Weather extremes continue to be an interesting issue on the golf course and for the whole planet for that matter-as, we went from a low of 25 degrees on May 29 to a high of 95 degrees on June 4. As I think about my time spent in this business, one thing that I have noticed is increased volatility in weather patterns in general with an overall increase in temperatures. These extremes pose their own sets of challenges but, as always, we do our best to accommodate our players with our efforts to produce conditions that are enjoyable for everyone. One such effort is our use of a new tool to help achieve consistency in bunkers.
We added an attachment to our bunker rake that will give them a more finished look while firming up the sand-especially important on bunkers where we added sand. Hopefully using this unit over time will help to create a harder surface (but not too hard). A tough balancing act to be sure.
Bunkers at Nemadji are, frankly, in a current condition that makes achieving consistency from bunker to bunker very frustrating. Over the years, different liners have been used that are now well past their useful life expectancies if they ever were really useful. The sand used varies wildly across the board with sands varying greatly in both particle size and contamination by both stones and clay. Add to this the drainage issues present in some bunkers and we have a real challenge on our hands. That being said, we have made some progress correcting some of the worst drainage issues on some bunkers while adding sand to others where the deficiencies were the worst. We have, admittedly, a long way to go in improving this condition and we must have patience as we tackle these issues over the next few years. These problems have been years in the making and will take time and investment to correct. What is interesting is different player’s preferences for bunkers. I hear bunkers are too hard. I hear bunkers are too soft. Too little or too much sand. I have some players putting rocks in my mailbox as though I was unaware of what is going on out there. At the end of the day, I think that we must all take a deep breath, remind ourselves that bunkers are actually hazards and remember that someone does care about these issues and while the best solution would be a total rebuild (and in some cases removal) of all bunkers, the realistic solution is to start by adding proper bunker medium into sand-deficient bunkers and systematically addressing drainage issues in the fall. Followed by more of the same in subsequent years.
One thing that many of you may have noticed is the vigorous growth apparent in golf course roughs this year. In an effort to create a golf course with fewer weeds and more turf, we have increased fertility on the golf course to coincide with weed control applications. The process begins here with a healthy population of both turfgrass and weeds. Kill the weeds and allow the vigorously growing turf to fill the voids and help minimize weed encroachment in the future. A fundamental process that will help us in our quest to create better turf in the future. If we were to simply kill the undesirable plants without the benefit of vigorous turfgrass to fill the void, all we are doing is ensuring that future invaders will have a place to get a foothold. Pretty simple really. The plan is working to perfection, actually, the only hang-up being when one of our worn-out 19-year-old rough mowers broke down in the midst of the process and left us hanging with some pretty long golf course roughs.
On a final note, regarding conditioning at Nemadji, I would like to stress the importance of drainage in turfgrass management. Please note where we added extensive drain lines on 11 and 12 West fairways. Recovery here is currently underway and while we cannot expect miracles in the first year, I think that we can expect steadily improving conditions in those areas in years to come. What is needed is more drainage work similar to this on many different parts of the golf course. Work like this would help to reduce if not eliminate many of these winterkill-damaged low areas on fairways in particular. This drainage, combined with some grading adjustments to help move water to drainage basins and smooth out these low areas on fairways, is the lasting solution to poorly drained low areas of fairways. Just adding soil is not the solution. Addressing the fundamental water problem is. Good golf course management eliminates what causes the problem-it does not chase after symptoms without addressing the cause.
See you on the golf course.