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.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Nursery Green and the Beginning of Winter Projects

It is hard to believe that November is over half-way over and Thanksgiving is less than a week away.  Our team is knee deep in leaf removal and the beginning of winter projects.  It is hard to know or predict when we will be finished picking up leaves but with cooler weather on the way, project season is upon us.  You may have noticed some lines painted on #9 fairway.  We have marked the irrigation in preparation for drainage installations next week.  We have two projects planned for #9 fairway including the landing area in front of the left fairway bunker and the horizontal swale across the fairway just beyond the fairway bunkers.  An additional 8-9 more drainage projects are planned across the course this winter as weather permits.  Our team is also checking and adjusting bunker sand depths around the course.

Winter is the ideal time to drop dead and damaged trees on the golf course.  With the ground frozen and limited play, tree work is much safer and easier on the turf.  Many trees suffered storm damage from a severe thunderstorm in July and hurricanes Matthew and Hermine and will have to be removed.  We plant new trees in key places around the course to replace these damaged trees.

If you enjoy the next few days of warm weather on the golf course, you will probably notice a large cover on the nursery green behind 16 green.  This green has been renovated, seeded and covered.  The cover insulates the green and allows the seed to germinate even under cool weather conditions.  The cover is permeable to allow air movement and water infiltration.  The nursery green gives us a place to pull turf from to repair damaged areas on greens.  It is also a great place to research new products and cultivation techniques before putting them into action on the golf course.

Nursery Green covered to allow seed to germinate

Have a great Thanksgiving,

Jordan Booth, CGCS

Friday, October 21, 2016


You have probably noticed that the collars directly around the greens have lost their color over the last few weeks.  This is due to the fact that the collars are a different variety of bermudagrass than the rest of the golf course.  Over the last few years, our team has changed a lot of the collar square footage from 'TifSport' bermudagrass over to 'Patriot' bermudagrass.  The collars have had a history of very poor performance when breaking winter dormancy.  The majority of the reason for this is the heavy foot and mechanical traffic that the collars receive.  High traffic areas and pinch points are usually the most susceptible areas to damage.  Our team manages the collars year round to try and protect them as they break dormancy in the spring.  

'Patriot' bermudagrass is more cold and wear tolerant than the 'TifSport' bermudagrass used on tees, fairways, and approaches.  The 'TifSport' has been an excellent playing surface but hasn't held up well to the extra wear and tear that the collars receive in some places.  The 'Patriot' bermudagrass goes into winter dormancy and loses its color earlier than 'Tifsport'.  This may be part of the reason that it is more cold tolerant.  Overall, the 'Patriot' has performed much better in the collars but does have some visual differences this time of year.  

The greens continue to recover from a very stressful summer.  The practice greens are certainly slower to recover than the golf course due to the high amount of traffic that they receive.  All of the greens were vented with solid tines this week and topdressed with sand to aid in recovery and smooth the surface.  The greens will continue to be managed to facilitate recovery and provide a healthy, smooth playing surface.

Have a great weekend,

Jordan Booth, CGCS 

You can really see the distinct line where 'Patriot' has been planted around the greens.

'Patriot' is more cold weather and wear tolerant and has held up better than 'TifSport'.

'Patriot' on the left and 'TifSport' on the right both serve very useful purposes but respond differently to weather and 'Patriot' loses its color a little earlier than 'Tifsport'.  

Tuesday, August 2, 2016


Plant-parasitic nematodes are unsegmented, microscopic roundworms that feed on plants.  As plant-parasitic nematodes feed, they damage the root system and reduce the ability of the plant to obtain water and nutrients from the soil. Nematodes cause a reduction in the fine feeder-roots that are important in water and nutrient uptake by the plant.

When nematode population densities get high enough, or when environmental stresses such as high heat and humidity occur, above-ground symptoms may become evident. Symptoms include yellowing, wilting, thinning, or death. Plant-parasitic nematodes usually occur in clumps, so nematode damage usually occurs in irregularly shaped patches that may enlarge slowly over time.  Research has shown that nematode-damaged turf roots are less able to get water and nutrients from soil.  Nematodes reduce the plants ability to combat even normal stresses such as mowing or fertilizing and reduce the plants ability to uptake fungicides.

Of all the pests that commonly affect golf course turf, nematodes are probably the least understood and most difficult to manage.  There are currently no chemical options available in the state of Virginia to eradicate the type of nematodes we are battling.  Our team has repeatedly tested for nematodes and treated the turf with products that help combat the effects of nematodes.  Some exciting new products are coming to the turf market this fall and should give us the ability to better control nematode populations.  In the meantime, we will be focused on removing all other stresses from the turf and growing healthy grass until the weather changes.    

Have a great week,

Jordan Booth, CGCS

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Battling Mother Nature

Mother Nature has not been kind to us over the last 8 days.  On Tuesday, July 19, the golf course received a harrowing storm that deposited 1.5" of rain and knocked down or damaged over 25 trees.  In the following days, the heat was turned up and we sustained 5 straight days with a heat index over 110 degrees.  Today and tomorrow don't look much better.  During this time, the putting greens started showing real signs of stress especially where they are not impacted by fans.  The turf around the fans has held up strong and is a real testament to the ability of the fans to cool the surface.  Last night, the course received another 2.5" of rain and countless amounts of internal flooding and debris.  It has been a very difficult week on the turf and our staff and one our team has worked hard to endure.      

In the effort to prevent further turf stress, the decision has been made to close the golf course until the greens show signs of recovery and the weather breaks.  This is a preventative measure to protect the putting greens and allow for healthy playing surfaces during late August - November.  

In the foreground you can see general thinning and decline.  As you get closer to the fan, turf health rapidly improves.

We have selected fan locations based on a number of factors including line of play, impact to play, wind direction, and benefit to turf.   The fans are angled down and calibrated using a Kestrel Weather Meter to measure wind speed generated by the fan and to maximize our distance of throw.

How did we get here?

Overall, the spring and early summer of 2016 yielded high rainfall totals with May 2016 being the wettest May on record and June being the 9th wettest June.  This provided great growing conditions for the tees, approaches and fairways but did not allow the putting surfaces to develop the necessary rooting to thrive in the summer.  When greens stay wet, the roots do not have any incentive to grow down and "seek out water."  On top of the wet spring, our team has been battling nematodes which are parasitic round worms that attack the roots of the bentgrass putting greens.  The microscopic nematodes are very difficult to eradicate and are viewed similarly to a disease.  These compounding factors led to a compromised root system that could not sustain the intense heat and humidity over the past week.

Where do we go from here?

The decision to close the golf course was preventative.  Our team believes that for the most part, the greens can recover with the reduction in traffic and some very careful handling.  We will need to plug and seed a few edges to aid in recovery.  We will continue to be aggressive in the Spring of the year to continue to amend our putting green mix with core aeration, deep-tine aeration, linear aeration and drill and fill to improve drainage and encourage deep rooting.   

Is there any other work that can be accomplished while the course is closed?

Yes, we plan to continue to renovate the tree line between 13 and 14 as well as the rough areas on 9 and 18.  We still have a lot of storm cleanup from the past week including bunker repair, stump grinding, damaged tree removal and debris removal. 

Have a great week,

Jordan Booth, CGCS

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Course Update

It has been a while since I have updated the blog and we have certainly been busy.  Record rainfall in May and a very wet June have helped parts of the course flourish and has hampered progress in others.  The rain certainly highlighted the benefits of the drainage projects we have completed and identified next winter's priorities.  The two closed days this week allowed our team to verticut, aerate, and topdress the warm season tees and fairways.  These are necessary practices to maintain firm, healthy surfaces.  We expect to see recovery very quickly given our ideal growing conditions.  Our team also laid a truck load of sod to finish the conversion of fescue to bermudagrass on #11.  We will be closed again August 22-26 for maintenance.   During this time, we will be venting greens, applying pre-emergent fungicides and herbicides, and completing numerous drainage, sod, and renovation projects around the course that otherwise could not happen in a timely fashion.

Have a great week and we look forward to seeing you on the course,

Jordan Booth, CGCS

Verticutting fairways removes a lot of thatch and is the perfect time to topdress the fairways so that the sand can work down into the canopy.  Holes 1-6, 10, 13, and 17 were all verticut this go round.
Topdressing was applied behind the verticutting on fairways to help smooth and firm the surface.
Our team topdressed and core aerated the par 3 tees.
We also deep tine aerated and topdressed all of the tees.

Our team also removed the rest of the fescue on #11 and sodded this area back to bermudagrass.  Our current and future areas for renovation are the tree line between 13/14 and the fescue areas on 9/18.  

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Recent Questions

Spring is here and even though night time temperatures have dipped below 40 a few times this week and even below 30 last week, the golf course is starting to break dormancy.  Next week brings warmer temperatures and the golf course will really flush out with new growth.  Refurbished and new amenities including our 'in-season' set of wooden tee markers are back on the course.  The wooden acorn tees, used for special occasions, were also refurbished this year.  Our team has mowed the tees twice and greens are recovering nicely from spring aeration.  Fairway mowing is taking place as I write.  As members and guests frequent the course more and more, our team receives questions and we are happy to answer them.  Here are a few that may help to share.
Our team is mowing select fairways.  While the grass isn't aggressively growing now, it has greened up.  Warmer temperatures next week should allow for faster growth rates.

These tee markers are reserved for special events and were totally refurbished this off-season.  

1.  Why did we aerate the greens twice?

We were closed Monday, March 21- Wednesday March 23 and Monday, March 28 - Wednesday, March 30 for our spring aeration.  Over the last few years, we have chosen to be aggressive in the spring of the year to set the greens up for a healthy golf season.  This year was no different and we decided to aerate twice in the spring and we will limit our fall aeration to a very small tine with minimal disruption.  This practice will minimize disruption to the playing surfaces throughout the year and set us up for a great spring, summer, and fall golf season.
This picture of the greens soil (profile) shows the sand filled channel left from aeration.  You can see the roots pouring out of the bottom of these channels.
This picture shows the current state of the greens 2 weeks after aeration.  Holes are covering over nicely.  We are now alternating daily mowing and rolling as well as weekly topdressing to smooth the surface.

2.  How are hole locations and tee placements decided?

Hole locations are decided daily based on a chart (shown below) that we have devised to evenly rotate pin placements throughout the green and to try and have an even number of front, middle and back pins throughout the golf course.  Every day, our team uses this chart to decide the depth of the pin placement i.e. +4 would be 4 paces beyond the center of the green.  Then the team member uses a 4 foot digital level to find a fair hole location on that particular depth.  If the hole location is the center point of a circle, each 4 foot radius of that circle must have less than 3% slope insuring a level hole location.  These locations are at least a flag stick away from the edge of the green.  Tee placement is a little less complicated but based on the daily hole location.  If the pin placement is +4, tees are moved four paces forward from the tee yardage plate to make the hole the same length as the scorecard.  This is easily done with the blue and green tees because these are the largest teeing grounds.  The silver, gold, white, and black tees are moved daily but do not have as much diversity in options.  Team members are given the decision making responsibility to change tee locations and hole locations based on weather, turf health, and traffic.          
This is the chart that our team uses to select hole locations.  The chart gives the depth and the flag color while the team member chooses the hole location in a fair, flat location on the given depth.  Day 1 = March 1, 11, 21, and 31...Day 2 = March 2, 12, and 22, Day 3 = March 3, 13 etc.
The digital level lets us know it the area is 'flat' (<3% slope) around the hole location.  It is a great teaching tool and measurement tool for fair, consistent pins.  Disclaimer:Even if the area around the hole location is flat, it doesn't mean that it is an 'easy' hole location.

3.  What is the current condition of collars and Spring Dead Spot?

So far, so good.  It is a bit early to make a final call on this.  We will reserve total judgement until we have had consistently warm temperatures but for now, we are very optimistic.  While there are some very high traffic areas on collars that will need to be sodded, our cultural practices and new grass types have greatly improved turf health coming out of this winter.   Sodding will take place on closed Mondays in May.  Our Spring Dead Spot programs seem to be paying dividends.  We are seeing very little damage caused by this disease.  Once we have a full 'green up' we can make the final call on these two annual aggravations.

4.  When will carts be allowed off the path and when will we move off of the artificial range tee?

Cart traffic is restricted to the path every winter to protect the dormant turf and provide the best winter golf conditions possible.  Once we have mowed all of the fairways and temperatures are consistently warm, we will go 90 degrees on cart paths.  Barring any rain fall, I would anticipate this being next week.  Moving off of the artificial range tee usually coincides with cart paths.  This past weekend, the range tees really took a beating from the low temperatures (~26°F).  This may delay using the tees until they are actively growing.  We anticipate being off of the artificial tee by the end of the month.  Once again, this is a practice that protects the limited grass practice tees and provides better conditions during the golf season.

5.  When should we expect the golf course to be green and the putting greens to be totally healed?

Hopefully soon.  The cold nights have delayed spring green up and recovery from putting green aeration.  We are 15 days out from out last aeration and greens are recovering slowly but nicely.  The 10 day forecast looks promising for growth starting Sunday with daily highs above 70°F and lows above 40°F and a definite warming trend.  We really anticipate the golf course looking much different in 10 days once air and soil temperatures rise.  If the favorable forecast holds true, greens will be completely healed over and putting very smooth in the next 10-14 days.

Have a great weekend and enjoy the course,

Jordan Booth, CGCS

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Spring Aeration Part 1

The three closed days this week has allowed our team to accomplish a lot of work in a short amount of time.  Our team completed the deep tine and solid tine aeration of the greens.  Soil amendments and sand were applied and dragged into the holes.  These holes, full of sand, will provide perfect avenues for water infiltration and root growth this season.  Outside of aeration, our team sprayed the golf course wall to wall with pre-emergent herbicide to prevent winter weeds.  The team from building maintenance led the construction of a walk bridge across the first creek on #16 and repaired the cart bridge on #17.  Our team completed a drainage project on the front of 17 fairway and removed dead limbs from trees throughout the property using a rented, straight-mast boom lift.  The golf course closure maximizes the amount of work we can accomplish and a big thank you goes out to our team for completing so much work in a short amount of time.  Next week, we will again be closed on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday (March 28-30) for the second round of greens aeration.  We will be completing another large drainage project at this time.  The course opens tomorrow, Thursday, March 24 at 8:00 a.m.

Have a great week,

Jordan Booth, CGCS
Greens were topdressed with sand, deep tine aerated (shown above), and then solid-tine aerated with large, shallow tines.  The sand was then drug into the holes and any extra sand was removed.  The final process involved rolling the greens, applying fertilizer for recovery, and watering everything in.  
Blake Bishop, our Facilities Manager along with his team of Mike Street and John Beebe led the construction of a new walk bridge on #16 and the repair of the cart bridge on #17. 
The bridge across #16 will be completed today.  
Erosion occurred under the concrete leading up to the cart bridge on #17.  Blake and his staff stabilized the bank and poured fresh concrete.  We will keep this area closed for a week while the concrete stabilizes and cures.  
Our team wrapped up the drainage project on #17 today.  Great work by our staff that will allow easier access of cart traffic onto #17.  

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Winter Progress and Spring Aeration (Long Read)

Every winter season, our team prepares a project list based on plant health needs and recommendations from the Green Committee.  Normal projects include tree work, drainage installation, refurbishing course amenities, and fan installations. This year included a new bridge installation on 16 as well.  Despite the poor weather, this winter has been productive even beyond our stated goals.  Our project season really wraps up April 1.
The project list:

Tree Work

1.  Remove dead trees from the property on holes 3, 4, 6, 13, and 14.
2.  Remove dead trees, vines, and underbrush along #5 tee complex.

The tree work was pretty minimal this year compared to previous years.  Our team will easily complete the desired work and grind out the stumps when the course is closed for aeration.  As far as the work on #5, we are awaiting approval from the city of Richmond before we take down any dead trees.  A sub-committee has been formed by the Green Committee to lead decision making processes involving the river bank.  The main goals of the sub-committee are golfer safety and preservation of the integrity of the river bank.


1.  Drain the first fairway landing zone on #16
2.  Drain the second fairway landing zone on #16
3.  Drain the left side of #6 approach
4.  Drain the right side of #6 approach
5.  Drain the left side of #3 green complex
6.  Drain the left side of #13 approach
7.  Drain the right side of #13 approach
8.  Drain the right side of #1 approach
9.  Drain the front of #4 fairway
10: Drain the front of #17 fairway

As I view the golf course today, following two consecutive nights with a half inch of rainfall, I am painfully aware of where we have installed drainage and where we need more drainage. Overall, the course drains very well via surface runoff, especially considering its location in a floodplain.  Unfortunately, in the winter, sunlight is limited, evaporation rates are very low, and the turf is not taking up any water. For these reasons, a little rain in the winter can last a long time. Our focus every winter is to solve the worst problems through the installation of trenches containing stone, slotted pipe, and sand. These drain lines greatly speed up the flow of water off of the golf course. Our project goals this winter included ten drainage projects in high priority areas including landing zones and approaches.  I am proud to say that our team has accomplished the first 7 projects on this list with the last 3 projects planned during our closed time for aeration.

Refurbishment of Course Amenities

1.  Benches
2.  Birdhouses
3.  Tee Markers
4.  Ball washers
5.  Hazard Stakes
6.  Entry/Exit Posts
7.  Cups
8.  Bunker Rakes

This work is a necessary evil every winter.  It does provide a good opportunity to stay busy when the golf course is covered in snow.  Our team has accomplished these projects and all of the amenities will be back on the course before the end of March.  I am proud to say that we have some of the most productive blue bird boxes in the city of Richmond and we have installed even more this year.  Our four sets of winter tee markers (The Willow Oaks' Shield in Silver, White, Green and Blue) will be removed in late March,  These tees will be replaced with our refurbished six sets of golf season tee markers (cut logs with painted ends in Silver, Gold, White, Green, Blue, and Black.)  All year long, we take great effort to move the position of every set of tees to accommodate for weather, change the setup of the course, and promote healthy turf.  This is especially important on par 3s where the tees are greatly divoted.  The movement of the tee markers should be expected and allows the golfer to play a slightly different golf course every day.

Fan Installations    

1.  #12
2.  #16

Our team has finished installing the wire and fan base for #16.  The fans are mounted on a base of metal and concrete 7 feet deep into the ground to support the weight and oscillation of the fans.  Our team has installed the fan base on #12 is currently in the process of finished the wire installation.

Bridge Installation on #16

1.  Install Walking Foot Bridge across first creek on Hole #16

Our team will work in coordination with our Facilities Maintenance team, led by Blake Bishop, to build this bridge.  The work is scheduled for March 21-23 when the course is closed for aeration.

Spring Aeration: March 21-23 and March 28-30

Our spring season putting green aeration wraps up the project season for our team.  The golf course is closed March 21-23 and March 28-30 for these necessary agronomic practices.  On March 21-23, our team will be deep tine aerating the greens, followed by a large solid tine aeration.  The following week, on March 28-30, our team will be core aerating the greens.  All of these aerations will be followed by sand topdressing to fill the holes and promote a healthy, firm, and fast playing surface.  The main turf benefits of aeration include thatch removal, gas exchange (Oxygen to the roots and Carbon Dioxide away from the root zone) and water infiltration.  The long term benefits are great but the short term disruption is definite.  This aeration will be aggressive and we have timed the process to minimize disruption to the golf calendar.  Speaking of minimizing disruption, we have changed our fall aeration program.  This fall, we will aerate greens August 22-26.  We will be using a small tine to minimize disruption.  We will be closed for the entire week to complete our fall pre-emergent herbicide treatments as well as preventative applications for Spring Dead Spot.  Our 2016 aeration program will promote a healthy, fast, firm putting surface while minimizing disturbance.  More information can be found under our Glossary of Agronomic Practices.

We may have a few small odds and ends to finish in April but overall, we need to be focused on course conditioning at that point.  Besides getting the course ready for daily play, April will be focused on transitioning the turf out of dormancy, recovering from putting green aeration, and managing bunkers for consistent depth and firmness.  Our team will also continue work installing stone along the creek on #4 to prevent erosion and the installation of drainage in a few natural springs.  I have to take a moment to recognize all of the work that goes into equipment refurbishment every year.  John Anderson, our Equipment Manager, leads this charge and rebuilds every reel, roller, and cutting unit.  He also performs routine preventative maintenance like changing oil and hydraulic lines.  This is a huge amount of work and keeps the equipment running smoothly all year.

We look forward to warmer weather and seeing you on the golf course,

Jordan Booth, CGCS

Monday, February 1, 2016

Winter 2016

To say that the winter weather has slowed our team down this year would be an understatement.  We have been locked down by both ends of the spectrum.  December brought warm weather and great golfing conditions.  If I remember correctly, it was 72F on Christmas Day.  Our team was busy preparing the course for winter and golf at the same time.

January brought on a new set of circumstances.  Cold weather and snow trapped our team inside and slowed progress on winter drainage projects.  Our indoor work has included the refurbishing of all course amenities including tee markers, benches, stakes, and bird houses.  Our team has done a beautiful job with these wooden pieces but is ready to get outside.  With only a few dead trees to remove, our main focus this winter is drainage installation on holes #1, 3, 6, 13 and 16.  We will also be installing fans on #12 and 16 as well as a new walk bridge on #16.  As the weather allows, our team will be applying post and pre-emergent herbicides to eradicate winter weeds and prevent summer weeds including crabgrass.  Aeration is right around the corner (End of March) and we know the main golfing season isn't too far behind.  

This time of year, drainage and shade issues really show themselves.  The course is very saturated due to the melting snow and thawing conditions.   Drainage will continue to be an ongoing battle and our team has prioritized the greatest needs and will keep installing pipe, stone and sand.  Some of the shade issues are really out of our control due to trees off property.  Winter shade is harder to manage because the sun angle is so low in the sky.  Trees that really don't cause problems in July, will shade the golf course in January because the sun is sitting lower in the sky.  Trees on the southern side of a golf hole are particularly troublesome in the winter because we are in the Northern Hemisphere and tilted north, away from the sun.  Good examples of this are holes #3, #7, and #15.  Even after a good melting day yesterday (air temps near 60F) greens with southern shade are still covered in snow.  Our team will be removing the snow and applying a dark-colored, organic fertilizer to help melt any remaining ice or snow.  The forecast rain over the next few nights should do a good job of watering in the fertilizer.    

The 2016 maintenance calendar has been updated with our putting green core aeration schedule.  The key closed dates are March 21-23, March 28-30, and August 22-26.  We have made the decision to aerate greens during our closed dates in August instead of the week after Labor Day to minimize disruption during September, October and November.  The March aeration will be aggressive while the August aeration will be minimally invasive.  Weekly topdressing and monthly greens venting will be employed to provide firm, healthy surfaces.

Have a great week and we look forward to seeing you on the golf course,

Jordan Booth, CGCS    

This picture illustrates the difference between the sun angle during the summer solstice and the winter solstice.
Our team will be removing snow from shaded greens today.  This putting green is shaded by the large Willow Oak on the patio.

The second green receives minimal shade and the remaining snow will certainly melt today.  You can tell that the third fairway and green in the distance are still covered with snow due to shade from the trees, left (south) of the golf hole.  

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