.  But one thing most of these people likely weren't aware of, is that Bill knew way more than your average golfer when it comes to turf management.  Over the last quarter century, I had the privilege to speak with Bill on many subjects.  However, not surprisingly, most of these conversations tied into the golf course in some way. 

I'd like to share a few of my memories about Bill.  I'll preface this by saying that, as a rule, I do not refer to Club members by their first name.  However, I also don't make a habit of addressing friends as "Mr." and I consider Bill Roberson a longtime friend.
  • Seeing how the sausage is made--While many golfers prefer not to encounter the Grounds staff, Bill never minded this--in fact, he seemed to truly enjoy watching the team prepping the course.  Often being in the first group of the day, he would run into the crew, and never once asked them to stop.  Typically, he would say hello, and praise the work that we were doing.
  • An easy choice--When asked a question, Golf Professionals and Golf Course Superintendents won't always come up with the same answer.  However, in 1999, when the Club was first forming a Green Committee, John Tyrell and I were asked independently who we felt would be valuable, contributing members of this Committee.  Without knowing the other's answers, there was one name that we both had on our lists:  Bill Roberson.
  • Life of service--Bill was incredibly generous in many ways, particularly with what may be a person's most valuable commodity--their time.  It would have been easy for him to pay his dues to the Club, and just come here and play.  Instead, he wanted to help.  From the inception of the Green Committee in 1999, Bill has been a member.  2018 marks his 20th year of serving on the Committee.
  • A plant on the Green Committee--Whether it was participating in the golf course Master Plan process, or discussing equipment needs, as a Committee member, Bill was always knowledgeable and engaged, often asking some tough questions.  There were many times when I'd see him on the course, and we'd talk about some current issue in golf course operations.  Odds were good that at the next Committee meeting, without any prompting from me, he would bring up the topic, trying to ensure that others were aware of what we might be dealing with.
  • No payback--Another great thing about Bill was, in the 25 plus years I've known him, I never once received a call, text, or email, asking for something special.  Never the old, "I'm bringing a guest next week, can you give the greens an extra roll that day..."  That wasn't his style.
  • Talking turf--Bill's interest and knowledge of fine turf probably came from a couple of things, one being his leadership role in the LPGA Championship. However, I'm sure the stronger tie he had to my end of the business, was the fact that he has had a Bentgrass putting green at his home since long before we met.  If there's one thing we didn't agree on, it was this green.  I tried for years to convince him to plow it under, and go with a nice artificial green, but he didn't want to hear that.  He enjoyed being able to discuss turf problems--we talked air movement, shade issues, irrigation practices, and turf diseases.  Bill knew that Dollar Spot was largely an annoyance, but Pythium Blight spells disaster.  Undoubtedly, his owning a green helped give him the deep appreciation he showed for the work we do on the golf course.
  • The grass is always greener...or maybe not--Bill played golf all over, including many top 100 courses, but whether it was after a trip to the Monterey Peninsula, or playing someplace closer to home, when he got back, we'd talk about the conditions.  It seems probable that he was showing his bias to his home course, because he'd always tell me that while these other courses were good, they were no better than Laurel Creek.  
  • The joy of giving to others--Besides giving of his time, Bill was generous in other ways, as well.  During his many years of running the McDonald's LPGA Championship tournament, he seemed to truly enjoy having people attend, and treating them like VIPs.  Whether it was heading to DuPont Country Club, or a bit further to Bulle Rock, my family and I always tried to get there for at least one day.  (There was nothing like the McDonald's restaurant on wheels, to get the kids excited about going to a golf tournament.)
  • He made us feel like stars--Bill clearly loved Laurel Creek, the staff, and the golf course.  Over the years, when he had well known public figures as his guests at the Club, he would go out of his way to introduce us to them--but even this was done in a special way.  He lavished praise on the course, to the point that his guests may have felt they should be asking for our autographs, instead of the other way around. 
  • A family man--It was easy to see that Bill cared about family.  Countless times he asked me, "How are the boys doing?"   Many years ago, my family and I went to the Spectrum In Philly to see a show.  As the performance ended, I heard someone calling my name.  I looked around, and saw Bill going out of his way to say hello in the crowd.  I hadn't seen him, and never would have known if he didn't shout to me.  But the fact that he made a special effort to say hello to us, is something I have always remembered.  That's just the kind of man he was.

Thank you for everything you've done for the Club and for me, Bill.  You have always been there, had my back, and listened closely when we talked.  If you've ever got any thoughts or advice about the course, I'll be listening.
Pre Game Meal
Monday we were honored to have the LGA provide lunch for our staff.  They've done this for as long as I can remember and we can't thank them enough.  The guys devoured the buffet of home cooked food and appreciated the kind gesture more than you can imagine.  

After lunch we teed it up for our annual "World Championship" match.  A nine hole scramble among the staff for bragging rights.  Most of the guys don't have a clue how to hold a golf club, but they all had a blast and enjoyed seeing the course from a player's perspective.  We spread the talent out among the groups and ended up with a real close finish.  Jimmy, Alex, Andrew, and Chase took home the trophy.  Shot of the day went to Eric who holed out from 30 yards on 13.  It was his first time playing golf.   All the guys that played for the first time have a new appreciation for the game.  They understand its not as easy as it looks.  


(image)Chase, Jimmy, Alex, and Andrew

Before You Know It!
Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Tuesday, July 31st and it's time for another update.  Before we officially close the books on July... Really?  Seems only yesterday summer was just getting here after a slow start and now we only have one more month till football season!  Before you know it August will also be a distant memory and we will be knee deep co-hosting a USGA Championship.  But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves just yet.

Earlier this month we were closed two days for fairway aeration (you may recall this was originally scheduled for mid June and due to conflicts we pushed the operation to the week after Independence Day.  The fairways were solid tine aerated using 3/4 inch diameter tines and topdressed with 300 tons of sand.  
Day 2 & we’re still rocking & rolling @CGC1929! #sandman #MaintenanceTuesday
— Matthew Wharton (@CGCGreenkeeper) July 10, 2018
We are planning one more topdressing in a couple weeks, before the summer growing season comes to an end.  The spread rate will be slightly lighter (about 250 tons) and the material will only be dragged in, no aerating.

June and July have been quite dry as we have only received about 4 1/2 inches total rain the past two months.  As a result the water level in our irrigation reservoir is down several feet and the golf course shows the telltale signs of drought stress with sporadic discoloration.  On the bright side, the dryer than average conditions permit us to control the moisture on our bentgrass putting surfaces.  Despite a warmer than average first two months of summer, the greens have performed exceptionally well and I'm quite pleased with their current status.
A few views of the 12th green. This short (140 yds) Par 3 sits in the southeast corner of the property & is by far our most challenging microclimate. I’ll take this every year on July 31st!
— Matthew Wharton (@CGCGreenkeeper) July 31, 2018
Granted, I'm not attempting to put the cart before the horse as we still have one more challenging month to go, but considering this is the best condition we've ever been entering August, I like our chances.

Last week we had another walk through with the USGA as we continue to count down the days to the 2018 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship.  Whether you're counting down to the first round of competition (Sep 22), the first official practice round (Sep 20), or just the Monday of Championship Week (Sep 17) it's less than 60 days away, closer to 50 actually and will be here before you know it!  This was the first course visit by tournament director Bill McCarthy since late April and we spent the entire morning last Wednesday examining the golf course and current conditions.  
We looked at winter recovery, turf density, mowing heights, fairway widths, hole locations, tee placement, and more.  Overall the USGA is very pleased with the current conditions of the golf course and we talked about taking measures over the coming weeks to preserve and protect turf conditions prior to the tournament.  It will be here before you know it.  

You've probably already noticed rope positioned across the fairway exit just shy of Number 4 green.  This is to aid our ability to grow thick rough just right of the green (constant cart traffic compacts the soil and restricts the turf's ability to grow vigorously).  We've also placed ropes along the cart path edge down Number 11 in order to limit traffic and aid the rough growing on the right side of the fairway.  In the coming weeks you will probably begin to see similar measures taken as my team and I continue to identify areas that aren't performing to tournament expectations. #StayTuned

Also, the overall height of cut (HOC) in the rough will be raised.  The rough is currently maintained at 2 inches (our normal topping point in a growing season).  The USGA is requesting a minimum of 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 inches for the championship.  When you consider the challenge our rough currently produces you can imagine what will happen when there is more of it between your clubhead and the ball.
Greens Chairman Ed Oden demonstrating the difficulty one faces when hitting from our 2-inch Bermudagrass rough. Note the rough will be 2.25 to 2.5 inches for #USMidAm. 😏 #justsaying #CGCturf
— Matthew Wharton (@CGCGreenkeeper) July 27, 2018
Now before you go thinking that simply means maintaining a 2 inch rough until the tournament then simply not mowing that week, I'm sorry to tell you it doesn't exactly work that way.  You see, believe it or not the days are already getting shorter and the reduced photoperiod impacts Bermudagrass growth.  In fact, by late September when the championship arrives the turf will most likely be growing very slowly, if at all depending on weather conditions.  Thus, in order to produce thick, challenging, dare I say penal rough we will be making that final HOC adjustment sooner rather than later.  In the meantime Head Golf Professional Bobby Cox and his staff are reserving lessons to assist you with finding the fairway more frequently. :)

In other news looks like our resident Blue Heron has a new friend.  I managed to stop and capture a photo of the two stalking the creek in front of Number 16 this weekend.  Hope you enjoy.
Excellent photo Matthew.
[email protected] (@Ecology1BIGGA) July 30, 2018
That's all for now.  I've got to wrap up a few things before tomorrow's meeting with the Greens Committee, then it's just 31 more days till the end of meteorological summer.  Believe me, it will be over before you know it.

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG
The Importance of Cultural Practices
Cultural practices refer to golf course maintenance that is done in order to keep the turf healthy and playing conditions optimal for the long term.  They are not “quick fix” tasks, rather, they are planned and scheduled tasks that affect the long term health of the course turf.  Another benefit to cultural practices is that …
2018 US Senior Open Volunteer
Last month, I was in Colorado Springs to volunteer as part of the agronomy team for tournament preparations at the US Senior Open at the Broadmoor. I have known Fred Dickman, Director of Grounds at the Broadmoor for many years and wanted to help out for the week. I've volunteered at many tournaments through the years, but this was the first 'close to home' tournament. This was a special volunteer trip because for the first time my wife, Karen came along to volunteer with me. So it was extra special to be 'Team Ross' at the US Senior Open. Here are some photos and highlights of the week.

(image)The Broadmoor Hotel is certainly special and is celebrating its 100th year Anniversary. 

(image)That 1959 Amateur win by Nicklaus is sure special!
(image)Karen, volunteering with me for the first time! Team Ross.
(image)As usual, it was all hands on deck preparing championship conditions daily.
(image)Had a lot of fun hanging with Dr. Tony Koski, Colorado State University talking turf throughout the week!
(image)My morning daily duty, mowing fairways with a great team of individuals!
(image)Our fairway team leader, Rocco from Jamaica. What a superstar this guy is.
(image)Michael Sartori, East Course Superintendnet (left) hands out the duties, 
while Fred Dickman, Director of Grounds (center) listens in on the plan.
(image)Where Freddie goes......his dogs go!
(image)Even the dogs needed the proper credentials.
(image)Nice to check out flat sand Donald Ross style bunkers. Great stuff!

(image)Being a retired superintendent and now agronomic consultant, I don't see 
many golf course sunrise and sunsets anymore. Certainly enjoyed them 
at the Broadmoor. Brought back old memories. 

(image)A big thanks to all the vendors for their support.
A Difficult First Half of Summer

The weather has been difficult for players, staff and green surfaces here at Glen Echo due to 2 months of record high temperatures. We have for the most part escaped severe injury but have been scared up here and there. I still see some signs of potential issues but this cooler weather spell could be just what the Doctor ordered.

I received an email from Dr. Lee Miller University of Missouri Turf grass pathologist through our local superintendent association regarding the issues turf managers have been facing. It has some technical information in it but does explain the issues we are facing. If its hot for humans who have ways of protecting themselves like moving inside to air conditioning, imagine millions of grass plants who have nowhere to go and are cut at about 99.5% shorter than their natural growth habit. We mow bent Bent grass if you would like to know more about this interesting turf. grass at about .125". Average length of stems in nature are about 2'. Click on 

Water Conservation
These Hot, Dry Months! The average golf course uses 1 million gallons of water per acre every year. According to the U.S. Geological Survey’s “Estimated Use of Water in the United States in 2000” report, approximately 408 billion gallons of water per day are withdrawn in the U.S., and golf course irrigation accounts for 0.5 …
Aerification 2018--A Week to Remember
Aerification week was last week as many of you know but it did not go as we had hoped.  The agronomy staff worked tirelessly on Monday and Tuesday to get the greens aerified and started on some the other projects due to the forecasted rainfall for Wednesday and Thursday.  It was a good thing we did because both of those days were a complete wash with the course receiving 3.41" of rain during that time.  It is hard to collect cores and spread sand in the rain, as we found out.  One last day, Friday, to get the course back together and the staff knocked it out of the park once again to get us open on time Saturday morning.

I know the word "aerification" is a four letter word for most all golfers but it is simply one of those necessary evils in the golf world.  The process removes old plant and thatch which have accumulated through time,  relieves compaction of the soil, provides new points for gas exchange between the root system and the atmosphere, letting the toxic gases out and fresh oxygen in, and allows for new materials such as sand or other amendments to be added to the soil system.   In a nutshell, you wouldn't dream of driving your car 100,000 miles without changing the oil and expecting it to survive.  We are simply changing the oil.

Most of the aerification process was the same this year as last but we did change a few techniques and add a couple of practices so  I thought a new video would help explain the process.

The agronomy staff put forth a Herculean effort last week to get everything done that we did.  The rain we received really messed up our scheduled activities but we made it through.  We did not get all the cultural practices we wanted done, such as core aerification of tees and topdressing of approaches, and will continue to work on the list over the next couple of weeks.  The greens are done and are healing in nicely so we look forward to welcoming everyone back out to enjoy the course.
Leading Across Cultures And Generations
Different cultures and different generations expect different things, a diverse workforce requires leaders with a unique set of skills. In order to find success you must be willing to be flexible, teachable, and approachable. An effective leader helps their employees find common goals and must inspire and engage across all generations.  Having clearly stated goals and …
Horticulture Corner

It has been quite the summer, weather wise, in the plant world. Unseasonably hot and rainy May/June, dry spell and mid to upper 90s to start off July, and unseasonably cool temps to close out July. Needless to say, it has been a tough year to get all of the new landscaping that is part of the legacy construction established. That being said, overall, new plant material is doing quite well. There are some standout performers such as the Ruby Falls Weeping Redbuds, Beebalm(Monarda), and the Russian Sage(Perovskia). Others are a little slower to get established, but once they get through this first year they'll begin to fill in the landscape. It's always tough to get a new landscape, especially one of this size, established, no matter what the conditions are, but it is a great learning experience to see what plants respond to certain conditions compared to others.

South side construction continues to move along. As the site progresses, the landscaping design continues to be evaluated and adjusted according. One area that will modified from the original design is the hillside surrounding the tennis courts. The slope of the hill is too severe to plant anything on. It has been seeded and covered with a straw blanket. This will help with erosion on the hillside and make for a nice turf area once established. Details on where to locate planter boxes around the paddle area has also begun. Much like the old paddle/tennis area, the new area will also have planter boxes and window boxes to bring the area together.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to stop me and ask. Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Bryan Miller, Horticulturist



(image)Posted with Blogsy
Population Shift

Laurel Creek's putting greens are comprised of two very different grasses, Poa annua, and Creeping Bentgrass.  One of the challenges this presents, is trying to insure a smooth putting surface, when the growth habits of Poa and Bent do not coincide.

In our region, Poa can outcompete Bent for most of the year, but then the summer heat comes, and Poa is not a happy camper.  It is always interesting to see how the percentage of these grasses in the greens appears to shift from one season to the next.

As you can see in the picture below, the Bentgrass in the center is coming on strong, while the Poa isn't a fan of July's weather.  There certainly appears to be more Bent than Poa here.

This is quite different than what we see in the spring, where Poa is growing like crazy, and controlling its seedheads is of utmost importance.  An untreated check plot from a seedhead prevention spray shows a whole lot of Poa, and not so much Bentgrass at that time of year.

Below is one final picture which illustrates the competitive edge which Bentgrass has now.  In the areas where we had Fairy Ring hit hard a few weeks ago, it's the Bent that's moving into the ring's perimeter.

We have now past the peak for average summer high temperatures, going from 87 last week, to 86 degrees this week.  While August typically means the shortest roots of the year for cool-season turf, it's good to know that the thermometer should be heading in the right direction, giving both Poa and Bent a much needed break.
Poa or Bent?
Let's start at the beginning. In 2010 the US open was at Pebble Beach. The USGA decided to use the venue to start a conversation about water. They did this by shutting it off at this iconic seaside course. The result was an off-color HD camera defying event that had everyone talking. For us it was a conversation about the types of grasses we have on our greens. The answer is a mix of the original South German Bents (Creeping Bentgrass) we were seeded to, a few others that had been sprinkled in over the years, and lots of perennial bio types of annual bluegrass (Poa Annua). For a deep dive into Seed So which is better? Well that depends who you ask. Oakmont CC loves their Poa and who could argue with the conditions we have seen there over the years? By and large creeping bent is considered a better grass for a variety of reasons: it uses less water, is more disease and heat tolerant, has better roots. With summers here getting hotter and more humid I suggested we try and favor Bent. This began the journey of our shift in how we water greens and even fertilize them, but that is more recent. We went from basically daily watering to essentially weekly. Deep and infrequent favors bentgrass and its ability to put down deep roots. This gives it the competitive edge over poa especially in the heat of the summer. Other changes in the program were to step up the chemical regulation of growth. Again, slowing the poa so the bent could out compete. My goal was a slow transition that would not effect ball roll or the overall appearance of the greens. The poster child was number 2. This green had the most poa at approximately 80%. The picture below shows vandalism in 2002. We stripped the damaged sod and replaced with sod from the nursery. The ring of bentgrass was clearly visible in a mostly poa green for many years. Today you cannot find it if you tried. The last picture, in the collage, is recent showing where I seeded the remaining poa areas and topdressed with white sand. Easily a complete swap in percentages. Most of the other greens simply converted over without anyone noticing. 

(image)2 green from mostly poa to mostly bentThe other way we have helped the conversion is to toss a few cup cutter plugs from the nursery into the larger patches of poa. The nursery was constructed from aerifier plugs so it would match the existing greens but also seeded with bent. The dry conditions of the nursery favored bent and so there is not much poa left. These plugs would then spread to increase our bent population.

(image)2 green this winter showing some plug workThe areas of poa left on two green have not been happy all year. My guess is the reduced fertility this year is really stressing it to the max. It looks awful on two and also back in the nursery where I moved some plugs back in January. I decided it was time to start seeding these areas. The pictures below show some seeded areas on 2 and 3 greens.

(image)seeding process. straight sand and sprayed area
After a conversation with a friend who used to make his own dyed sand I decided to try it. I mixed up a batch and spread it on some plywood to dry. Even dried the surface still had a crust making it look wet. It was a paste when I spread it out. Reminded me of the paste glue we used in kindergarten only green.

(image)dying sand
It has become standard fair to cut cups and have the entire plug stay together. In the past during the hot summer months the roots would shrink and the plugs would break apart into pancakes. I was reminded of this recently when I swapped out a few more plugs from the nursery to number 2. The difference in rooting depth of the two grasses is real and evident in the pictures below. Notice the roots hanging below the bent plug which is at least twice the depth of the poa plug.

(image)regular greens plug vs straight poa plug

(image)2 green poa plugs looking weak in nurseryThere have been side effects to this new program. The poa has been a bit off color for years. Thank-you for not getting fixated on color. If I could change the culture in America that grass always has to have the deep green you see in fertilizer commercials I would. The surrounds took a beating for years. It needs more water than we had been giving it and went dormant for many years. We have figured out a solution, albeit not a great long term one, and we have improved them in the last couple of years. Lastly, another big change is with more bent grass walking has become noticeable. Or maybe better put shuffling has become an issue. Anyone dragging their feet really stands up the bent grass leaving the green a mine field to put on. That is an entire blog post itself i will save for the future.
Growing some good weed

Hang on  a second--before anybody gets the wrong idea, we are not talking about a potential new revenue stream for the golf course.  No, in this case, the "weed" we are referring to is milkweed.

The monarch butterfly population has declined dramatically during the past 20 years.  These beautiful insects are dependent on milkweed, and out of play areas on golf courses can provide a great habitat for this plant, and the butterflies.

As a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary, Laurel Creek is committed to managing the course in an environmentally sensitive manner.  Therefore, when Audubon International established their "Monarchs in the Rough" program, the decision to join was an easy one.  Assistant Superintendent, Don Holgersen, continues to do a great job in keeping us involved in programs such as this.

So, yes, while milkweed may have that four letter word (weed) in its name, it is an important, beneficial plant.  Based on what we are seeing thus far on the course, it's definitely being appreciated by the monarchs!

First Friendless Week
No matter how well you prepare or how obvious it may be that the time is getting near, it is never easy to say good bye. Lambert was my second dog while here at Mink and he had big paws to fill since Thumper made quite an impression. Bert held his own and proved to be quite a character himself. Some of you may remember Thumper but may not be aware of the odd coincidence that he and Bert shared the same Birthday. When I filled out the adoption papers, Bert was a rescue who came into our lives at 7 months old, I noticed something odd about the date. I thought it was a niece/nephew or a cousins birthday that I should know. It was not until Cheryl came home and saw the date and could not even finish the sentence that it hit me. How strange. We always felt he had a bit of Thumper's ghost in him. Leave it to my wife to remember that we lost Thumps in July as well. Too much coincidence for me.

(image)Lambert 9/26/07 - 7/6/18                      Thumper 9/26/95 - 7/16/06Both just shy of their 11th birthdays. Two great dogs who could not have been better ambassadors for  me and Mink Meadows.

(image)Bert as a puppyBert had a tough life living in a 10 x 10 fence kennel for his first 6 months. Then spent a month in the shelter. He developed what is called kennel syndrome. He had to learn to entertain himself so he started with his water dish. He used to tip it over and play with it. His affinity for plastic coffee cans was a site to see. I never had to clip his nails since he wore them down on the gravel paths kicking things around.

Bert loved to play golf. He almost sunk a few putts rolling whatever he had with him at the cup as we putted out. He would find a rock early and play with that for 9 holes. Often dropping it in the cart by your feet so you would throw it for him. As he got older he enjoyed riding in the cart more. He would take up the entire seat when it was vacated. Annoying for sure but many members would jump at the chance for one more annoying round. I know I would.

(image)Frank Cecelio and Bert

He loved it when we would repair irrigation breaks. He would stare at every shovel full as it came out of the ground looking for a rock to play with. Often he would throw it back in the hole at us so we would have to throw it for him. The repairs were made more enjoyable being entertained by him.

Some of you knew Bert had a girlfriend. The owners started walking their pup by the gate of the shop twice a day. Soon they asked if they could take Bert with them. The dogs bonded and Cheryl and I gained new human friends. They were gone most winters which left Bert to hold a vigil on the deck waiting for his girl Ella to return and come walking by.

(image)A regular event
(image)Bert and EllaBert loved his stoop. He would sit there for hours refusing to come to work with me. Content to wait for Ella or simply to keep an eye on things from above. He would run down the stairs however, when one of his favorite members showed up often with a treat for him.

(image)Favorite spot
He truly was happiest at the beach. That was Thumper's Ghost for sure. Two peas in a pod. The difference being Bert had abandonment issues and only left me to walk to Ella's and bound through the doggy door. Of the 4 dogs at the house Bert is still the only one to embrace the doggy door. This video was in the last few weeks. He did not have the ability to play for long with his stick but he sure enjoyed trying.

We visited my sister once in VT and he would attack all of her dog Scout's toys. His favorite was actually a stuffed animal and not a dog toy. She and her husband were so taken by his aggressive affection for Santa Bear they gave him to Bert. He remained a favorite snuggle and shake toy. We buried him with Santa Bear and his favorite blue ball. He is out at the Linden Tree with Thumper.

(image)Bert and Santa Bear
(image)I dragged Bert out to hose the dew on his last day and we were greeted on 1 with a small buck
He used to love to chase the hose since I took him out that first day we brought him home.

(image)RIP Lambert

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