Tuesday, August 30, 2011

#9 greens repair from hurricane Irene

Staff leveling out, sodding and top dressing damaged area on #9 green

The lighting is low but the the repairs to the green by the staff is very good.
We need to be careful over the next few weeks in this area so the green will heal properly.  We will take precautionary measures to help the healing process

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane Irene

Hurricane Irene has come and gone!  Overall there was little damage except for #9 green.  Here are some pictures of #9
Big Oak Tree landed on #9 green

Damage to 9 green from the oak tree, the smoke was used to
distract the bees.  The tree had a huge bee' nest in it.  Five staff members
were stung during the clean up

Picking up the grass pieces from the indentions.  The green will be repaired on monday. It will take a couple of weeks to totally heal

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Virginia Tech's input and management advice for the Summer of 2011

Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

420 Smyth Hall

Blacksburg, Virginia 24061-0403

540/231-2951 FAX: 540/231-3075

August 4, 2011

Dear Virginia Golf Course Superintendents:

While the Virginia Tech Turf grass Team is in general agreement that the summer of 2010 resulted in a far greater number of calls regarding issues with the health of golf turf, the heat wave of mid-June through August in 2011 has finally started to play havoc with our cool-season grasses on many courses statewide. As usual, creeping bent grass and/or Poa annua (annual blue grass) putting greens throughout Virginia are experiencing difficulties associated with summer heat stress. However, many cool-season fairways are also in less than desirable quality and in many cases the reason is as much ‘financial’ as it is ‘environmental’. During this economic downturn, many courses simply do not have the budget to apply fungicides on a regularly scheduled interval to such large acreages as they likely have done in the past. Whether it is greens, tees, or fairways, the effects of the extreme heat are basically the same. Heat stress results in the grass becoming weakened to the extent that it becomes much more vulnerable to both mechanical and biological stress. Summer decline is therefore a complex of individual factors that can interact to cause more summer problems than each individual stress acting alone.

The challenges of high relative humidity combined with persistent daily highs in excess of 90o F and night temperatures that do not dip below 70o F present a powerful combination for a superintendent to try to manage, much less overcome. Close-cut putting green turf can tolerate brief periods of heat, especially if the soil temperature remains cool. However, the fact that such high temperature extremes have relentlessly persisted throughout July has resulted in direct heat stress injury, as well as increasing the greens’ vulnerability to damage from other summer related stresses (e.g.; excessively close mowing, traffic and wear, warm weather fungal diseases, poor water quality, poor soil drainage, poor air movement, algae, nematodes and for the first time on a significant scale in Virginia, reports of bacteria associated with creeping bentgrass). As a result, heat related injury and the associated decline in turf quality results from a complex of individual factors acting together. Stated quite plainly, during a period of mid-summer heat stress, the grass plants are more vulnerable to anything that can cause damage. During cooler times of the year these stresses are most often negligible. And remember that besides air and soil temperatures, another extremely important environmental influence on the plant’s ability to cool itself is high relative humidity. High humidity reduces evaporatranspiration rates and plants are more prone to heat buildup and direct heat injury.

An important point to remember in measuring heat stress is that standard meteorological weather data records temperature at 5 feet above the ground and that temperatures at the turf canopy level may exceed the recorded high. For example, with air temperatures of 90o F, the actual temperature at the surface canopy of most putting greens will likely be in the 105-110o F range. Prolonged heat stress significantly increases soil temperatures and this directly impacts root growth, root health and function. High air temperatures in the spring are less damaging since the soil temperatures remain relatively cool (i.e. the soil is much more buffered against changes in temperature than the air). However, that high buffering capacity of the soil means that once it does warm significantly, it resists rapid cooling. Root production declines significantly under these conditions. The soil’s high buffering capacity to resist temperature change is not inherently bad. This is something we consider beneficial in the fall when we can optimize fertilization, recovery, and establishment of our cool-season grasses.

A profile of each golf course and isolated microenvironments will involve a number of “inventories” as they relate to susceptibility to prolonged heat stress. Conditions and brief explanations of how they might influence summer decline of cool-season grasses are as follows:

Creeping Bentgrass vs. Annual Bluegrass Greens: Annual bluegrass is not nearly as heat, drought, or traffic tolerant as creeping bentgrass. The heat may have killed some annual bluegrass but its departure is likely only temporary. Tremendous amounts of annual bluegrass seeds remain in the soil where it has been growing. These seeds will germinate this fall and reinfest the green. For greens that have been severely thinned, measures should be taken to reseed the greens with creeping bentgrass in late August/early September in advance of the annual bluegrass germination. Seeding at 1 to 2 lb. per 1000 square feet is appropriate. Higher mowing heights and traffic control (maybe even temporary greens) may be required for a good stand of creeping bentgrass to get established.

Drainage and Water: Greens with good internal drainage (USGA-type sand construction), and good surface drainage have the benefit of being able to avoid excessive soil water buildup. Frequent syringing and/or hand watering is most appropriate in severe heat stress. However, even well drained greens can be excessively moist if “Mother Nature” produces frequent rain showers (a constant complaint by many in 2011) or the greens are over watered. For courses closer to the coast, don’t forget that salt build-up in the soil from brackish irrigation water imparts an additional physiological drought stress to the turf.

Air Movement: Trees and turf are at no more greater odds with each other than in periods of heat stress. Any trees that block air and wind movement should be removed or greatly thinned to provide adequate ventilation for putting greens. Putting greens, that by hole design are in low areas or surrounded by mounds, will also suffer from lack of air movement. Oscillating electric fans are part of the solution but they do not make up for poor design or natural air movement that is blocked by trees or other vegetation.

Mowing Heights and Frequencies: Heat hardiness is reduced at short mowing heights. Close and frequent mowing during heat stress will result in greater turf decline than if mowing heights are raised and frequency reduced. Increases in soil temperatures are more likely under shorter mowing heights. Golf courses, whether public or private strive try to deliver the highest quality putting greens year-round, and this usually involves close and frequent mowing. To continue to mow in this manner invites summer decline, especially with how severe the heat stress has been in mid-summer 2011.

Traffic Stress: Golf courses with high amounts of play are likely to be most affected during periods of summer stress. Traffic damage will be slow to recover with reduced plant vigor. Higher mowing heights will help.

Public Perception and Maintaining Maximum Playability: Seasonal environmental conditions will often dictate what should and should not be done to the grass to maintain “playability”. Often club officials that determine the standards of maintenance strive for maximum playability all year! This is fine when the grass is not overly stressed. However, a turf management program should be flexible to “ebb and flow” with the vagaries of weather, especially in the mid-Atlantic transition zone environment.

Summer Diseases and Other Pests: Heat stress weakens plants and they can become more susceptible to disease activity at a time of year when the disease pressure is the greatest. Summer fungal diseases are often the most difficult to control. Damage from Pythium (both Foliar Blight and Root Pythium), Rhizoctonia Brown Patch, Summer Patch, Fusarium Blight, Take-All Patch, and nematodes is often most severe during periods of extreme day and night temperatures. There is a great deal of talk this year regarding bacteria-incited diseases on bentgrass. The number of reports of bacteria associated with bentgrass around the state and region are unprecedented in 2011. However, pathologists are debating the overall relevance and significance of this problem. There are no clear-cut chemical alternatives to bacterial-related problems at this time and there is no doubt that this topic is going to be closely scrutinized in the coming months. In general, disease control programs will increase their frequency and rates on bentgrass/Poa greens during summer stress periods, but superintendents must still use caution and follow label directions. It is highly possible that excessive chemical management approaches can actually exacerbate problems rather than correct them. If nematodes are suspected, have the soil analyzed to confirm if problems really do exist. Chemical strategies for managing nematodes are quite limited.

Soil Aeration: The soil must be well aerated for plants to function. Soils that become sealed off at the surface, from compaction or from algae formation, will impair root growth and function and the ability of the turf to cool itself. Tight soils will not readily absorb water and it can make efforts at irrigation difficult. Tight soils, once wet, can often stay wet too long. The result is what is called ‘wet wilt”, when a near saturated soil condition exists which also reduces plant vigor and function. Venting the greens with pencil tines etc. continues to be a very sound philosophy to keep the rootzone oxygenated, even during the stressful environmental periods. However, it is always prudent to perform venting during the least stressful periods of the day.

Fertilization: Although it seems somewhat counter-intuitive, it is appropriate to continue to feed heat-stressed greens small amounts of Nitrogen. Note the emphasis on ‘small’! Anywhere from 0.1 to 0.15 lb N/1000 sq ft every 2-3 weeks will benefit overall plant health and recovery potential, and then initiate more aggressive N fertilization programs when the consistently cool temperatures of fall arrive.

In conclusion, summer heat injury is highly complex and it is frustrating with how quickly it can and does happen even with our best preventative efforts. I hope this information helps in your understanding and your ability to communicate the complexities of heat stress on cool-season grasses to your clientele. Please let me know if I can assist you with any of these challenges.


Mike Goatley, Jr.

Professor and Extension Turfgrass Specialist

CSES Department, Virginia Tech

Friday, August 5, 2011

USGA Weekly Update

By Stanley J. Zontek, director, Mid-Atlantic Region

August 3, 2011

July soil temperatures from a course in Richmond, Virginia shows just how hot soil temperatures became along with the air temperatures. With the elevated levels, the roots of cool-season grasses become less functional.

It's official, July, 2011 was the hottest month for the number of days above 90 degrees F in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Seemingly everyone in the country is dealing with oppressive heat and humidity and it has taken a toll on golf course turf.

The following update will pass on a few agronomic points that worked or didn’t work this summer (in no special order):

Location, Location, Location. The worst damaged greens were generally located in areas of shade or pockets of poor air circulation. Grass growing in the shade is always weaker than grass growing in full sunlight.

With prolonged heat stress, weaker greens suffered. The solution is simple, clear underbrush, selectively remove trees, or install a fan.

Water Management. Over-watered greens suffered more than carefully irrigated, hand watered greens. At the risk of causing a controversy, it is difficult to lightly syringe a green with the perimeter irrigation system. Better water control is achieved with hand watering/hand syringing.

Most often this is a budget item, but when it is as hot as it has been, too much water is worse than too little water. Grass recovers better from dry wilt than it will from wet wilt.

Soil Moisture Meters. These devices have proved to be an effective way to monitor soil moisture and to carefully irrigate greens. They also have helped to train staff to know when and how much to hand water an area as well as when to skip an area and recheck it later as greens dry through the day. While expensive, they are a good investment. Bad grass is much more expensive.

Conservative Turfgrass Management. While every golf course reacts differently in the heat, following a conservative putting green management program saved grass.

Mowing and rolling programs, i.e., mow greens one day, roll the next, Consider skipping a day of mowing and rolling altogether to help reduce turf stress.

Switching to solid rollers and slightly raising mowing heights helped the grass survive. Did the greens putt a bit slower? Yes, however the old agronomic adage is worth repeating, “slow grass is better than no grass.”

Compressed spray schedules, spoonfeeding and light growth regulator applications all have worked well.

Surface aeration and venting helped the turf.

Disease problems would have been worse if we had a hot, humid and wet summer.

This summer, turfgrass management in many parts of the United States is an absolute challenge, and we still have more days of weather stress to get through. Hopefully, some of these points will help everyone appreciate that maintenance work does not stop in the heat, but it changes to a much more careful management program.

The golfers can help by understanding and expecting less in terms of green speed and many details of golf course manicuring, which have to be deferred with so much handwork needed to keep the greens alive.

The Mid-Atlantic Region agronomists are part of your agronomic support team. If you have a question or concern, give us a call or send an e-mail. You can reach Stan Zontek ( and Darin Bevard ( at 610/ 558-9066 or Keith Happ ( at 412/ 341-5922.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Aerating Approaches

Core aerating the approaches to the greens.  Trying to get a stronger root system on the
bermuda grass before fall.  This will help with better winter survival

Sweeping the cores up from aerating approaches

Sod Work/Thin areas from overseeding

Preparing for new sod on #9 middle tees

Adding sod to the #5 fairway clean up lap

Sodding drain line in #5 fairway

Aerating low areas using 1/4" tines

Martin is core aerating the low areas on the greens to help dry down
the root zone.  This is only being done on the weaker areas.  This should promote new root growth

Greens and Disease Update

We have seen good responses to the fungicide treatments we have made for the "Pythium" on several of the greens.  This is a good sign.  The staff has done a great job keeping the plants cool and have provided small amounts of water through-out the day to keep the grass growing in these areas.  We do have some thin areas which was contributed from the disease activity and high day and night temperatures.  I feel these areas will recover during cooler temperatures along with a "beefed"up fertility program.  Good recovery can not be expected until later this month

The greens were vented on Monday, August 1st using a 9mm solid tine. The spacing was at 3 inches.  This helps to give the roots of the bent grass plant some fresh air and oxygenfor better health and recovery.