Friday, April 18, 2014

Bermuda Damage

As a golf course superintendent every season brings new challenges, and that is one of the primary reasons why I love my job.  I always have a new challenge to face.  No two seasons are alike.  It can be too hot, too cold, too dry. too wet, too cloudy, too sunny, too windy, too stagnant, too humid or not humid enough.  Mother Nature gives us all kinds of battles to fight.
Well we had an extraordinary battle this winter.  Remember the Polar Vortexes? The way we went into the winter with the Bermuda turf I would never imagined that we would have had a problem coming out.  But, unfortunately we are having a problem.  We have some areas that are struggling to survive.  This mornings 29 degree frosty start is not the best way to help them climb out of dormancy.  I say climb because I'm not exactly sure how deep the grass is coming from under the soil.  I have checked a lot of areas on the course and I am still finding good roots in the soil, they are not all good but there are good roots out there.  I'm sure in some cases its 3" deep to find a good rhizome.  Most of our damage appears to be in the tightly mown areas, Tees,,Fairways and Collars.  It may just take some time for us to see some green grass poking its head through but I know that there are some areas on thees that received excessive wear this winter that the turf will have to be replaced.
This post is going to be littered with pictures to show specific areas that I am concerned about.  I guess that I will start with an example of what a Fairway should look like right now.
#13.  This Fairway (Large Par 3 Approach) faces South and has a pretty good soil medium for our course.  It has been responding pretty well to the warmer weather that we have had.  Oh, and it is supposed to get no cart traffic.

#1.  This is just an example picture of the effects that traffic can have on dormant Bermuda turf.  You can clearly see a distinction where carts are allowed and where they are not.

#3.  This Fairway is probably the worst one that we have.  It is pretty flat, but it has rock within 8" of the turf.  Rock holds and radiates heat and cold.  It is kind of like having a large ice cube in a soft drink, it helps keep it cold.

#4.  This Fairway slopes North.  That is not the easiest way to green up.  The canopy on this fairway has always been thin and provides little insulation to the soil.

#6  During our first warm up of late winter I started to see some green coming out in this fairway but it cooled off again I'm hoping that that did not hurt it too bad.  This hole has a solid clay hard packed soil base. and just as #4 is, the cart path is routed to the wrong side of the hole and forces the carts to use the fairway as the path of travel.

#8.  The Tees on this hole have been used as a temporary teeing area this winter due to the construction project behind #1 Green.  They are small and have simply been over worked.

#9.  We need to put more drainage on this Fairway.  The landing area of this fairway is actually a bowl.  Whenever we get a big rain the area turns into a pond for a short while.  The drainage that we have will remove the surface water relatively quickly, but the soil will stay saturated for quite some time in this area.

#9 Tee.  This Tee is in between 2 mountains so to speak so It gets at least 4 hours less light than a normal area of the course.  It is also very narrow so the traffic is concentrated into a small area.

#10.  The first Fairway has a lot of the same problems that #3 does with shallow rocks in areas of the fairway.

#16.  This Fairway is tree lined and the soil medium is an old gravel drive in movie theater parking lot, so it is really tough to get a good fairway on this hole.  The turf is always thinner on this fairway with the shade and soil problems.

#17.  The Tees on this hole are tiny.  I have no Idea why they are so small.  They do not resemble any other teeing surface on the golf course.  They simply got over worked through the winter.

I have decided on a firm plan of action for this problem,  I am still in the wait and see mode.  I am going to give them a couple more weeks to respond and if they do try to fertilize them out of their current state.  We did use Ronstar as a pre emegent herbicide this Winter, so if we do need to sprig into or sod areas the chemical will allow rooting of the new turf.
Hopefully the cold winter and the isolated conditions of these areas have just slowed down the Bermuda and not completely killed it off.
After going out and pulling some profiles in the damaged areas I am confident that most of these areas in the fairways will come back.  I was seeing some good rhizomes remaining in the soil.  I am able to tie the problem directly to soil composition, Winter weather patterns and cart traffic stress.  I will be a little more aggressive with Cart Path Only restrictions in the near future.  Please remember I do this for the betterment of the course not to piss you off.