Tuesday, October 1, 2019

September Summer

Swope's September

September was a month of projects for our staff here at Swope. Not only is it prime grass growing/mowing season, we built a new putting green, installed a parking area, controlled native grasses, and kept our sanity waiting for the Fall to show up that never did. 

It never fails that once you start looking forward to something, cooler weather, it tends to hide itself a little longer than normal. It was a warmer month for us, causing us to continue to focus on green health and keep up with the ever growing rough. One green however, had a different focus. Our greens at Swope are Poa Annua, compared to the majority of KC area greens being Bent Grass. Without diving into the science of the two grass species, Bent grass is an all around healthier, more consistent, more resilient grass species. Our end goal is to convert all 18 greens to Bent grass. Needing a 'practice run' on the techniques and process needed to achieve this goal, we started on the practice green.

(Practice green before)

We started by stripping the healthy Poa sod off of the green for later use on patching existing greens bad spots. We hired Kansas Turf, a construction company specializing in golf course development, who then tilled up the underlying sand to promote organic material to move into the new soil base. They then hand leveled the entire green area, adding sand to low spots and raising the level flush to the existing collar.

 (Stripping, tilling, and leveling.)

Once the new sand base was level and smooth, it was our turn to put in some work. We put down several fertilizers to aid every stage of new grass germination. After the fertilizer was applied we used a Bent Grass seed called Dominator. Using a drop spreader, we dropped seed two directions on the green, ensuring full coverage. With fertilizer and seed down, the next step was to track the seed into the sand using our John Deere Sand Pro. 
 (Fertilizer, seed, and the tracking process.)

Finally, with the fertilizer down, seed tracked in, it's time to water the green. Keeping the green saturated but not soaked is pivotal in promoting germination. The sprinklers around the green are on a schedule to water for three minutes, every hour and a half.

(Grow baby grow!)

Moving on, project #2 was the path area behind 18's green. High traffic and cart staging on both sides of the cart path had completely killed off the grass. Normally we would till up the areas and re-seed, however if carts were to continue to be staged there, the grass would die again and the cycle would continue. Instead, we tilled and seeded the green side of the path, and the adjacent side was turned into a white rock parking area. The ground was tilled, excess soil removed and ground leveled using our Bobcat. We installed common green metal garden border and added rock to inside and soil to outside of border, making area flush and free of tripping hazards.

(Parking area progress.)

Soon to come, updates on our aerification process, which did happen in September, but I may need material to write about in next months blog, see ya then!

(Me mowing the native next to hole 9, hoping golfers remember to fix their divots!)

Monday, August 5, 2019

Goodbye July

August is here, the end is in sight! 

(Checking 18 irrigation after a main line break)

Summer is a stressful time for the golf course industry. Any day could bring 90+ degree days, 6" main water line breaks, and send us into survival mode. During the spring we push our turf, greens especially, to reach optimal health levels. We want our course to enter the summer months as healthy as possible so it's prepared for these survival mode days. Without rain and with hot days, we rely completely on our irrigation system to keep the golf course alive. So far we've had two main line breaks and multiple sprinkler issues in July alone. These are issues that get addressed and fixed the moment they break, because without water, grass just doesn't seem to grow. 

(Digging up a main line break on hole 18.)

Staying on irrigation, the Kansas City public works has been fixing a main water line along Gregory road. This has caused what seems to be about 29 tons of calcium and lime deposits to break free and fill up our sprinkler heads and irrigation lines. A sprinkler head will either be stuck on because it physically cannot return into it's shell, or it cannot turn on because its supply line is completely clogged with the deposits. These must be completely dug up, the hole has to be isolated meaning there is no water supplied to the sprinkler lines, sprinkler removed, line cleaned out, and then all put back together and filled in. All in all, these repairs take around 1 hr for each issue. You can imagine when an entire hole has line that look like the ones below.

(Sprinklers on hole 1 with sediment issues.)


(July 10 thunderstorm.)

As said before, summertime is in full swing in Kansas City, bringing hot and humid days, torrential downpours out of no where, and a handful of nice days strung throughout. Above is a picture of a rainstorm that showed up out of nowhere, leaving us and our equipment stranded on 12 green. Storms like these are a welcome break from the stressful high heat days of July and August. They bring needed moisture to the course and some relief to us, unless of course the storm also brings down some trees along with the rain....

(Full size Black Walnut tree on #15 that fell as a result from the July 10th storm.)

Barring anymore downed trees and irrigation breaks, we will focus on keeping Swope in the best shape it can be in. Many green banks need treated for Nut-sedge, our zoiysa treated for goose grass, and as always a continuous buzz of mowers keeping up with the turf growth.

Remember to fix your divots!

Friday, June 28, 2019

Jumpin' June

(This is Abby, a 4 year old golf course supervisor.)

Summer is Here

There is no avoiding it, our all too familiar summer heat wave is coming through. We were on borrowed time once May hit. We started having issues with hot spots on our greens around May 3rd last year, which in turn leads to us hand watering until late afternoon. This summer, it wasn't until late June that we broke out the hoses and starting throwing water. Cooler temps allowed us to focus on other course tasks rather than if our greens would survive the day. 

We try to fertilize our greens 6 times a year with granular fertilizers, the fertilizer consists of a mix of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium. Throughout the year, our greens get a ratio of 5lbs N, 1lb P, and 3lb K. We spray our greens weekly, and they do get a dose of fertilizer through the spray amendment, however, using a granular form of product allows slower and more controlled absorption into the plant. 

(Sam spreading fertilizer on 18 green, while sprinklers water in fertilizer on 17 in background.)

Warm temperatures also bring back the ever plentiful weeds. Where healthy turf isn't present, along cartpaths or dead areas in fairways, weeds are the first plant to start taking up roots. Goose grass, Clover and Nut Sedge are the three main species we battle with. These areas may be large, but they are not large enough to spray with our broadcast sprayer, which is used for spraying fairways and our greens. These areas are controlled using spot treatments from a back pack sprayer or a removable cart tank. Keep an eye out for bleaching of goose grasses around the course, one of the best sights to see after a day of weed spraying. 

(Spraying the rock wall for weeds on the drive up with our cart tank sprayer.)
One of the larger issues we, along with other clubs around the KC area, are dealing with is winter kill in our zoysia. These are spots that were covered in snow all winter, wet during the thaw, wet for days on end with multiple rain showers, and never were able to break get a healthy start for the growing season. Our examples would be the middle of 17 fairway, 16 Tee Box, areas of 5 and 10 fairways, and 18 Tee box. To fix this problem re-sodding these areas are our only option. With the help of a sod cutter, an in house zoysia nursery, and a few good men, we have already started the process of repairing these areas. 

(Cutting out and removing dead sod, above. Laying newly cut sod from our nursery on 17 fairway, below.)

With 90's in the forecast for the foreseeable future, it looks like our summer routine of hand-watering is back in gear. So let me apologize in advance for wetting the greens and slowing down your putts, but without hand-watering, there would be no greens to complain about.

Remember to fix your divots!!

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Month of May

May the fore's be with you!

"One day it started raining, and it didn't quit for 4 months. We've been through every kinda rain there is. Little bit of stinging rain, and big ole fat rain. Rain that flew in sideways, and sometimes, rain even seemed to come straight up, from underneath. Shoot it even rained at night."

- Forrest Gump, who would understand what it's like to work at Swope.

In between thunderstorms and monsoons, May has been a busy month as always. We hosted the KCGA Men's match play earlier this month and were able to get the entire course mowed and fairways double cut in preparation for the tournament. Normally this task isn't difficult to do, but trying to let the ground dry out long enough to get mowers on it seemed to be a never ending postponement.

(Difference in fairway turf on #12, also can see water damaged area in bottom picture.)

Hopefully another aspect of the course golfers notice is our flower beds located near tee boxes and cart path turn arounds. Each summer, the city greenhouse provides us with over 700 plants to place around the course. Canna's, Seniorita Rosarita's, Marigold's, and Lantana's are just a few of the plant species we use in these areas.

(14/15 turn around flower bed.)

(Cleome Seniorita Rosarita's headed out to be planted.)

So next time you lose a ball, hit into a water filled bunker, or step in a mud puddle, just take a look at the beautiful flower gardens and continue to enjoy golf at Swope Memorial.

Remember to fix your divots!

Monday, April 29, 2019

April Showers bring May Flowers... & Wet Fairways

Spring is in full effect in Kansas City, Missouri. We've had days at 50-70 degrees, rain showers weekly, and wind that just doesn't seem to stop throughout the month of April. Trees are starting to get leaves and our grass is starting to get striped. With the onset of nice weather, we've been giving our course turf the attention it's needed since winter. 

The majority of turf on our course is breaking out of winter dormancy. With the grass growing and taking in nutrients now, it is a perfect time to spray the turf with fungicides, fertilizers, and selective herbicides. Our zoysia fairways, tee tops, greens, and fairway rough surrounds were all treated this month. 

(Sam spraying 12 green)

It's easy to talk about big projects we take on here at Swope, however, there are many small daily tasks that people may not know about. Each day we mow or roll our greens and cut new cups. Cutting the cups can make or break the hole. A cup placement too close to a slope or on an uneven surface can make for some unappealing circle 10's on the scorecard. We have 3 different pin positions: pin position 1 would be the cup in the front area of the green, 2 in the middle, and 3 being furthest away from the tee box in the back of the green. Changing these locations each day help spread out play on our greens, eliminate isolated wear areas, and change up how the hole is approached. After the new cup is cut, the cup and flag are placed into the new hole, and the turf plug is then placed in the old location.

(New cup, flag, and flag-stick along with hole set-up tools on 11 green.)

Weekly rain in the springtime is to be expected and we do look forward to it. However, sometimes the ground becomes so saturated that additional rain just adds puddles and problem areas around the course. From constant snow coverage all winter to transitioning into a wetter spring, many spots on the course haven't seen a dry day for too long. For example, 17's top fairway is roped off to eliminate any extra stress caused by carts so that it has the best chance it can to grow through the wet areas. Swope is a very up and down course and with so many fairway undulations almost any amount of rain can cause puddles and sloppy wet rough conditions. Cart path only is not a phrase golfers nor course workers want to hear, however, it's the best way to allow these areas to dry out and be safe for cart path/mower travel. Golfers and the maintenance crew alike must follow the cart path only rule to protect the integrity and aesthetics of the course as a whole. 

(Wet conditions on 17 fairway.)

With more rain in the forecast, we hope golfers will bear with us through the wet conditions and continue to enjoy Swope Memorial Golf Course. As always, remember to fix your divots and watch out for puddles!