With the final arrival of fall, we now move into aerification season-in my opinion the best time of the year. We can move away from worrying about where the next irrigation failure is going to be and can do the rewarding “dirty work” that helps to improve levels of conditioning mowing forward.
Our aerification strategy on greens starting this year and moving forward is to conventionally aerify 18 holes in the spring followed by the other 18 holes in the fall. The reasons for this are logical in that by going this route we will always have a course in play with the non-aerified greens-this year it is the North/South course that was left alone in the fall. Another important benefit to going this route is in regard to staff. We typically have more staff available to help remove cores in the Spring and so not taking advantage of this would be foolish. In addition, it is tough on people aerifying over 40 greens within a two-week period in the fall. Coming in at night to work in the evenings followed by grinding out more work the next day is alright over a period of a few days but doing this over the span of a couple of weeks makes for a tired and crabby group. This is an unnecessary condition that we would like to avoid.
9 East Green 9-7-2021
The picture above shows 9 East green immediately after core aerifying. We used .5” coring tines on the little putting green, 1E, and 9E greens this fall. These are the terribly draining older pushup greens on the East/West layout that can always benefit from the thatch removal and sand incorporation into the holes that a proper core aerification provides. The remaining East/West greens are of a sand-based construction without a thatch problem. In these instances, we simply used .5” solid tines (no core pulled). Prior to solid tine aerifying, we coat the surface with a layer of topdressing sand. The reason we do this is that doing the work in this sequence prevents a heavy topdresser from leaving ruts in the putting surface. Sand-based greens-particularly those on the West Course, get very soft and shifty after aerifying.
Weather the evening of September 7th when we core aerified greens was very interesting as the above video shows. Showers were moving into and out of the area and we had a choice to go or no go. I went with my usual answer-let’s do it. It worked out beautifully. As of today, East/West greens are pretty much recovered. Who Dares Wins.
In my opinion, the weakest areas turf/construction-wise on this golf course are the original fairways from 1931. These are located mostly on the North/South golf course but also include 1 East and 9 East. These clayey fairways were built with bad surface drainage and very little if any internal drainage installed. That is how they rolled 90 years ago. Over the years before the introduction of lightweight fairway mowers in the late 80’s/early 90’s, these fairways were subjected to the abuse of mowing with units like the one pictured below:
Operating a unit such as this on these poorly drained, heavy clay soils is what is the primary cause of the excessive rutting in many of this fairways-especially in the wettest areas. This lasting damage is no easy fix and really the proper way to make this right would be to close the holes needing work, install drainage, and then grade to move water towards the newly installed drainage basins. This would certainly require a course closure and substantial financial support which at this time is really not an option with so many other golf courses needs such as bunker drainage, cart paths, and a continuation of much-needed equipment replacement. Other issues exist as well on some fairways at Nemadji.
Many of you may have noticed during the droughty summer how some fairways were showing stressed areas throughout the summer months-even with irrigation. Some of this problem was caused by excessive thatch levels on many areas as the picture below illustrates:
September 2021 – Thatch layer 7N Fairway-2” or more compacted thatch
This thatch layer is restricting the movement of water into the severely compacted root zone (which we are working on) and so during dry and hot periods these areas show signs of stress. With more aerification as well as thatch removal techniques in the years to come we should help to alleviate this issue. What does not seem to really care about optimal growing conditions is the plant below:
Prostrate Knotweed 7 North Fairway September 2021
This weed is indicative of compacted soils where nothing else can really thrive-and its pervasiveness at Nemadji was among the worst I have ever seen in 37 years of golf course work. It had made itself a nice home at Nemadji but the eviction notice served by us in getting rid of it has been relentless. That being said, we still have a way to go in getting this under control. On many of the older fairways in particular where compaction is really bad, it continues to hang on. We pretty much have it on the run on the East and West golf courses. Overtime (a period of years) and the continued efforts to alleviate compaction, remove thatch, add drainage, overseed, and fertilize we should be able to introduce stronger turf into these areas and thus gain control of the situation that allowed this weed to thrive in the first place. Like everything we do on the golf course from agronomics to staffing, patience is required.
Nemadji September 7, 2021
See you on the golf course, Vince