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, February 23, 2012

Winter Putting Green Appearance

I appreciate feedback and questions and every Thursday I will attempt to answer one question.  The question posed this week, "Why do the greens look mottled?"

This time of year, the putting greens have a mottled look with green, blue, tan, and purple colors comprising the grass that makes up the putting surface.  This is representative of the different biotypes (slightly different types of bentgrass) that combine to form our A1/A4 putting greens. A1 or A4 is a variety of bentgrass but still is made up of different biotypes within the varitey.  Each one of these biotypes responds differently to nutrition, water, temperature, and other inputs.  The greens are not growing very fast in the winter and are not a vibrant green color.  Due to the need for less mowing and less nutrition, these different biotypes take different hues of colors around the green spectrum.
This picture of Victor venting #5 green shows the different colors of the different biotypes.  The picture also shows how undisruptive the venting process is.  Greens were mowed, vented, and the rolled today.
The putting surfaces are very healthy and we are very pleased with the progress they have made this winter.  They are accepting balls much better than they were in November, the rooting has greatly improved, and ball roll has been decent for the winter months.  There is no poa annua encroachment, disease or other issues to worry about.  Please remember to judge putting green performance on ball roll and shot acceptance rather than pure cosmetics.  The truth is that the greens always look this way in the winter; there has just been a lot more play this year.  Our goal is a healthy, consistent, true putting surface that challenges the player while remaining fair and fun.

This picture clearly represents the mottled look of the greens.  The roller helps to smooth the surface and promote true ball roll.  Please enjoy the wonderful weather today and tomorrow.  The course is wet but greens are in good shape.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

2012 Maintenance Calendar Now Online

The 2012 Maintenance Calendar is now available on our blog. The calendar is located on a separate page and can be accessed from the top right corner of the blog home page. This calendar will continue to be updated as the year continues but our closed dates are set as well as our major agronomic practices. The only thing that would change this schedule would be major weather events such as a March snowstorm affecting our first core aeration dates.  Most of the major golf tournaments are listed as well.  I hope this calendar serves as an educational tool as the links in the calendar will take you to more information about the tasks our team is completing on certain closed days.  

Tree Work and Herbicide Applications

The past couple of days and tomorrow will be dedicated to our Spring pre-emergent herbicide application.  This application will help protect against crabgrass, goosegrass, and poa annua germination.  Our management team has sprayed around the greens and bunkers with some green dye that you may see out there.  That is a tracker dye to indicate where we have sprayed.  Our team is also applying a post emergent herbicide to remove any remaining poa annua plants directly around greens.  This is a time consuming process but most of the poa has been set back by earlier applications.   Our goal of being weed free from tee to green will be in reach with these applications.

Jorge is using a spring loaded sponge applicator to kill any remaining poa annua plants around greens.  This tool is very similar to a bingo blotter and you may see green dots around the greens.  You can already see the poa annua yellowing out in most areas around greens.

Ryan, our new Assistant in Training, is tying in bunker faces and tight areas that we cannot spray with the spray hawk or large sprayers.  Once again, you can see that the weeds are yellowing out and dying that have already been sprayed.

You have probably noticed a lot of tree work between 10 and 12 and to the left of 9.  Our team is removing dead trees as well as opening up avenues of sunlight to sustain turf.  The stumps are being ground and back filled and our tree work should be wrapped up by the end of February.  After February, we move into fan installations, drainage work, greens core aeration, and prepping the golf course for normal spring time play.  An important note:  The golf course will be closed for putting green aeration on Tuesday, March 20 and Wednesday March 21.  I will have more info about fan installation and our maintenance calendar very soon.

Check out these couple of videos from the USGA Green Section on greens aeration and tree work.  Have a great day.

 Core aeration is disruptive to play but very important for turf health.

This video is very indicative of the root/shade competition on the clubhouse putting green.  Trees easily out compete turf for water, nutrients, and sunlight. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Recognizing the Back of The House

One of the busiest areas in our line of work day in and day out is the Mechanic's shop.  Our Equipment Manager, John Anderson, stays very busy year round with scheduled maintenance, detailed record keeping, equipment breakdown, and cutting unit sharpening.  This time of year is dedicated to 'Winter Maintenance"  which includes maintaining, servicing and rebuilding the equipment most used during the golfing season.

This year John is in the process of replacing every reel on all of our fairway units.  John rebuilds rollers, bearings, and cutting units annually but this year due to the life of the equipment, he will have to replace the reels in the cutting units.  Every time John grinds a reel, he is sharpening the cutting blades but also removing metal from the blades.  Over time, the reels are no longer capable of being sharpened or maintaining the necessary diameter to be used in the cutting units.  The old reels had seven blades while the new reels have nine blades which will increase our clip rate and in turn quality of cut.  Essentially, the reels will turn just as fast but the two extra blades will cut the grass two extra times per revolution.

One of our staff members, Victor, works hard to give John a hand in the winter months.  It takes a skilled eye and hand to handle all of the work in the shop but these two gentlemen have been diligently tackling every task.  John is celebrating his 25th year with the club and we are thankful for his experience, dedication, and hard work. 

These 20 old reels will be recycled.  These reels have been worn down from years of grinding.  Frequent mowing and fairway topdressing are to blame for life span.

A view of John's lift, parts room, and grinding space.

John's work area is clean and organized but with 20 reels to change out, there are parts everywhere.

Four new reels are in the bottom left of this picture while six finished cutting units are to the right.

Chris Welles, our General Manager, and Wes McIntyre, our Facilities Director, make a routine walk through of the shop area to inspect for cleanliness, organization and needed maintenance. 

A cutting unit in the process of being rebuilt.  The roller and bearings have been rebuilt while the reel and bedknife have been replaced.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Another Great Monday

Today was almost like a real winter day on the golf course.  We had a heavy frost this morning which kept our staff inside for some necessary painting and equipment maintenance.  We have not had much indoor time this year and the work is starting to pile up.  The staff paints on/off posts, hazards stakes and other amenities while staining benches.  A few staff members helped John, our Equipment Manager, install new reels into the fairway cutting units.  Ruben started grinding stumps immediately as frost does not impede this work.
Once the frost lifted the staff began work in the first fairway bunker on 12, applying a pre-emergent herbicide, bringing up the irrigation system and cleaning up behind Arborscapes.  Arborscapes is here again crown cleaning the Willow Oak trees around the clubhouse.  This week looks bad for golf but good for work so we are going to take full advantage.
The irrigation system will be running as we are watering in the pre-emergent herbicide.  This is a necessary evil in the process of preventing goosegrass and crabgrass.  Bringing the irrigation system on-line went off with minimal hiccups this morning and no leaks.  Each of the new irrigation heads that we have installed worked perfectly.  We still have 7 more to install.
The pre-emergent herbicide application is going out about three weeks early due to unseasonably warm temperatures.  Monitoring soil temperatures and phonological indicators such as forsythia bloom tell us that conditions will be conducive for weed germination earlier this year.  This winter has been very unusual but has allowed our team to get a lot of work done.  Tomorrow looks to be a decent day for golf once the frost lifts but this weekend might be better spent on the indoor tennis courts.

Kevin and Ryan applying the pre-emergent herbicide.  One great feature about this sprayer is that it has a training seat so Kevin can ride shotgun and train Ryan on the finer details of spraying.
You should plan on seeing water running this week as this product has to be watered in to reach the soil.  Pre-emergent herbicides prevent weed germination.

Ruben is beginning the slow process of grinding all of the stumps on the golf course.

Our team is finishing the renovation of this bunker on #12.

Arborscapes is finishing up the trees in the parking lot and behind the building today and next Monday.

Friday, February 3, 2012

USGA Green Section Record, Mid-Atlantic Update

Bonus Golf: Take Note of the Risks

By Darin S. Bevard, senior agronomist, Mid-Atlantic Region
January 31, 2012

While some light snow has fallen at times and reminded us that it is winter, milder than normal temperatures have been the rule. Nicer weather has allowed for more golf than usual to be played during the winter months, but there may be consequences in the spring.

For the past several weeks there have been many opportunities for golfers to get out and enjoy the weather, and their favorite golf course. With the extreme wet conditions of late summer/early fall, this bonus golf has been great for the golfers, and has helped the bottom lines of many golf courses. The mild weather has also rekindled the debate over winter play and the potential agronomic downside of excess traffic, especially on greens.
In the last couple of years, frequent snowfall and cold temperatures have rendered the winter play conversation a moot point. This winter we have been blessed with plenty of days to play golf, and golfers who want to play. The result - the back and forth debate over whether greens should be open or closed. There is no right or wrong answer to this question because of the different needs of individual golf facilities and the different weather conditions. 
Common sense dictates that winter play is bad for grass, especially greens. Extra traffic under often marginal conditions causes wear. The difficulty is quantifying the cost of this damage from the perspective of impacts on in-season playing quality in addition to the cost to repair damage that may (or may not) occur with winter play.
Some golf courses simply close completely or close their greens during the winter. If this is an option for your facility, great. Even if only a few greens that are already difficult to manage in season could be closed, the reduction in winter wear will be beneficial. If your course chooses to play golf during the winter, decisions on playability of the golf course should be made on a daily basis. If it is too wet or the greens are partially frozen, the risk for damage is greater. The worst case scenario is thawed conditions at the immediate surface and frozen conditions one or two inches below the surface. The bottom line is, you must weigh the pros and cons for your individual situation and act accordingly.
If there are any questions on winter play, give us a call. We will be happy to visit with you about this issue and provide information that may help with a tough decision.
With the relatively warm weather, there are agronomic concerns too. On Poa annua greens, isolated areas of active anthracnose have been reported this winter. Monitor these conditions for the remainder of the winter and beyond. The other major concern is whether Poa annua has even hardened-off sufficiently to tolerate low temperatures. Warm temperatures reduce hardening in Poa annua, making the grass more susceptible to winterkill. Without snow cover, the grass has less insulation from sudden drops in temperature, which is the primary cause of crown hydration, especially in grass that is not sufficiently hardened. Time will tell, but this is a cause for concern in the northern tier of the region. Enjoy some bonus golf when the opportunity arises, but realize there are still concerns from winter traffic and Mother Nature.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Fielding a Good Question

The question was recently asked "I was on the driving range and was wondering why we don't put sand in the divot areas like we do on the golf course?"  Great question and I hope to provide some good feedback.

We will fill the divots during the winter with our bulk topdresser once the front tee is fully used up.  If we topdress the tee with sand when the turf is dormant, it will leave the tee covered in sand as the grass is not growing and filling in the divots.  Even with the range being overseeded with ryegrass, the divots taken are still removing the dormant bermudagrass.  The dormant bermudagrass will not begin to fill back over divots until mid May.  Reseeding the tee with ryegrass will be an option but will hamper bermudagrass recovery and long term health of the turf.

The bulk topdressing will promote a smoother surface and promote divot recovery once the bermudagrass breaks dormancy.  We could fill every divot individually like we do on the golf course tees but this would be a real drain on time and labor in our off-season with limited staff resources.  The range and golf course have been very busy and all of the divots taken out of the dormant tees make me very thankful that we made the call to keep the back tee closed this winter.   The back tee should be in perfect condition and ready to use while the front and middle tee are healing over divots  in May.  You can help in tee recovery by utilizing the technique demonstrated in this March 2011 blog post, 'Preferred Practice Technique to Maximize Turf Recovery.'

Please continue to ask questions and I will continue to try and answer them.

This is one of our large bulk topdressers at work.  You can see how the sand will fill all of the divots and promote a smooth, uniform surface.

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