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.


Navigating this Webpage

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, July 28, 2011

Good news, Bad News and Decent News

Good News

The report has come back from the university disease diagnosis lab clean.  "There was no evidence of Pythium root root or any other disease...Your recent fungicide applications have apparently cleaned up the problem.  Be aware that turfgrass with damaged roots can continue to show symptoms of stress until the plants begin to recover some root growth.  Do what you can to alleviate stress on the sites."  We will be rolling more, mowing less and going off of the normal pin rotation to reduce stress.  We will continue to spoon feed nitrogen to the plants to try and promote growth and recovery. 

Bad News

The highs over the next three days will be 97 °F, 102°F, and 98°F.  This is obviously very tough on the bentgrass greens as well as all turf surfaces.  This is our 20th straight day without rain and the results are starting to show.  We are continuing to water from the quarry but you just can't substitute a good rainfall.  

Decent News

The 10 day forecast looks good after Saturday.  With highs in the low 90's, the greens will start to have a chance to recover.  We hope to see some cooler nighttime temperatures to go along with the cooler afternoon highs.  There are slight chances of rain with scattered thunderstorms so cross your fingers. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

WOCC Golf Course Greens: Adverse Effects of Extreme Weather

I apologize for my absence from the blog this weekend.  I have been busy but really I wanted to wait until a good communication came out from the green committee addressing the situation.  As I am sure you have noticed, the greens are very stressed.  Extreme temperatures have been the obvious cause of decline but other factors have contributed.  Early in July we received heavy rains exceeding 5 inches of water.  These rains were followed by aggressive greens venting and drying measures but the greens remained wet.  The wet conditions were followed by excessive heat during the three closed days of maintenance, July 11, 12 and 13.  The problem with this scenario is that the saturated soil conditions conduct heat and are a hot bed for disease.  The saturated soils also inhibit oxygenation of the growing medium and in turn damage root function.  To combat disease, we are on a very aggressive disease prevention fungicide program but even the best chemicals are affected by soil conditions and the weather. 

On Friday, July 15th, we began to see signs of this disease in how the plants reacted to water.  A fungicide application was made and samples were sent to North Carolina State and Rutgers Universities.  Labs from both universities confirmed our preliminary diagnosis.  Stan Zontek, our USGA Agronomist, was in the area and stopped by to look at the greens.  Stan and both universities' recommendations for chemical control of the disease were congruent with the application we had already made.  Follow-up applications were made Tuesday, July 19th, Thursday, July 21st and Monday, July 25th.  Under normal circumstances, once the disease is controlled the plant would begin to recover, usually with little disruption to the golfer.  Obviously this was not the case over the past 5 days.  The extreme heat has not allowed the turf to recover from the disease and has caused a large amount of stressed and thin areas on the greens.  We believe that the disease is no longer mobile but the damage has already been done.

With all of that being said, it is time to recover.  You can either get busy living or get busy dying and I would prefer the former.  We have to get the roots to function again to have any chance of a quick recovery.  This will mean venting to get oxygen into the soil profile as well as spot core aeration to encourage recovery.  We will also prevent mechanical stress to the plant by alternating rolling and mowing.  The only stress we cannot control is the weather.  The greens will not be pretty until the weather breaks but there are a lot of things we can begin to do to provide better conditions this fall.   You will constantly see our staff syringing greens to provide the moisture they are not getting from the roots and to cool the plant as it is doing a poor job of respiration due to the root damage.  We will beat this thing with hard work and aggressive management. 

On an ironic note, we have not received a drop of rain since the heavy rains in early July.  This has caused stress to all turfed surfaces.  The irrigation has continued to run nightly but if we do not get some rain soon, we will have to reserve water.

We have gotten a lot of inquiries about fans around the greens since my last blog post.  I do think fans will be a great option for us especially on greens that receive poor air movement.  Airflow not only cools the turf surface but aids in drying and disease prevention.  You look at greens like the on deck putter at the first tee and quickly realize that between the pro-shop, the large rock and the woods, there is no real airflow.  The location and proximity to the woods as well as the green complex design on the first green lead to poor air movement as well.  We have priced fans and are looking into the purchase of these vital tools.  On a positive note, the sprigs are coming in great and tomorrow marks the two week mark since planting.  The areas at 6 and 13 will continue to be fertilized and watered until fully grown in.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Heat Advisory

Valid from July 22, 2011 5:52 a.m. EDT until July 23, 2011 at 8:00 p.m.

This is the message I woke up to this morning from the NBC 12 Weather app on my phone.  It really is a great way to wake up.  When I got in my car at 5:00 a.m. the temperature was already 82 °F.  Not only are these temperatures brutal for our staff, they are very, very tough on the turf.  We are thoroughly adjusting greens moisture with hand watering this morning to help the turf survive the day and then myself, Bobby, and the two interns will be syringing greens from 11:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. if not later.  We don't want to keep the greens wet because then the moisture in the greens will heat up and raise temperatures even more than they will be already.  We are just trying to keep the moisture available to the plant and then use syringing to cool off the surface.  Basically, we are just trying to survive the next 3 days.  We are doing everything we can to minimize stress to the plant but there is only so much you can do when soil temperatures are reading in the upper 90's.  Days like today really show which greens receive adequate air movement and which ones do not.  

Here are a few articles from the USGA dealing with Heat Stress.

Long Summer Days Equate To Intense Irrigation Management

What a difference a breeze makes
photo by Adam Moeller, USGA Green SectionThermometerCheck out the eight degree temperature difference in this image. The reading on the left was taken on a putting green that received very limited air movement across the surface as a result of surrounding trees. The reading on the right was taken on a green that received good airflow. 

In addition to the lower temperature, the green that receives plenty of air movement is far less prone to disease and other stresses.

If both greens are syringed, which one will benefit the most? As the wind moves across a green with good air movement the surface temperature will drop even further, much like the cooling effect that occurs when the wind blows across the sweat on your arms on a hot day.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sprigged Areas, One Week Update

The Sprigs at #6 and #13 were planted a week ago.  There is a dramatic difference between the sodded cartpath edges and the sprigs but I am very happy to report that we have a tremendous amount of growth in these sprigged areas.  We will continue to water and fertilize these new areas until they are fully grown in.  We applied a pre-emergent herbicide to the areas before the sprigs were planted.  I would be shocked if we do not see some weeds in these areas as this is bare ground and chemical barriers (pre-emergent herbicides) are only so effective. We will be able to spray post emergent herbicides as necessary.  We expect these areas to be playable in about 7 weeks. 

It looks like the next five days are going to be viciously hot.  With heat indexes expected to crest at 115 °F, we will be battling to keep the new sod and sprigs wet and the putting greens cool. Please bear with us as we have to syringe (lightly mist with water) greens early and often during this oppressive heat. Syringing is one of the most important practices to maintain a healthy putting surface during high periods of stress.  Unfortunately syringing disrupts play and can take 2-3 minutes per green.  If you see a staff member on a green or other playing surface, please be patient and allow for this vital agronomic practice to be completed before continuing play.  

Sprigs starting to take root and grow, lots of new green turfgrass

The ground will stay very wet as we continue to heavily water the newly sprigged areas.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fresh Sharp Cut = Lots of Clippings

I apologize for the large amount of grass clippings in the fairways this morning.  We are currently blowing the fairways to remove them.  The clippings are a result of sending out freshly sharpened mowers this morning.  The other mowers have been dulled as a result of fairway topdressing.  This is one negative side affect of the process.  The sand is abrasive and dulls the reels very quickly.  The sharp mowers are cutting a lot more grass with a great quality of cut and in result, more clippings.  A second cut this afternoon and tomorrow will clean up the fairways immensely.  Our Equipment Manager, John Anderson, loathes topdressing but understands the positive benefits for the turf and in turn his quality of cut.

John has been with the club for over 25 years and is the glue that holds our department together.  If John is not checking mowers, repairing equipment or performing preventative maintenance, he is grinding reels, rotary blades and bed knives.  This labor intensive process and the setup of the cutting units involves a great deal of detail and a very skilled individual.  The cutting units have to be honed in to hundredths and even thousandths of an inch so precision is paramount.  When you are mowing below a half inch on fairways and below an eighth of an inch on greens, you quickly realize why a good Equipment Manager is so important.  Thanks John!

John Anderson, Equipment Manager, adjusting a freshly sharpened fairway cutting unit

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A very relevant article from the USGA Mid-Atlantic Green Section

We have experienced a very sporadically wet spring and summer.  The 5+ inches of rain we had last week does not just affect the bunkers and cart path rulings.  There are some benefits to the wet week; the quarry is full of water and the TifSport is very strong.  The negatives have been bunker conditions and the greens have been a bit soft and slower than they were earlier in the year.  This has led us to change some maintenance practices and has made us thankful for all of the topdressing and aeration we do to prevent major damage.  This article talks about the challenges we are facing.

Is Variety Really the Spice of Life?
Darin Brevard

All of the projects from last week are wrapping up and we will finish all of the sod work next week with about 5,000 square feet of sod to still be laid.  The sprigging and sod work that has been completed looks great and we are excited to get out of the project business for 2011.  As we eagerly look forward to the fall for cooler temperatures, faster green speeds and the Member/Guest tournaments, I want to simply remind everyone that we are currently hot and dry.  I realize that I just talked about being too wet but things change rapidly with Mother Nature.  Not too mention the impending humidity and in turn disease pressure we will be facing.  I could really talk about this for a while but the heavy rains from last week have drained off of our surfaces or through them so the warm, dry conditions have dried out the golf course and the greens. 
This week temperatures look to reach at least 100 with no forecasted rain so our staff will be spending a lot time hand watering all of the new sod and sprigs and of course the greens.  Thank you for your patience during the afternoon syringing of greens and we sincerely apologize for any inconveniences this may cause. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Three Busy, Successful Closed Days

We are currently wrapping up a few projects on the golf course and are on schedule to finish all of our goals for these closed days.  Our staff vented and topdressed greens on Monday.  We also finished all tee, approach and fairway topdressing as well as tee, approach, bunker complex, and fairway fertilizer applications.  We edged yardage markers, bunkers, sprinkler heads and worked on liner in two bunkers.  Harmon Turf Services completed the solid tine aerification of the tees, fairways, and approaches.  McDonald and Sons has prepped and sodded around the areas on 13 and 6 while our staff has sprigged, fertilized and applied a pre-emergent herbicide to these areas.  These sprigged areas will be very wet over the next few weeks as the grass establishes.  McDonald and Sons will be wrapping up some other small sod work between now and Friday. Most of these agronomic processes can be better explained here.  We greatly appreciate the inconvenience in the golf calendar for these necessary agronomic practices.  Thank you.

Numbers for the week

Total Golf Course Management Staff Hours on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday: 810 hours
5000 pounds of sand applied to the greens
450 tons of sand applied to the TifSport tees, fairways and approaches
8000 lbs of fertilizer applied to TifSport tees, fairways and approaches at a rate of 1 pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet
87,120,000 holes as a result of tee, fairway, and approach aerification
21,000,000 very small holes as a result of greens venting 
123,120 square feet turfed by the end of the week with either Sprigs or Sod
1600 Bushels of Sprigs spread by hand
Sprigs cost 4 cents per square foot compared to 29 cents per square foot for sod

Pictures from Today
Tractor: 6 Months Old; Bermuda King Sprigger 32 years old

Finishing Prep to #6, these areas have been sprigged and fertilized.  The sprigs have to stay very wet in order to survive so please be careful walking into these areas.

Spreading Sprigs by Hand.  The Bermuda King will then be run over the sprigs to drive the sprigs into the ground for good soil to sprig contact.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Finishing Fairway Aeration and Topdressing

 Harmon Turf Services is finishing up the solid tine aerification of the last few fairways.  We contract their services out every year in order to maximize efficiency and because we do not have the equipment necessary to perform the task.  Harmon brings in 4 large tractors with PTO driven aerifiers to knock this project out as quickly as possible.

Our team is finishing up the fairway topdressing project as I speak.  The new tractor and topdresser (pictured) have already paid dividends as our old topdresser broke down yesterday.  In the past, this would have destroyed our operation.  We will apply over 450 tons of sand to tees, fairways, and approaches.  We have already fertilized the front 9 fairways, tees, and approaches and will finish the back 9 tomorrow.  We will also be wrapping up the topdressing of the tees and approaches tomorrow with our smaller equipment.
McDonald and Sons, the Design and Construction company that has done all of the bunker renovation work this year is finishing up the final prep work on #6 for sod and sprigs.  Their team will lay sod around the cartpath edge on #13 this afternoon and on #6 tomorrow.  The scope of this project would be too large for our team to undertake at one time.  Our staff will sprig the remaining areas tomorrow morning.  Sprigging is the process of planting stolons (shoots) and rhizomes (roots) of the bermudagrass plant and letting these plant parts propagate on their own.  Sprigging takes more time to establish but saves a ton of money.  It is not possible to sprig TifSport but it is possible to sprig T-10 which is the grass that is going into #13 and #6.  T-10 is a heartier, coarser grass and has been used successfully in outlying areas of the course such as the right of #14 and #10 cartpaths.

Tomorrow, our staff will be sprigging these areas, working on bunkers, finishing fertility and topdressing applications and cleaning up from all of the finished work.  McDonald and Sons will be finished with their work on Friday and Harmon will be done today.  Our new assistant and the two interns are diligently watching greens today as it is very hot!  Try and stay cool as the weather looks to break Thursday.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Pictures From this Morning

Our New Assistant, Bobby Williams.  Bobby has come to us from Forest Oaks Country Club in Greensboro, NC.
Venting Greens

The end product of Venting Greens

Solid Tine Aerification of Fairways, Tees, Approaches.

Topdressing Fairways

Topdressing Fairways with Newly Purchased Equipment

Topdressing Greens behind Venting

Saturday, July 9, 2011

2.5 Inches of Rain Followed by Another Day in the Bunkers

Last night the course received 2.5 inches of rain. Added to the totals from earlier this week, we have received 5 inches of rain in the last five days!! Water is draining from the course, and will continue to drain throughout the day. Our focus for today will be repairing bunkers, for the third time this week. As I am writing this post, seven people have been working in the bunkers on #1 for two hours, and they still have one more bunker to repair on that hole. We will work in bunkers until there is too much golf on the course for us to continue. Below are some pictures of the bunkers this morning, as you can tell bunker repair will take some time. Again, no damage to the #8 fairway bunker.
#12 Fairway Bunkers
#12 Green side Bunker
#8 Fairway Bunker

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Managing Bentgrass Greens During High Heat and Humidity

You may have noticed that our greens are showing some signs of heat stress as we get into the hottest time of the year. Greens are not as smooth as several weeks ago because of the high heat and they do not recover as quickly from heavy golfer traffic. Temperatures in the 90's and above can be harmful to our A1/A4/G3 bentgrass greens and different management techniques are put in place during the summer to limit the adverse effects of high heat and humidity as much as possible. Here are some things we do to sustain the health of our greens during the summer months.

1. Spot Aerification

Some of our greens receive a light aerification on an "as needed" basis when temperatures rise. We recently performed spot aerification on greens 1 through 6 (many members have noticed and commented on this). Spot aerification is performed on the lowest areas of some of our greens where necessary to increase drainage and oxygen intake and thereby avoid heat damage to those areas.

2. Syringing of Greens

Golf course staff closely monitors green conditions during the day and "syringe" greens where necessary to reduce air temperature near the green surface. Syringing of greens is a process of lightly watering the green using a hand held hose and spraying a light shower of water upwards above the green. Contrary to popular belief, the purpose of syringing the greens is NOT to get more water on the grass. In fact, too much water on the greens in hot weather can be much more detrimental to their health than too little water. Hand syringing is performed to cool down the air temperature just above the surface of the green. USGA research has shown that lowering the air temperature by just a few degrees provides enormous benefit to the health of the grass leaf. Here is a USGA video with more information about the benefits of green syringing and the technique used to syringe the greens.

3. Increased Fertility

Heat stress decreases the ability of grass to photosynthesize: essentially, it can't make enough energy on its own to maintain healthy root growth. To offset this reduced photosynthesis, we increase fertility during hot summer months to provide induced energy for the grass. Think of this increased fertility as a "shot in the arm" to help the grass through a stressful period.

4. Change in Mowing Techniques

We change our greens mowing equipment in the summer months to provide a little relief to the grass compared to the more aggressive cutting equipment that we can use in the spring and fall without adverse impact on green health. There is a full description of the equipment used in summer along with comparative pictures in an article we published on June 26, 2011.

What do all the above changes in management techniques mean to the golfer? Mainly, it means that the greens will not be quite as smooth nor quite as speedy during the dog days of summer. Our main goal during the summer is to preserve the health of the greens so that they can survive until heat breaks in late summer or early fall. Once we reach cooler temperatures later this year, the greens should improve quickly and we will change our management practices again to provide the same great putting conditions we saw earlier this spring.

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