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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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.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Quick Update

I only have a minute to write this.  The greens held up great yesterday despite a recorded on-site high of 106.3.  A large system hit Richmond last night and the entire state of Virginia and the club is currently without power.  We anticipated the storm by renting a large generator that we were able to hook up to our pump system.  When it is supposed to be over 100 degrees, not having water would be devestating.  The club only received .2" of rain which was great because too much water in the greens could cause wet wilt or disease.  With the generator hooked up, we will be able to syringe greens this afternoon and hand water greens in the morning if necessary.  Today's forecasted high is now only 102.  With the power out, the fans on #1 and 15 will not be running but the fans on 11 and 13 will be.  Tee times are not being taken for this afternoon to reduce traffic on the course and prevent damage while we are short on water.  There is plenty in the quarry but we cant get a lot of it without our full power supply.)  The .2" of rain greatly helped the tees, fairways, and roughs.  This is also a safety precaution due to the fact that we cannot offer a way to cool off.  Thank you for your understanding.  Our entire team is working around the clock to protect the golf course and especially the greens. 

Stay cool,


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Bringing the Heat

The next 6 days look brutal.  The weather looks perfect for bowling or traveling north.  The current forecast is something like 102/71, 103/76, 102/76, 99/75, 97/74, and 98/73.  These numbers represent the high and low forecast from Friday June 29 - Wednesday July 4.  This is outrageous and extreme but we have been prepping for this summer all season and all week.  The putting greens were vented this week and sprayed with preventative fungicides per our normal schedule.  A protective product was applied that has a blue tint called Turf Screen.  We have used this product this year to combat high temperatures.  It is effectively a sunscreen for the turf made up of zinc and titanium oxide.  It can lower canopy temperatures by up to 8 degrees.  Because the greens were aerated and then vented, oxygen exchange and water infiltration have been excellent.  The greens have also been very soft and ball marks have been violent.  Thank you for fixing these but realize that we are protecting the plant and its roots first and foremost during this extreme weather pattern.

Sprigging finished up this week.  We have about 10,000 ft2 left to sod between 12 and 14 but this will be completed very soon.  The sprigs will take about 3 months to fully establish but our heavy rate of application will speed up the process.  Please play all of these areas including the sod around the sprigs as ground under repair.
Sprigs are spread by hand and then pegged in with the discs of an old sprigging machine.  This process is about 1/7 the price of sodding this area and will really improve these areas.
The fans on #1 and #15 will be operational today which I am very thankful for heading into this heat wave.  The temporary fan that has been on #1 will be utilized on other greens as needed and smaller fans like the one on the on deck putter will be used as well.  Our management team will be keeping a close eye on greens over the next week.  Please be patient and realize that we are working very hard to protect the greens.  We will be using the technique known as syringing to cool off the greens, not to water them.  The goal of syringing is to use water mist to reduce the ambient air temperature around the leaves of the turf and cool the plant.  When it is 100+ degrees, this is very important.  Thank you for your patience while we work hard to keep everything healthy.  

Have a great weekend and avoid the heat if at all possible,

Jordan Booth
This is my view from the Loader/Backhoe as Eric and I installed the fan on #15.
Kevin is seen here cutting the trench for the electrical components for the fan on #1.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Rain Totals or Lack Thereof and Sprigging

It has been a dry spell for the golf course with variable temperatures.  If we don't get rain today, I don't see any promising rain chances until next Sunday.  The golf course is showing signs of this mini-drought.  Areas around trees, ridges or knobs in fairways, and the fescue is all showing signs of drought stress.  You will see our staff hand watering these specific areas on tees and fairways and around trees to prevent damage to the turf and trees.  If you see a staff member hand watering or syringing greens, please do not hit your shot in their direction.  We are not trying to delay play or ruin your experience, we are protecting the turf.  The quarry is in decent shape and we are being judicious with our water.  Greens followed by fairways and then tees are the top priorities and our watering practices will be based on this priority.  

The sprig preparation will be completed today.  Trees have all been mulched and the ground has been prepared for sprigs.  Pre-emergent herbicide, fertility and soil amendments will be applied this afternoon ahead of sprigging tomorrow.   Once sprigs are installed, this area will receive a lot of water and fertility to grow in.  Even in this drought situation, our best decision is to sprig as any thunderstorm could wash away all of our prep work.  We have more than enough water to grow these sprigs in and maintain the golf course.  

This large area between 11 and 12 has been tilled, cleaned, graded and is almost ready for sprigs. 
The mulch bed installations between 10 and 12 show you what this area will look like with grass.  Irrigation components and cart path edges were sodded.   Sprigging is about 1/7 of the cost of sod per acre.  These areas should fill in over the next 8-12 weeks.
The hill to the left of #10 green has been mulched and English Ivy will be planted to provide a ground cover.  Do not hit your ball left on 10 but if you do there will be a lot more turf there by summer's end.
If you have played the golf course, you may have noticed a few blemishes or bruised turf around the greens.  Our team and the Green Committee are all aware of these areas most notably on a few edges of greens.  These are a result of the core aeration and topdressing program that took place two weeks ago.  The edges get bruised because they receive the most traffic and mechanical wear during the aeration/topdressing process.  The greens and the edges are recovering well from aeration.  We see the bruising in the spring and fall but recovery is much faster.  During the cooler months, we are able to provide more nitrogen to the plants to hasten recovery.  We simply cannot do that right now.  This heat (predicted to be near 100 on Friday and Saturday) will cause nitrogen applications to have a negative affect and burn the turf.  I actually sprayed these bruised areas this morning to aid in recovery with small amounts of a variety of nutrients.  This process, known as spoon feeding, is very safe and provides small amounts of foliar absorbed nutrients to allow the plants to recover.  We will continue to nurse these edges back to health. 

We are getting to that time of year of angst and bad memories.   We have sent in multiple samples and I sent another sample on Thursday to test for root pythium.  So far, we have seen no disease and I will hear back about this test by tomorrow.  My true belief is that the greens need to continue to heal in from the aeration process (Today marks 14 days since the greens on the bottom 9 were aerated.)  Both to heal over the holes and to heal from the mechanical traffic.  The overall benefit of this aeration will far outweigh the blemishes we are currently witnessing.  

Speaking of negative side affects, we will be applying fertilizer and pre-emergent herbicides in the next few weeks.  We have seen tire tracking with these products in the past.  When a tractor or sprayer drives over the turf, it lays those grass blades over.  This exposes more of the plant's stomata, which are on the side of the leaf blade, and increases plant uptake.  Stoma, the singular form of stomata, is Greek for "mouth."  Stomata are small openings in the plant's skin.  Each stoma is bordered by two guard cells that control the size of the opening, based on factors like atmospheric conditions and light levels.  These openings control transpiration, gas exchange during photosynthesis and foliar nutrient or chemical uptake.  In the case of some products, this can burn the tip of the plant.  Recovery is quick but I want to communicate this point before we see it.  Our TifSport is very susceptible to this problem. 

I am very excited to get this large project finished between 10 tee and 14 tees.  The long term benefit of this project will be outstanding.  It might just be me, but I have noticed a lot more repaired ball marks and filled divots.  It is wonderful to see such pride being taken in course care.  As always, I look forward to seeing you on the course.

Have a great day,

Jordan Booth

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Growth Regulators

Question:  Why do we use growth regulators on the greens if we are trying to grow grass on them?

Answer:  A growth regulator is a hormone inhibitor.  Growth retardant or regulator is a misnomer.  It restricts the giberillens (hormone that directs carbs towards the production of top growth) in the plant.  This reduces shoot or leaf growth and saves carbohydrates to be used for stress management or root growth.  We use growth regulators to control the direction of the plant growth.  In other words, the plant is still producing the same amount of growth, but with the use of growth regulators we can force the plant to put more energy in root growth and lateral growth.   This reduces the amount of leaf/vertical growth and builds an overall healthier plant.  We continue to promote growth with the use of fertility, and with the aid of the growth regulator we can encourage growth to be in the most beneficial areas (roots and laterally).  Excessive leaf growth can place additional stress on the plant and provide poor putting quality.  We use these products to encourage bentgrass over poa annua as well. 

Have a great day,

Jordan Booth

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Two Large Projects coming to an End

My time has been scarce this week and so have my posts.  We are wrapping up the install of the fans on #1 and #15 today.  Those should both be turning very soon.  The trenching and install has gone well and you will see that if you decide to challenge the heat today.  Today's forecast calls for highs near 100 so we will be on high alert to syringe if necessary.  Greens held up excellent yesterday and I expect the same thing today.  The other project that is coming to an end is the areas between 10 and 12, 11 and 12, and 12 and 14.  We have pushed off the sprigs until Tuesday due to today's extreme heat and to allow a little more prep time.  Sprigs are perishable and have to be delivered on a refrigerated truck.  I would hate to lose some of them to today's heat.  The prep will be finished between today and Monday.  You will notice the mulch bed installations and sod around the irrigation components and drop inlets.  Have a great weekend.  Temperatures look much better after tomorrow.

Jordan Booth

Reynol is tilling the area between 12 and 14 as the initial step in sprig preparation.
You can see Chuck prepping areas for mulch and Victor finishing soil prep for sod.  Fertilizer, pre-emergent herbicide, lime and gypsum will be applied prior to sprigging.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Time Lapse Video of Member Guest Setup

This video was created on Saturday morning of the Men's member guest.  It condenses about an hour of work into 1 minute so it is a little busy.  The lighting and clarity is a little poor but I will look to improve that in the future.  We have to start early from 9:30 shotguns.  What you will see is our team double cutting the 18th green, mowing the approach, raking the bunkers, mowing the fairway, rolling the green, setting the pin, and hand watering the green.  Everything is pretty straight forward but I want to explain the hand watering.  One of our managers checks every part of the green with a soil moisture meter to determine the volumetric water content of the green.  We know from experience that if we keep the greens at a certain moisture in the morning, they will not wilt in the afternoon and will be playable.  The key is to add enough water to make it through the day but not to over saturate the green.  You can always add more, taking it away is impossible.  Once he determines what needs water, he applies water to these areas and waters the TifSport collar around the green.  You can tell from this video that greens were wet due to a few .3" rains last week as he only waters the edges and the collar.  After he waters he rechecks the edges to make sure he has applied enough water.  Finding the balance of firm but not too dry is the challenge.  This week's aeration and topdressing will aid in putting green drainage and firmness this summer. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Two Productive Closed Days following Men's Member/Guest

The weather over the past week and hopefully the next 6 days has been fantastic.  Our team pushed hard last week through Men's Member Guest and even harder over the past two days.  Member Guest went very well in my opinion.  The golf course held up well and looked great.  Our team worked a split schedule from 4:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m or 10:00 a.m. and then back at night to mow out the golf course again.  Thank you to our management team and staff for all of the long, hard hours last week.  Their work was evident on the golf course.
Rough and Fairways were mowed for the second time and Greens double cut again at night to improve the finished product.  These mowers are staged and ready to roll once play finished.
The weather has been ideal over the last two days for core aeration and topdressing.  We used .40" tines to core aerate the greens and backfilled the holes.  We also prepped for sprigging and core aerated the putting green surrounds.  Earlier this spring we aerated with 5/8" or .625" tines so these holes are a bit smaller.  We expect the grass to heal over in the next 7-10 days and this process will greatly benefit the turf heading into the summer.  The pictures below best describe the process.  A big thank you to Kevin and Ryan for coming in with me at 2:00 a.m. to aerate the greens ahead of the staff's arrival at 5:00 a.m.   Our team has been pushing hard and looks forward to a few weeks without any major projects.  This summer is off to a great start and this core aeration will allow water to drain and oxygen to get to the roots.  The topdressing will also firm the greens up which will help protect them against traffic. As I write this, it is raining which will greatly benefit all turf surfaces but will also push the sand down into the aeration holes.  You will see our team cleaning up from this process and readying the greens for play over the next few days.

I have a lot to write about regarding some great questions and have a time-lapse video of tournament prep in the works.  The electricians have been here the last two days to install the electrical hook up for the fans.  I will write more about this once we start installation.  I am just getting caught up as the last week has been hectic to say the least.  Over the past 8 days, our department has hosted the Course Care event and Stan Zontek, our USGA agronomist, prepped for the Men's Member Guest and aerated greens.  Thank you to our team for a job well done.

I look forward to seeing you on the course,

Jordan Booth

You may notice the head lamp Ryan is wearing.  Aerating the greens at night allows our team to start cleanup immediately. 
Our team pushes the cores to the side of the green and picks them up.  This thatch removal will allow the greens to function properly all summer. 
Following cleanup, the greens are topdressed and soil amendments are added to be worked into the open holes.
Ruben applying dolomitic lime; a good source of calcium and magnesium.
The finished product.
The TifSport Collars were core aerated as well to relieve compaction.  The healthier that the collars are this summer, the better they will handle traffic and the colder months.

The areas between 10 and 12 and 11 and 12 and 12 and 14 were tilled to begin preparation for Sprigs.  Depending on the weather, this will be completed over the next week or so. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Course Tour

The last two days have been great.  On Monday night, the golf course was host to a course care event.  The event had a great turnout despite the rain of over 50 members.  The event detailed bunker care and etiquette, divot care and etiquette and putting green etiquette.  We also toured our golf course maintenance facility and had dinner at the clubhouse.  The night ended with a great overview of our department and questions and answers with Eric Frazier, our Director of Agronomy.  Overall I am very thankful for the turnout and very encouraged by the great support and questions that came up during the event.  We will be looking to host another one of these programs in the future.  Many thanks go out to the course care committee of Joe O'Hare, Paul Sinclair and Lee Parker for planning and marketing. I also have to thank Kevin Mark, Lead Assistant Golf Course Superintendent and John Anderson, Equipment Manager for helping with the tour.  John will mark his 26th anniversary of employment at the club on June 30th.  Thank you John and Kevin for all you do.
Key Points of Bunker Etiquette:  Enter and Exit at lowest/safest point of bunker.  Rake your footprints and any disruptions with the provided rakes and place them outside of the bunker, parallel to the hole when finished.  Knock the sand off of your shoes when finished to avoid tracking it onto the green.  
You can fill a lot of divots when you have 50+ people walking the fairways.  Filling divots is simple and the only thing to do is to fill the divot with the provided sand and smooth the area with your foot or club.  Overfilling divots can damage mowers and waste sand.  Other teeing ground and green etiquette would be to fill your divots plus one and to fix ball marks plus one.  Throw your broken tees into the taller rough where the large rotary mowers can easily chop them up.  The smaller reel mowers used on tees can be damaged by these broken tees.  Please pick your feet up and avoid twisting with the spikes on your cleats when on the putting surface.  Great event and turnout.

Tomorrow marks the beginning of Men's Member Guest with a practice round.  The tournament will be on Friday and Saturday.  Thank you to our team for putting in long hours to get the golf course in shape this spring.  Countless projects have been accomplished this spring and the sprigging between 10/12, 11/12 and 12/14 will be finished next week.  I am very excited to have these projects finished and to have turf from 10 tee to 14 tee.  Our team will be aerating greens on Monday and Tuesday.  This disruption will be a necessary practice to help the greens this summer.  Fans will also be installed on #1 and #15.  The portable fan will be moved around as needed and the fan will be installed on #4 once we can get power to that green.  These three projects next week will really wrap up our projects for a while.  The last two projects on our list this year will be finishing the water cooler stations and grassing the area to the left of #9.  Thank you for all of the support this spring and we are ready for a great summer of golf.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Tournament Prep

The golf course has been busy and so has our team.  We are in full preparation mode for next week's Men's Member Guest tournament.  On top of that, we are excited about our course care walk on Monday and our USGA Agronomist Visit on Tuesday.  If you haven't signed up for the event on Monday, it is not too late.  Just let me know by Sunday night. We will start on Monday at 5:30 p.m. at the Pro Shop.  The walk will be focused on the care and etiquette of the golf course from the teeing ground, a bunker, and a putting green.  Divots will be filled during the walk but will not be the main focus.  Overall course care will be the focus as well as fellowship and education.  The event will conclude with a tour of the golf course maintenance facility and dinner on the patio. I am excited to say that over 50 people have already signed up.  Details are located here
Stan Zontek, our USGA agronomist will be on sight Tuesday night into Wednesday morning.  We will be meeting with Stan to discuss agronomic practices, turf health, and the golf course as a whole.  His wealth of knowledge and over 40 years of experience are certainly a great help.  It will be great to have him here during tournament prep as he has set up for dozens of US. Opens and countless USGA events.

Those two large events coupled with five shotgun starts next week makes me question my planning but it will all be successful and fun.  The project behind and to the left of #11 green will be completed on Tuesday.  I know that this is a lot of work right around Member/Guest but we are really pushing to finish up the sod portion of the project.  The following Wednesday, June 13, our team will be sprigging the remaining areas between 10 and 12, 11 and 12, and 12 and 14.  Sprigging will create a great stand of turf and is very economical but will take 6-8 weeks to establish.  For this reason, we are trying to accomplish all of this as early as possible.  The longer that the sprigs and sod are on the ground during the growing season (May - September) the healthier stand of turf we will have. 

I received a great question concerning the decision to mow our greens in the winter months with a riding greens mower.  The decision was made to reduce damage to the bermudagrass collars during dormancy.  This is my response to the question.  Thank you for the question and I will continue to try and answer them as they come in.

1      (Q) In the below newsletter, you mention going to triplex mowers during the dormant season. I would think it would be more damaging to the collars since you have very limited space to turn around. Could you please elaborate. 

(A)  The triplex mowers are obviously on tires and these tires will impact far less of the collar than the roller and drive drum on the walk mowers.  We will have to walk mow the cleanups passes and be very careful with mowing directions due to limited space.  This was never an option in the past as the triplexes provided an inferior quality of cut.  The new machines have floating cutting units just like the walk mowers and will work very well.

I know that you know what the machines look like but the attached photos show the rear drive roller or drum of the walk mower vs. the triplex.  This drum and the drive unit and the turning of the walk mower is what causes the damage.  The cutting units of the triplex are obviously raised when the triplex is off of the green so the only thing that is impacting the collar is the tires.  These tires really provide very little damage.  We will have to approach a few greens with great caution (#9) because of design but it should be a great improvement.

*BIG REMINDER:  The golf course will be closed on June 11 and 12 for putting green core aeration.  This process will greatly help the greens survive the stresses of summer.  This will be a disruption to the playing surface but will pay huge dividends for turf health.  These two days will also be dedicated to the installation of fans on the golf course.  Dominion Power was here today to install a pole to the left of #3 for power.  Power will be installed and then an electrician will help us get power to the fans.  Fans will be installed on #1 and #15 on those two days.  These two closed days will be great for sprig prep and to wrap up a few large fertility and pre-emergent herbicide applications to fairways.

The golf course continues to improve.  I am excited that by the end of June, the areas between 10 and 12, 11 and 12, and 12, and 14 tees will be grassed and growing in.  Thank you for your patience while we are making these improvements.  The final large project of the year will be to grass the area to the left of the cart path on #9.  We will be delaying this project until July to give the budget a little break.  The weather has allowed us to complete a lot of great work but we need to be mindful of our fiscal responsibilities.  I will be excited to maintain the golf course for a while. 

Have a great weekend,

Jordan Booth

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