September Letter from Matt Corbridge, Director of Grounds
At the end of July we had what we thought were a wet couple of weeks. Then, August happened and the course REALLY got wet. The past month has seemed more like a summer in Florida than the northeast, with heavy afternoon downpours seemingly every day.
While at first glance, you might get the impression that all that rain makes managing a golf course easy, and sure it makes the typical afternoon syringing of grass to cool the canopy unnecessary. But in Florida, the rain seeps into the sandy soils quickly – at Blue Hill, it sheets off the surface and collects in the low areas, be it at the edges of collars and greens, in fairways, or low rough spots. When the rain does not stop for weeks on end and these areas remain saturated or even puddled, hot weather can quickly cook grass roots and cause widespread turf damage.
In order to keep the golf course open to play, we ran our Planet Air machine several times to notch slits in the greens so water could penetrate into the soil profile. Puddles were squeegeed from the same greens spots day after day, stressing the soaking turf in the areas where the water was pushed. Mowing turf became almost impossible to keep up with for several reasons –excess moisture makes the grass grow faster; the window to apply growth regulating chemicals is nearly nonexistent; mowing saturated turf can be very damaging so delaying mowing until the ground is as dry as possible is preferred.
The heaviest week of rain also happened to be the same week we edged bunkers. During this process, a new edge is cut around the perimeter of the bunker, sand is redistributed, and rocks are removed from the bunker floor. Each day we fixed bunkers, they were washed back out and the following day we had to start the entire process over. A project that should take a couple of days ended up stretching into a week and half. We still plan on making another pass through the bunkers with a rock removal machine in the coming weeks before club championship.
Luckily we were able to aerify fairways immediately following all of this rainfall, and it was sorely needed. Especially on Woodlands fairways, where there is little soil to begin with, the excess water sat and sat and sat and the more we tried to keep up with occasional mowing, the worse the turf got. With fresh aerification holes, air will be able to reach the soil again and the turf will be able to breathe. We are in the process of slit seeding and verticutting these fairways following the aerification to promote new growth.
Greens aerification will take place over three days, Tuesday September 4th through Thursday September 6th, with nine holes being closed each day. We will fertilize prior to verticutting, coring, topdressing, brooming, overseeding, and rolling the greens in order to firm and smooth the surface as well as repair damaged low-lying areas. We expect the greens to heal completely after a couple of weeks.
With the wet conditions, we want to stress the importance of fixing ball marks on the greens – please don’t leave craters for the golfers playing behind you. Thank you for your patience as we try to get the course back in shape following the wet summer we experienced.