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.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Great rainfall followed by Sod Work and a Save the Date

This Monday, we were scheduled to lay sod around the greens where the collars are weak.  Our plans were changed when the golf course and the sod farm received 2 inches of rain.  This rain was very beneficial and really helped the golf course but delayed the sod until Tuesday.  On Monday we cleaned up from the storm, core aerated collars, and prepped for sod around the clubhouse putting green and the driving range practice green.  Come to think of it, we also spiked greens, and applied 3 different soil amendments based on soil tests. Greens were sprayed on Tuesday due to the heavy rainfall on Sunday.  Samples were sent to Virginia Tech's plant pathology lab to check for the presence of any disease.  Our preventative fungicide program is strong but we will be double and triple checking everything.
The sod around the driving range practice green was not as bad as the shaping of the soil around the driving range green.  Removing all of the sod allowed us to re-shape this green tie-in.  After we sodded around the clubhouse putter and the driving range putter, our team started to lay sod between 10 and 12.  This will be an ongoing project with drainage and grading taking place but we anticipate having the sod laid for this project by the first week of June.  Any sprigging in this area will be completed on June 11-12 when the golf course is closed for maintenance. 

Another truck of sod arrived today (~10,000ft2) and our staff fixed the collars around 18, 9, 12, 10 and 11.  We also installed drainage behind #9 green, replaced fescue on #1 with TifSport and laid sod between 10 and 12.  The collars on 13-17 will be repaired tomorrow.  This seems to be a lot of sod in the collars but I assure you that the collars are in good shape compared to years past.  We have no other winter kill on the golf course and after next week, all sod installed on the golf course will be in new improvement areas.
This week we look forward to the Meet me at the Rock tournament.  The Green and Golf Committees will be represented and really addressing course care.  Please remember to fix ball marks, fill divots, rake bunkers and be aware of your cart traffic.  Please respect the etiquette of this great game and leave the course better than you found it.  Our staff will be mowing all surfaces in anticipation of the event.
The next big course care event that we are looking forward to will be on Monday, June 4 from 5:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.  The event will be a course care walk through and golf course maintenance open house.  We will be walking the top 9 holes of the golf course and filling divots, enjoying some camaraderie, touring our maintenance facility, and hopefully learning more about what our staff does day in and day out to ready the golf course.  Dinner, beer, soda, and water will be provided at no charge.  I will have much more information about this event in a future post but please mark your calendars.

Hopefully these pictures and video will paint how busy and successful of a week it has been so far.

Mowing and installing sod around the clubhouse putting green on Tuesday morning.
Prepping for sod by shaping green surround and adding topsoil. 

Spraying greens following heavy rainfall.  Samples were sent off to Virginia Tech to analyze our greens for any disease presence. 
Greens were spiked following rainfall to allow for surface to dry as well as gas and oxygen exchange.
Sod was installed around the Driving Range green on Tuesday morning.
Collars were core aerated on Monday to relieve compaction and encourage healthy growing conditions.
The course was wet and we had to push some water off of fairways on Monday.  2 inches of rain over 24 hours will do that.  It is a true testament to the renovation that we are able to be 90 degrees on 85% of the golf course today.

More fescue was removed and replaced with TifSport on #1.  This extended the entrance to this fairway.
Soil amendments were applied on Monday to adjust fertility levels in the greens.

Drainage was installed behind #9 green.  This area is shaded and poor soils do not allow for proper drainage.
The sod was lifted and the trenches were filled with rock, pipe and sand.  You can see that our team is also finishing sodding around the green.

Ruben is adding sand and organic fertilizer to this finished drainage project.  Sod was replaced following leveling of the trenches.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Collars and Spring Dead Spot and Following up on Two Projects

Our collars and the spring dead spot on tees and fairways are the two most unsightly issues we have right now on the golf course from tee to green.  There has been very little winterkill, the greens are in great shape, the bunkers are consistent, we are making improvements to the exteriors of the golf course, and playing surfaces are in good condition for April.  With all that said, the collars and spring dead spot on tees and fairways have dominated our attention.  They have been reoccurring issues and I want to share what efforts are ongoing to help curb these issues.  

Collars.  Collars are an ongoing issue due to the design of the green complexes and mechanical traffic.  The approaches into the greens and the green complexes force traffic in certain areas.  The reason we see so much damage this year is due to the high level of play this winter.  When the bermudagrass is dormant, it cannot recover from foot traffic.  This is why on/off areas on greens are the most damaged.  Greens that provide a lot of access from all sides are not as worn out as green complexes that force you to walk on and off in a small area.  The main results of foot and mechanical traffic are soil compaction and wear on the turf.  The wear on the turf is exaggerated because the turf is not actively growing during the winter months.
We have been solid tine aerating the collars aggressively to help relieve compaction.  The collars receive extra fertility to aid in recovery.  We turn our mowers on lattice to reduce wear.  We rotate pin positions to spread out play.  We lay down carpets when applying growth regulators to greens to prevent damage.  All of this has helped but it has not solved the problem.  A few areas that receive the most traffic will be sodded on Monday to speed up recovery.  The rest of the collars will be core aerated on Monday to relieve compaction and provide oxygen to the roots.  This process does a better job than solid tine aeration because it reduces the bulk density of the soil and allows the soil to expand and free up more pore space for air and water.   I realize that the aeration and sod will be a disturbance to play but the earlier we can speed up recovery, the better.  Once air and soil temperatures rise, we will see much better conditions. We do not want to sod too much of the collars as natural recovery will provide healthier turf for this golf season.  Time and warmer temperatures will be the best solution for the collars.  In the future we will be experimenting with more core aerations and with taking the walk mowers out of use in the dormant winter months.  Using riding mowers will greatly reduce wear and traffic on the collars.  The new technology employed in riding mowers or Triplexes provides a fantastic quality of cut and reduces labor.  Through November and after spring aeration, walk mowers will be employed to provide the highest quality of cut available.
The area to the left in this picture was core aerated this spring when the greens were core aerated.  The machine over lapped into the collar.  Both areas have been solid tine aerated twice and managed identically.  It is obvious that the core aeration does a better job of relieving soil compaction and providing superior turf conditions.

Spring dead spot is, without question, the most severe disease of bermudagrass in Virginia. The disease appears in circular patches or rings that remain dormant as the bermudagrass comes out of winter dormancy. The turf in these patches eventually collapses to the ground, leaving sunken areas in the turf that severely detract from its uniformity and playability. Injury from spring dead spot (SDS) often lingers well into the summer, and in some cases, the turf may not fully recover before fall dormancy.
Spring dead spot is a fungus, just like most other turf diseases.  The use of turf fungicides to combat the disease has been inconclusive at best.  The treatments are expensive and more research is necessary to solve timing and rate questions.  Spring dead spot is a disease of bermudagrass and in turn does not present worries about problems on our bent grass putting greens.  The particular causal fungus on our property is Ophiosphaerella herpotricha.  We know this because we have sent samples of our spring dead spot to be tested.  O. herpotricha is just like any other fungus.  It performs best at a certain pH.  Anyone familiar with mushroom farming knows that pH is very important to grow mushrooms (which are a fungus.)  Our soil pH in certain fairways is optimal for this fungus to thrive.  Our plan that has already started is to drop the pH of these soils through the use of ammonium sulfate fertilizer.  The sulfur in the ammonium sulfate will help drop the pH out of the optimal range for O. herpotricha to thrive.  The nitrogen in the ammonium sulfate will be part of our normal maintenance program for healthy turf.  The balance will be in maintaining a lower pH and allowing the turf to thrive.  This will be performed through constant soil testing.  Improved turf and soil conditions will also help the turf combat the disease.  Cultural practices such as slicing and aerating the affected areas will help improve turf recovery as well.
The fact that the spring dead spot is localized to this part of the fairway proves that soil conditions greatly vary even in very close proximity.
You can see that through our cultural and fertility practices, this area of spring dead spot is starting to recover.

While on the topic of soil conditions, the picture below shows an improved condition due to added drainage.

This picture was taken immediately follow .4" of rain.  The area with the running water is draining well but the area in the left foreground of this picture had subsurface drainage installed last week.  You can see how this area has no standing water at all.  Areas with less grade or fall will sometime need additional drainage to speed up the drying process.

This is a picture of the sod prep to the right of #16 and around the bathrooms.  This will take another project off of our list and was a great use of some left over sod.  The background of this picture shows our staff spraying greens.  Fungicides are applied based on application intervals, soil temperatures, and weather.   This application was made in anticipation of the wet week ahead.  Samples will be taken and tested for disease routinely and after every heavy rainfall. 
We ran out of sod on Tuesday.  We need about 600 more square feet of sod to finish the area prepped around the rest rooms.  This sod will be delivered next Monday with the sod used on collars.  Any remaining sod on that truck will be used between 10 tees and 12 green as part of our tree line renovation project.  The fescue that is currently in that area is being taken out and moved to other locations to reduce waste and improve conditions.

Have a great week.  Friday and Saturday both look perfect for golf.

Jordan Booth 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Friend Goes to Congress and Another Accepts a new Position

Today is National Golf Day and our industry is presenting the values and improtance of golf to Congress in Washington DC.  Peter McDonough is a friend, colleague, and leader in environmental stewardship.  The Golf Course Superintendent at the Keswick Club in Charlottesville, Peter has a passion for the profession of the Golf Course Superintendent and has advocated the profession for many years.  Today, Peter represents our national association, the Golf Course Superintendent's Association of America, in front of Congress for National Golf Day.  Peter has led the charge nationally and especially in Virginia to grow the game of golf and to promote the environmental stewardship that our profession is so proud of.  Peter chaired the committee that created the 214 page book, Environmental Best Management Practices for Virginia's Golf Courses.  This book summarizes best management practices (BMPs) and provides details in accompanying recommendations specifically adapted for golf courses in Virginia with an emphasis on the protection of water quality.  Our industry is very proud to be represented by Peter in Washington for National Golf Day.
From left to right, Peter McDonough, Donna Johnson, President of the Virginia Agribusiness Council, Governor McDonnell, and Jeff Berg, Superintendent at Goose Creek Golf Club.  This picture was taken during the presentation of the Environmental Best Management Practices.

Another friend and colleague, Abby Bomboske, Director of Catering and Special Events, will be leaving Willow Oaks to pursue a new career with Capital One in McLean, Virginia.  Abby's last day was today and the club surprised her with a going away party.  Abby will be very hard to replace but in the interim, Edmund Mielck, the Clubhouse Manager, will be assuming the responsibilities of the position.  Please join us in wishing Abby Bomboske the best of luck with her new career.

Monday, April 16, 2012

How to Use the Blog

I currently have four or five topics that I need to write about either from my own thoughts, our team's ideas, the green committee or other various members.  I love the feedback and the use of the blog's reach, I just need to make more time for it.  I did want to go over one big topic that I talked to a few people about last week.  How to Use the Blog.  More specifically, how to communicate with us or send feedback.
Quick history.  The blog was started in 2011 in hopes of expanding the reach of our communication and to provide insight into our department.  I have purposefully not allowed comments on the blog due to the public nature of these comments.  Anyone from anywhere could comment; good or bad, relevant or irrelevant.  I do appreciate feedback, questions, and ideas.  My email is You can also email Eric Frazier, the Director of Agronomy at  The reason that I put that information out there is that a lot of people receive this blog post through our feed burner subscription.  The blog posts are emailed to people that sign up for the email service.  You cannot reply to these emails.  I know that people are trying to respond to the blog emails and I simply never see them.  I apologize if you have been waiting on a response but I cannot get those emails.  Please email me directly at  I cannot promise that I will always have a quick response and I may not have time to write about every topic or answer every question but I do want the proper line of communication to be there. 
The blog is broken down into a few sections.  The slideshow gives an opportunity for us to showcase the most recent blog posts.  You should be able to scroll through the slideshow and click on the title of each slide to take you to the respective post.  Above the slideshow there is a list of pages.  This is more static reading that is always available on the blog.  To the right of the slideshow is a list of my social media outlets.  In this area, you can chose to follow me on twitter @woccgolf, email me, connect on LinkedIn, or subscribe to our RSS feed.  Email is pretty easy to use and I have found twitter to be a great way to connect.  I frequently post pictures and updates on twitter.  You can find these updates on the blog as well.  Below the social media icons and above the twitter updates is the archive of the blog posts.   The posts are organized by most popular, groups of labels or tags, and date.  Below the twitter updates you can enter your email address to receive our blog posts through the email.  Once again, please do not reply to these emails.  Just email me at  To date, the blog has received a fair amount of traffic and I hope it continues to be a successful communication tool for our department.  My goal is transparency and communication. 
Today was our first outing on the golf course.  This was the RWGA's Jeanie Bliley Memorial tournament honoring past president of the RWGA and Willow Oaks member Jeanie Bliley.  The event was a one o'clock shotgun and allowed us to install sod at tennis, the clubhouse, and prepare for sod install to the right of #16 fairway.

Prep and install of new sod around the clubhouse patio.
Prep and install of new sod in front of the Old House.

This week will be a busy one on the golf course for us.  We are praying for some rain now that we are back into warm temperatures.  The golf course is beginning to take shape and the collars are finally starting to green up.  You can see the results of our solid tine aeration as the turf is definitely doing better in these pockets of reduced compaction and increased oxygen.  We will be sodding any poor areas in collars next week and core aerating collars as soon as we feel that they can handle it.  Have a great day.

Jordan Booth

Monday, April 9, 2012

Drainage Project, Collars, and Putting Greens

This Monday has been driven by projects.  Chuck Cassick, our Horticulturalist, and his team have been working diligently in the parking lot spreading mulch.  The majority of that work will be done today.  Chuck still has a little more to do but the mulch will be finished by next Monday if all goes as planned.  Chuck's Grounds department consists of himself and one seasonal employee.  The golf course staff supplements labor as needed during big projects, plant installations and mulching.

We dove head first into another drainage project today.  Our staff installed about 200 feet of drainage to the left of #4 green.  Most people will remember that this area is usually a little wet and draining this swale will greatly improve playability and turf health.  This project will take us all of today and a little of tomorrow morning to finish.  In order to minimize disruption of play, we will be starting tee times off of #10 in the morning.  This will give us roughly another 2 hours and 45 minutes to work on this project before play gets to us.  That should give us plenty of time coupled with today to finish the project.  We will not start tee times off of #10 often but it is a nice tool to spread out play, change the golf course, and allow extra time for front nine projects.
Extra care is taken to keep this project as clean as possible.  We are utilizing this dry weather to drain habitually wet areas.
1.  Sod is cut and lifted.  2.  Trench is dug and soil removed.  3. Pipe is installed and back filled with gravel and sand. 4.  Trench is tamped, leveled and sodded.    
The collars are still slow to green up.  The weather has cooled off and become a bit more normal.  We continued work on these areas today with a solid tine aeration and a quick release Nitrogen application.  The entire golf course also received an application of fertility today to help jump start the grass once warm weather really gets here. A lot of areas on the collars are still greening up and we are optimistic about the majority of these areas.  Some of the highest traffic areas will be sodded and we will be evaluating them over the next two weeks.  We have a closed Monday on April 21 that may be prime for sodding out bad spots in collars if weather permits.  We are lucky that we have experienced little to no winter kill on any fairways or tees.  Our main focus right now is the collars and putting greens.  The greens have looked a little bruised as we are still exiting the aeration process and beginning to firm up and gain speed.  The bruising is a side affect of rolling after topdressing.  The longer leaf blades rub against the sand and bruise.  As we continue to get a better quality of cut and work through the sand, the bruising should be greatly reduced. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Masters Week, Bud's favorite Day of the Year, and The Elephant in The Room

Masters Week.  The best and worst week of the year.  The tournament is incredible, the fans knowledgeable, and the course is meticulously perfect.  I love the Masters.   I have been lucky enough to walk the golf course during a practice round.  I have seen the perfection and marveled in it on television.  Not a pine needle out of place, azaleas in bloom, greens perfect, and not a single blemish in the fairways.  It takes a lot to get the golf course there but there are also a lot of eyes on it this week.  Instantly, every golf course in the world is compared to an Augusta National Golf Club that is peaking for this one Easter Weekend.  That makes our job a little bit more difficult but pushes us to take our golf course to a new level.  We take pride in the golf course but realize that we are not Augusta National.  Enjoy the Masters, take in the perfection, but please realize the difference between Augusta National and every other golf course in America. 

Today, is the day Bud.  I know you are reading this blog post on your new IPhone or IPad 3 after receiving it via your Twitter handle, @GolfGadgetGuy.  You have asked me this question for the last 4 months.  What about carts?  Well today, Bud, we are 90 degrees.  Every hole, even # 3.  The rain tomorrow night will probably ruin your Thursday but for now, enjoy it.  We will be 90 degrees in the fairways as long as they stay dry.  With this in mind, there will be no more handicapped flags.  Fairways will be accessible to every one or no one.  
This picture illustrates why cart traffic is limited to the cart paths during the winter.  Constant traffic leads to compacted soils and damages the plant during dormancy.  This delays green up and good conditions.
So the golf course looks great.  No weeds, greens recovering well from aeration, the TifSport is green and actively growing.  The tree lines between 10 and 12 and to the left of 9 are shaping up well.  The bunker work this winter is paying off with good bunker conditions.  Carts are allowed off the path about 4 weeks early.  But there is that thing that people are whispering about, starting to worry about, including me.  The TifSport collars around the greens.  Foot and equipment traffic beat these things up every winter while the TifSport is dormant.  The process of putting green aeration is tough on them and the constant topdressing of the greens covers these areas in sand.  The biggest culprit of all is compaction and design.  The areas around the greens are tight and mowers have no where else to turn.  Our staff makes a lot of choices based on collar health including turning mowers on lattice, carpeting around greens during growth inhibitor applications, and constant solid tine aerations to reduce compaction.  We know this is a challenging issue and we are attacking it on multiple levels.  I see a lot of grass out there but some areas will have to be sodded.  We may have to change from walk mowers to triplex mowers in the winter months to prevent damage.  Some design challenges make it very difficult to vary our traffic patterns, not just from equipment but from foot traffic.  I appreciate the concerns and have had multiple people voice them.  Please, I welcome questions and concerns and I hope the next few pictures help explain the issues.  The bottom line is that most of the collars will come in fine.  They will just take longer than the rest of the golf course and some of the highest traffic areas will have to be sodded.  We are working diligently to fix this issue and improve these areas.

TifSport Collars or Aprons are carpeted to prevent chemicals used on greens from affecting turf health.  The same growth inhibitors that work well on bentgrass putting greens will have a negative affect on the TifSport.
There is a lot of green grass in these areas.  It will just take longer to come in due to compaction and traffic.
Our staff turns mowers on lattice to help reduce wear and tear in these areas.  We have experimented with where to place the lattice but large tear dropped shaped turns are the best way to reduce traffic and damage directly around greens.
You can see that the design of #9 green only allows foot traffic from behind the green or directly in front of it.

There is really only one place to turn the mowers here.  The flat 18 inches directly off the green is worn out from mower traffic.

Once again, there really isn't much room to make a wide tear drop turn, like we would like to.  Design affects maintenance and in turn, conditions.  Triplex mowers may be utilized in the winter to prevent this damage.  In the mean time, extra fertility and solid tine aerations are being utilized to improve these areas.
The picture of these great Willow Oak trees represents environmental conditions and green up.  The tree in the middle that is so green is the one in the patio.  My best guess would be that the brick in the patio and the surrounding building heat up quickly which raises soil temperatures.  This causes an earlier green up.  Other stresses such as cart path or competition may lead to a delayed green up in the other two trees.  The point is that things green up based on a number of things including stress, soil temperatures, and micro environments.

Wind Prevents Applications while Dry Weather Allows Much Needed Drainage Work

Yesterday was a fantastic Monday.  Our team had planned to spray greens and finish a herbicide application in the fescue but the wind prevented that from happening.  The wind and drying weather did allow for a lot of mowing and other work.  We mowed all of the fairways and got a dry cut on the greens.  After examining mowers this morning, I can say that the dry cut helped and we are finally starting to see a decent cut on greens following aeration.  Our equipment manager, John Anderson, has sharpened the reels on the greens mowers constantly to battle the dulling affect that the topdressing sand has on the mowers.

Our staff spent a long time on the range but the main project that was accomplished was a drainage project in #13 fairway.  The swale in the left part of the fairway about 75 yards from the green has been very wet this winter.  There are natural springs around this fairway as well as old drainage that has surfaced in this swale.  The need for drainage is obvious on certain fairways and the dry weather has allowed us to start fixing the problems.  In my mind, we have four habitual offenders that prevent cart traffic due to wet conditions.  In order of worst to best, #3, #13, #12, #4.  #3 has a myriad of issues including shade, natural springs and poor drainage design.  We have installed many, many feet of drainage in this fairway and along the cart path but a major drainage project will have to happen to fix every problem.  So we decided to start tackling the fairways that I knew we could fix.  Over the next few weeks, you should see drainage projects on #12 and #4 as well as small areas like behind #9 green.  These projects will encourage turf health and playability.  Closed Mondays allow us to complete vital projects that would not be possible during play.  This project will be wrapping up this morning and today's weather allows us to spray greens and fescue.  The fairways are really coming to life and we are excited to announce that today will be the first day of 90 degrees on the fairways.  I will be writing another blog post today about other issues but please be mindful of cart traffic, direction stakes, and on/off posts while driving in the fairways.
Edgar is trenching in the laterals off the main line.  The main line carries the water to an existing catch basin.  The area to the right has laterals on 10 foot centers while the left will have 5 foot centers based on how wet each area stays.
Our staff cleans out every trench and removes the soil.  The soil will be replaced with drainage gravel and sand.  The team is careful to remove sod and lay down plywood to keep the fairway as clean as possible.
The scope of this project is extensive but this area will definitely be dry.
Remember this small wet spot in #13 fairway?  This area is where an old drain line has surfaced and water is finding its way here.  Water is constantly running in this area due to natural springs.  We tied the old drain line into our new system.
After pipe and grave are installed, the lines are sand capped to encourage drainage.  These lines will be tamped and resodded.
This is a good picture of the entire project.  This drainage project is installed in a herring bone design to catch water running through the swale and into this catch basin.  The drainage installed during the renovation is extensive and very inclusive.  We are adding to it and improving areas as issues arise.

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