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.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Game of Practice

The weather has been beautiful and the golf course has been packed.  The course is holding in well despite the extra traffic.  We are on pace to have about 30,000 rounds this year.  That is about 25% more than normal.  I have noticed more ball marks being fixed and definitely more filled divots.  That is apparent by the amount of empty sand bottles at #6 tee box.  Please remember to fill divots on tees where sand is provided.  The one place that is wearing out very quickly is the driving range.  The range  has stayed busy throughout the warm winter and is in need of a break.  It will not get one.  We are aggressively topdressing and fertilizing to heal in but the recovery takes time.  The best way to aid in recovery is to practice correctly.  I understand why the range is so widely used.  1.  Willow Oaks is a difficult test of golf; Practice is necessary.  2.  This game is becoming one of practice;  Time is an asset that we don't have enough of.  3.  Willow Oaks and its driving range is in a great location.  It is convenient to home and work.  With that being said, proper practice will lead to better range conditions.  This article, 'Preferred Practice Technique to Maximize Turf Recovery',  that I wrote last year has a great video describing the proper way to practice.  Please do your part to care for the range and the golf course.  Please remember to RSVP for the course care event on June 4 if you plan on attending.

The golf course is growing well and we are working hard to keep up with growth.  Moisture management is essential during the hot times of year and you will see myself and the management team syringing greens in the afternoon.  This vital agronomic practice is utilized to reduce plant-tissue temperatures or other stresses such as wind, low humidity or drought.  We keep the greens dry when we can control the water to prevent disease and improve conditions.  The drier the green, the more likely the need for syringing.  We are not trying to apply water in the afternoon, we are simply cooling the surface.  We understand the inconvenience but please work with us to keep the greens healthy.  Thank you for your patience.

Happy Memorial Day.  Remember that we are open on Monday for the Holiday and closed on Tuesday for course maintenance.  The range will open at noon on Tuesday.  Take this day to practice (correctly) and take a lesson.  Our golf professional staff led by Richard White is always available to help.

Have a great holiday,

Jordan Booth

This is the bunch pattern.  The golfer's intent here is good.  He/she is trying to minimize their area of disturbance.  The turf recovers laterally.  If you think about it, it will take a long time to recover all the way over to the center of this mass of divots.  This incorrect practice technique delays turf recovery.
This is the scattered pattern.  The main problem with it is that it takes up the largest amount of space.  The scattered pattern turns into the bunch pattern with enough use.  This type of incorrect practice is the worst technique and the one that I see the most.
This is the look of a proper practice technique.  Each ball has been placed directly behind the last divot.  This creates a straight line of divot and impacts the smallest area.  The turf will quickly grow laterally over this divot and will lead to the fastest driving range recovery.  Please use this technique.  Deliberate practice will benefit your game as well.

Friday, May 25, 2012

USGA Update and Course Care Reminder

This is a regional update from the USGA.  I think it is a great way to get young people excited about the game and to teach course care.  Please be mindful of these course care techniques when playing the golf course.  Filling divots, raking bunkers, fixing ball marks (properly), being mindful of your cleats impact on the putting surface are all part of the game.  Here is a great article about course care.  Please remember to mark your calendar for Monday, June 4 from 5:30 - 8:00 p.m. for a course care social event.  We will be filling divots, touring the golf course maintenance shop and enjoying dinner together.  RSVP to

Thanks and have a great weekend,

Jordan Booth

Replace, Repair And Rake

By Keith Happ, senior agronomist, Mid-Atlantic Region
May 22, 2012

Greater Pittsburgh Golf Course Superintendents (GPGCSA) Take the Time To Provide Education On Course Care To Junior Golfers.
Saturday, May 5 was designated as Junior Golf Weekend at the Bob O’ Connor Golf Course in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The course is situated in the heart of Pittsburgh and is the home of the First Tee of Pittsburgh (FTP), one of the largest First Tee chapters in the country. The First Tee theme for the day was “Responsibility” which is one of the core values the First Tee program. The mission of the First Tee is to impact the lives of young people by providing educational programs that build character, instill life-enhancing values and promote healthy choices through the game of golf. The Greater Pittsburgh Golf Course Superintendents Association partnered with the FTP to provide education on course care with focus on proper course etiquette and respect for the course while playing the game. The “Replace, Repair and Rake” theme provided an opportunity to instruct on proper divot replacement, ball mark repair and raking of bunker sand. The First Tee participants learned that as golfers, they have a responsibility to the course and to others that enjoy the game. Also, while many of the participants were unfamiliar with the activities of the golf course superintendent by the end of the session all participants had a better idea of what the superintendent does and how they are involved with golf course preparation and presentation.
The superintendents set up stations that provided a hands-on opportunity to learn how to properly care for the course. Each participant received a ball mark repair tool and was instructed how to use it properly. They also learned that replacing your divot immediately after taking a shot will help the turf will heal more rapidly, which helps maintain playing quality for everyone. Sand bottles were available so they could add a mix consisting of sand and peat moss to the divoted area. The next stop was a temporary bunker. Since many had never played from a bunker every participant got a chance to try their luck with a sand shot. The superintendents then demonstrated the proper raking techniques including where to position the rake after the job was finished.
There were 80 junior golfers present for a day of instruction and fun. The golf course superintendents were pleased that these eager, young golfers responded well to instruction and were willing to care for the course and leave it in better condition than they found it!
Always remember that the agronomists of the Mid-Atlantic Region are part of your agronomic support team. If you have a question of concern, especially now, give us a call or send an email. Stan Zontek, ( or Darin Bevard ( at 610-558-9066 or Keith Happ at ( at 412-341-5922.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Mark Your Calendar: Monday June 4, 2012

The Course Care Committee and the Golf Course Maintenance Department cordially invite you to a Golf Course Walk and Open House.
June 4, 2012:  5:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
We will be walking the top 9 holes of the golf course to fill divots, review course care and talk turf.  The walk will be concluded with an open house tour of the golf course maintenance facility and dinner.  Beer, soft drinks, bottled water and dinner provided.  Sign for drinks at dinner.

Please RSVP to Jordan Booth at if you plan on attending.

See you on the Golf Course,

Course Care Committee
Joe O'Hare
Lee Parker
Paul Sinclair
Richard White
Eric Frazier
Jordan Booth

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Air Movement and Fan Video

This video was taken this morning, Wednesday, May 16 at about 9:00 a.m.  The device used in the video is a Kestrel 3000 Pocket Weather Meter.  The device is about 4.5 inches tall and is accurate within 3%.  The device was propped up and was measuring wind speed 4.5 inches off the ground.  It would be logical to assume that the lower this measurement was taken, the lower the wind speed.  The Kestrel 3000 was located in the swale that runs through the middle of this green.  Air movement is vital for disease prevention and turf health.  Temperatures are higher in areas with poor air movement which make it very difficult for turf to function properly.  The prevailing wind at Willow Oaks is out of the southwest.  The trees behind #1 green are located due west of this green.  This greatly prevents air movement.  Air movement is hampered ever more severely in the swale that runs through the middle of this green.  I shot the video from the swale to show the affect of the fan on the worst part of the green.  We are working to improve drainage in this swale and air movement.  The fan that is currently on #1 is temporary and gas powered.  The permanent fan that will be installed on #1 will be electrical.  This green will benefit greatly from this fan. Please enjoy the video and I hope that it helps you understand how the fan works and why the turf on #1 green has struggled in the past.  It really helped prove to me that the fans would be effective.

I hope you enjoy this,


Kestrel 3000 Pocket Weather Meter

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Fans, Collars, and Golf Course Projects

If you have played the golf course since Tuesday afternoon, you have noticed the large, gas powered fan mounted on a trailer behind #1 Green.  This fan will be used all over the golf course as necessary.  It is being used on #1 because that is perennially, our weakest green and receives poor air movement. It is currently in use while we wait on approval from the city inspector for electrical permitting.  Once this is approved, the permanent fans will be installed on holes 1, 4, and 15.  This large, portable fan will be used as needed.  This fan is louder than the electric fans but very similar in size.  There is a small, electric fan at the on deck putting green.  This fan is much smaller than the ones on the golf course but so is that green.

The collars have been sodded and we are aggressively growing them in.  The sod on holes 9-18 has been mowed and fertilized twice.  The sod on 1-8 was just installed last Monday and has been fertilized once.  The sod will knit in quickly and provide a better playing surface directly around greens. 

As always, we are busy with many course projects.  The area to the right of #14 was prepped for sod today as was the tree line to the left of #10 fairway.  Both of these areas will be sodded tomorrow.  The staff has started the install of the hardscaping around the water coolers and ballwashers.  This will take some time and will be accomplished between other large projects.  We dodged most of the rainstorms yesterday and the golf course is really quite dry.  If we continue to dodge the rain, the course will be very enjoyable this weekend.
The cooler stations will vary in size, depending on location but this one on 13 will be 6'x8'.  Sal and Victor are excavating down 8 inches to establish a base of gravel.  This will be tamped and leveled and the hardscaping will be installed on top.

Edgar, Ergidio, and Rene prepping for sod to the right of #14 fairway.  This is a much needed improvement.

Edgar and Ruben prepping for sod to the left of #10 fairway.  The majority of the sod along #10 will be completed tomorrow.  Please play the entire area between the cartpath on 12 and the fairway on 10 Ground Under Repair.

Have a great day,


Friday, May 11, 2012

Course Drying very Well

The course is drying out very well following Wednesday afternoon's 1.5" of rain.  The golf course has drained extremely well and the new drainage on 4, 9, 12, and 13 is paying great dividends.  Last year's drainage projects on #1, 3, 7, 9, 12, 14, and 16 are still working very well.  It is safe to say that we would not have been dry enough to mow or drive carts off of the path without the renovation to the golf course and this additional drainage.  Today we are able to mow out the entire golf course and all of the fairways will be 90 degrees except for #3.  We still have a large drainage project scheduled on #4 this year and then we will shift the majority of our drainage focus to #3.  Natural springs and shade hamper drainage on this hole but we will continue to install drainage until we get it right.

I apologize for the appearance of the bunkers yesterday.  We had a few small washouts and took the opportunity while the sand was off of the lips to edge bunkers and push mow bunker surrounds.  That process is being finished today and bunkers are being mechanically raked and then hand raked to prepare them for play.

Have a great weekend,

This labor intensive process is the best way to prepare our bunker edges and surrounds for play.

The rain washed the sand off of the lips which allowed us to get a great edge on the bunkers.  The rain also prevented mowing on Thursday so this was the perfect job for the staff.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Irrigation Audit, More Sod Work and a Ton of Mowing

Like every week, Monday and Tuesday have been very busy. Monday was our last closed day for maintenance until the day after Memorial day so we wanted to take advantage. The poor areas around greens 1-8 were sodded on Monday and greens were lightly topdressed. Greens also received soil amendments including Phosphorus, Potassium, Magnesium, and Calcium based on soil tests. Yesterday greens were sprayed with a growth regulator which will help reduce top growth and encourage root growth.  This is a typical practice and will help with overall plant health.  Included with the growth regulator was a plant protectant that has a green/blue appearance.  This gives the greens a bit of an unusual 'blue' appearance but after this morning's mow, the greens are back to their normal green color.
This is a picture of sod prep on Monday.  The poor areas are stripped of the old turf.  The areas are then cut down, tilled and re-leveled with fresh topsoil.  Organic fertilizer is applied to the soil and the area is ready for sod.
On Monday, we also performed an irrigation audit of the greens.  Catch cups were placed in a grid across the green and measurements were taken between sprinkler heads to measure how much water was being applied in a given amount of time.  This irrigation audit will provide information and allow us to make any necessary adjustments.  Irrigation is mainly used to water in soil amendments on putting greens. 
The team from Smith Turf and Irrigation was on hand to perform the Irrigation Audit.
Greens irrigation is inherently inefficient due to head spacing and wind.  Sprinkler heads have to surround the green and cannot be properly spaced due to the unusual shape of putting greens.  This is the main reason that hand water greens.  We need to control the root zone moisture in site specific areas.  Hand watering is based on soil moisture content.  This is measured using soil moisture meters which give us volumetric water content % of a given area.  We then use this information to determine if the green needs to be hand watered and where.  This allows for the most control during morning hand watering.  Our goal is to apply enough water to the root zone for the plant to be able to survive the day while keeping the surface firm.  This is a delicate balance which requires a lot of detailed measurements and application of water. 
Soil moisture metes give us vital information used during hand watering.  You can always add but it is difficult to quickly reduce soil moisture.   Proper measurement and informed decisions allow us to apply the right amount of water.
Afternoon syringing allows us to cool the leaf surface of the plant and prevent wilt.  This process is one of the few management tools we have to cool the plant during heat stress.  The goal of syringing is not to apply water to the root zone but to cool the plant and prevent damage to the turf.  To opponents of hand watering and syringing:  Believe me, if we did not have to perform these duties, we would not.  It is very labor intensive and the disruption to play is not something that we enjoy.  If you see me or the staff syringing in the afternoon, please wait to hit shots into the greens.  We are not trying to ruin your round.  We are not applying water, we are cooling the surface to prevent turf damage from heat stress.

Warmer weather is here and with it, a lot of mowing.  Rough is being mowed as we speak and we have already mowed tees, approaches, and fairways twice this week.  The staff is mowing the back nine holes again today.  Fescue has been mowed once and we will start on that again tomorrow.  Processes like mowing, edging cart path, edging bunkers and edging sprinkler heads are good for the course but causes a labor drain on our department.  We are staffed for this but will be getting into maintenance mode earlier than normal this year.  Projects will be restricted to closed days and slower times of the year.  Our biggest project, renovating the tree line between 10 and 12, is still on schedule.  Irrigation and some sod have been installed and grading, drainage, and sod is on schedule for completion by the end of May.  Sprigging in this area will take place during the closed days of June 11 and 12.  We are in the midst of the warmest Spring on record and the golf course shows it.  We were able to do a lot of projects in April that normally would have to wait until May or June.  Rounds are up and we are about 3 weeks ahead of schedule with green up and growth on the course.  I look forward to seeing you on the course.  USA Today: 2012 is USA's warmest year on record, so far.

Have a great day,


Friday, May 4, 2012

Green Speeds, Tee Markers, Virginia Tech Research and #12 Drainage

Yesterday's blog post sparked some real concerns about greens.  For this, I apologize.  We are all concerned about greens for the same reason.  We care about the golf course and we know that we cannot suffer the same results as last year.  But this year, we should be proud of the greens.  They are in great shape.  Stan, our USGA agronomist has been by and says we should be very pleased.  Our roots are good.  Just yesterday, the turf pathologist from Virginia Tech was on site to prepare for research trials this summer.  He has looked at samples from all over the golf course and our greens.  He has seen zero disease and is impressed with the progress.  The message from Stan and Virginia Tech is the one that I was trying to convey yesterday.  We need to be conservative this year.  Turf health is the number one priority.  Green speed will come and firm, fast greens have been the trend this spring.  When we have heavy rainfall and heat, we will be conservative. 

Speaking of pride, we should be proud of the entire golf course right now.  Outside of the collars, which are bouncing back well, the turf looks great.  Greens are growing a little too well (slow) but tees, fairways and approaches are hands-down the best they have ever been in May, maybe ever.  The bunkers are good, maybe a little firm, but good.  This sand is designed to be firm.  This helps prevent fried egg lies.  The only real eyesore that I see out there right now are the tee markers.

Over the past few year, the tees have not weathered well and the colors are difficult to see from any distance.  This week, in an effort to improve the visibility of the tees and to prolong the life of the tee markers, the centers were painted.  This has proven to be an unpopular decision but will only be temporary.  The tees need to be replaced.  Painting them was a temporary solution to get us through the season.  We are exploring other options and you will see some old markers on the course in the time being. 

Dave McCall, the turf pathologist at Virginia Tech was here yesterday to scout out some areas for turf research.  With the issues last year, Dave has agreed to be on site more often to evaluate the greens.  While he is here, he will be doing some research on fans and their affects on putting green health.  Dave mapped the greens where fans will be installed this year with GPS.  He also drove over the greens to test color, photosynthesis rates, and turf quality.  He will see how fans affect this throughout the growing season.  This will be a great working relationship and we look forward to Dave being on site.  Fan installations are contingent on the city approving our electrical plans.
The most recent drainage project was finished today on #12.  This area has stayed wet and turf quality was compromised in years past.  The staff worked very hard and the quality and speed of this project was good. 

I wanted to address these issues before I left for the day.

Have a great weekend,


Dave McCall, the turf pathologist at VT, mapping #4 green.
Another picture of Dave GPS mapping the green.  You can see geese flying in the background.  My black lab, Ginny was working that afternoon as well.
The sod is stripped and saved.  This same turf will go back when we are finished.
Irrigation is located and the trench is cut for pipe to be installed.  The pipe will carry water to the drop inlet and the existing drainage.  The trench will consist of gravel, pipe, more gravel and then sand.  These porous materials help water find its way into the pipe.  The trench is tamped and leveled and then the sod is replaced.
It is important to measure and shoot grade multiple times before we install the pipe.  If the water does not drain we will have to be back in this area.
Once the trench is tamped and leveled, the sod goes back for a good finished product.  This area will heal over quickly and help us provide firm, dry conditions.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Busy, Busy Week of Projects and Maintenance

Spring is here and with it, a very busy schedule.  I have been consumed with work and scheduling and have not posted lately.  This post will provide a quick insight into the last week or so.
Last Saturday was the 'Meet me at The Rock' event.  I hope everyone who played received a new ball mark repair tool.  We appreciate the initiative the golf committee has taken in course care and member education.  I enjoyed reconnecting and meeting many of you on Saturday.  Monday was a Mid-Atlantic PGA tournament here at the club.  Some of the best club pros in the region played and competed and our very own Richard White and Patrick Hawkins won the event with a best ball 65.  Congratulations.  So between prepping for those two events and sodding collars 9-18, we have been busy.  The remaining poor areas in collars will be stripped and sodded on Monday, May 7.  We have also taken the opportunity to finish the fescue conversion on the inside of the cart path on #9.  There is also a large project going on on the driving range to construct a new entrance path to the parking areas behind the back range tee and a lot of drainage being installed on #10 and 12.
Two other things that I need to discuss.  First, I would like to apologize to the gentleman who was on the driving range green this morning when the sprinkler heads came on.  This was an error when a command was being keyed into the system.  I apologize and I tried to get up there but you were already gone.
The other is greens speed.  We are currently growing grass like crazy.  It is in an effort to be as healthy as possible.  The greens have received a huge amount of play and this is starting to show on a few practice putting greens.  These greens will be closed for one week at a time beginning on Monday.  This is a practice that the green committee has approved and has been in place in for two years now.  We have limited practice green space and we need to protect these areas.  The greens on the golf course are slower and softer than we have been used to this spring.  First off, we are being very conservative due to the issues last year.  We have a lot of young grass out there and need to be focused on turf health.  Second, we have been wet.  In the last two weeks, we have received over 3.5" of rain.  This causes us to spray fungicides which have to be watered in and the cycle continues.  Our number one concern right now is turf health and with higher temperatures right around the corner, we have to be conservative with mowing and rolling.  This leads to slower speeds.  I know this is not as fun but slow greens are better than poor turf.  Wet conditions have also slowed our mowing efforts but as of today all tees, fairways, and approaches have been mowed and the golf course is really starting to take shape.  Please be patient with green speeds and continue to enjoy the golf course. 

Thanks and have a great weekend,

Jordan Booth

Sod that was left over from the collars project has been utilized on #9.  This completes the fescue conversion down the cartpath.  We ran out of sod at the end but this will be completed on Monday.  Our next area of conversion is down the cartpath on #14.

5-3-0, an organic slow release fertilizer has been drop spread around the greens to provide a safe, slow release of Nitrogen to the collars.  The dark color also attracts heat and in turn helps with green up. 
This is the very beginning of a drainage project on #12.  The sod has to be removed before any work can begin.  This is part of the ongoing project between 10 and 12.  Sod continues to move down both sides of that tree line.
This project is renovating the cart parking area for the range tees.  Carts now have one entrance and exit point and this area will be more aesthetic.  Space is limited around the range so please park in this area to avoid traffic congestion or injury.  This project is far from finished but you can start to see the idea. 
Another picture of the range path project.  The fence has been removed and the mulch areas along the road have been grassed.  These areas will be partitioned off with ropes and stakes.

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