Willow Oaks Country Club Golf Course Updates

Our goal is to keep the membership informed about projects, agronomic practices, and upcoming events on the golf course.


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Maintenance Calendar, Follow us via Email or Social Media, and ways to find more information


Spring Aeration

Golf Course Closed March 27-31


February Golf Course Update

Winter Projects, Bunker Maintenance, and Greens Aeration Schedule


Air Movement and Fan Video

I took this video to show the efficacy and performance of our new Turf Breeze portable 50" Fan.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Preferred Practice Technique to Maximize Turf Recovery

As we begin the golf season, I want to address an issue that affects every player at Willow Oaks.  This issue is the proper use of the Driving Range Tee during practice.

Our friend Dan Meersman, Director of Grounds at Philadelphia Cricket Club, has created this video that does a great job of demonstrating the best way to practice on the driving range tee.  This method allows for the grass to reestablish quickly and to limit the amount of disturbed tee space.  The only caveat to his video is the fact that Dan works with a different turf in Philadelphia.  He states that they will reseed these divots.  None of the bermudagrass varieties that we have at the club can be propagated from seed.  These bermudagrass divots need to be filled with sand and then the grass will reestablish into the divots through lateral growth.  Practicing in this manner will maximize tee space and minimize recovery time.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Another visit from Old Man Winter

Snow yesterday, VCU in the final four and a wintery mix expected this evening?!  This weekend was one to remember and this upcoming week looks to be one to forget.  This week looks to be somewhat of a disaster with rain or snow expected everyday except for tomorrow.  We are working this morning to beat the rain and finish our pre-emergent herbicide application.  This application should prevent goosegrass and crabgrass from germinating this spring.  Our next application in May should prevent any other sedges, annual broadleaf, or grassy weeds. 

We wish Patrick the best of luck in his new career
One final note today.  Patrick Goff, an assistant in training at the club, worked his last day on Friday.  Patrick started with the club during the golf course renovation in 2007 and worked his way up to the AIT position. Patrick took the opportunity to try out a new career and we wish him the best of luck moving forward.  We are currently accepting applications and expect to have his position filled by May 1, 2011.

Drive safe out there today and have a great week.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Post Aerification: Q and A

Q:  Why are our greens so bumpy and sandy?

#2 Green: 126 Holes per Square Foot
A:  As anyone who has played this week would tell you, the greens are not putting well.  This is due to the core aerification that took place last week as well as the heavy topdressing it takes to fill the holes with sand and to smooth out the surface for the golf season.  Please be patient with the greens.  This 2 - 3 week period of poor green conditions will pay large dividends this summer when greens are firm, dry and rolling smooth.  We perform this cultural practice in March in order to limit disturbance to peak periods of play.  If you are playing other golf courses that have not aerified their greens in the past week, the greens should be in better shape.  If these courses do not aerify this spring, their greens will greatly suffer this summer.

Q:  Why is the driving range green so much further along than the putting greens on 1-18?

Driving Range Green: 72 Holes/ft2
A:  Every spring and fall, we sample the physical characteristics of our putting greens in order to determine a number of things.  The main thing that we are looking at is the percent organic matter in our putting greens.  Too much organic matter means the greens are spongy, soft and prone to disease.  This situation would also lead to poor drainage and air movement.  One of the main benefits of aerification is the removal of this organic matter.  The ideal percentage of organic matter that we want to maintain is less than 4% but greater than 3%.  We are managing our greens right now in that range except for the driving range green.  That green is 2.66%.  This is due to the fact that the driving range green is the newest green on the property.  It takes time for the plant to slough off root and stem materials and develop this organic matter.  For this reason, we only aerified this green one time.  The holes on this green have already started to heal over and we should see great results over the next week and a half.

Q:  Why do we have so many weeds?

A:  This is a bad time of year for weed control.  Due to a very wet winter and early spring, we have seen a lot of annual weed germination.  We have pre-treated and post treated these weeds.  Hopefully you have seen the effects of the spray programs on holes like 9 and 12.  Unfortunately, we are in a very fragile stage for the Tifsport fairways.  The Tifsport is breaking dormancy and any herbicide applications could damage the turf.  We will manage the weeds and chemically treat the golf course as soon as possible.  This is an ugly time of year for the golf course.  While our bentgrass neighbors in the area are thriving and televised tournament golf is hitting its stride, we are breaking dormancy, dealing with weeds, and putting over bumpy, sandy greens.  Remember, every golf course has its own challenges and site specific issues.  We are doing everything in our power to deal with these issues now so that by opening day, the golf course will be in great shape.

Q:  Why is the staff doing so much bunker work?

A:  We are currently in the process of renovating 12 bunkers.  We are not changing the location or design of these bunkers, we are simply improving the construction and playability of these bunkers.  These 12 bunkers as well as the other 48 bunkers are being checked for the proper sand depth to insure consistent playability.  With the steep faces and intricate edges, the bunkers here at Willow Oaks are a constant maintenance challenge.  These improvements should prevent washouts during rain events and keep our sand clean and very playable.  We do our best to limit our large bunker projects to the winter and early spring months in order to minimize disruption during peak times of play.

Q: How do we know that aerification was successful?

A:   This picture is a vertical profile of one of our putting greens, Post-Aerification.  I took this profile of #2 green this morning.  You can clearly see the aerification holes were backfilled with sand and our process was a success.  You can also see a very defined sand layer between the turf and the thatch.  This proves that our topdressing program is successful.  This will lead to firmer greens.  You can also see excellent root growth.  Very exciting!

A1/A4 Creeping Bentgrass
Sand Layer from Topdressing: ~ 1/4 inch

Thatch Layer: ~ 1 inch
Original Greens Mix

The aerification hole on the far left of the profile that is filled with sand will serve as a channel for the turf between the plant and the original greens mix.  This channel will allow water infiltration, gas exchange and root growth.

For more Q and A please visit our Frequently asked Questions page.

Monday, March 21, 2011

First Full Day of Spring: Thunderstorms Avoided, Work Underway

We narrowly dodged some serious storms this morning.  We are currently working on a lot of projects to begin getting the golf course ready for play.  We are currently:

  • Topdressing Greens
  • Fertilizing Greens
  • Applying Pre-Emergent Herbicide to prevent crabgrass and annual weed germination
  • Installing Bunker Liner on 3 and 9
  • Adding Bunker Sand to bunkers on 3, 4, and 8
Our staff is growing as we get closer to the season and we will have our team established by April 4.  

Friday, March 18, 2011

Wrapping up a long week

We are finishing strong this week with final touches being added to the greens, continued bunker work, stump grinding and cleanup and golf course setup.  The greens will be bumpy and we will have 11 bunkers marked 'ground under repair' but the golf course should be very playable this weekend. 

Once again, thank you for the closed day to complete these much needed agronomic practices.

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Some Pictures from Aerification

Well, we beat the rain.  We were able to core aerify our putting greens in two directions.  The first direction was completed on Monday and the plugs were cleaned up Monday night.  We spent the rest of the day Monday and most of the day Tuesday topdressing, brushing and watering sand into the holes left from aerification.  This is the most difficult and yet the most important part of the process.  If these holes are not properly back filled with sand, they will collapse and not serve their true purpose.  These channels of sand allow water infiltration as well as oxygen and gas exchange.  They also allow areas for roots to grow.  The second aerification was completed and cleaned up yesterday.  These new holes will be topdressed and brushed in after the greens dry out a little.  This double aerification disturbs roughly 17% of the greens surface.  Our fall aerification disturbs between 4 and 5%.  These two aerifications gets us to the magic >20% disturbed surface that research knows we need to stay ahead of thatch development.  I know this is hard to believe but this is the math.

First Aerification
Tine Size = 1/2 inch
Spacing = 1.5 inches x 1.33 inches
Holes per Square Foot: 72
Area of Aerification Hole: A=πr;  A=π.25; A = .196 in2
Total Disturbed Area per Square foot = 72 holes x .196 in2 = 14.13 in2
14.13 in2/144 in2(inches in a square foot) = .098 = 9.8%  
Second Aerification
Tine Size = 1/2 inch
Spacing = 2 inches x 1.33 inches
Holes per Square Foot: 54
Area of Aerification Hole: A=πr;  A=π.25; A = .196 in2
Total Disturbed Area per Square foot = 54 holes x .196 in2 = 10.58 in2
10.58 in2/144 in2(inches in a square foot) = .073 = 7.3%
Total Disturbance = 9.8% + 7.3% = 17.1%

In total we pulled 13.2 million cores and replaced these cores with 100 tons of sand.

Fun stuff aside, here are some pictures:
Aerifying #9 Green for the second time with our Toro 648 ProCore

Topdressing #13 green with sand after cores have been removed
Brushing Sand into Holes, We hand water the sand in after this to make sure hole are full of sand

Rolling Greens with 1.5 ton roller to smooth out surface

Second Aerification

Monday, March 14, 2011

Flood avoided, Greens Core Aerification under way

There are four things that I am very thankful for today.

  1. We avoided a flood!
  2. Day light savings time has sprung forward and we will have longer days for golf and work
  3. We look to have a great week of weather for our greens core aerification
  4. We have brought in our season staff so we can start to really gear up for the season by getting a lot of work done
Currently, our team is grinding stumps, working on four different bunker projects, core aerifying our putting greens, and taking soil samples to analyze the soil structure and composition of our putting greens.  We are thankful for a closed week to accomplish all of this work.  Later today, we will begin cleaning up from the first aerification, topdressing the greens with sand and rolling them to firm them up for the second aerification.  It will be a busy week and we still have to find time for our pre-emergent herbicide application and some tree work.

Here are some articles from the USGA Green Section Regarding Putting Green Core Aeration or Aerification

Oh No! Not Again!
Aerators are firing up all over the country.
by the Green Section Staff
There are two sounds being heard on golf courses all over the country as spring makes it's way south. The first is the sound of aerator engines starting up. This is followed almost immediately by the collective groan of golfers. Aeration may be the most cussed and discussed golf course maintenance practice. aerationWhile it is no secret that golfers hate it, we can assure you that no golf course superintendent looks forward to it either. So why do they do it? The short answer is that aeration is the most effective tool at the superintendent's disposal to ensure the rootzone remains capable of supporting healthy turf.

For those that want to learn a little more about the why's and how's of aeration we have assembled a collection of articles, videos, and webcast recordings, developed by the Green Section staff and turfgrass scientists over the years. This is by no means a complete list since this topic has been written about in Green Section publications since the August, 1922 issue of the Green Section Bulletin.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

River staying within banks

The river has stayed within its banks
We have dodged the flood bullet for the time being.  The river is currently at 14.65 ft. and looks to crest at 14.8 ft. feet this afternoon.  The river looks to quickly fall following the crest.  It is going to be a beautiful day but the golf course is still very wet.  The golf course no longer drains once the river is at 11 feet so the canals have begun to flood around 15 and 17 green.  This water will leave the golf course as soon as the river drops below 11 feet.

17 Bridge Under Water

The bridges to #17 Green and #16 Tee are under water.  Some of the catch basins in the fairways are under water.  The catch basins are located in the low points of the fairway.  Water drains to these basins and then drains into the canals or ponds through underground pipes.  Water cannot currently drain due to the fact that ponds and canals are overflowing and cannot take on any more water.  Please do not drive off of the cart paths today or attempt to drive across any bridge that is under water.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Bunker and River Update

We are having a very busy morning.  After 2.3 inches of rain yesterday, most of which came down in about 45 minutes last night, we have a lot of cleanup.  The new bunker on number 8 had zero wash; the other bunkers are another story.  
The river is predicted to crest at 14.8 feet.  We may take on a little water but damage should be at a minimum.  We have placed sandbags along the lowest part of number 5 to prevent silt coming onto the golf course with any river water.
Sand bags to prevent siltation
Fairway Bunker on #8 with new liner: Zero Washouts

 Greenside Bunker of #6 with Fabric Liner: Washed out
Jan. 26, 2010 Water begins to come over bank

Thursday, March 10, 2011

River Level Update

This graph from the National Weather Service predicts the flood level of the James River at the Westham gauge which is only a few miles up river from us.  We are currently at 8.7 feet.  The river looks stable for the rest of today but will rise over the next 24 hours.  The projected crest as of night now at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 10 is 14.7 feet.  This number is just a prediction so a foot in either direction could make a huge difference.  The golf course really starts taking on water at a river level of 15 feet; Water will begin coming across the 4th and 5th fairways.  We have already removed all bunker rakes and amenities from the bottom nine holes as a precaution.  If the prediction of 14.7 feet is correct we might barely dodge any large amounts of water coming on to the golf course.  Cross your fingers.   

New Right Fairway Bunker on #8 Doing Great

    The reconstruction of the right fairway bunker or number eight has finished and is holding up beautifully following the rain.  Our team got all of the sand in the bunker yesterday and following rain last night and this morning, we had zero washouts and water was pouring out of the internal drainage.  We are very excited.  
Zero Washouts Following Rain
    Rain looks to continue all day.  Forecasted river levels look to crest at  14.7 feet.  This number seems to change with the wind.  Remember that 15 feet is when we begin to take on water.
    Another friendly reminder.  Golf Course Close March 14-18 for Greens' Core Aerification.  We will also use this closed time to work on bunker projects, apply pre and post emergent herbicides, grind stumps, small grading projects, and finish up remaining tree work.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

River dropping today, rising tomorrow

The river has dropped below 12 feet, which is technically flood stage.  The predictions are for the waters to fall to around 9 feet and then rise following tomorrow's rain event.  We will tweet and blog more information as we get it.

The bunker project on 8 will be completed today.  Please email me if you would like more information on this project.  We are not going to post anything to the blog due to a pending patent on this process.

Have a great day

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Flood stage Update

This graph from the National Weather Service predicts the flood level of the James River at the Westham gauge which is only a few miles up river from us.  The golf course experiences minor flooding at 13 feet; Water will encroach up near the 16th tees and we will probably experience interior flooding from our streams and ponds.  We are currently at 12.3 feet.  The river looks to subside in the next few hours but tomorrows rain will raise the waters again.  Only time will tell how high the river will crest following the next few days of rain.
The golf course really starts taking on water at a river level of 15 feet; Water will begin coming across the 4th and 5th fairways.  During the flood last January, the river crested at 18.1 feet.  This flood effected the entire bottom 9 golf holes (3-8, 15-17.)  We will closely monitor the impending storm and how it will affect the river levels.  If the golf course takes on water, we will remove all amenities and strategically stack sand bags to prevent silt from coming onto the golf course with the flood. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Golf Course Draining Well

The golf course received just over an inch of rain over the course of Sunday's storm.  The course is draining well and we received minimal damage to our bunkers.  Hopefully you have seen our continued work to prevent washouts in the bunkers on holes 3, 8 and 9.  This work will be continued on holes 4, 12, and 18. 

Today, we are finishing the work on an new bunker liner product that has proven to be very successful on other golf courses.  This work is being done to the first fairway bunker on number 8.  This product should prevent washouts and allow us to keep a very clean, playable sand.  

The river looks to crest tomorrow afternoon at 12.8 feet according to the National Weather Service's forecast.  If their forecast holds true, the James should slowly drop following the peak and we should avoid any flooded conditions.  The river needs to get over 15 feet for the golf course to really start taking on water.  We are closely monitoring the forecast for Thursday's weather as the National Weather Service is predicting another storm.  Due to the wet conditions our staff is focused on course cleanup and bunker work.  Projects like spraying winter weeds and applying pre-emergent pesticides has to be delayed due to wet conditions and wind.  The wet fairways will mean that we will not be allowing cart traffic for most of the week as well.  Cross your fingers for dry weather during the closed week, March 14-18, to allow for maximum efficiency during core aerification
Core Aerification
This is the flood scenario that we hope to avoid

Friday, March 4, 2011

USGA Article

Here is a great article from the USGA concerning putting green aerification.  We are aerifying greens the week of March 14 -18.

A look in the Rearview

Number 17's new  'Island Green'
The past 15 months have been trying to say the least.  We have experienced many highs and lows and the year of 2010 presented many challenges and opportunities.  We have continued to push the golf course to create a fun, challenging experience for every member, guest, and tournament participant.  We experienced everything from flooding to extended drought and from record snowfall to record high temperatures.  Our management team wanted to share our experiences over the last year and our goals for the next few vital months as we prepare for the 2011 golfing season.

2010 Year in Review

  • In January of 2010 the golf course flooded.  The bottom nine holes all incurred significant flood damage and 19 sand bunkers were destroyed.
  • Our staff removed contaminated sand and bunker liner.  We repaired drainage, replaced liner and sand in 19 bunkers damaged during the flood
  • Additional flood cleanup was completed including the removal of silt from the seventh and seventeenth greens.  The greens showed no signs of damage during the summer of 2010.
  • Record temperatures for June and July          
  • 50 days of drought June-July        
  • 96 degrees on September 24th       
  •  7” of rain Member-Guest Week        
  •  2 Days 105 Degrees (3rd hottest days on record)         
  •  30+”of snow  (November 2009-February 2010)        
  •  30+” of rainfall  (November 2009-February 2010)
  • The area between holes #9/#18 was renovated, drainage installed, and sodded            
  • The area between # 3 Green and #4 Tees sodded to TifSport bermudagrass  
  • Drainage installed left of cart path at ladies tee #9
  • Drainage installed at #2 tee complex
  • Drainage installed at #12 tee complex/fairway
  • Tree and undergrowth removed behind #1 green to improve airflow
  • Overgrowth was removed left of cartpath on #7 
  • Trees removed, reshaped, planted Hollies right of #10 cartpath
  • Trees removed, reshaped, planted Hollies right of #14 cartpath 
  • Right of cartpath on #11 graded and sodded
  • Surrounds of on-deck putting green reshaped and sodded
  • Fescue was removed right of #18 and resodded to TifSport
  • Irrigation pumps were extended 14 feet deeper in the pond in order to draw from deeper water 
  • Cobblestone added to inside turns on cartpaths
  • Began planting parking lot islands 
  • Landscaped and sodded around the new tennis gazebo between courts 4/5
  • Installed Hollies left of entrance road at parking lot
  • Planted 8 parking lot islands
  • Removed over 30 trees in-house 
  • Renovated over 30 bunkers in house.
  • Our staff installed 2.7A of sod or 13 tractor-trailer loads
  • Our staff installed 1362 Tons of Bunker Sand or 55 dump truck loads

        Overall, we feel 2010 was a success.  Very rarely will we experience such challenges but it is important to know that the golf course can handle these variations in weather and our staff is strong enough to overcome anything put in front of them.  Over the next few months, we will be cleaning up from the winter, spraying winter weeds, core aerifying our putting greens, rebuilding bunkers, and applying a pre-emergent herbicide to prevent weed germination.  We are excited about the 2011 golfing season as well as the opportunities and challenges it will present.  

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Irrigation System and Blog: Live and Well

Moving Air Out of the System
During the cold winter months, we drain our irrigation system to prevent damage from freezing and thawing conditions.  Yesterday, we successfully refilled our system with minimal issues.  Our pumping system is comprised of a 25 HP Pressure Maintenance Pump, two 75 HP Pumps, and a Variable Frequency Drive which controls which pumps operate for maximum efficiency.  The pumps are driven by a control station that monitors total flow, pressure, and gallons per minute in order to most efficiently pump water and to minimize damage due to irrigation breaks and spikes or shortages in electricity.
Operating at 140 PSI
The biggest issue when bringing up the system is keeping air out of the system.  Air acts much differently under pressure than water and in turn can damage our system.  A good start to our irrigation system means that we will minimize damage and problems in the future.  The system will allow us to control the outputs of water and the application of pesticides.  
On a side note, today is the first day that our blog is live to the public.  Let us know what you think!  Your feedback will help with ideas and to generate content for the blog.  Let us know by emailing  

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