Dodge’s Dirt

From Our Superintendent Vince Dodge

The weather has made a turn towards the wetter side and while we do appreciate getting a break from relying on supplemental water provided by the irrigation system, for the most part myself and most superintendents prefer a year that is on the drier side.  The theory is that you can always add more water but taking water off an area is not so easy.  We have more control over golf course conditions in drier conditions.  This is especially true at Nemadji where the drainage inherent with the site is not very good.  We find ourselves of late pumping bunkers and dealing with a flush of growth everywhere including greens that makes for a slower, softer, and longer playing experience.  Very different from the first half of the season which was fast, firm, and short due to excessively dry conditions.  I will take fast and firm any day, but we do the best that we can regardless of conditions.  One condition that requires attention time permitting-likely later on this season-is the condition of bunker edges at Nemadji.

Nemadji-July 2020

This is a bunker edge that is typical on many of the bunkers at Nemadji.  This was an attempt to do a good thing-eliminate the labor of having to trim bunker edges by trying to edge them chemically.  This was done last year.  I have done this effectively in the past personally and it is doable with a steady hand and great care.  This effort, however, was a little overzealous and the result is that we have dead turf around many of the bunkers.  Many of you can see where many of these edges are breaking off in chunks into the bunkers.  These bunkers will have to be aggressively edged to restore them back to proper condition.  A labor-intensive process that we can get on when we are not chasing long grass around with mowers.

In an effort to reduce this mowing workload which will allow us to save labor to do other things-Nemadji is a big place-we have staked off a pair of out of play areas of the golf course for conversion to no mow areas.  They are located on 2 North and between 13 and 15 South.  We have heard a few rumblings about this practice, but I have to say that these two areas are very much out of play except for the most errant shot-unlike the no mow area that we eliminated on 8 East.

8 East July 23, 2020

We scalped down the long grass/weed area to the right side of this green as this is a natural collection area for golf shots considering the green has water to the left and a bunker directly in front.  In time, this area will become normal rough.  I know when we mowed it that we found scores of golf balls in the area.  This is an example of a no mow that deserves elimination and received treatment as such.  In time, we may revisit other areas that have been converted to no mow over the years and eliminate them just as we may find other areas that we may be able to add.  These are fluid situations and are never permanent-this is how golf courses evolve when balancing playability with economics.

One costly flaw in the design at Nemadji is the treacherous nature of 5 North.  So far this year we have experienced the following situation-particularly after rain events.

July 7, 2020 5 North

This was quite the chore to retrieve out of the creek bed and while I was raising it with a floor jack on blocks over water and red clay while getting devoured by mosquitos I made a solemn vow to make this something that does not happen anymore.  We tried ropes-which you can see wrapped around the cart in the photo-but they are not a solution for steep hills, narrow cart paths, slippery turf, and possible impaired driving.  After some thought, Dalton Derosia, Brian Wallin, and Gabe Anderson installed the following system which should help:

July 15, 2020 5 North

We dug in 6” by 6” landscape timbers bedded in concrete further down the slope to catch any errant carts that might lose traction on the steep and slippery turf-this area gets very greasy when wet-to the left side of the cart path before they may accelerate down the hill and jump into the creek further down the slope.  A labor-intensive solution for sure but one which should work to make this area safer for everyone.  On a final note, I would like to caution everyone to use extreme caution when navigating their way around the golf course-particularly when conditions are wet.

Speaking of wet, many of you may have noticed that greens have over the past week have gotten a little slower and softer due to the numerous rain events that we have experienced over the past few weeks.  This is not an unusual phenomenon as these rain events have driven growth everywhere on the golf course.  Just today we made an application of a pair of PGRs-Plant Growth Regulators-that should assist in locking down some of this growth on putting greens and getting us back to optimal.  We have indeed been on a growth regulation program all year, but warm and wet conditions have shortened their effectiveness in some areas and conditions were not present until now to get a handle on things.  As I alluded to before, rain presents challenges to controlling the golf course.  That being said, I do like the overall condition of the greens and where we are at.

8 East 7-21-2020

Note the blue/green colored bentgrass and how vigorous it is.  Also note the sunken areas of annual bluegrass (Poa annua) interspersed amongst the bentgrass.  We are in the process of attempting to increase the bentgrass population at the expense of the annual bluegrass population with the use of plant growth regulators that stunt the growth of annual bluegrass.  This is a good thing in that the more bentgrass that we have on the greens the less the likelihood that we experience as extensive winter damage in the Spring.  Bentgrass in a hardier plant in general and less likely to be killed by ice formation over the winter.  Part of this conversion process involves keeping fertility a little on the high side so that the bentgrass will crowd out the Poa annua faster.  We have limited opportunities with the climate here in Superior to take advantage of bentgrass’s better performance in warm conditions.  Having sufficient fertility also has the benefit of making undersized greens better able to withstand heavy traffic as well.  A downside to this is that greens may not be as speedy as they can be but managing turf is more than just managing for tomorrow but rather for the future-years into the future.  A balancing act for sure but one well worth undertaking.

Thank you for enjoying Nemadji and see you on the golf course.