Temperatures this week still leave us very confident we will have no winter damage this year. The turf continues to look excellent, no ice damage, no disease. It does appear we will continue below normal precipitation but overall I'm very happy with turf conditions.
It's one of those years (5th warmest November) when temperatures are above normal in November-December and the inevitable questions arise: "Why are the North greens closed? Other courses have their greens open."
As background, In the Golf Course Standards:
The North Course greens will close to play after dormancy and before damage occurs to the turf. Temporary greens will be used throughout the winter once the greens are closed.The Board of Directors has approved the North Course greens closing date each year at the end of play on the 2nd Sunday following Thanksgiving Day.
This year (November 2015) our hand was forced a bit because our window to get the North greens topdressed was the Monday following Thanksgiving, and that dictated moving to temps sooner than expected.
Here is the basic rationale for temporary greens:
Strategically, we have been asked to condition the North Course as closely as possible to the South Course. "A top 10 Michigan" course.
Traffic on frozen greens (or greens in the current freeze-thaw cycle) creates a "sheering" effect on root systems. The top layer moves and the frozen layer underneath does not. Imagine popping off a muffin top.
Water can be held above this frozen layer, saturating the upper layer. Traffic on saturated turf is not beneficial.
One of the ways to protect greens from harsh winters (2013 & 2014) is to apply a layer of topdressing sand. In addition to winter protection, it makes the greens smoother in the spring - assuming there is no winter foot traffic. Traffic on topdressed greens is like sandpaper to dormant grass.
Ballmarks on greens in the winter ... will be annual bluegrass (poa annua) in the spring.
Topdressing with heavy equipment needs to be completed before the ground freezes.
Tarps or covers are installed for winter protection and the staples used to hold them down need to be pushed in, before the ground freezes.
In a Championship year and with the winters of 2013 and 2014 in the rear view mirror, I believe we should be vigilant.
I believe strongly that these practices - in addition to our snow removal, aerification, mowing, fertilization, watering and numerous other seasonal agronomic practices - have a proven record and are beneficial to quality playing surfaces and member service and satisfaction. I believe strongly in our overall Agronomic Plan, that it pays dividends when times are tough (the last 2 springs come to mind) and that we need to continue our policy of protecting the North greens in the winter.
Lastly, "temporary winter greens" cannot be separated from the overall Agronomic Plan. It's all part of the woven tapestry that works together to provide a consistent product.
**However, it is the privilege of the owners to reset the strategic plan for the courses and I am happy to adjust my recommendations if that strategic shift occurs.
Much was accomplished during Aerification Shutdown:
South greens , tees, fairways aerified and topdressed
South greens and tees fertilized
North approaches aerified and topdressed
Drainage #1 South finished
South championship tees topdressed
Range tee aerified and overseeded
After the outing today, we'll aerify the range fairway and start herbicide applications in the rough. Fall is the best time to treat broadleaf weeds as most of the herbicide is translocated to the root system.
With the course closed for a "Maintenance Day" we were able to get much accomplished:
Drainage project #1 South
North tees aerified
US Amateur drone flyover
North rough and fairways fertilized
South greens fertilized and watered
Driving Range greens aerified
South Course Greenside bunker work/watering
As we get ready for this week's Invitational, I'm reminded that all of the work we do prior to the event is the work that matters. Any tournament or Major Championship is built on a foundation of planning and agronomic practices instituted months or years in advance. Whether it's the US Open, British Open or Oakland Hills Piper Invitational, turf conditions are dictated by all of the things done well before the event starts.
Aerification, topdressing, spraying are all planned out well in advance of tournament week. So when we ask for access on the golf course, it's with a purpose in mind: superior playing surfaces for some future championship.
Much accomplished today with the golf courses closed until 2:00. Spraying rough areas with 'grub' control was essential on a day like today: no play and perfect weather. We were also able to run and check irrigation heads, which is difficult during play. The driving range looks awesome; thanks to the night shift for spending the time and effort.
Timely rains have reduced our need to irrigate the golf courses. Our water usage YTD is about 50% below our long-term average. This is good for playing conditions, costs and resources. Much of the water we have used is for irrigating fertilizers after their application.
Drainage project on #12 South was finished on Wednesday night. Thanks to the staff for pushing to get this done. No other immediate projects are planned except for non-disruptive aerification of select tees, fairways and roughs.