Stow Acres Turf

Golf Course Maintenance News & Live Updates from @stowacresturf

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Rain is a good thing…

Last week, we saw a “dusting” or a few inches of snow. That first snow of the season is always exciting. The way it just blankets everything with white. It gives a sense of peace and clean all over. When managing turf, snow can be very helpful. It coats and insulates to protect from desiccation. It keeps the temperature at 32°F. It helps protect from foot traffic damaging to the leaf blades. It even helps protect from a falling tree whether it be weather related or man made. However, the snow we received last week was bad. It started as snow, but turned over to rain and resulted in ice. This ice, if left for a long period of time, could potentially suffocate the turf plant. Some precautions can be taken and have been taken such as removing certain trees, topdressing greens, and coating the greens with black sand or sunflower seeds if ice is present. Luke Bryan says it best in his hit country song, but it really is applicable to our golf course right now. Rain really is a good thing! The rain yesterday has completely cleared our course. In fact, it looks great! If you’re looking to play, please call the proshop ahead of time for details! 

-Jason VanBuskirk, Superintendent


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Green Speed (Roll) and its factors…

There are many factors one must consider when talking about green speed.  Factors such as type of soil, soil moisture content, weather, morning dew, time of year, fertility, height of cut, grass variety, amount of topdressing, and rolling the green can all contribute to how far the ball will roll.  However, the biggest factor that is sometimes uncontrollable is the weather.  Unpredicted rain events can sometimes make managing the soil moisture content very difficult.  To fight against these weather events, research and science has provided the turf industry with products such as wetting agents.  Wetting agents have multiple purposes, but the most important role is drawing the water down in the soil profile, firming the surface, and providing a re-wetting factor for the soil and turf. It is extra important this time of year due to increased humidity and surface temperature. Two of the most favorable conditions for turfgrass disease are warm and moist. Applying a wetting agent (soil spray) will not help pull the water through the soil profile, but putting some extra specials ingredients in the tank will help feed the soil bugs and roots. 

From approximately Memorial Day to Labor Day, we try to maintain the green speed at a very consistent level; only changing consistency to make the greens faster for major events.  There a few ways to increase speed, but the most important factor is making sure your turf can handle this change.  Root stability, overall plant health, and the right amount of moisture everyday will help allow for the turf to be tweaked during the time of an event or time of season. 

For a majority of the season, turf health has been our primary concern and taking the plant to a “fast” speed just really hasn’t been a thought. Well, the good news is that our attention to health has really paid off. Most areas have completely healed and speed will begin to increase over the next few weeks. Weather will also be on our side in regards to humidity. By spraying our usual monthly wetting agent, greens will continue to redistribute the water within the profile, and you may just start draining more putts (hopefully)! Thanks for your continued support this season! See you on the course!

-Jason VanBuskirk, Superintendent

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Greens “watering”…

Surface temperature taken on a green at 1pm.

It is finally that time of year again where maintenance is becoming routine. We have reached a point in our maintenance schedule that has allowed us to get caught up with many areas on the two courses. While you will definitely see some projects that are ongoing; both courses have reached a maintenance level. This is all thanks to the extreme effort that our staff has put in over the last two months!

Over the next few weeks as the temperatures become consistently warm, you will notice staff members syringing the greens with hoses. Yes, we do have sprinklers and yes, we do water at night. However, overhead water can sometimes cause more harm than benefit. When temperatures get hot, and even more importantly the humidity increases, overhead is too much water and plays a significant role in disease pressure. Another downside to overhead water is that it isn’t able to really focus on the tiny little micro climates all over the greens. The hoses allow us to carefully monitor the moisture level and surface temperature level. We are proactively monitoring soil moisture with our TDR 100 moisture meters and constantly surveying the greens. We are not actually watering the greens, but simply cooling the surface atmosphere right above the plant. This practice, although labor intensive, ensures firmer, faster greens and less disease pressure. You will also notice us changing cups frequently throughout the afternoon. This is another proactive solution to minimizing foot traffic and turf stress. Please watch this short USGA video on hose watering:

The staff does not spend any longer than 3 minutes on a green surface. If you happen to be waiting to hit your approach, please wait just a few seconds longer to avoid hitting into them. They are paying attention to you, but they are diligently working to keep the green surfaces alive and playing well. Thank you for your understanding and patience. See you on the course!

-Jason VanBuskirk, Superintendent

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Where’s the rain?

Since March 1, we are currently 5.0″ below the average rainfall to date. Absolutely perfect for golf, but very difficult for plants. You are starting to see dry spots appear in fairways that typically aren’t seen until late June or even early July. With the extremely below average rainfall total and the complications of starting the irrigation system this season, we are healing back in from the winter months slower than expected. However, now that irrigation is fully functioning and we have warm nights, we will start to see seed germinating. Once germinated, it will still be slow process before 100% recovery. So far, we have only over-seeded greens, but we plan to over-seed tees and fairway spots next week. Bunker work is also underway, and you will see a gradual improvement over the next few weeks that will include sand cleaning and fresh sand added. Please click here for a more in depth look at sand cleaning. Most of our typical spring startup projects have had to get done at much slower process while we try to keep the turf green, healthy, and adequately hydrated. We truly appreciate your support this spring! Please take a minute to read the following. It is a very well educated summary on winter damage by USGA Northeast Agronomist Jim Skorulski. See you on the course!

Jason VanBuskirk, Superintendent

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The Holes From the Road…

It’s that time of year again when the sun comes out for 2 hours in the middle of the day, and you are briefly reminded of what warm weather feels like. Grass is visible for the first time in almost 3 months in some parts. The majority of us have not swung a golf club in five months, and we are getting eager to get on the course. Well, I’m here to update you that you’re going to have to wait just a little longer. After walking the golf courses Friday, approximately 20% of the course still remains covered in snow. Yes, I know fairways 1, 9, 8 South and 1, 9, 18 North look great from the road. And maybe you have noticed the practice greens are even clear when you came in to pick up your re-gripped irons. But, unfortunately 100+” of snow takes a little longer to melt than your average snowfall in an average winter. However, the forecast does look promising for this week. Please stay tuned into the next 7-10 days because you may be able to get out there to hit the ball around!  

I am happy to report that, even though we had a lot of snowfall this winter, nature was pretty good to us. There is minimal debris on the course (only debris caused by our tree removal on 12 & 13 North), and minimal gray snow mold formation in some fairways and roughs. The turf looks extremely healthy. And, unlike the March of 2011, there is minimal flooding on the North course. The usual overflowing pond on 17 North causing a pond near 2 tee and a stream running across 1 fairway are the only excess water areas on the property. This is all very uplifting news because once we can get maintenance vehicles on the course, the cleanup will be pretty quick. Check back often, as I will try to give a regular update as to when we will be opening! See you on the course soon!

Happy Easter!

Tune into the Live Feed South 9/10 to watch the snow melt!

-Jason VanBuskirk,  Superintendent

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Is Winter here yet?

The winter season is upon us, or is it?  We can only hope that the snow falling across the blog screen that you are reading right now would be falling on the actual golf course some time soon.  Both courses are fully winterized, well, minus the snow accumulation.  The irrigation systems have been blown out, drains have been flushed/open, accessories have been removed for refurbishing, snow mold applications have been applied to greens/tees/fairways, Winter Green has been applied to all 39 greens, and two pin positions have been cut on the front 9 of both courses.  Yes, two pin positions.  I got this brilliant idea from Russ Heller,  a fellow Superintendent here in Massachusetts.  Russ also has a great blog seen here: William Devine Golf Course at Franklin Park.  Well, the theory behind it is to divert foot traffic on frozen/dormant greens surfaces.  Closing the greens or providing temporary greens is not something we do at Stow Acres.  This is where snow is helpful in covering the greens, but, in order to preserve playing conditions for the Spring season until snow falls, we cut two pins.  We will leave pins in both hole locations allowing the golfer to pick whichever hole location they desire.  Once on the green, traffic will be split between both hole locations.  We’re doing this primarily because we suffered minor turf damage last season from repetitive foot traffic around one hole location pictured below.

Foot traffic damage during winterThe turf does heal once the weather gets warmer, but as you can imagine, these spots took quite a bit longer to recover.  Our assistant superintendent, Kevin Bracken, had a great idea to place modified greens covers over the trampled spots once we could cut the cup in a new position.  This certainly accelerated recovery.

modified greens cover over hole

Currently, there is no “real” snow in the immediate forecast.  However, with the cold temperatures becoming more consistent, we have covered both practice greens to ensure great putting conditions for the Spring.  If you plan on playing until it snows, please be mindful of the frozen turf.  Greens are most susceptible, so keeping pull carts in the rough and walking on the greens as little as possible will help preserve the surface.  I will leave you with a picture of what even foot traffic/pull-cart can do to fairway turf during a frozen morning.  Stay warm, play well, and have a great holiday season!

frost damage

-Jason VanBuskirk, Superintendent

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Summer treatment…

If you played the North course today, then you may have been asking yourself or your playing partner what these little dimples are all over the greens. In fact, I even received a question as to why we were aerating in July. Well, I can assure that we are not aerating in July. We have however, poked some holes. This process is referred to as proseeding or overseeding. We have proseeded the weaker greens (in terms of turf density) in preparation for the hot/humid weather. The proseed dimple is done by a drum pulled behind a tractor. On top of the drum is a seed basket. Each time the drum rotates, the seed basket drops seed into the dimple. The dimple is the perfect seed bed keeping the seed moist and away from the elements. If treated properly, we could see germination in as early as 5-7 days. This new bentgrass plant will continue to mature and help fill in the “gaps” throughout the putting surface. Although most of these “gaps” can’t really be seen with the naked eye, they are present. If not taken care of, these “gaps” could eventually turn into one that can be seen by the naked eye. Although visible, the dimples should not interfere with your putting. We appreciate your patience while we carry out a such a crucial cultural practice. Greens will be rolled tomorrow and the dimples will be gone in a few days. See you on the course!

Below, 12 North green is on the left and 2 North green is on the right.

Jason VanBuskirk, Superintendent