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.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

River Update

The golf course received just over 2.5" on Friday and is really in pretty good shape as of 6:00 a.m. Saturday morning.  The bunkers will need to be repaired and players should expect the course to be saturated for the next few days.  Our team is already hard at work to get the course back together for play.  The entire course is passable with only minimal interior flooding.  As the course drains, this could get worse but as of right now, all cart paths and bridges are passable.

The newest river forecast is very promising as well.  As of last night, the river was forecast to reach 17 feet which is well about our banks.  This morning, forecasts have changed for the better and the river looks to crest at 10.3 feet, well under the banks here at Willow Oaks.  We were prepared for the worst but seem to have made it through rather unscathed.  I look forward to a beautiful October.

Have a great weekend,

Jordan Booth, CGCS

The latest river forecast projects the river to crest at only 10.3 feet.  Rain is still falling west of Richmond.  In our experiences, these forecasts are most reliable once the rain has stopped falling.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Weather Forecasts

In the last week, the course has received 3.25" of rain as of 10:30 a.m. Friday, October 2.  Between 1-4" is currently forecast to fall on the course over the next 72 hours.  To say the least, the course is very saturated.  Precautions have been put into place to protect as many physical course assets as possible.  Power has been turned off, irrigation components secured, golf course amenities removed and even the fan on #7 has been brought in.  During the flood of January 2010, the river rose to 18.10' and the seventh green complex was under water.  The current forecast and most up to date, projects the river to crest near 17 feet on Sunday.  To put things in perspective, during the flood of 2010, holes 3-8 and 15-17 were all covered in water to some degree and 18 bunkers had to be renovated.   

The course begins to take on water around 15 feet.  That threshold is expected to be breached late Saturday.  Our team is doing everything we can to protect the course and the club's assets but we cannot keep the river within its banks.  If the course does flood, we will keep the membership up to date on damage and begin work as soon as possible to get back to normal.  In the meantime, our team will be assessing the golf course Saturday morning and we hope to mow greens and begin bunker repairs. 

The good news is that Hurricane Joaquin is projected to stay off shore with minimal impact to Richmond.  Please stay safe this weekend.

Jordan Booth, CGCS

This graph is from 10:30 a.m. on Friday, October 2.  We begin to take on water at 15 feet.  The most up to date forecast can be found here:

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Course Update

Welcome to the first day of fall.  The weather has certainly changed and the golf course is very happy minus the need for a little rain.  Greens are recovering nicely following fall aeration.  Every green is in a little micro-environment and so every green is at a little different point of recovery.  Holes are healing over well and a good rain would really help at this point.  We are applying very small amounts of fertilizer every 4 days to promote quick and healthy recovery.  This method, know as 'spoon feeding', provides nutrients in small doses on small intervals to always give the plants what they need.  While core aeration is ugly and never fun to play on, the long term benefits are very important.

Since we cannot always count on rain for the turf, our golf course is equipped with a very complete irrigation system powered by two large horsepower pumps and one small pump used to maintain pressure.  On top of needing rain, one of our main irrigation pump motors has failed.  This pump was removed yesterday for repair.  A new pump will be going in shortly, but in the meantime, we are pumping water at half capacity.  With lack of rain and one pump, our team has been hard at work to keep all surfaces watered and healthy.  Please do your best rain dance and hope for the forecast rain this weekend.

This is the time of year to make our preventative applications for Spring Dead Spot.  Our team is using some newer chemistry to help prevent this disruptive spring disease.  We are trying one new product on the front nine tee and green complexes and another new product on the back nine tee and green complexes.  These new products are targeted at green and tee complexes due to the severity of spring dead spot in these areas.  The new products are more expensive so we want to know if the results justify the added expense.  We are still using our conventional, affordable products on fairways and adjoining roughs.  We hope to see differences that will help us make decisions moving forward.

On top of our in house testing, Virginia Tech is continuing research on holes 12 and 18 to compare spring dead spot control options.  The plots on the twelfth hole compare different chemical applications labeled for spring dead spot control.   The plots on the eighteenth hole compare different fertilizer options and timing that will aid in bermudagrass health, fall color, and spring green up.  These plots are very safe and please play from them.  The researchers at VT need 'real world' turf to research control options and we need their results to make informed decisions.  

As we head into the winter, our top 3 concerns are putting green health, collar health and spring dead spot control.  Working with Virginia Tech provides a great amount of information that we use and other courses around our region can put into use.  Currently, VT is researching fan productivity, spring dead spot control, cultural practices on collars, and fall fertility practices here at Willow Oaks.
You will see these lines and dots marking out a grid of research plots on holes 12 and 18.  You may have also seen work being performed with the fans this year.  All of this research is beneficial to both Willow Oaks and the golf course industry.  Please play out of these plots as if they were any other fairway. 
 Our team has a lot of other projects going on as we prepare the course for play and for winter.  Our team has been busy compacting and smoothing bunkers.  Bunkers require continual maintenance and this is a typical practice year round to maintain firm, playable bunkers.  Our team will also begin cutting tall grasses and plants around the ponds and in natural areas.  This is an annual maintenance practice to keep these areas from getting out of control.  If left to their own devices, natural areas would reforest and restrict views and play.  Overall, the course is playing well and healing over from aeration.  We continue to push for great conditioning and October is always the best month for conditions and weather in my opinion.  As a reminder, fall is the best time of year for proper fertilizer applications, aeration and seeding of tall fescue lawns in Richmond, Virginia.  Take care of your lawn and enjoy the golf course before it gets too cold.

Have a great weekend,

Jordan Booth, CGCS

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Fielding a few questions from the Golf Course

Q:  Why is the golf course closed tomorrow afternoon (Friday, August 21)?

A:  Willow Oaks is hosting a very special event tomorrow, a fundraising golf tournament for the Wounded Warrior Family Support organization.  Many members are participating in the event and we are proud of the very full field.  The tournament and accompanying events will raise 10's of thousands of dollars for Wounded Warrior Family Support.  I encourage everyone to visit the Wounded Warrior Family Support website to learn more about the fantastic programs in place to support the families of those who have been wounded, injured, or killed during combat operations.  Willow Oaks' commitment to this tournament is just one example of the club's core values and showing of enormous gratitude for our active and veteran military heroes. 

Q:  What are the nickel sized holes in the greens?

A:  These holes are the result of taking soil sample cores.  These cores are combined to give us a sample representation of every green's soil.  These samples are then sent to a laboratory to let us know the current nutrient levels in the soil.  Taking samples of every green allows us to supplement fertility on a green by green basis to give every individual green exactly what it needs.  Larger samples are also sent in to give us more comprehensive information about the physical properties of the soil to help us plan cultural practices such as core aeration.  We perform these sampling practices twice a year and as needed to give the greens the best possible growing conditions.

Q:  Why do I see lines on the greens?

A:  These lines are a result of a practice called vertical mowing or verticutting.  We usually perform this practice 6-8 times throughout the year as weather allows.  Verticutting promotes a healthy putting surface through thatch removal and cutting lateral growth.  This also helps promote a truer ball roll and prevents against the build up of grain on the putting surfaces.

Verticutting removes excess material from the greens and helps thin the canopy to promote a healthy growing environment and better playing surface.

Q:  Why are carts restricted to the path?

A:  Carts may be restricted to the path for a number of reasons but this time of year it is typically due to wet soil conditions.  We have seen limited restrictions this year but have needed to keep carts on the path a few days to protect the golf course from tire tracking and rutting.  Our team still has to work in wet conditions.  Mowing of greens and tees may be possible when the fairways are too wet to drive on due to the fact that our greens and tees are built with sandy soils.  These soils drain much faster than the native soils under our fairways.  Our staff may need to try and mow fairways and roughs when carts are restricted if more rain is forecast.  Overall, we try and make the best decision for the golf course when restricting traffic and our goal is to get carts back on fairways as soon as possible.

Q:  When do we aerate greens this fall?

A:  The course will be closed for putting green aeration Tuesday, September 8 - Thursday, September 10.   The aeration performed during these three days is the only aeration programs planned for this fall.  We expect full recovery in 14-18 days.  More information on putting green aeration can be found under Agronomic Practices.

 Thank you for the questions and we look forward to seeing you on the course,

Jordan Booth, CGCS

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Another Year in the Books

Yesterday marked the 29th anniversary for John Anderson, Equipment Manager, here at Willow Oaks.  John's first day was June 30, 1986.  Over the last 29 years, John has been an integral part of the team here at Willow Oaks and it would be impossible for our department to function without him.  His professionalism, concern for quality, and dependability are unmatched and he never ceases to amaze me with his commitment to his craft.  
In our local golf course community, John has been instrumental in championing continuing education for Equipment Managers and their staff.  For the last few years, John has hosted an annual continuing education event here at Willow Oaks with varying topics on golf course equipment management and maintenance.  We are very proud of his leadership in the industry and thank him for everything he has done and continues to do for Willow Oaks. 
John (left) pictured here with our Asst. Equipment Manager, Rene.  These two make sure that every piece of equipment on property are running at peak efficiency and quality.

John sharpens, adjusts, and maintains every cutting unit daily.  This is tedious and precise work.  Thank you John for your 29 years of service at Willow Oaks.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Three Notes

I haven't updated the blog in two months and now I have twice in two days.  I had three other thoughts from my observations etc around the course.  As I am writing this, the golf course is receiving a nice rain fall.  We need it.  The staff was able to mow greens, tees and fairways ahead of the rain this morning.  We also applied soil amendments to greens and tees just ahead of the rain.  It is a great benefit to do this prior to rain so that we don't have to water these products in at a later time.

Dolomitic Lime (Calcium and Magnesium) being applied to tees.  This product provides necessary soil nutrients and increases pH which allows for better uptake of nutrients by the turf.

1.  Please don't turn fans off when you are playing.  Fans give the turf a great advantage and help us provide great putting conditions in our hot/humid region.  When the air temperature and humidity is low, we turn the fans off.  Fans are considered a temporary immovable obstruction (TIO) in the rules of golf giving the player relief from stance, swing or line of sight (line of play.)  If the physical fan is in your way at all, please take a drop from the closest point of relief, no closer to the hole.  Permanent immovable obstructions only allow for relief from stance or swing.  Use the rules to your advantage.

    a.  If you absolutely feel like you need to turn the fans off to play the game due to the wind that they are producing, please turn them back on.  When controlling fans, please use the black switch.  The red switch would be comparable to switching off a breaker in your house while the black switch would be like a light switch.  The black switch is much easier on the fan's motor.

2.  You will observe turf discoloration in the shape of tire tracks around greens, especially in the rough.  This happens after an application that we just made to prevent summer weeds.  Tires lay the turf over and make it more susceptible to discoloration from the preventative weed application.  This will go away in the next 7-10 days.

This really shows where the mowers turned prior to the application.  Tire tracks lay the turf down and expose the entire side of the blade of grass to the preventative weed application.  Discoloration will be evident but will cause no long term damage.
3.  Please do not drive through the fine fescue areas.  Cart traffic is directed around the course through the black and white "on/off posts."  Please observe these posts and proper golf course etiquette when driving golf carts.  Drainage installed over the last few years has allowed us to get carts back on the fairways faster after rain events and our priority is always to allow carts off paths when possible.

4.  (Alright there are really four notes)  The golf course is closed on Tuesday to allow for maintenance practices since the course is open on Memorial Day.  The sod around greens in knitting in nicely.  We plan to mow and topdress these areas on Tuesday when the course is closed.   Players are allowed relief from any sod seams when the lie of the ball, stance or area of intended swing is interfered by the sod seam.  Once again, use the rules to your advantage.  

Enjoy the weekend,

Jordan Booth, CGCS

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Course Update

The Spring of 2015 has been a beautiful, productive season to say the least.  Our team has been busy preparing the golf course and performing many essential agronomic practices to ready the turf and course for the season.  Overall, we are very pleased with course conditioning.  A few eye sores remain in the turf around bunker faces.  This is being sodded out on Tuesday.  Collars came out of the winter better than ever with very little sod needing to be installed.  Spring Dead Spot was much less evident this year and proves that our programs have been working.   Virginia Tech Turf Pathologist, David McCall will be on site next week to gather data on a few of his research projects.  There is not a comparison between 2015 and 2014 in regards to Spring Dead Spot.  I can't wait for his research to quantify the reduction of occurrence.

Darin Brevard, our USGA Agronomist, was on site this month to conduct his annual Spring visit.  Darin's visits always prove to be insightful and this one was no different.  Darin reported healthy turf conditions and had great insights into fine tuning our agronomic programs including core aeration, collar management and the management of our fine fescue areas,  Darin is the Director of Championship Agronomy for the USGA and I am excited to watch his work in action next month at the US Open.

Speaking of fine fescues, the areas on 7, 8, and 15 are growing in beautifully.  These areas require very little fertilizer inputs and now that they are establised, I was able to shut the irrigation heads off in these areas.  We will be patient and not over water or fertilze these areas.  We don't want to promote weed growth or overly thick turf.  We want to promote a healthy stand of fine fescue.  The goal of these areas is reduced water use, reduced chemical use, reduced fertilizer inputs and the creation of habitats for a large amount of wildlife....Not to mention, the aestetics of these areas are beautiful.

These fine fescues have thrived and grown into a beautiful stand of grass.  They will turn a khaki color this summer.

A view towards 15 green

A view towards 17 green

A few other projects around the club have included the installation of fans on 7 and 17, repairing the driving range net, renovating the driving range practice bunker and renovating the landscaping in front of the clubhouse.  The primary focus of the spring has been dedicated to turf health and waking the course from winter.  Now that all of our turf has been set up to thrive this summer, we will focus on course conditioning and our tournament season.  Over the next month, we will host the RWGA City Champtionship, Men's Member Guest, a US Amateur Qualifier and our Men's, Women's and Senior's Club Championship.  Our team is motivated and ready to provide a great playing experience.

Have a great Memorial Day Weekend,

Jordan Booth CGCS

Over time, sand is hit out of the practice bunker and on to the surrounding turf during practice.  After years and years of this, the bunker becomes distorted.  To renovate the bunker, all of the turf was removed from the face and the sand was removed until we reached soil and the original shape of the bunker  Sand had built up to a depth of 12 - 16" on the face and had dramatically changed the look and feel of the practice bunker.

The finished product on the Driving Range bunker renovation.
All of the damaged nets on the driving range were replaced this past week.  

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Very Productive Week

As I write this, the golf course is receiving a heavy downpour of rain. While this may create some work, it is perfect timing following the aeration programs that have been performed on greens. The rain will help work in the sand and soil amendments that have been applied over the last two weeks. The warm weather in the forecast is also a welcome sight. I have started to see a lot of green leaves breaking out of the bermudagrass but the prolonged winter has left us a few weeks behind a normal spring green up schedule. The prolonged winter and above average snow cover has our team playing catch up. We made great strides over the past two weeks while completing aeration. Our team installed the wire and concrete bases for fans on holes 7 and 17. We renovated the dump/compost site right of #14, renovated our parking lot, and moved a 14 year old willow oak tree into the circle in front of the clubhouse. Our team will still be busy with a few tree removals and at least one drainage project as we ready the course for the prime golf season. Golf course conditioning and in particular putting green recovery will be our main focus for the next month. Our goal is to heal over from aeration quickly and begin providing great putting conditions.

Our team, along with the professionals from Arborscapes transplanted this willow oak on Monday.  This willow oak was selected from this property for this project because of its size and location.  This tree was going to quickly out grow its previous location so the best solution was to move it into the new bed inside of the traffic circle.  This saved money over purchasing a tree and preserved this tree from having to be removed.  This tree will now become the focal point of this bed and provide a great "namesake tree" for future generations.  Arborscapes carefully removed the soil around the roots with an air spade.  This tool blasts pressurized air into the ground to allow for the entire root system to be exposed and moved with the tree.  The tree was then placed in its new location and temporarily roped off to support the tree until it can take root.  This is one of the final steps in the renovation to the traffic circle.  The flag pole was removed and a new flag pole was installed between the pool and the patio.  This location allows the flag to be a focal point from the golf course as well as the club.  The traffic circle bed was expanded with new masonry, irrigation and lighting installed.  The final portion of this project will be sod and plant material installations next week.  This project was constantly delayed due to weather but will be a great improvement.  Two more projects are planned and budgeted in grounds this year including the renovation of the landscape beds in front of the old house as well as new hardscaping and landscaping leading into tennis.  These projects will keep our team hopping in grounds but will be great additions to the club.

Have a great weekend,

Jordan Booth, CGCS

Monday, March 2, 2015

Weather and Golf Maintenance Calendar

The weather has been daunting to say the least.  I am sure that all of us have been affected by weather in one way or another over the last month.  It has caused our team a lot of headaches, delayed projects, and kept the course closed for over 2 weeks.  Our team has been busy with snow removal and managing the golf course as water drains off and trees have fallen in the storm.

Speaking of water, the golf course will be very wet for the foreseeable future as more weather is expected and the snow continues to melt.  Expect very wet conditions if you venture out.  I would expect the course to be open on Wednesday but that may be it for the week as there is still snow cover on greens and more weather rolls in on Thursday.  Contact the Pro Shop for more information regarding course closures.  

Our team, along with the Professional Golf Staff have finished our golf calendars for the year.  A big part of this calendar are the closed days set aside for maintenance.  We are very thankful for these closed days and work diligently to maximize our work load when the course is closed.  The maintenance calendar has been posted in the locker rooms and will be posted on the online golf calendar.  There will also be a quick reference available on the blog shortly.  

The closed days for disruptive putting green aeration will be:

-  Tuesday March 17, Tuesday March 24, Wednesday March 25

-  Tuesday September 8, Wednesday September 9, Thursday September 10

Depending on weather, it will take between 10-21 days for the greens to totally heal over from these aerations.  Our goal is to time these activities for quick recovery and to minimize the impact to putting quality.  All of our aerations are vital agronomic practices and more information on these practices and there purposes can be found here: Agronomic Practices.

I am looking forward to warmer weather, green grass, and golf.  I know you are too.

Have a great week and travel safe,

Jordan Booth

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Welcome to 2015

A new year brings new excitement and preparation for the 2015 golf season.  Our team is in full swing and we are readying the course for a great 2015.  One of our main focuses this winter has been and will continue to be drainage on holes 1, 3 and 4.  Since the renovation, we have installed thousands of feet of sub-surface drainage pipe to help speed up the removal of water.  We place the pipe in line to intercept water draining off of the golf course during surface drainage.  A trench is cut and the pipe is installed, surrounded by gravel.  The rest of the trench is then filled with sand to provide great infiltration of water.  The pipes are plastic and have small holes in them to allow water in.  The water is then carried off of the golf course.

We have successfully tackled some of the biggest issues and continue to fine tune the course's surface and sub-surface drainage to provide firm, dry conditions.  This year, we hope to tackle the remaining drainage issues on holes 1, 3, and 4 for 2 reasons.

1.  These holes, especially 3 and 4 need a lot of drainage work and tend to be the most likely holes with cart path restrictions.

2.  This will be the beginning of a total course drainage plan where we continue to improve drainage through the installation of sub-surface drain lines.  1-4 is the logical place to start.  Hopefully next year, we can tackle holes 5-8 and so on.

The course drains very well especially considering that we are in a flood plain.  The surface and subsurface drainage installed during and since the renovation work very well.  We are simply improving upon the current drainage with the goal of dry, firm conditions at all times.  This in conjunction with fairway topdressing has provided great results.  I like to remind people about how poorly the course drained prior to the renovation.  The resources and goals set forth by the membership have paid huge dividends in this regard.

Our team is wrapping up the fourth drainage project on hole #3 today.  We have 3 more projects planned for #3 this year before moving on to holes 1 and 4.  Hole #3 has historically been the wettest hole on the course due to natural springs, soil conditions and shade from trees to the southwest of the Willow Oaks property.  Our team has tackled 10 separate drainage projects on this hole since 2008 including over 4000 feet of subsurface drainage.

The map below shows the drainage that has been installed this year.  This winter will also include the removal of dead trees, the installation of fans on holes 7 and 17, and a renovation of the tree line between holes 9, 13, and 14.  Underbrush will continue to be cleared as well.  We look forward to continuing a productive off season as we prepare for a great 2015.

Have a great week,

Jordan Booth, CGCS

This picture illustrates the projects that have been completed on hole # 3 this year.  Sub-surface drains are installed in the current low swales.  We are obviously focusing on cart traffic areas and landing areas.  
The first step in the process is to identify anything underground such as irrigation and current drainage and then strip the sod.  
Our team lays down plywood to protect the turf and use a transit to place the drainage and check the fall of our drain lines.  
Gravel and pipe are installed.
The last step is to install sand in the trench and to tamp the trenches down.  Sod is then replaced and leveled.  These sub-surface drain lines allow for quick removal of water from the surface drainage.  

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