March Madness…

General consensus is for an extended period of cold weather this spring, the scope of which has not been seen for many years. The prolonged forecast is rain today followed by a lengthy stretch of unseasonable weather. Efforts, including the use of black sand, are being implemented to melt ice and create openings on all green surfaces. This winter’s extended hold on spring is summarized below in a series of pictures and graphs. Please follow the Jayson Griffiths or the Club on Twitter to receive regular updates of course conditions and activities.

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7th fairway – March 18, 2014

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7th fairway – 1 inch of ice and 7 inches of snow

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1st green – March 18th, ice removed

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December 23rd to March 15th82 days of snow/ice cover
78 days below -0C
54 days below -10C
23 days below -20C

All cultural practices will be carried out in such a way as to minimize the impact to Membership with the ultimate goal of providing superior, healthier putting surfaces.

 

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Winter Grounds Update

The winter of 2013/2014 has delivered historic snowfall, temperature and mixed rain events.  As I have previously mentioned in earlier blog entries and newsletter articles; an insulating snow cover affords the golf course turf the best scenario for successfully surviving the winter.  The use of heavy snow blowing equipment has enabled the Grounds staff access to the golf course to both work and observe winter conditions.  In surveying the golf course, the following list details primary areas of concern for winter damage along with the current status of LHCC:

  • Snow Mold Fungi – There are primarily two types of snow mold fungi which can present problems to turfgrass.  “Pink Snow Mold” prefers no snow cover and is active when moisture and temperatures rise just above freezing.  “Grey Snow Mold” prefers extended periods of dense snow cover.  The Grounds staff preventively treat for both types of snow mould fungi through the use of plant protectants in late fall.  These materials discourage activity of both types of fungi.  We have not found any fungal activity on the greens, tees and fairways, however, the duration of plant protection is limited and we will monitor the turf conditions in the coming weeks.  

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  • Desiccation – This type of winter injury is associated with exposure of turf to cold, drying winter winds.  The extent of damage is dependent upon location of the green and duration of exposure.  Prior to winter a layer of sand topdressing was applied to all greens to help protect the plants from this type of injury.  In addition, Mother Nature has provided a natural blanket of snow cover this winter.
  • 2014-02-21cIce Cover – Since dormant turfgrass plants require both oxygen and the ability to release carbon dioxide, a prolonged, thick ice cover poses the greatest risk for winter turfgrass damage.  The two pre-dominate turfgrass species found on LHCC’s greens, tees, and fairways, Creeping Bentgrass and Annual Bluegrass, are quite different in their ability to tolerate ice cover.  Research shows a great variance in survival duration anywhere from 30 to 120 days. Bentgrass can survive over 90 days of continuous ice cover while Annual Bluegrass can be completely killed in as little as only 30 days.  It is important to note that not all ice is the same.  For example if we received a couple of inches of rain on a warm day, then the night time temperature dropped significantly, a hard, impermeable layer of sheet ice would be formed.  This type of ice presents the largest potential for turfgrass suffocation.  The ice which can be currently found throughout the grounds at LHCC has not formed in this manner; rather was formed by a rain event on top of thawing snow, and has not been frozen by a quick freeze.  Air bubbles are abundant throughout most ice, indicating that gas exchange is quite possible.

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The precipitation event above occurred over two days with temperatures just above freezing producing over 20mm of rainfall.  The rain fell on an existing snow pack and penetrated to the frozen ground below resulting in slush and ice formation.  Ice cover and Crown Hydration can produce catastrophic losses to turfgrass.  The following link from Michigan State describes various factors influencing “Winter Injury”.

http://turf.msu.edu/winterkill-of-turfgrass

  • Freeze-thaw Cycles – These cycles are most damaging when they occur in the late winter months.  Once the turfgrass plants begin to awaken, the tender new plants are very susceptible to crown hydration and freeze injury.  The plants imbibe water and a sudden drop in temperatures can actually rupture the plant’s cell walls causing immediate death.  While we can’t control the weather, the best we can do is manipulate the plants growing environment and provide appropriate nutrition to help the plants store enough carbohydrate reserves to remain viable throughout the winter.

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As you can see, the golf course is an active place during the winter months, even though the plants are not actively growing.  While all necessary preventative measures were put in place last fall, the LHCC Grounds team have been diligently monitoring the greens surfaces.  Following is a picture showing turf plugs awakening after varying durations of ice encasement.  These samples were brought indoors to de-harden and initiate new growth.  To date all samples have shown signs of life without the smell of toxic gas which is an indicator of the presence of methane.  It should be noted we are now beyond 45 days of ice cover with extended cold temperatures forecast for the coming week.

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Seen below;  the Grounds staff over the past 10 days have taken advantage of sub-zero temperatures to gain access and  use heavy equipment, tractors and snow blowers in removing over 20 inches of snow cover from  4 acres of greens surfaces; including the opening of multiple surface channels to expedite rain and surface runoff from the forecasted warm-up and rainfall.  An insulating layer of fresh snow, crushed snow and ice however, remained prior to yesterday’s rain event as next weeks’ temperatures are forecast to be well below normal.

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An opportunity to remove the ice cannot present itself soon enough, as the “clock is ticking” and the turfgrass plants are working on a finite amount of carbohydrate reserves.  The Grounds staff will be monitoring the winter weather daily and will act at the soonest available opportunity.  As mentioned earlier, a prolonged stretch of above freezing temperatures are required to both assist in removing the ice layer while providing tolerable survival air temperatures.

All cultural practices will be carried out in such a way as to minimize the impact to membership with the ultimate goal of providing superior, healthier putting surfaces.

Growing Environment Improvement and Tree Management Plan Begins….

A long-term, sustainable effort has been initiated to improve the quality of turf and tree health throughout the golf course. The 5 year Tree Management Plan was developed to not only address the increasing number of declining, hazardous trees but also to improve fundamental growing environment factors, namely; seasonal sunlight and airflow.

Work along the right side of number 9 has resulted in the improvement of airflow from the Thames Valley below and has also enhanced visual site lines. This seeded forested area will be encouraged to develop a natural groundcover of fescue.

Number 9 before…

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Number 9 after…

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Number 9 before…

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Number 9 after…

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Number 9 after…

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Number 9 after…

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All cultural practices will be carried out in such a way as to minimize the impact to membership with the ultimate goal of providing superior, healthier putting surfaces.

Winter Grounds Update…

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The average temperatures in late November were consistently cold and below zero.  However, an unseasonable record snow event occurred November 23rd bringing 24 inches of snow in a 14 hour period.  This snow fell on unfrozen ground and remained until a 3 day warming event occurred in early December.

Fortunately, this early snow accumulation melted both off the greens surfaces and through the unfrozen soil profile.  No standing water was left on the greens.

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Precipitation in the form of freezing rain and rain fell between December 20th and December 22nd.

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What does all this mean….?

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The 43 mm of rain and freezing rain over this 3 day stretch fell on an existing snow pack and penetrated to the frozen ground below. Ice cover, desiccation and crown hydration can produce catastrophic losses to turfgrass.  The following link from Michigan State describes various factors influencing “Winter Injury”.

http://turf.msu.edu/winterkill-of-turfgrass

Ice and slush looks scary but at present it is acting like a protective layer of insulation over the turf.  At this time there is nothing that can be done as removing the existing slush and ice will remove the insulation and only further expose the remaining turf to a drop in temperature. Research shows the critical duration of permanent ice cover varies between 30 and 120 days with 60 days generally thought to be the target duration where anoxic (lack of oxygen) conditions could begin to cause significant turf injury.

Last winter, a series of fluctuating temperature and weather patterns prevailed making it difficult to maintain a continuously sealed surface for an extended period of time.  We will be monitoring the health of the greens and the weather patterns over the coming weeks and ask for Mother Nature to do her part in delivering a regular January/February thaw.

All cultural practices will be carried out in such a way as to minimize the impact to Membership with the ultimate goal of providing superior, healthier putting surfaces.

Graden Sand Injection Process

Last season the addition of large volumes of sand helped the greens cope with winter stress and allowed for firmer healthier greens this spring.  During May many golf courses receive an early aerification to help the plant better cope with summer stress by improving soil conditions.  The ultimate goal of aerification is to improve soil porosity and surface firmness.

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Our spring aeration event from May 5th to 7th involved the use of a deep tine solid aerator and the Graden Sand Injection unit.  This machine is equipped with aggressive carbide tipped blades that remove organic matter in the upper surface profile.  This event impacted approximately 10% of the surface area injecting 60 tons of kiln dried sand through the thatch and into the previously applied sand topdressing layer.  This procedure, although intense, will aid in thatch removal, moving water through the upper profile thereby firming the playing surfaces.  This method of organic matter removal and dilution has been employed with great success at many well established courses throughout Europe, Australia and North America including Oak Hill, Glenn Eagles, St. Andrews, Royal Melbourne, Oakmount, Muirfield Village and Medina.

Thatch removal and dilution programs are critical in the success of all healthy putting greens.  An excessive amount of thatch can lead to:

  • Increased disease and insect activity
  • Potential hydrophobic restrictions to water penetration
  • Increased puffiness and surface water retention
  • Slower putting speeds

The following two photos demonstrate thatch accumulation on the surface of a green and the capacity of thatch to retain water in spite of the excellent rootzone below.

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Please click here to watch video demonstrating our Graden Sand Injection process.

Summary:

  • 18 hours of Deep Tine solid aeration at a depth of 7.5 inches
  • 28 hours of Graden operation
  • 120,000 lbs. (60 tons) of kiln dried USGA recommended topdressing sand
  • 6,000 buckets of hand delivered sand material
  • Approximately 1500 ft3 of thatch removal
  • 200 lbs. of Creeping Bentgrass seed
  • 30 tons of additional surface applied topdressing sand
  • 24 hours of rolling
  • 26 committed and dedicated Grounds Team members

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All cultural practices will be carried out in such a way as to minimize the impact to membership with the ultimate goal of providing superior, healthier putting surfaces. Read about the 2013 Cultural practices here.

April Showers…?

2013-04-12

Opening Day Course Preparations

With Opening Day fast approaching the Greens Maintenance Department have been busy preparing the golf course. The tremendous amount of rainfall received this week will not affect the April 13 opening; however, it has impeded our progress.

The following course activities have been completed by the Greens Maintenance Department over the past two weeks and include:

  • Winter debris and branches cleaned and removed
  • Spring raking and dressing of landscaped beds
  • Greens, tees, fairways rolled and cut
  • Fertilizer amendments applied to greens, tees and fairways
  • Par 3 white tee decks aerified, seeded and covered for spring recovery from late season play
  • Range tee aerified, seeded and fertilized
  • Forward tee deck on number 2 stripped and re-graded
  • 10 pond backfilled and compacted prior to final grading
  • Undergrowth and brush removed from greens complexes 7,8,9 and 10
  • Greenside bunkers 10 through 18 cleaned of surface debris, sand re-allocated, tamped and graded.

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The three plus inches of rain received over the past few days has super-saturated the golf course leading to flooded conditions. The wet soil is not yet ready to withstand regular cart traffic and needs time to drain. The extended forecast is for warmer temperatures and sunny skies to soon follow. On behalf of the entire Greens Maintenance Department, we wish the Membership an enjoyable golf season.

Opening Spring Preparations…Is the Grass Ready?

This time last season the golf course had been open for 11 days and we had experienced 10 days above 20° C with a high of 31.9° C in March.   What a difference a year makes.  So far we have experienced a prolonged stretch of cool weather this spring.   These more “seasonal” temperatures have felt anything but normal when compared to the very abnormal spring temperatures experienced in March of 2012.

Temperatures in the London area during March 2012 averaged 8.6 °C which is 4.6 degrees above the normal high of 4 °C.  Temperatures this Spring have averaged
-1 °C.  Overall, there were 9 days in March when the daytime temperature was above
0 °C.  The warmest day of the month occurred on March 10 with a high of 14° C.

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So what does all this mean?

Unfortunately, it means a later start for Spring preparations and a later start for Spring golf.  The primary concern during early Spring is temperature.  The turfgrass has been dormant since last December and is in a weakened state due to low energy reserves.   By all measures the greens have managed well over the winter and all turf plugs brought indoors have responded well and are slowly greening up.  Positive day and night time temperatures are needed to encourage turf to break dormancy.  This is needed along with timely Spring rains to fully awaken the turfgrass from its winter’s sleep and to start producing energy once again.  At this time we can give the greens their first cut and remove desiccated turf.  When the turf shows the need of a second cut it will verify that it is actively growing and ready for foot traffic and Spring play.

Spring Course Activities 2013

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The following list of activities will be carried out in the coming days in order to prepare the golf course for 2013:

  • Playing surfaces must be firm enough to allow foot traffic and mechanical blowing of all debris.
  • All surfaces must be rolled prior to first mowing in order to smooth surfaces and push crowns of plants into the soil from winter freeze/thaw cycles.
  • All greens, tees, aprons and fairways need to receive 2 mowings prior to regular traffic and play.
  • Bunkers need to be cleaned of winter debris, including; sticks, branches, leaves, weeds and surface stones from freeze/thaw cycles.
  • Due to winter rains; sand will need to be re-allocated on all bunker faces and bottoms.
  • Bunker edging on holes 1 – 9 will commence as soon as possible dependant on frozen soil.
  • All rough to be cleaned of winter branches and sticks prior to first brushing and mowing.  The brushing will help remove unwanted dried leaf tissue exposing new shoots below.
  • The forward and middle Range tee decks will be aerated, over-seeded and topdressed.
  • All divots will be filled and seeded throughout golf course.
  • Spring fertilizer soil amendments as per soil test recommendations will be applied to all fairways and tee areas.  Applying these nutrient amendments while closed provides for improved application efficiencies.
  • Stump grinding, soil and sod preparations to be completed from winter tree removals.
  • Grading and sod refurbishment to be completed around #10 pond.
  • Irrigation pumpstation service, start-up, line filing and troubleshooting.

The entire grounds team including; Deb Dale, Brent Mcdougall and Mark McCallum are eager and excited to prepare the golf course for another season.  Preparations began last fall and extended throughout the winter months.  We are anticipating an excellent golf season and are as anxious and energized as many of the Members to get 2013 officially underway.   We appreciate and thank you for your understanding and patience as Mother Nature truly has the final say on our day-to-day course activities.  Further updates as to course conditions and opening day preparations will be posted soon.