Stow Acres Turf

Golf Course Maintenance News & Live Updates from @stowacresturf

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Google Tips from the field…

Thanks to the team at for coming to the property in July. This short segment is a quick glimpse on how we utilize technology in the Turf Department at Stow Acres. If I can be of any assistance to you, please contact me at @uriturf or Thanks! Hope you enjoy!

-Jason VanBuskirk, Superintendent


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Aeration delayed due to rain…

I know most of you don’t hear me say this often, but unfortunately, we received quite a bit of rain this week.  Totals came in at 1.12″ from Monday night until Wednesday afternoon.  This obviously made aeration North greens  impossible and we had to delay until October 8-10.  Some have been inquiring about the South greens and those are scheduled for October 22-23.  Although I know most dislike the process, I cannot emphasize the necessity.  Instead of trying to explain it myself, I am leaving you with two great articles written by David A. Oatis, USGA Northeast Regional Director.  See you on the course!

-Jason VanBuskirk, Superintendent

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Hot, hot, hot…

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. These hoses allow us to carefully monitor the moisture level and surface temperature level. 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. Please watch this short USGA video on hose watering:

The staff do not spend any longer than 2 minutes on a green surface.  If you happen to be waiting to hit your approach, please wait just a minute 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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Ondina Sand and Bunker Cleaner

Here at Stow Acres Country Club, our bunkers are perpetually invaded by stones.  The primary cause for this issue is the age of the bunkers, as they were installed before bunker liners became common practice and soils in our area are typically pretty rocky.  The liner keeps the rocks from permeating through the base layer into the playable sand.  See why the bunkers are in the shape they are in here for a more detailed explanation on this phenomenon.

With adding sand being a losing battle, this year we looked into alternatives to remove the rocks that our golfers were coming across with their sand wedges.  Enter the Ondina Sand Cleaner.  It was imported from Italy by H. Barber and Sons in CT to deal with the tar balls from the Gulf Oil Spill.  This machine digs up to 4″ into the sand trap and vibrates the sand through a screen, filtering out any rocks, acorns, pinecones, or debris it comes across.

This machine will allow us to address the bunkers that need the most attention first, and remedy the current situation faster than we could by renovating and installing liners.  The down side to this approach is, it’s certainly less of a permanent solution.  Each bunker that is cleaned will have to be routinely inspected and re-cleaned when necessary.  Having this piece of equipment on the property will certainly make it easy to keep up with the demand though.

We are very pleased with the efficiency of the Ondina.  Here you can see just how many rocks were removed from the bunker behind 1 North Green.  This gives a slight idea of what we’re up against in trying to properly address the sand quality in our bunkers on both courses.

Currently to date, we have been able to use the Ondina in all 56 bunkers on the North course.  There are certainly some that will need to be done again before the summer hits, but we are well on our way to cleaner bunkers.  Next week, we will be starting to add a fresh coat of new sand approximately at a 1″-2″ depth where it is needed.  We will also be placing a heavier emphasis on hand raking green-side bunkers to help filter out any stones that may have been left behind.  Thanks for your understanding during this timely process!  See you on the course!

This short video shows how the Ondina works:

-Jason VanBuskirk, Superintendent 

Justin Parker, Project Manager

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Golf School Construction…

The past few weeks have been very busy in the Golf School short game area out on the North course.  If you are familiar with the North course, the short game area is that “weird” opening out by 7, 11, and 12 North.  It has always contained a fairly decent green complex, but it has always been overgrown, unsightly, and never really contained a playable bunker.  Well, this year we have made a commitment to making it a playable and pleasing short game facility. Our project manager, Justin Parker, started by leveling and grading most of the soil and bare areas.  This project needs to happen in three stages.  First, grading needs to take place and prepare it for hydro-seed.

Second, he started digging a bunker next to the green and putting in proper drainage and liner.

The last thing to complete the second stage is finish grading and shaping the bunker and get it ready to sand.  Hydro-seed has been scheduled for the week of April 9th.  As the project nears completion more pictures will be posted.  See you on the course!

-Jason VanBuskirk, Superintendent

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Post Vegas…

After spending nearly a week in Las Vegas at the Golf Industry Show, we are aggressively beginning the 2012 golf season.  Temperatures here in Massachusetts are almost 15 degrees above average right now and it is quickly bringing excitement to the golf community.  As a maintenance team, we have never been this busy this early in March, but it is definitely refreshing.  Vegas got the mind thinking, and now this immediate need for course opening is putting those long 8 hour seminars to good use quickly.  Believe it or not, we had about 2 inches of snow still on the ground in some spots this time last week.  So in only a couple of days, we have managed to clean and make 36 holes playable for golf.

The South course right now has all 18 greens opens with only a few “wet” areas to be concerned about.  The North course has 15 greens open and 3 temporary greens (4, 9, 15).  The frost layer in these greens has not completely thawed causing the surface to stay fairly saturated and unplayable.  Monitoring these conditions daily is the only thing we can do.  We are beginning to mow this week as well.  The South course fairways, approaches, and collars are being cut today and the North course tomorrow.  The greens on both courses will be rolled Friday, and potentially cut next week.  Bunkers are being cleaned out and raked completely and will be finished for weekend play.  We are finishing the install of some isolation valves for the North irrigation system and then we will be charging the system as soon as those valves are complete.  As a maintenance team, we call the start of the season official when the irrigation system is in operation.  Once the course is prepared for everyday play, we will begin to clean each bunker with our sand cleaner and add a fresh coat of sand to all 103 sand traps, 3 traps were already renovated on 18 North in November 2011 (  We will also be attacking many other minor spring projects as we ready for the MA Four-ball in May.

The valuable information learned in Tuesday’s 8 hour seminar with Dr. Milligan was instrumental in getting only 9 staff members to prepare 300 acres for play in a short amount of time.  The title of his seminar was “Developing a High-Performance, People-Oriented Golf Course Maintenance Staff”.  We covered hiring, firing, and everything in between.  Although it was 8 hours, it didn’t seem that long.  Dr. Milligan made it fun and engaging creating role-playing and group discussion.   At the end we even evaluated ourselves and what our leadership style was like.  I have been able to take what I learned from him and apply  that here at Stow Acres in ways that work for us.  The Golf Industry Show each year has such great information that can provide golf course employees with new tools, concepts, and ideas to help develop their departments.  As one person put it on the show floor, “It’s no longer a trade show for just looking at new tractors.”  For more information on the seminar or spring golf course work, feel free to email.  Otherwise, I’ll see you on the course!

-Jason VanBuskirk, Superintendent

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Bunker renovation complete and post-Christmas work…

Happy Holidays everyone!  I hope the last few weeks have been very enjoyable and relaxing.  It is always nice to end the chaotic year with a few weeks of holiday activities surrounded by family and friends!

Before the holiday break, we were hard at work on the course completing the bunker renovation project on 18 North.  All three bunkers came out really great and we are extremely satisfied with the efforts of the staff in less than desirable working conditions.  We managed to put drainage in, spray liner, and fully sand all three bunkers.  The video below shows me spraying the liner in:

The sand is at a USGA spec depth of 4-5 inches.  We used a 2mm double screened sub-angular bunker sand.  Once we sanded the bunkers, we used a plate compactor to pack the sand so the sand would be able to receive incoming shots.  Here are some finished pictures.

I understand your next question…When are you going to do the rest?  We will be working diligently this Spring to complete as many as we can.  Unfortunately, it is very time consuming and labor intensive.  It took us 2 weeks to finish the three bunkers on 18.  The next ones we will be working on include 8 North, 2 North, and 12 North.

Now that the holidays are over, we are doing as much on course cleanup as possible.  We still have debris from the October snow storm.  We also have selected trees on the course to clean up that we took down this past Fall.  Course maintenance has been limited to cleanup and selected cup rotation this time of year.  Thank you for your continued support!  With no snow in the forecast, I’m sure we will see you on the course!

-Jason VanBuskirk, Superintendent

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Bunker renovation on 18 North…

We began renovating the bunkers on the green surround of 18 North on Tuesday.  This project is very labor intensive but very satisfying when it is complete.  We began by pushing all of the old sand into piles and excavating the existing material.  The current material is contaminated by rocks, small stones, and silt.  The existing bunkers do not have drainage or liners.  This prevents the sand from staying free and clear of contaminating materials.  Please refer to a past post that will explain the current bunker situation.

Once the existing material is excavated, we will dig small drainage trenches in the base and line with gravel.  This will allow for settling water.  After trenches are dug, we will spray the entire bunker cavity with a polyethylene material called “Klingstone”.  For more information on this product please visit their website,  This product will help protect the new sand from contamination.  We are about 50% done with the project and hope to be finished by the end of tomorrow.  Here are some pictures of the project in progress.

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Bring on the projects…

Since my last post, which I apologize for not staying very regular about, we have been very busy preparing the two courses for the “winter” months.  At this point we are unsure if winter is ever going to come; however, we have continued to prepare for that eventual first snowfall, whenever it might drop.  The month of October was pretty low-key.  We were able to able to maintain leaf drop and begin preparing the courses for the Spring.  I say Spring because any improvements made to the course now in the Fall is essentially for the benefit of the Spring and Summer months of the 2012 season.  We started by restoring any bare spots on greens and green surrounds.  We completed the North course and will be completing the South course in the Spring before the MA Four-ball.  Pictured below are some improvements to the greens.

At the end of October, we battled that crazy snow storm that hit New England.  It left 4″ of inches and downed many trees on both properties.  We were closed for four days, but once the snow had melted, we had the courses back to playable condition.

Once the courses were back in business, we went back to regular maintenance because temperatures got warmer again in November.  It was actually the third warmest November on record for Massachusetts.  We had 21 days that were above the average temperature.

On November 14 and 15, we blew out the irrigation system to ready the lines for the cold weather.  This process is done by hooking up a very large air compressor to the main line of the system and running the heads as normal until the head is blowing just air.  It took us about 12 hours for both courses.  It was fastest time for us in four years.  Thanks to our irrigation manager, Kevin Bracken, for making the system so tight!

Once the irrigation system was completely winterized we had to start getting the turf ready for bed.  Once all of the leaves were blown off and removed, we applied a snow mold fungicide preventative to greens, tees, and fairways.  We also applied an anti-dessicant product to the greens.  This product is a dark green colorant and it allows the plant to hold moisture and protect it from the harsh winter elements.  We will also cover certain sections of some of the greens with a permeable turf cover and topdressing sand that will protect the short turf from wind and ice formation.  We also started bringing in some course accessories such as ball-washers, benches, and trash barrels for winter restoration.  These processes took us until Thanksgiving.  We have a few projects set for the next few weeks until the snow starts to fall.  We are very eager to work on these projects, as it will improve the playability and aesthetics.  Thank you for your continued support this season!  See you on the course!

-Jason VanBuskirk,  Superintendent