Looking Ahead to Future Goals
Consistency is the key to momentum. You get momentum by putting intentional effort towards a goal or vision, and eventually the compound effect takes over.*
Our vision for WGC is to enhance the maintenance standards annually and provided quality playing conditions for all in the community to enjoy. Some summers provide challenges to maintaining that vision. A specific example is our efforts to reduce our Poa annua populations in our fairways. Every year we develop a agronomic plan that favors the growth of Bentgrass (the preferred fairway grass) over Poa. The plan includes use of plant growth regulators, well timed fertilizer applications, reduced water use (Bentgrass is a more drought tolerant grass), and plant protectants.
Weather is a variable that impacts all the components in our plan and we have no control over the weather. Over the past couple summers timely rains and moderate temps allowed Poa to continue to survive stress free, despite our efforts for slow eradication. This summer we have seen warmer temps and longer intervals without significant rain. To add to the challenges this summer, we also experienced a temporary loss of our water source.
We rely on a well to fill our irrigation pond (#17). Between July 9 and 16 we removed the well's motor for repair. During that span we reduced our watering by 80% or more. To quantify, during that stretch of weather we would normally apply 350-400,000 Gals of water each night. Because of our limited supply, due to our inability to replenish the pond, we reduced our watering to trouble spots only. Totaling 60-75,000 Gal each night. We also only hand watered greens with a hose for that week, reducing the amount of water wasted into the surrounds of the green complexes. You'll still see the impact of the well being down for a week in the water level of 17 pond. Even with it running again, we struggle to gain any increase in water levels. Needless to say it was a stressful week for the turf and our staff.
Given these circumstances, once we regained our water supply we could have forgone our agronomic plan and started to baby the Poa back to survival. But we began with the end goal of reducing our Poa, and have chosen instead to use the circumstances to our advantage and be consistent in our practices. We continue to reduced water and apply PGR's and plant protectants that all favor Bent. The results are seen in the picture to the right. As drought and disease stress increased, our Poa melted away. The green grass left behind is Bent (confirming it is the desired grass type for fairways) and also Ryegrass (dark green patches left from the renovation years ago and much more difficult to remove without killing the Bentgrass). To continue our plan of increasing our Bentgrass populations we have begun to inter-seed into the areas with newer varieties of Bentgrass and will continue to seed throughout the fall.
We also have had some break-through of our Pre-emergent crabgrass control. While most would not have noticed the weed invasions immediately, once frost killed the crabgrass this fall the problems would become apparent. The brown patches left behind would not fill quickly due to the lack of aggressive growth from Bentgrass and Bluegrass late in the year. In the following year, thin turf and high seed-bank levels in the soil would have created more opportunity for crabgrass invasion next year. Seeing a window of opportunity between major events to treat the areas surrounding the green, we sprayed a post-emergent herbicide on our collars and Intermediate Rough Cut. The application turned a little heavy and "hot" causing discoloration to the Bentgrass (see picture left). While we had hoped not to see such a dramatic off-coloring, we are confident that the grass is merely under growth regulation, and will resume normal color and growth within a week or two. We again maintained our plan to correct the situation based on our vision of better conditions annually, even if there is some short-term pain. We again took the opportunity to introduce better Bentgrass varieties by inter-seeding into our collars. With moderate growth regulation and warm days still ahead, we believe our collars will become stronger in the years to come.
Our green speeds are also an area of constant discussion among our facility users. We pushed our greens heading into the US Am qualifier and achieved smooth rolling, 11.5-12" stimp-metered" greens. Many had hoped to see these conditions continue, but following the event, we needed to return to our agronomic plan of improving our soil health that will in-turn improve our turf health. One benefit will be increased density of turf to help reduce the high number of ball marks and also allow for quicker recovery from stress. We still maintain the greens around 10-10.5 each day, with rolling and double cutting heading into the weekends.
This plan fits into our vision for increasing our green health each year. Since we have been consistent with our soil fertilizer applications throughout the summer, we will be able to increase our maintenance levels heading into ISU Golf's fall season. I am also reminded of the analogy I heard a few years ago: you don't train for a marathon by running 26 miles everyday. We will peek for our biggest events in the summer and for our Golf Team's spring and fall seasons (our marathons), but if we tried to maintain our speeds at 12 for the summer (equivalent to running 26 miles per day) we would not have a quality golf course come September. Your patience is appreciated and we hope this information has help give insight into our plan, vision, and challenges.
Thanks for reading
Travis Williams, Golf Course Supt.