Around the Course
As the days start to get shorter and the nights become cooler, the stress on the turf from the hot summer day’s transition into ideal growing conditions for cool season grasses. Along with the leaves on the trees changing colors and falling, the stress from the summer heat and possibility of turf diseases begin to decrease as the season changes. This is also time for turf to start preparing itself for winter by increasing root depth as ideal growing conditions return, and the plant begins to become healthier by storing nutrients for the upcoming winter months.
Fall aeration is used to help promote increased turf health as the days become cooler by increasing air flow, improve moisture uptake, reduce soil compaction from peak season and improve fertilizer uptake in the root zone. Fertilizer applied during aeration helps promote root growth and plant health to increase turf vitality through the winter months and help with greening up as temperatures increase in the spring. Keeping the course clear of leaves not only helps improve course playability and pace of play, but helps keep the turf exposed to the sun. Too thick of leaves covering the turf can also prevent any moisture from reaching the soil or suffocate and kill the turf if left in an area for too long.
As nighttime temps drop, the chance for the first frost of the season increases and usually occurs between mid-September and mid-October depending on weather. This creates morning frost delays and acts as the signal for the turf to slow down growing. Frost delays are important to reduce and prevent damage to the turf as it is present because it is the moisture in internal cells of the grass blades freezing. Frost damage occurs when these frozen cells rupture, causing the internal systems of the plant to not function in the damaged leaf blades and die. Frost damage can be recognized by black areas where someone walked or drove, then turning brown as the grass blades die.
Golf in fall can be one of the best times of the year to play due to the cooler temps, decreased water requirements helping to firm up the course, and optimal growing conditions to help stressed areas from the summer grow back.
The illustrations above show the beginning of new root growth on a green as the average temp cools down and growing conditions improve. The new root growth can be seen as the white hair like structures. As the fall season continues, the new root growth will increase as the turf prepares itself for winter.
As golf courses dry out due to heat, irrigation issues, or other conditions that don’t allow necessary moisture, the course runs the risk becoming hydrophobic. Hydrophobic conditions in the soil are created when areas get dry and repel water that comes in contact with it instead of absorbing into the soil. To help counteract hydrophobic areas and restore moisture, wetting agents can be used to decrease the surface tension of the water molecules.
Wetting agents are surfactants that work to reduce the surface tension between the soil and water molecules to aid in getting water to the root zone of the plant. This is important during hot weather when the sand-based soil conditions on golf course greens and tees make them more susceptible to hydrophobic conditions that will repel irrigation water applied to the areas. Countless varieties of wetting agents are on the market from various manufacturers. The two main types of wetting agents are Penetrants that work to break the surface tension to help water molecules infiltrate the soils and Water Retainers which help to retain water in the soil after infiltration.
Along with helping to restore turf areas that became dry and brown, wetting agents can be used to help increase the efficiency of the water being used for irrigation by helping the water molecules to infiltrate the soil. An increase water efficiency can also help to reduce water usage and decrease water runoff.
Example: 12 Green at Twin Peaks Golf Course
Image 1 shows the hydrophobic dry spots within the collar. Image 2 shows the wetting agent after it is applied to the area just before it soaks in.
Once applied the wetting agent will help water infiltrate the area during irrigation cycles for about two weeks.
This spring the City of Longmont contracted to have dozens of goats to sustainably mitigate grass, weeds, and willows around the creek bank on hole #15 at Ute Creek Golf Course.
This was quite a process. The rancher brought the goats to the course and, with the help of his dogs, herded them in a 20 x 100 square foot area and set them out to graze. The goats were contained in this area by an electric fence, and the owners were able to keep an eye on them with game cameras posted around the areas. They were moved daily, and contentedly “mowed” for 5 days. When the goats were heading home, staff was delightfully surprised with a new addition to the mowing team, Pic A. Happily, the new baby goat was herded home with Mom and Team.
All in all, it was a cool experience and worth trying something new out on the golf course. The City is excited to be exploring more sustainable and natural options for landscaping in the future!
A big thank you to Goat Bros Grazing Services for providing the “mowers”.
Help keep are greens in tip top condition. Click here for a ballmark repair tutorial
How come we have so many ballmarks?
Ute Creek gets a solid amount of play, but beyond just shear number of rounds the golfers are made up of good players. Better golfers hit more greens and make more ballmarks.
Ballmarks never seem to heal?
The older bentgrass is known throughout the industry to be “ballmark-y”. Newer bentgrasses have a finer texture and more upright growth habit. While these traits make for an excellent putting surface, it also means balls hitting the green do more damage and heals more slowly. Ballmarks do heal, but how fast is very much dependent on how well it has been repaired. Depending on the quality of repair, complete healing can vary from a few days to a few weeks.
What is the best way to repair a ballmark?
The best way to repair a ballmark is to make sure the remaining turf is pressed back together as close as possible. A golfer should have the goal of leaving the smallest amount of soil showing, once the repair has been made. There are many different tools you can use. You can even use your thumb to press the turf back toward the center as much as possible. Whether one uses their thumb, a ballmark repair tool, golf tee, or the end of a putter, the goal is the same. Pinch the turf back together as tight as possible. A properly repaired ballmark can heal in as little as a few days.
A ballmark should never be repaired by ‘popping’ up the center of the mark. A mark fixed in such a manner looks like Image 1 and will take a few weeks or more to properly heal.
Image 2 shows a ballmark repaired properly. This ballmark is likely a few days old. By pressing or pinching the turf back towards the middle, the existing plant material begins to regrow, and healing comes quite quickly.
Image 3 shows a properly repaired ballmark after about one week or so of healing.