Friday, March 29, 2019

March Course Madness

March has been nothing but madness here at Swope.

(First mow line of the season on #13)

Winter has let up, the snow is all melted, brackets are busted, and we are right back into taking care of the course. Spring weather brings about the beginning of productive course care. Each year we make a list during the winter of jobs that must get done before Spring gets to full swing and the grass starts growing. This year our list included: deep-tine aerification, tree work, spray zoysia, apply fertilizer/pre-emergence to entire course, spray greens, re-charge irrigation. From the beginning of March to the very end, we were checking off these projects quicker than my Tournament picks were eliminated. 

On March 8th, we hired a third party, Commercial Turf & Tractor, to come out and deep tine aerate our green surfaces. In past years we've used 4" tines to poke holes and remove cores on our greens, this year we used 7" tines. This allows air and nutrients to get deeper into the soil and removes more organic material relieving stress to existing turf. After cores have been pulled and cleaned off green, we applied a heavy top dressing of sand, along with dragging and rolling, to fill in and close the new holes. As I mentioned before, this is our first attempt at deep tine aerification so we hope to see a positive and overall better result after greens heal.

(Superintendent Sam Bailey rolling after aerification, top-dressing and dragging.)

In February we applied a pre- & post- emergent  herbicide that eliminates unwanted grasses from the zoysia by targeting the non-dormant species trying to spread into the zoysia, i.e. Poa, clover and other broadleaf weeds. The dormant zoysia will not absorb the herbicide where as the other grasses, still active, will absorb it. Zoysia is found on our tee tops and fairways. We were only able to spray tee tops because of sloppy wet conditions. In mid-March the rest of the zoysia on the course was treated with the same products. Once again, the goal is to eliminate any other grass in our fairways that isn't zoysia to achieve consistent and healthy fairways. 

(#5 Fairway zoysia spray)

Before winter arrived we drained our irrigation system to avoid any freezing of pipes and cracking that comes with that. After aerification our greens are somewhat fragile and need to be watered so the turf can start new growth. Luckily, a day after aerification we received rain, so charging the system could be done slowly and carefully. Many problems can arise after turning irrigation back on after a winter of sitting empty: sprinklers turn on randomly, sprinklers won't turn off, valves can leak, and our control boxes can go haywire. We slowly crack our main valves on and let the system fill itself over the day. Also to remove air from the lines, we place quick couplers at the highest spots on the course. Once we have 100% water spraying from the coupler we know that line is charged and ready to be used. Besides some pesky sprinklers turning on at random times of the evening, we made it through irrigation re-charging without any large problems. 

(First sprinkler watering of the year on #13)

Now that we are in the full swing of Spring we will continue the course work to improve turf health as much as we can so it is prepared for the Summer ahead. Greens will continue to be fertilized, the entire rough will be treated with fertilizer and a pre-emergent for unwanted weeds, and continue to work toward the overall aesthetics of Swope Memorial Golf Course.

Remember to fix your divots and go Duke!