Friday, February 27, 2015

Course Update; Mid-Winter

Temperatures plummeting this month have been reminiscent of last winter but overall the season has not been as harsh.  Rain/Thawing events in early January left minimal standing water (read: potential ice) on any shortly mowed surfaces.  Since that time period, few days have been above freezing and only small amounts of liquid precipitation followed.  The potential for an ice layer or formation on greens is slim to none but there is only one way to know for sure.

This week, staff members removed patches of snow on greens to see what conditions lay beneath.  What they found was layers or sheets were almost non-existent on greens, and when ice was observed it appeared to be permeable, allowing for air movement.  Also of note, minimal ice was observed on top or underneath the permeable covers the staff used this year on certain greens.  These observations are in no way conclusive but the crew is optimistic for the spring. 

4th Green Note: minimal ice formation
15th Green Note: Evergreen cover devoid of ice in a problematic area

The snow has slowed the Tree Management initiatives set forth for this winter but the staff has still made excellent progress.  Tree removals are nearing completion and while that is the largest portion of the task; stump grinding, cleaning and prepping these areas for seed/sod still remain. 

In-House Honey Locust Removal next to the 11th Tee
Contracted Hickory Tree Removal behind the 5th Green

Equipment and golf course accessory maintenance continues as well.  With equipment so readily accessible and not in use, the winter is a perfect time to perform preventative maintenance on carts, mowers, etc.  This is an effective way to extend the life of equipment and minimize the chances of a breakdown mid-season. 

Utility Vehicle Maintenance

Refinishing and re-staining Tee benches

Friday, January 23, 2015

Continuing Education

The Michigan Turfgrass Conference was recently held at Michigan State University.  This annual conference offers an informative educational schedule geared towards increasing awareness, learning and general interest in the turf management industry.  It also provides a great environment for networking and allows for a direct line of communication between researchers and turf managers out in the field.  Education doesn't stop upon receiving a diploma and the staff at MCC would like to thank the MTF for again putting on this conference.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Tree Management Program

The tree management program, set forth by the Tree Inventory performed by our arborist Julie Stachecki, is now in it's 3rd year and the crew has started some of the removals scheduled for this winter.  The reason for these removals is not aesthetics or shot strategy but is instead based upon tree health, agronomic health and safety. 

The vast majority of the removals are in poor health and/or pose a safety risk.  There are multiple ways a tree can decline but a prevalent reason the staff has noticed here at MCC is the formation of cavities (hollowed, rotting sections) within the trunk and large branches of our trees, as depicted in the picture below. 

These cavities negatively effect the structural integrity of the tree and are therefore in danger of falling on their own.  By removing them in a controlled setting they won't pose a danger to members during the golf season, particularly trees in high areas of play. 

Another common health problem among our evergreen trees is chemical damage by the herbicide Imprelis.  Even though applied 3 years ago, this chemical mutates the new growth (in the picture below), causes discoloration, needle lost and in most cases leads to the death of the tree.

Members have probably noticed the worst of these trees around the course.  Another issues that these trees pose is, as they decline, they release pheromones that insects can sense and will congregate (and feed) on that tree.  This isn't directly bad as the tree is already dying but these insects will then move to other trees in the vicinity, possible healthy specimens. 

Trees and turf compete for the same things; water, nutrients, etc...When trees are small and immature the turf can still be vigorous, healthy and aesthetically pleasing around them.  However, as trees grow and there root systems develop they can start to out compete the turf.  Mature trees cast large amounts of shade too, obviously limiting the photosynthetic rate of grass.

The majority of trees at MCC are classified as semi-mature, mature or overly mature so they have reached or are approaching their full size.  Although stated in a previous article, this is very troublesome when large trees are near shortly mown surfaces (i.e. greens, fairways and tees).  In an effort to give a consistent playing surface, improve vigor and therefore improve the turfs ability to withstand periods of extreme environmental conditions, multiple trees around greens were removed mid-Fall as members have probably noticed.

We hope that your holidays were enjoyable and encourage the membership to stay tuned for future articles throughout the winter regarding the golf course.  Enjoy. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Preperations for Course Closure

The golf season is coming to a close for the 2014 season and the maintenance staff will soon start preparing the course for winter.  After the hellacious winter of last year, Meadowbrook will be "put to bed" a bit differently this time around.  The main area of focus will be the greens, and the process is detailed in the list below.
  1. Raising the Height of Cut- Greens have been raised from their original .120" to .180".  Turf with higher canopies seem to be able to fend off ice and winterkill damage better. 
  2. Fungicide Applications- Pink and Gray Snow Mold are the prevalent diseases during this time of year, actually being able to thrive under snow cover.  Fungicide applications are made as late as possible to ensure the longest residual protection. 
  3. Late Fall Aerification/Heavy Sand Topdressing- This isn't the most common of practices but we've seen excellent results in terms of amount of sand that can be applied and its winterkill prevention properties.  The staff buries the greens under approximately .20" of sand and then solid tine the surface.  A layer still exists after the aerficiation and channels of pure sand are now present to remove water away from the surface in the event of a mid-winter thaw. 
  4. Potassium Application- Potassium strengthens cell walls and hardens off the plant before winter.  An application of 1lbs of K/M has been made on the green surfaces. 
  5. Impermeable Winter Covers- A combination of bubble wrap and heavy duty impermeable tarps are used on 8 of the greens most prone to winter damage here at the club.  These have been almost bulletproof until last winter, when damage did occur. 
  6. Evergreen Covers- The staff acquired these in the spring to aid in the recovery of the greens.  We now intend to use them as another form of winter protection on greens without the impermeable covers on them. 
A large portion of the winterkill from last season was due to an excessive amount of shade on the greens from surrounding trees.  The worst trees have been removed as the members may have noticed, however there are still shade issues that exist and the staff will be monitoring these areas closely over the winter months for ice formation and heavy snow layers. 

The tees will receive a similar treatment in terms of topdressing and aerification, a heavy layer followed with solid tining.  Snow mold applications are made on all low mowed turf (i.e. tees and fairways).  The pictures below show some of the processes.  We wish the membership a happy holiday season and to keep their fingers crossed for a milder winter.

Pink Snow Mold

3rd Green Impermeable Cover

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Fairway Aerification

The staff will be taking advantage of the sunny and cool weather by aerifying fairways.  This task is completely weather dependent but the goal is to have all fairways completed by early next week (the week of the 28th).  After a very wet golfing season combined with compacted, heavy clay soils this practice is more important than ever.  Aerification relieves compaction, allows for more air exchange with the atmosphere and overall promotes root growth and plant vigor.  We ask for and appreciate the membership's patience during this time period, thank you.  Enjoy. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Sunlight vs. Shade

With days being shorter, nights getting colder and some of the early turning trees showing color, it can only mean two things...Spartan domination of the Big Ten and Autumn is coming.  Fall heralds a multiple of changes to our environment but the biggest effecting turfgrass is sunlight. 
Sunlight is at a premium during the fall months and essential for turfgrass to develop enough hardiness to survive the winter.  Everything the plant does during this time of year is a preparation for winter.  Besides the path of the sun as it moves through the sky, the only detriment to light reaching the turf is shade from trees.  Even if the tree only shades for a couple hours it becomes significantly detrimental to turf due to the shortness of the day. 
On the other end of the spectrum, during the late winter and spring months, sunlight is again limited (but becoming more prevalent).  Shaded areas melt snow/ice slower and retain the amount and duration of frost in the soil profile.  This exposure to prolonged cold temperatures and ice build up is a leading factor in winterkill. 

Note the injured section is directly in the shape of the Spruce tree behind the 10th Green

Sunlight is also a factor mid-season.  Poa annua can handle shade better than bentgrass due to higher and more efficient photosynthetic rates but it does have a breaking point.  Not only does the tree canopy limit sunlight, but tree roots compete for the same moisture and nutrients that the turf requires.

Density loss on the 14th Fairway due to Maple Tree 
Trees do add majesty and beauty to a golf course.  They inspire and are key components in most ecosystems.  However, since golf is played on the ground, the needs of the turf should come first.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Course Update; August 2014

The last weeks in July and the beginning of August have been great for all aspects of the golf course.  Relatively cool days have made golfing enjoyable and provided the staff with opportunities to push green speed, detail the course and keep up with mowing requirements.  After the spring and winter, the weather has been a blessing. 
The injured greens from the past winter seem to be getting less and less susceptible to the damage done by golfer traffic.  The 15th and 17th green, the worst greens coming out of winter, are handling the greater play demands very well.  The Men's Invitational did put the new bentgrass to the test but it stayed true and has recovered.  On the subject of the Invitational, the staff received many compliments from members about course conditions and would like to extend it's own gratitude towards the membership in terms of their patience and understanding in this most trying of years. 
A new practice has been performed on the greens over the past weeks and the staff has been very pleased with the results.  Brush Kits were installed on the walk behind green mowers in order to achieve a truer surface.  The brushes "lift" the turf up and the resulting cut removes more grass.  This practice of standing the turf up also removes more thatch within the turf canopy.  With less potential for thatch, the need for topdressing decreases (decreases, not stops) resulting in less surface disruption. 
The seasonally cool weather has left the golf course extremely GREEN.  Rarely do all the areas of the course show this type of color in late July and early August.  Ample rainfall has also attributed to this. 
One of the largest storm events in recent history hit the Detroit area on Monday, August 13th.  Meadowbrook received 2.4 inches of rain which was actually lucky.  A number of other areas received +4 inches of rainfall.  Nonetheless, the 2.4 inches here cancelled a Monday outing, closed the course until 12:00 the next day, washed out bunkers and effectively stopped all mowing practices except greens for two days.  While rare, Meadowbrook has received large amounts of rain like this in the past, particularly in the last 5-6 years.  The following slideshow depicts just what a heavy rain does to the course.