Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Cowan Creek Drainage Update

Continued Drainage Issues – Cowan Creek (2012)
Prepared By: Craig Loving
Cowan Creek Golf Club, Superintendent

            As you may know, there are still some areas that are struggling on the greens at Cowan Creek.  The issue was most prominent earlier this year on #6 green. We discovered that the drainage leaving the left side of the green was cut in order to allow room for the irrigation lines, but the drainage was never redirected or fixed.  The pipe was buried with dirt and sand, which ultimately clogged both ends of the cut pipe making the drainage in that area of the green useless.  We have since repaired the drainage and re-sodded the weak areas on the green, and it has recovered well.  The following paragraphs will discuss additional problems we are encountering regarding improper drainage, and how we plan to address them.  

            The left side of #9 green has been a concern for us coming out of dormancy in prior years, but it has bounced back in the past with additional aggressive cultural practices.  We use techniques such as weekly solid tine aerifications to allow air and water infiltration into the upper rootzone.  The left side of #9, bottom right side of #7, and the middle of #13 green were all troubled areas last year that we recovered from using these practices.  Unfortunately, this year we aren’t seeing as much of a positive response.  As you know, there are many areas that we continually hand spike and topdress with sand in order to provide a healthier medium for the grass on the surface to grow laterally and fill in.  Most of these areas have improved or are improving, but some have shown no response, even with the warmer temperatures and extra attention we give them.  All of this can be attributed to improper drainage, and a lack of oxygen in the rootzone.

            On Tuesday (6/26/12) we invited David Doherty, the CEO and founder of ISTRC (International Sports Turf Research Center), to give a seminar on the physical properties beneath the surface of golf course greens.  We have used ISTRC’s services in the past to run tests on core samples from our greens.  They tested infiltration rate, air porosity, bulk density, water holding capability, organic content, etc. on plugs from each course.  After analyzing the results, they gave us recommendations for future aerifications and other cultural practices to help us reach optimum conditions for growing and maintaining healthy turf.  The seminar touched on this, along with methods of introducing air into the rootzone using existing drainage pipe.  In addition to attacking our problems from the surface down, he explained ways to promote healthy turf from the bottom up.

            After the seminar, we had David come with us to #9 green so we could get his input on our situation there.  Using a witching stick, he marked where he thought the drainage pipe was located on the green so we could narrow down where to attack the problem.  We believed that if we could access the pipe, we would be able to identify where the drainage was failing.  The following day we dug into the areas marked by Dave beneath the sand base and the gravel layer, in hopes to find where the drainage channels were located to access the pipe.  Needless to say, none of the holes were atop a drainage channel, so we patched them up and went with a more drastic approach.  By digging a trench inside the green, we were able to locate one of the drainage pipes.  We now know that there actually was pipe installed, and this will serve as a starting point for us to address the problem and improve the drainage on this particular green.
As of right now, we are still looking for all of the existing pipe on #9,  and once we have the drainage completely mapped out, we will be able to fix the improperly installed pipe.  We have the area roped off, and the pin placements on the green will remain on the right side until the left side is once again playable. Upon completion, we will move onto #7 and #13.  We appreciate your patience.