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.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Green Speeds, Cart Traffic and a Safety Notice

We are 10 days out from our Spring core aeration on putting greens and we are very pleased with recovery.  The greens have rolled poorly over the past 10 days as we expected but they are starting to turn the corner.  We are currently back down to our normal height of cut but it will take a few days to get a good clean cut.  Mowing in different directions will help smooth everything back out and we expect to improve speed and ball roll through the weekend and maintain a consistent, firm surface from here on out.  Thank you for your patience during the aeration process.

We are close to having all of the fairways mowed for the first time.  Wednesday night's rain but a damper on progress but we hope to finish up fairway mowing very soon.  Once this is complete, we expect to be 90 degrees on all dry fairways.  Once we make this change, there will be no more handicapped flags.  Fairways will either be 90 degrees for everyone or no one.   

You will notice cones blocking part of the cart path on #4.  Mrs. Morris was kind enough to point out a large limb that had broken out of the top of a tree.  The entire top of the tree is hanging precariously over the cart path so please avoid this area over the weekend.  The tree will be removed on Monday along with the safety hazard.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Bumper Crop of Inchworms

I am sure that you have noticed all of the inchworms and their silks over the past few weeks.  They are everywhere.  The mild weather has led to a huge influx of these inchworms or cankerworms.  Here is an article from the News and Observer pertaining to inchworms.  The most notable sentence; "Two varieties are hatching in abundance: the fall cankerworms, whose eggs survived the mild winter on the ground; and the spring cankerworms, which hatch just as leaves are sprouting – especially willow oak."
Click on the Picture to Read the Article

Read more here:

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Cart Traffic and an Early Spring

A hot topic of discussion right now is cart traffic on the fairways.  We are getting a lot of questions including; When are we going to be 90 degrees? When will you begin mowing fairways?  Why is the range so much greener than everything else? Why are some tire tracks so much greener than the rest of the golf course? 

To sum up the first few questions, I have this answer.

We usually allow cart traffic on fairways in late April once the fairways have been mowed.  I see no reason to not allow cart traffic if we are putting our large mowers on the fairways.  This morning, I mowed the driving range fairway.  This is a different, more aggressive turf type and was already quite long.  Some of the fairways on the golf course are ready for mowing.  These will be mowed when they are both dry and we do not expect night time lows below 45°F.  This is tough to predict but I think we will be mowing in the afternoons all week.  Once fairways are mowed, cart traffic will be allowed.  We are currently about 3 weeks ahead of schedule with the weather.  I would be surprised if we could not be 90 degrees on most fairways by the end of this week or the beginning of next week.  Not all fairways, but most.  

Q. Why are some tire tracks so much greener than the rest of the golf course?  If they are, why aren't we driving on the fairways all winter.
The width of these tracks proves that they belong to a sprayer and not a golf cart.  We spray in straight lines but maneuvering the sprayer into position lays the turf down as well and increases foliar absorption.
A. The tire tracks that are greener are not cart tire tracks.  They are sprayer tire tracks and the short answer is, we don't really know why they are greener.  When a chemical is applied through a large sprayer, the tires ride over the turf before it is sprayed.  This rolls the turf blades over and in turn the tire tracks absorb more chemical than the upright turf.  That is why we have some discoloration in the tire tracks when certain herbicides are applied.  So the fact that these tire tracks are greener is baffling.  Here is one professor at Virgina Tech explanation of our situation.  

"Usually tires lay down the turf and increase foliar absorption of the product being sprayed.  That usually leads to a little more injury in the tire track than the other areas.  Here is one theory for your green tracks.  Let's say you applied your pre-emergent herbicide and the turf was not 100% dormant.  You would have gotten increased uptake in the tire tracks and that would have stunted or slowed the growth of the bermudagrass in the tire track.  Then a cold snap comes along at some point in Feb or even Jan.  All turf except the stunted tire track would get bit by the cold and that will cause a considerable delay in green up.  Since the tire track was not growing and already stunted, the cold snap did not affect it and no delay in green up.  That's all I got.  This is really weird."

Bottom line, this situation is an anomaly and cart traffic is not encouraged on dormant bermudagrass fairways.  Our pre-emergent herbicides can delay bermudagrass green up but does not affect plant health.  We trade a delayed green up for a lack of weeds on the golf course.  We carefully monitor when these products and others will be applied by tracking soil temperatures and growing degree days.  For pre-emergent herbicides, soil temperature is the most important factor. 

We have had great green up with very little winter kill in fairways so that is the good news.  I am sure that you have noticed some large basketball sized spots of turf in the fairway that have not broken dormancy.  This is known as spring dead spot.  Spring dead spot (SDS) in turf is a disease specific to bermudagrass.  SDS is caused by a soil borne pathogen indigenous to most soils in the southern United States.  Over the course of the winter when the turf is dormant, there are no symptoms evident and everything appears normal. In the spring, as the weather begins to warm, the infected turf is unable to draw upon reserves of water and nutrients to break dormancy. Affected turf may appear to green up as healthy turf would, but it quickly declines as the plant is starved for energy from the clogged vascular tissue.  All of that to tell you this.  We have sprayed a fungicide to help stop the soil pathogen and we will fertilize fairways to begin recovery.  Our soil pH is maintained to help prevent the pathogen but the problem is varying from year to year.  
The TifSport green surrounds were solid tined, limed, and fertilized to encourage green up and growth.
Yesterday, we solid tine aerated the bermudagrass collars and applied lime and fertilizer to these areas.  These areas have a history of being weak and we are trying to give them a good start.  Greens were mowed, topdressed, and sprayed with a season long preventative insecticide.  Mulching of the golf course is wrapping up and our team is busy with irrigation adjustments, golf course conditioning, and early season maintenance.  Greens are being rolled today but will still be very slow, bumpy and sandy while recovering from aeration.  Ryan is spraying broad leaf weeds out of the fescue areas.  Have a great week.
Chuck and his team had to put the assembly line to work in order to mulch a few hard to reach areas.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Pictures from this Week

It has been a productive start to our week.  The weather has been all over the board but we were able to dodge a few bullets and get everything accomplished.  Aeration is complete and the irrigation install between holes 10 and 12 will wrap up between today and tomorrow.  Multiple soil amendments will go down between today and tomorrow on greens, tees, and approaches.  The driving range tees have all been fertilized and are growing very well.  You should continue to see topressing being applied to these tees.  The course care walk around or "divot party" was a huge success and multiple winter projects were finished.  The greens will be bumpy and sandy for about two weeks but core aeration is a vital agronomic practice for the long term health of the putting greens.  The golf course is really greening up and we are excited for the Spring season. 
We have finally turned the corner on this tee on #12.  The problematic soils have been adjusted to allow for good growing conditions.

Adjusting the pH problems created by the acid sulfate soils under this tee has paid off.  The tees are greening up well.

Once the greens have been aerated, cleaned, aeration holes back filled with sand and blown off soil amendments are applied based on soil testing.
We are careful to trench around the drip lines of our trees to protect vital roots.  This leads to more trenching, pipe and wire but also aides in tree health and survival.  The irrigation between 10 and 12 will greatly benefit the turf that will be installed in this area.

These three gentlemen helped me install the irrigation.  400 feet of pipe and 7 heads later, the project is completed.  Edgar, who is training to become our irrigation tech doesn't really need direction anymore.  He could have done 95% of this project on his own.  Irrigation management is key to our operation and so is Edgar.

Each new sprinkler head receives a power wire, while the yellow common wire goes to each head.  The green satellite boxes communicate with the central computer and turn heads on and off.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Divot Party Photo

Many thanks to all of the participants in yesterday's divot party.  Thousands of divots were filled.  A few people showed up after this picture was taken but the coordinator of this event, Anne Davis (photographer) deserves a special thanks.  Anne is a member of the Ladies' 18 hole group and the Green Committee.  Thanks Anne!

Successful Day of Aeration and Course Care

Monday was a success.  We core aerated and cleaned up 14 greens and topdressed and filled the aeration holes on 7 of them.  Our staff also assisted with the Spring Course Care party.  Thousands of divots were filled by a large group of members between 10:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.  Thank you so much for the hard work.  Barring any bad weather, aeration should be completed today and topdressing and backfilling of holes will be finished tomorrow.  Our team is also hard at work on a few other projects around the golf course including seeding, mowing, and installing irrigation.  Have a great day.
While this process looks very aggressive, it is breathing fresh air into the root zone of the putting greens.
The "divot party" was quite a success.  I will post some more pictures in the future.  The group put out more than 4000 lbs of sand.  Even if you use 1/4 lb of sand for every divot, that is over 16,000 divots.  Great work.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Closing out a warm, busy week

1. The Golf Course is closed for putting green core aeration Monday, March 19 - Wednesday March 21, 2012.  The golf course will re-open Thursday, March 22 at 8:00 a.m.  The range will be open on Tuesday and Wednesday as normal.

2. The Ladies' 18 and 9 hole groups are hosting a divot filling 'party' on Monday March 19th. The ladies will begin to meet at the pro shop at 10:15 a.m. and plan on taking about an hour or two to walk the golf course and fill divots.  Please come out and support these groups and the golf course if you are available.  Monday looks warm with scattered showers and maybe a thunderstorm.

 This is a great video on the benefits of core aeration.

This week has been great for playing golf, growing grass, and finishing some projects.  The golf course has been packed and greens should be rolling well.  It is nice to have so many golfers back on the course.  One issue this time of year is cart traffic on the golf course.  This week has been reasonably dry and we have been able to allow handicapped flag access to most fairways.  The reason that we do not allow 90 degree cart traffic this time of year is to limit stress on the dormant TifSport bermudagrass.  Even though we are starting to break dormancy, the turf is not aggressively growing and cannot recover from the stress of cart traffic.  The golf course is also more saturated this time of year due to a lack of heat, sunlight and plant uptake.  We usually begin allowing carts off of the path towards the end of April, once we start mowing fairways.  If this weather trend holds up, it could be much sooner than that.

The weather has obviously raised air and soil temperatures and in turn, the TifSport bermudagrass tees and fairways have begun to break dormancy.  The older varieties of bermudagrass on the driving range are even further along than on the golf course.  Sun exposure, soil moisture, soil compaction, turf variety, and air temperature all affect where and when the bermudagrass breaks dormancy and begins to grow.  We hope to continue this warm weather trend and see green bermudagrass wall to wall. 

Our staff officially finished all tree work and has a few stumps to finish removing next week while we are closed. You may have noticed a large amount of sand on the front driving range tees this week.  We have aggressively topdressed that tee to help level out the tee and fill in all of the divots from this winter's play.  The tee was then grassed with a seeded variety of bermudagrass.  This seeded variety will be useful when we fill divots and will aid in recovery of this tee.  TifSport can only be propagated from sod, where as T-10 can be propagated from sprigs or sod and this new variety, Riviera can be propagated from seed, sprigs or sod.  It will give us great options in out of play areas and the range.  Speaking of out of play areas, the large are between 12 tees and 14 tees has been tilled, graded and topdressed to prepare a seed bed.  This area will be seeded with Riviera bermudagrass and will allow us to renovate the area for much less cost than sod or sprigs.  A large area to the left of #14 green is also being seeded with Riviera.  These areas have been roped off and marked ground under repair.
This area between 12 and 14 looks rough right now but is ready for seed and a new look this summer.  The slops and cart path edges will be sodded this summer. 
 The blog has now been live for about 12.5 months.  In that time we have received about 16,500 page views and have hopefully increased our level of communication.  Please contact me with any questions about the blog or golf course.  I will be posting a lot of information next week regarding aeration and hope to see you on the course soon. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Tree Removal: Finding a Healthy Balance

"As beautiful as trees are, and as fond as you and I are of them, we still must not lose sight of the fact that there is a limited place for them in golf. We must not allow our sentiments to crowd out the real intent of a golf course, that of providing fair playing conditions. If it in any way interferes with a properly played stroke, I think the tree is an unfair hazard and should not be allowed to stand."
- Donald Ross, from Golf Has Never Failed Me 

Donald Ross was speaking to the impact that trees have on the playability of the golf course and how trees impact a properly played stroke.  Not only is the physical tree a hazard to the player but its root system, impact on air circulation, shade, leaf litter, and competitive nature are a hazard to turf quality and in turn golf course playability.

It is true that Willow Oaks Country Club not only takes its name from the great Willow Oaks on the property but also uses those specimen trees to highlight and define its golf course.  Less than five miles from the Virginia State Capitol, the parkland style course with tree lined fairways allows for seclusion and a feel of being one with nature along the Jame River.  The trees need to define the golf course without detriment to the turf.  Tree removal on the golf course is a balancing act.  Don't remove enough trees and you will have an unsafe environment and poor turf conditions.  Remove too many trees and you upset the balance of the golf course as well as the membership. This is the delicate balance that we try to achieve during tree removal.    

 A lot of factors go into a decision about a tree. 
  • The desirability of the tree based on its species
  • Golfer safety
  • The general health of the tree, including its form and structure
  • Life expectancy
  • The impact on playability
  • The impact on the agronomics of growing turfgrass
  • The impact on traffic flow
  • The impact on aesthetics and surrounding trees
Simply stated regarding removal; there are trees that have to be removed due to safety and trees that the Green Committee has decided to remove based on one of these eight factors.

An example of a tree that has to be removed due to safety is the large co-dominant oak to the right of number 14 fairway.  This large oak died and is now infested with ambrosia beetle.  Ambrosia beetle is a secondary pest that enters the tree once it is dead and bores tunnels through the wood.  This can create worse conditions than the dead tree alone.

The left side of this co-dominant tree is completely dead and is a huge safety hazard.
You can see the piles of saw dust where the ambrosia beetle has entered this tree.  These pests weaken the wood of the already dead tree and cause a bigger safety concern.
An example of trees that have been removed based on a green committee decision are the trees between 10 and 12.  These trees have been removed based on turf quality, playability, and tree health.  The removal of these trees will allow for the other trees in this area to flourish and allow for the planned turf renovation of this area in the 2012 growing season.  Here is a link to the 2012 planned projects.  

The before picture of #10.  The large leaning pine in this picture was struck by lightning this year.
The missing pine dominates this picture but many trees were removed to improve growing conditions for the turf that will be planted during the renovation of this area.
Trees are scheduled to be planted this year to replace removed trees in certain areas of the golf course.  This allows us to properly choose the species and spacing of these trees.  Look for these plantings in 2012 and how they will impact our environment and the golf course.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Shift of Focus

The winter months are a great time for staff education and training as well as drainage, bunker and tree projects.  The winter months are now behind us and our staff is ready for the challenges and weather that warmer months will offer.  Our main focus from this point forward is course conditioning and finalizing some out of play projects.
That main focus right now is directed towards greens because everything else is still dormant.  Our goal, as always, is to keep member interruption to a minimum during course projects and the winter months allow us to do that.  Unfortunately, some projects have to be completed during the warmer months.  The main project that I am speaking about is putting green core aeration.  The project, weather permitting, will be accomplished March 19-21.  The golf course will be closed on Tuesday, March 20 and Wednesday, March 21 to accomplish this vital agronomic practice.  You may notice some small holes in a few greens.  This is where we have pulled samples for soil sampling.  The results will let us know what amendments the soil needs for our turf to be successful.
Soil Sampling our Putting Green Root Zone
Snow Monday, 75°F tomorrow
This week, the weather has definitely been varied.  Snow Monday, beautiful today and tomorrow, and rain Friday.  Our staff has been cleaning up from the storms, finishing tree work and focusing on putting green management.  Greens were topdressed yesterday and received a gypsum and 1-7-10 application.  This morning, greens were rolled and received a preventative fungicide treatment.  Tomorrow, greens will be mowed and rolled for the beautiful weather.  While we are focused on the greens, the rest of the golf course is coming together well.  Prepping for our 2012 projects is almost complete and outlying areas will be the site of a few projects in March and April.  Overall, our focus will remain on course conditioning and preparing for a successful 2012.
Rolling Greens to promote a smooth putting surface and to decrease wear and tear on our dormant bermudagrass surrounds.

Topdressing Greens to promote a firm, smooth surface.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Birdhouses, Root Depths, and the Start of Spring

I am coming back from a few days at our national conference and trade show.  16 Hours of Education and 8 hours of trade show make a guy long for home but I am grateful for the experience and education.  After touring the course today, it is obvious that the staff has been busy taking down the remaining trees involved in our 2012 course improvement projects.  This work will be completed on Monday.

I took some root zone depths on the greens and am pleased with the results.  Our current root depth is between 3 and 4 inches.  This is great all things considered and will no doubt improve over the next few months.  The greens are accepting balls well and putting conditions should improve over the next few weeks.  A golf ball is about 1.7 inches in diameter so the roots in this picture are almost 3.5 inches in depth.
You can see the roots coming out of the bottom of this profile.
We are always weary of flooding especially when channel 12 is advertising flood warnings.  The river has crested at 13.17 feet and is falling.  The golf course is in not current danger but pray for limited rainfall over the next week.
Click the graph for updated river information from NOAA.
You should notice some new and improved bluebird houses on the golf course.  These houses have been placed to not affect golf.  However, if you find yourself behind one, just like an irrigation satellite, please take relief.  The houses have been moved from trees to prevent predatory attacks on the bird nests.  You will notice the extra efforts taken to prevent predators from gaining access.  Some houses are still on trees to promote a variety of habitats.  Bat houses and Purple Martin houses are also in place to help with mosquitoes.  You should not notice the bat houses as they are well beyond the boundaries of the golf course.  Duck boxes will also be installed to promote a habitat for the Mallard ducks on the property.  Remember, ducks are great, geese are terrible.  Our assistant superintendent, Kevin Mark has done a great job, reformatting and championing our environmental effort of encouraging wildlife on the golf course.  Please contact Kevin at if you are interested in participating in a bird house monitoring program.
The ground underneath the Purple Martin boxes has been cleared of structure to encourage the birds to find the houses.  Purple Martin scouts should be out to find habitat.  These birds help with our mosquito population.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Walk way behind the First Green

As many of you have noticed, the walkway behind #1 green had been roped off.  The grass protection mat that was installed last year became a walking hazard once the turf went dormant.  This mat has been removed and other options are being investigated for the upcoming year.  The ropes have now been removed for access to and from the green.  We apologize for this inconvenience and are actively looking for ways to improve this area.
The path was roped off to prevent slipping on the grass protection mat while the turf is dormant.  The protection mat and ropes have been removed for access to green.
Divot Boxes have been placed back on the golf course.  Khaki colored sand will be utilized until the turf breaks dormancy and then we will be back to using green sand.  Divot boxes allow access to sand for walking golfers.  They are a great place to refill your sand bottles as well. 
Please fill divots in order to maintain a smooth playing surface and encourage turf growth. 

Site Search