Visit Date: September 16, 2014 Second Half of Full Day Split Visit
Present: Mr. Gary Wilson, Director of Maintenance
Mr. Jonathan Ayers, GCS, White Wing Golf Course
Mr. Todd Lowe, USGA Senior Agronomist
United States Golf Association
Todd Lowe, Senior Agronomist | Green Section | Florida Region
127 Naomi Place | Rotonda West, Florida, 33947 | (941) 828-2625 | Fax (941) 828-2629 | firstname.lastname@example.org
USGA Green Section Mission: The USGA Green Section are leaders in developing and disseminating agronomically, environmentally, and economically sustainable management practices. We help golf facilities maintain better playing conditions for better golf through science-based and practical solutions.
The purpose of the USGA Green Section is to assist subscribing golf courses in matters of agronomic management. All recommendations are offered free of bias, since the USGA has no connections or obligations to any manufacturer, supplier or contractor. Additionally, since quick fixes seldom result in permanent improvement, some of the recommendations in this report may not be easy to implement and could take more than a single season to produce the desired results.
It was a pleasure visiting the White Wing Golf Course, once again, on behalf of the USGA Green Section. The putting greens have made a dramatic turnaround since my previous visit in May, and I was quite pleased with the overall health and quality of the greens at the time of my visit. I was also pleased to learn that aggressive cultivation was initiated on the putting green collars this past summer, and I recommend continuing this program moving forward, to reduce surface elevation over time. Several topics were discussed during the visit and the most important of these included:
Putting green recovery from winter damage and techniques to reduce the likelihood of future problems
Teeing ground leveling and enlargement on holes #5 and #7
Root pruning problematic trees on a regular basis
This report is a summary of the observations and recommendations that were made during the visit. Links to helpful reprints are also included in this report to provide additional resources concerning the topics that were discussed.
The putting greens on the White Wing Golf Course experienced considerable stress this past spring, and several areas became quite thin. Shortly after my previous visit in May, the decision was made to utilize temporary greens to reduce wear stress and improve recovery. Most of the greens fully recovered on their own within six to eight weeks, but 10 pallets of commercial sod and a portion of the nursery green was used to repair the especially weak areas. I am quite pleased with the recovery that has taken place on the White Wing putting greens and feel that very good playing conditions are being provided at this time. Overall, the putting greens were exhibiting a very healthy root system, and dense turf with good color.
Anytime that a major stress occurs to the putting greens, it is important to take stock of the situation to reduce the likelihood of turf loss from occurring in the future. When discussing this issue with Mr. Wilson and Mr. Ayers, two important factors were brought up, including covering putting greens more proactively, but also maintaining appropriate soil moisture. I visited several golf courses in the Mid-Continent Region over the past few months, and some bermudagrass putting greens experienced damage, while others did not. Some facilities covered putting greens, and those that were covered certainly fared better than those that did not, but I visited many uncovered greens that did not lose any turf. Maintaining adequate soil moisture is perhaps just as important, if not more so as covering putting greens for reducing the likelihood of turf loss. Too little water can cause winter desiccation, while excessive water can cause soil saturation and suffocate bermudagrass roots as well. The moisture probe is a valuable tool to utilize on a regular basis during the winter months.
Mowing height: The putting greens are currently mowed at 0.13-inch and it was mentioned that mowing heights will soon be increased to 0.15-inch, as the turf is prepared for the winter months. Increasing mowing height can cause a slight reduction in putting speed, as the turf is still actively growing at this time. When turf growth eventually ceases, the putting speed will increase significantly and having additional leaf tissue will be a nice benefit. Until that time, practices like supplemental rolling and/or double mowing can be incorporated to improve putting speed and smoothness.
Collars: The problems associated with raised putting green collars were discussed on our previous visit, and I was pleased to learn that several additional aerations were performed on the collars this past summer. It was apparent that the aerations decreased collar elevation and I recommend continuing these practices each summer, until good surface flow occurs from the putting greens into the surrounding roughs.
TEES, FAIRWAYS AND ROUGHS
Core aeration practices were taking place on the fairways at the time of my visit. Cultivation practices like aeration are implemented during the summer months to maintain good surface consistency and to reduce soil compaction. Core aeration also helps maintain an appropriate thatch layer and keeps thatch from becoming excessive.
Tee leveling/enlargement: The teeing grounds on the right side of #5 exist under adjacent trees and experience a significant amount of shade stress throughout the year. The tees will soon be overseeded for the winter months, but long range plans include combining the two tees into one larger tee, reducing the elevation of the tees and regrassing them with shade-tolerant zoysiagrass. I feel this is an excellent plan and recommend an additional practice of root pruning the adjacent tees. The blue tee on #7 has become quite mounded and uneven from years of divot removal and subsequent sand topdressing. Long range improvement plans include leveling this tee as well and it was questioned during the visit whether simply core aerating the middle of the tee would reduce surface elevation and provide a more level playing characteristic. I have seen this practice implemented at other golf courses with some success and recommend implementing it on this tee, since it is a low-cost practice. I am uncertain how much of an impact it will have on tee quality, but feel it is an excellent practice to perform, for the cost, and to renovate it later, if needed.
Root pruning: While trees are an important feature on golf courses, they can also provide a considerable amount of stress to the surrounding turf, as they complete with bermudagrass for sunlight, water and nutrients. Tree limb pruning increases sunlight penetration to the base bermudagrass and improves air circulation. It is a practice many golf courses implement on a regular basis. Root pruning is generally an undervalued practice that many golf course managers do not consider as high in importance to maintaining quality turf. I would argue that root pruning is just as important, if not more important, than limb pruning. The heavy soils that exist throughout much of this region makes root pruning even more important, as the soil becomes more easily compacted from traffic. Areas that receive root competition and cart traffic become especially thin and reducing turf stress through tree root pruning is recommended to maintain improved turf quality throughout the year.
Sun Seeker App: The Sun Seeker app for iPhones or iPads was discussed during the visit, and it is a tool I use on a regular basis. It is particularly helpful when dealing with sensitive subjects like tree removal. Quite often, tree removal is an unfavorable topic of discussion with golfers and software apps like Sun Seeker take emotions out of the equation and show exactly which trees compete with turf and how many hours of sunlight they remove throughout the year.
Thank you for the opportunity to visit and discuss your golf course maintenance operation as part of the USGA Green Section’s Course Consulting Service. In addition to this visit and report, please do not hesitate to contact our office at any time during the year with further questions to take full advantage of our service.
USGA Senior Agronomist