Thursday, November 29, 2018

November at Swope

Remember, remember, the snow of November!

Swope is covered in a blanket of snow and we are still a month away from the official start of Winter. Imagine that, crazy weather happening in KCMO. The sight of our course sheathed in snow is a beautiful sight and a welcome drink for our turf before it completely shuts down for the winter. As the grass is going dormant, we were able to get a couple housekeeping, well, course-keeping, tasks done for the upcoming winter.

Snow is a great insulator and source for moisture. As the winter goes on, and the turf growth will come to a halt, and whatever nutrients the plant has is what it will survive with until the Spring thaw. In early November we fertilized our green banks and the entire rough areas on the course. Think of it as a bear stuffing himself full of food before he goes to sleep for the winter. The plant absorbs every available nutrient as it can before taking a long winter 'nap'. 

Using a Lesco Spreader for fertilizing areas around greens. (Top) 
Our Vicon large area spreader for fertilizing the large rough areas. (Bottom)

Along and somewhat opposite with fertilizing, we sprayed our greens with a growth regulator. Our greens are Poa Annua (annual bluegrass). This type of turf will sprout seed heads in the spring, making for a bumpy and unattractive putting service. Getting the growth regulator in now and once more after the thaw, the plant should be free of seed heads coming prime time golfing season. Fertilizer was also applied along with the growth regulator. 

Spraying 17 green.

Preperation is key with colder weather approaching. It's not just about the chemical and metabolic processes of the turf, but physical course attributes that need attention too. We keep carts on path only for as long as we can once it cools down to relieve as much stress on the turf as we can before dormant season. Tee markers are removed from boxes to be re-painted and allow golfers to spread out play and hopefully avoid isolated damage from a single tee location. Course signage is also brought in for touching up. When the ground gets colder and starts to freeze, cutting fresh cups is impossible. Before that weather started, we cut winter cups on each hole. This allows us to be able to have a choice of two different pin locations per hole. Just in case winter brings playable weather, golfers will be able to have two different looks at each hole. 

As winter begins, its time for our winter projects to begin: blowing out irrigation, opening up green complexes, plowing snow. It will be a busy and cold couple months out here, but we're looking forward to it. 

Stay warm, fix your divots, and watch out for geese.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

October at Swope

October Brings Rain!

Hello all you loyal blog followers, and welcome to the official cool season! 

October has finally brought our reliable and predictable cooler weather. What a relief it is. During the summer months, as we're hand watering for 6 hours a day, this weather is but a dream to us. Our greens and collars are cool season grass, meaning they strive once temperatures drop and moisture is more available. The first 10 days of October brought us 10+ inches of rain. Almost 8 inches alone fell on Sunday the 7th. With abundant moisture and temperatures riding around the 50-60's, our greens and green surrounds have started to fill in, grow up, and green up, all in time for the end of season. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum, you'll notice the zoysia grass that makes up our fairways and tees has started to turn a straw yellow compared to its mid summer green. Zoysia grass is a warm season turf, so as soon as temperatures start to consistently be cool, it begins to go dormant for the winter. Dormancy is comparable to hibernation, the living part of the turf moves down the plant and into the ground insulated roots, hence the yellowing of the leaf. October 3rd was the final fairway cut of the season. Shaggy fairways aren't the best for playing conditions, but with that extra grass going into winter, the roots will have even more insulation to keep them healthy and ready to spring back in action when the warmer weather reappears. 

As far as maintenance goes, nothing too exciting in October. Our rough is still being mowed, we are mowing and rolling greens every other day respectively, and still fixing those all too familiar irrigation leaks. We sprayed our rough for broad leaf weeds such as clover and dandelions. This weather is great for spraying because the plant takes the nutrients right to the roots to prepare for winter, as compared to summer when the plant absorbs nutrients into the leaf only. With the herbicide in the roots, we should see a better affect on the plant as a whole.

Our native grasses were knocked down following the first frost. In an earlier post, I mentioned that conservation of the Monarch Butterfly includes not cutting down native areas that contain Milkweed, the butterfly's main source of nutrition during migration, until after the first frost. The plant's seed containing pods pop open and allow seeds to disperse once the first frost has arrived. Waiting to cut natives allows butterfly's nutrition as well as the plant to spread and return next year.

Superintendent Sam Bailey doing an excellent job mowing the native between 18's tee complex and fairway (Left). Milkweed plants being cut down. (Above)

Looking forward we expect to see leaves dropping left and right as fall continues into winter. As beautiful as the leaves look as they change colors, the moment they hit the ground they become a whole new project and problem for us and the golfers. 

Don't forget to fix your ball marks, pick up your clubs, and enjoy Swope Memorial Golf Course with a refreshing cold beverage!

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

September at Swope

As September ends, so does summer...finally! Aside from a surprise week of 90's, the cooler September weather allows us to focus on other projects and knock off some tasks on the annual to-do list.

In early September, the greens underwent aerification; the process of pulling small cores out of the greens to allow better ventilation and promote new growth. Our current problem greens, Practice, 14, and 10, we went a step further and deep tine aerated the turf along with re-seeding. These greens have and will continue to be our main focus of repair.

Deep tining of 14.

In order to prepare for future green problems, fingers crossed, we created a new bent grass nursery. In two days, our crew along with help from our agronomist, tore out the old nursery and completely started over from square one. With some care and a bunch of water, we expect to have a full nursery by next season.

 Nursery, Day 1

One more annual task we tackled was the over-seeding of the entire course. After a busy and dry summer, many areas of the course attract more wear and tear than others. Areas like cart enter/exit paths, rough near cart paths, and our walking paths experience more damage and receive little attention. Our slit-seeder is pulled behind a tractor and creates small furrow and drops seed into the soil. 

Over-seeding of 15 walking path.

Let's hope that cooler weather keeps on coming for October!

Monday, August 27, 2018

August at Swope

August has finally brought us some relief from the high and dry conditions we've been battling with throughout the Midwest. Throughout the past three months our main focus has been hand watering greens and fixing irrigation leaks as they appear, and it seemed like they were appearing daily. With cooler temperatures and even some light rain, we were able to relax with hand-watering and turn our focus to other parts of the course.

Pictured above is Hole 18, this month was the first time since last season that we were able to get our fairways completely mowed out during the week. With more rain in the forecast and warmer temperatures expected for another week or so, it will still be a chore to keep them in ideal playing conditions. 

Here we are venting 7's green. The venting process uses a small diameter tine to punch a hole in almost every square inch of our green surface. This process relieves environmental stress by allowing fresh air to get to the roots and also allows new turf growth to fill in the holes created.

As always, we try to stay environmentally aware out here at Swope Memorial. Not only do our native grass areas help our course keep that natural Missouri look, they are also home to the Milkweed Plant, pictured above. These plants are one of the main sources of food for the Monarch butterflies during their migrations. According to the Mo. Dept. of Ag., mowing of native areas should be held off until the first frost, to maximize the Monarchs use of the weed until they have all moved on. Keeping these areas un-mowed until that frost date will be bad news for the ball hawks and rookie golfers, but will hopefully keep us in the good graces of Mother Nature.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Sod Work

We recently sodded half of 16 white and blue tees with Northbridge Bermuda again. Most of it did not survive the winter of 2017-18.  The National Weather Service said the month of April was one of the coldest on record in the KC area.  When the Bermuda grass was trying to wake up we experienced highs in the 30's.  This cultivar of Bermuda grass was designed to handle the cold winters that we experience in the transition zone but unfortunately it was too cold for too long.   We have been lucky enough to receive another free sample donated from Arrowhead Stadium and are giving it a go. However this time we will only sod half of the two tees. The main reason I like this turf  is because during the summer months it heals itself from divots much quicker than Zoysia and having such small tee boxes on our par 3 tees it makes a difference. Lets hope for a warmer winter!!