This site is intended to share information relating to the management of the golf course conditioning and quality of Northmoor Country Club and the art, the science, and the factors that influence those conditions. Please visit as often as possible.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Why do you put sand on the fairways?

Over the last 4 or 5 years we have implemented a topdressing program following aerificaiton on the fairways.  In this process, sand is applied to the fairways for the main purpose of controlling thatch.  I have included a description and photos of what excessive thatch is and how it can negatively affect turfgrass quality and playing conditions.  An additional benefit to a regular fairway topdressing program is that it assists in creating a drier surface on the turf so that carts can get out on the fairways sooner following a rainfall. 

Thatch is a layer of living and dead organic matter that occurs between the green matter and the soil surface. Excessive thatch (over 1/2 inch thick) creates a favorable environment for pests and disease, an unfavorable growing environment for grass roots, and can interfere with quality golfing conditions. 
The primary component of thatch is turfgrass stems and roots. It accumulates as these plant parts buildup faster than they breakdown. Thatch problems are due to a combination of biological, cultural, and environmental factors. Cultural practices can have a big impact on thatch. As thatch levels accumulate to greater than 1/2 inch, turf problems may begin, and the thatch needs to be controlled. .

Below, once again you can see the thatch layer between the bottom of the turf and the gray colored soil.  The area is dense and tangled and attracts insects and is a haven for disease occurrence.  In dry periods this layer keeps water from getting deeper into the soil and to the roots where the plants can utilize the water.  During wet periods the thatch acts like a sponge and hold water reducing the ability for the turf to drain.
The soil probe photo below shows another of undesirable and excessive thatch in a turf.
Fairway aerification is implemented to reduce thatch and have firmer and drier turf surfaces
Aerification plugs are "chopped-up"
The tufts of grass left from the aerificaiton & the chopping process are blown together for collection & removal
Sand topdressing is then applied to the turf.
A brush or steel drag mat is then used to drag the sand into the aerification which aides in providing channels for better surface drainage and oxygen exchange to the roots as well as reducing thatch levels.

How does thatch affect turf quality?
An excessive thatch layer (more than 1 inch) can restrict the movement of air, water, fertilizer and other materials to the roots. This air- and water-impervious layer causes the grass to restrict rooting to the thatch layer which in turn reduces drought resistance in the turf. Additionally, if the thatch dries out, it becomes very difficult to re-wet with out the use of wetting agents or mechanical manipulation.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What factors influence the seasonal opening and closing of the range tee?

The NCC driving range is a busy place.  It receives more activity than any private club driving range that I have ever seen.  Thousands of ball are hit each day.   In order for the surface to be ready for spring play, it is necessary to give it the attention it needs in the fall while the growing conditions are still favorable for recovery. 
It wasn't long ago that the driving range tee was in poor condition on a year round basis (see photo below.)Despite enlarging the range grass tee by 2.5 times in size, we still rotate through the range tee 3 or 4 times a year.  Many clubs do not even go through their full range tee once or even twice in a year.   Unlimited ball access, active lesson schedules and just plain ole practice impact the range turf at NCC.

If we want quality hitting conditions as witnessed below in the spring when the course opens then there are early fall measures that must be taken to prepare the grass tee and the short game hitting area.

The photos below are examples of the extensive divots and wear on the range tee and short game approach turf.  These areas must be seeded and topdressed and leveled while the weather is still warm enough to germinate the seed and have it fill-in before the frosts of the fall and ice of the winter impacts it.
Without closing the range tee in October for re-seeding then this is how some of the areas would look when we open the course in the spring.  Grass does not grow in the winter months under the snow.

Divots in the short game area must be re-seeded and allowed to germinate while the weather permits.