Stow Acres Turf

Golf Course Maintenance News & Live Updates from @stowacresturf

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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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Opening day…

It’s official, the South course has 18 holes open today. The staff has been working vigorously to get debris cleaned up and removed from playable areas. Cups have been cut, bunkers have been raked, tee markers placed in position, and trash barrels put back on the golf course. Currently, there are only two small adjustments from the normal course setup. The tee markers on 4 have been moved up to the 200 yard marker and plays as a par 3. This was done to avoid the wet end of the fairway for now so the hole is a bit more playable. Also, there is a temporary green on 10. The left side of the upper portion of the fairway and the left side of the green are still covered in snow causing very wet conditions. We hope to open this green as soon as weather allows. Both golf courses came through the winter extremely well. The North course still has snow in some areas not allowing us to open just yet. Holes 3, 4, 5, 11, 14, and 15 all have some snow and its up to the warm weather pattern to move in and melt it off in order for us to open. The staff is out in full force today and tomorrow continuing to clean both courses. We are mowing the front 9 greens on the South today and the back 9 will be cut tomorrow. You will also be excited to see the extensive tree work done on the right side of 10 fairway. This will allow for a more forgiving tee shot to be played down the right and actually give you a shot to get around the corner and up the hill. We are excited to be back outside, even though it is still a little cold out, preparing both courses for regular play. Other extensive tree projects to note are 7 North behind the green and 17 North to the right of the green. These trees have been removed for safety and playability, but will also add aesthetic value to both holes. The golf season is here! We look forward to seeing you on the course!

-Jason VanBuskirk, Superintendent

First cut 040413

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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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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

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Appearance is everything…

Yesterday morning we began demolition on the “flower” garden next to the pro-shop.  The garden has been there for a very long time and needed a little love. 

After assessing our options and brainstorming some ways to improve it, we settled on a plan and began construction.  We will start by tearing out the existing railroad ties that were used as the retaining wall. 

To replace these, we are going to construct a stone wall built out of colonial wall stone.  If you are familiar with the property, this will match similar to the stone wall on the brick patio on the side of the clubhouse.

Once the railroad ties are removed, the area will be prepared with gravel and lined with Mirafi 140N.  This is used as a silt screen for the retaining wall. 

After the wall is constructed, we are going to build and install a perennial garden with some annuals used as border plants.  The design will look something like this.

Please check back, as I will post a slide show from start to finish when the project is completed!  See you on the course soon!

-Jason VanBuskirk, Superintendent

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Projects For The Fall…

Even though most of the crew has wrapped up their summer and headed back to school the remaining crew is still working hard to bring premium course conditions to you for the remainder of the season. The crew may be smaller now but there is no  shortage of work to be done this fall. With the long periods of high heat and seemingly endless stretches of time without rain, the courses were certainly put through their fair share of stress. Now that temperatures are beginning to gradually decline and growing conditions are becoming more favorable, we can start various projects to improve the aesthetics, playability and overall health of the course. Tree removal projects are planned to 12 and 13 North. Greens aeration, selective fairway and tee aeration, and a healthy amount of overseeding is planned for both courses.

Here’s a list of what’s on tap for the fall season at Stow Acres Maintenance:

October 4th & 5th- North Course Greens Aeration

October 18th & 19th- South Course Greens Aeration

Late September through October- Extensive Tree Removal( 12 + 13 North) Green Surrounds

Late September through October- Fairway Overseeding and Selective Aeration

Mid September through November- Transition Area Cleaning and Renovation

The below video shows Harris carefully cutting a tree down behind the shop.

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Send in the Reinforcements…

In addition to not only being an industry that is dictated by the seasons, the golf course industry is one that is highly influenced by a much younger work force than you would see in most other industries. Aside from the core management staff, there is only a handful of workers that work in the earlier part of the season mainly from early March to mid May. The same can be said for later on the season, particularly after September and into the end of the season. While the youthful work force is good in a sense that it helps develop knowledgeable and dedicated workers later on in life for those that decide to remain in the industry, it is also somewhat of a handcuff on what the staff can accomplish when it’s working with small numbers.

Every spring is a bit of a struggle to get the course in shape for the busy summer months. However now that college semester is wrapping up and soon high schools will be closing up shop for summer break, we find ourselves with a quick and very welcome increase in staff members. The early spring staff has gotten the big things out of the way such as spring aeration, course cleanup/setup, and developing a mowing schedule. With these things out of the way and a beefed up staff at our disposal we can now focus on the smaller things so that we may bring you, the golfer, the best possible golf atmosphere available. Tasks that we may have struggling to get done with a smaller crew will now will done on a regular basis.

You can expect all areas of the course to be mowed often as part of our full-time summer mowing schedule. Detail work such as weed-whacking, course cleanup, and bunker maintenance is also now on a much more routine schedule. We will also be partaking in a few course improvement projects. Bunkers are having sand added at an aggressive pace now and our senior horticulturist, John Gibson will be adding mulch to needed areas as well as exercising his green thumb in an effort to perk up both courses with some plants and flowers. The renovation on 4 North is now fully complete and the previously bare areas next to the 6th green and behind the 7th green have been hydroseeded. The staff is working hard and projects are being completed in rapid succession. We are striving to bring golfers the best possible conditions for what will hopefully be a beautiful sunny summer. We look forward to seeing you out there.

~Andrew P. Lanigan, Turf Intern~