Stow Acres Turf

Golf Course Maintenance News & Live Updates from @stowacresturf

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Merion gets ready…

As Merion Golf Club’s superintendent Matt Shaffer gets ready for the U.S. Open, he takes a minute to show GolfTalkCentral his amazing shop and operation. Good luck to him and his team this week!

Merion Golf Club’s maintenance facility

Also featured is a bit of history between Penn State Turf and Merion Golf Club. This was created by‘s founder, Bill Brown.

-Jason VanBuskirk, Superintendent


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Getting ready for summer…

This warm weather stretch over the next few days is certainly going to make it feel like summer. This spring, the staff has been diligently preparing the turf for the summer heat with the varying cultural practices and products applied to the turf on what has seemed like a daily basis. Our latest process, de-thatching, provides immediate surface drainage. This, combined with a rinse-in spray yesterday will help stabilize the moisture in the soil allowing distribution evenly to the entire root zone. Although April and most of May were dry, nature definitely caught up and provided us adequate precipitation over the last two weeks.  We had only 30% of the average rainfall two weeks into May,. By looking at this chart, you can quickly see that we are right on pace for average. May 2013 weather

Rain is great for the course in the spring months, but it can certainly play an effect on ball roll. 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.  For more information on the wetting agent products please watch this short clip:

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.

Thank you for your patience as we slowly climb out cultural practice season. The turf will soon regain its near flawless playability. See you on the course!

-Jason VanBuskirk, Superintendent

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TPC Sawgrass tournament setup…

Below, you will see two videos that capture behind the scenes maintenance at TPC Sawgrass. The videos are great insight to what it really takes to set up and maintain at a true championship level! Hats off to the maintenance team and volunteers! Best of luck this weekend!

What you will quickly recognize is the amount of people, commitment, and equipment that is involved to get ready for such an event. It really is brilliant and captivating. I’m sure if you’re in the turf industry, you feel inspired the same way I do.

-Jason VanBuskirk, Superintendent


Early morning tee times…

“Frost delay” is a term that can be very common on a golf course in the spring months.  These delays can sometimes be brief, but can also last as long as 2 hours depending on how quick and warm the atmosphere gets. Frost is something that can be very damaging to grass especially when it is driven on or it sees a lot of traffic. Frost forms even when temperatures are not necessarily at 32F.  If the sky is clear at night or early in the morning, a process called radiation cooling takes place.  This is when the earth loses heat and moisture trying to balance the earth’s energy.  Through evapotranspiration, the plant also loses moisture to the atmosphere.  If the temperature is cool enough, the cells inside the plant tissue start to freeze.  If the plant is walked or driven on, the cells can burst and potentially kill the plant.  This is why black or orange tracks are typically seen going across a fairway, tee, or even sometimes, a green.  If you are using a pull cart during a frost delay, please be mindful as to where you travel on the course. Thanks to the GCSAA for this published article.  Please click on the link for more information, GCSAA Frost Delay Announcement.


I understand that frost delays can be very frustrating, especially if you typically play early in the morning.  However, I ask for your patience and cooperation during these delays. It is definitely for the health and playability of the turf. We aggressively monitor the conditions and allow carts and traffic to resume on the turf as quickly as possible. Thanks for your understanding! See you on the course!

-Jason VanBuskirk, Superintendent

frost damage

This is a perfect picture of what simple foot traffic and a pull cart can do to grass during a frost. These tracks will be seen for 2-3 weeks depending on how aggressively the grass is growing.

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Full steam ahead…

Full steam ahead… It’s kind of a weird saying, but it fits for us right now. Both courses are open. There is only one temporary green (10 South) that remains in all 36 holes; all 36 holes will be open by the end of the week. Carts are allowed on the South course right now and likely to be going on the North course by the middle of this week. With only 10 people on staff right now (including myself), we are definitely very busy trying get both courses playing as normal as possible. Tree cleanup is being done on 7 and 17 North; 6 and 10 South this week. Greens have been cut and rolled once on both courses and will be cut at least once more this week before the weekend. Fairways, tees, and approaches will also be cut for the first time this week. We are very happy to report that even with all of the snow this winter, we had very little snow mold formation on short cut turf. You may see some small gray patches in the fairways, but this will grow out very quickly once we begin mowing the turf on a regular basis. Our sand cleaner will begin cleaning bunkers by the end of this week and will work through the rest of this month (please click here for a more detailed explanation of the sand cleaner). We are very excited for another great season here at Stow Acres! Please stay tuned into the blog as I will continue to post course updates. See you on the course!

-Jason VanBuskirk, Superintendent

chipper 7North

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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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One year makes a huge difference…

This time last year, it seemed as though golf was in full swing in Stow, MA. At Stow Acres, we are eagerly awaiting the chance to get on both courses and begin spring cleanup and preparation. However, the snow from this past Tuesday is only slowly melting off due to this ridiculous cold weather, low dipping jet stream pattern we are stuck in. Hopefully this week looks promising, as temperatures may reach 50F during a few afternoons. Thanks to Adam Moeller, USGA Agronomist, for this well written update on turf grass conditions currently in the Northeast region.

By Adam Moeller, agronomist, Northeast Region
March 21, 2013

The cold weather experienced this March is far different than March of 2012 for the Northeast Region. Last year, many courses in the Northeast were open and had plenty of golfers playing at this point. The recent blast of cold air and snow that hit many parts of the region has golfers and course superintendents wondering when the golf season is going to start. The long range forecast suggests a continued stretch of cold weather, which is likely to slow the spring green-up and growth at many facilities. However, golf diehards are still eager to play despite the cold temperatures. The decision to open the course for play before the grass is actively growing is a difficult one, especially given the economic outlook for many facilities. Heavy traffic on grass that is not growing could weaken the putting greens and make them vulnerable to problems later in the season. If the greens are open for play before they are growing, be mindful that adequate traffic management is important to avoid concentrated wear from developing.
The cold temperatures are also making it challenging for golf courses still trying to recover from Hurricane Sandy. Those facilities that lost grass from flooding are in the process of cultivating and seeding the damaged areas. Germination is dependent on soil temperatures so the recovery process will be slow as long as low temperatures persist. The use of covers to warm the soils is a great option until more consistent warm weather is experienced.
One positive that could develop as a result of the recent cold snap is the impact on insect populations, particularly Annual Bluegrass Weevils. These destructive and difficult to control insects can survive the cold winter temperatures well. However, once warmer temperatures are experienced in the spring these insects wake up and lose their tolerance of cold temperatures to some extent. Therefore, it is possible that the cold weather experienced after the previous warmer weather in the first half of March could prove to be lethal to some of these insects. Regardless, monitoring Annual Bluegrass Weevil activity with pitfall traps and soap flushes is crucial to implementing a successful control program.
USGA agronomists can provide insightful and invaluable information involving all areas of golf course maintenance, which will help maximize turf health, playability, and efficiency.

We will continue to update you with course conditions as we get closer to opening. Stay tuned!

-Jason VanBuskirk, Superintendent

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2013 Golf Industry Show in review…

I felt the Golf Industry Show in San Diego this year was a success. The event was extremely well run and organized as usual. The event site was perfect, and with the exception of getting trapped for an extra day due to the blizzard, the whole week was exciting and busy. As I mentioned in a previous post, the week is jammed with education. Whether you’re enrolled in fee-based seminars on Monday and Tuesday or taking advantage of one the fantastic free educational seminars sponsored, this year, by Precision Laboratories, there is always education available. I know that I definitely return to my facility a more educated manager of not just turf, but many other qualities that a successful manager may need. Conversations that are held on the trade show floor or in networking events help inspire new ideas for the upcoming season. Being in the Northeast, we are fortunate to have a few months to be able to regroup and actually spend some time working on these new ideas. This week-long event helps us to become better at what we do. Thanks to our owner, Walter Lankau, for making this possible each year. Please enjoy the videos below, produced by, that help explain a little bit about the week at the Golf Industry Show.

-Jason VanBuskirk, Superintendent


Snow on a golf course is a good thing?!

Snow pack on a golf course is a VERY good thing! Up until this past Friday, we were struggling to keep more than 2 inches covering our dormant turf. When the turf is exposed for prolonged periods of time in the winter months, it becomes susceptible to desiccation. Another benefit of having snow cover on the golf course is that it provides a nice warm blanket for the turf. Under the snow, the temperature never drops below or rises above 32F. Although still on the cold side for grass, the turf can sustain these temperatures quite nicely, as opposed to the extreme lows we saw at the end of January. When the snow covers up, the plant doesn’t need to consistently guess which period it should be going through. Although this article below discusses winter injury, Stow Acres is in great shape entering mid-February. We just got our snow cover a brief time ago, and the purpose of the article below is to illustrate the importance for constant monitoring by a professional turf team consistently throughout the winter months. For a more detailed explanation, please read the following article posted by the USGA: Snow.


Experts Explain: Snow Covering On Golf Course Greens
Posted: 3/9/2010

By USGA Experts

We’re Starting To Get Concerned About How Long The Snow Is Hanging Around On Our Golf Course Greens. What Should Be Our Top Priorities?
Snow cover is not necessarily a bad thing, but several factors need to be evaluated. The following actions should be considered as we enter the final stretch of the winter season.

• Begin checking under covers and ice layers for the presence of anaerobic conditions (a distinctive sulfur odor indicating dying grass). On areas of concern for potential damage, pull turf plugs and bring them inside to see if they start to green-up when placed in a warm, sunny window .
• Make plans to lift or vent under impermeable covers if a smell is detected. With no smell, there’s no problem at this point.
• Begin to monitor temperatures under impermeable cover systems, as snow cover is lost and the sun’s strength increases. Start the process of removing the impermeable covers once temperatures beneath the covers reach the 41°F-43°F range consistently. Plant hardiness declines rapidly at those temperatures. Use a permeable cover to protect the exposed turf while it re-acclimates to the new environment.
• Initiate the process to remove ice sheets if an anaerobic condition is detected at the surface of annual bluegrass greens. The recent rains and warmer temperatures in the forecast may offer a window to do so for some, while the wet, heavy snows will make that more difficult further north and west. There is always a risk associated with that action, but there are few options if the anaerobic condition is detected. Use a permeable cover or blow snow back over the recently cleared surfaces to protect the exposed turf, if necessary.
• Keep an open channel of communication with golfers so that they are aware of golf course conditions during the transition to spring.

Winter injury is a very complex event, controlled by many variables that are a long way from being completely understood. The techniques that are used to protect the turf are improving, but are not, and probably never will be, perfect. There is always a chance that you can do everything right, and still be wrong and suffer winter injury. The best we can do is to try to identify the specific causes of injury and then address as many of those factors as possible with the available management options. This reconfirms why it is a good idea to periodically pull grass plugs throughout the winter, especially following weather events when the turf may have been hydrated and then subjected to very cold temperatures.

Thanks for your support and understanding this year. We look forward to opening the golf course as soon as nature allows. See you on the course!

-Jason VanBuskirk, Superintendent

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The Brave Reality of Managing Grass…

Although my relationship with Michael Stachowicz is not extremely close or extensive, after reading his most recent blog post this morning, I felt immediately related to him.  Any one person that can write with that much emotion and put it all on the line for industry professionals to read welcomes you into just little a view of his daily thought process.  Someone of his stature, wisdom, skill, and work ethic offers this side of, “Hey, this is the real me and this is what I’ve dealt with” allows the reader to connect mentally.  So I called Mike.  I had never talked to him on the phone, but we talked for 30 minutes.  Knowing full well all of the topics we would have in common through the blogosphere and twitter land, the conversation was enlightening and educating.  After reading his post and then talking to him on the phone, I know this man is destined for continued and future success.  I feel as though his post demands publication in not just turf magazines, but clubhouse business and PGA magazines.  It’s the type of message that everyone that is invested in the game of golf should read.  It’s important, serious, emotional, and even a little psychological.  Please read the following, you will not be disappointed.

Greenkeeping and the Emotional Toll by mstachowicz