Report From the Greens Committee - January "Clippings"

Clippings

Notes from the Anthem Greens Committee

The Anthem Greens Committee met on January 4th, 2016 at the Ironwood Clubhouse. Here are the highlights of our discussions.

Dormancy. As you can probably tell, we have entered our dormant season. This is when all three varieties of grass we work with at Anthem enter a period of complete, or near-complete dormancy. During this time, we focus on maintenance work not dependent on a growing season. Work such as tee banding replacement, desert vegetation reduction and removal, tee box cleanup and rock removal from fairway bunkers. This is also the season for frost delays.

Frost Delays. For the next six weeks or so, frost delays can be common, especially with clear nighttime skies that allow warmer air to rise and cooler air to settle into washes, causing temperatures to dip well into the 30’s. Since official temperatures are measured at 5 feet above the surface, early morning ground level temps can be several degrees cooler than the readings shown on your television set. Frost is basically frozen water forming on both the surface and inside the cellular structure of the grass, making the plant hard and brittle. Because the grass leaf is 80% water and our mowing heights on greens can be an eighth of an inch, pressure on the leaf from equipment or walking can cause the fragile plant to be damaged at the cellular level. This damage will not show up immediately and because we are in a dormant season, will not repair itself until warmer temperatures return to stimulate growth. Most at risk are the bent grass greens on Ironwood, but the ryegrass on both courses is also very sensitive to this sort of damage.

When observing cold early morning temperatures, our professionals make the determination of whether a delay is appropriate and then, based on two considerations, decide on how long the delay should last. First, they look at the hourly forecast and then factor in when they were last able to complete necessary maintenance. If maintenance on the course is current and pin placements are only a day or two old, they will often put off maintenance and shorten the delay as much as temperatures allow. But if maintenance activity has been deferred and pin placements haven’t been changed for more than a day or two, the delay will be longer to allow the crew to catch up. 

Persimmon Fairways. With recent cold weather and back-to-back days with morning frost, Persimmon has developed a rather patchwork look on its fairways. This is the result of several interconnected factors.

  1. The Goal. To create the best playing conditions year-round on both courses, minimizing the time when either course is out of play for maintenance. An admirable goal, but subject to temperature constraints. Much of our course improvement work requires a growing season for recovery and this limits the number of months we have to complete this type or work.
  2. Overseed Transition Closures. In past years we have conducted our overseed process by “scalping” the underlying bermuda grass in order to expose the soil for the winter ryegrass seed. This created a long recovery period and extended course closure to transition from ryegrass to bermuda fairways. Last summer we took advantage of the time needed to grow in our new greens and rebuild greenside bunkers, to aerify and condition Persimmon’s fairways to promote growth of a very strong stand of fairway grass. By the time the new greens were ready for play, the bermuda fairways were cut short (but not “scalped”) and then verticut, creating channels that would be receptive to a lighter application of winter ryegrass seed. The objective is to create overseeded fairways while retaining a strong bermuda base that will begin a gradual transition when warmer temperatures return. This process should avoid the dramatic loss of bermuda grass and extended course closures we have had to deal with in the past.
  3. Temperature and Timing. Timing is everything when it comes to overseeding. Put the seed down too early when temperatures remain warm and the bermuda will keep growing, competing with the newly overseeded rye. This past summer when we reopened Persimmon, the overseed was already in place and a beautiful Indian summer with warmer than normal temperatures, pushed the underlying bermuda to dominate the ryegrass in some places. Normally we would not have seeded fairways so early, but this year the need to reopen Persimmon took priority. As nice weather continued and both grasses flourished through the end of November, fairway color and density remained consistent, but when back-to-back-to-back frosts arrived in December, the bermuda went dormant, losing its color and giving fairways patches of yellow, dormant bermuda.
  4. Good News and Good News. We know it seems contradictory, but all this is really good news. We have the best stand of bermuda on Persimmon we have had in years. With a lighter overseed rate, we expect transition to be far less dramatic than in the past, resulting in a shorter closure for maintenance next summer and less effort spent resuscitating damaged fairways and more time spent improving course playability. While it looks a little “scruffy” now, we will improve things with mowing and pigmenting as soon as weather permits and by mid-March we expect both ryegrass and bermuda to be in full recovery mode, giving us excellent spring playing conditions.
  5. Live and Learn. What we now know and will incorporate into future maintenance is that our fairway overseed needs to be delayed as late as is practical to allow both courses to be open prior to November first. And that in spite of fairways on both courses now showing a strong stand of underlying bermuda, we need to continue with our aggressive aerification and sanding program to improve the outcome of this lighter overseeding protocol. Based on Persimmon’s fairway recovery this spring, we may slightly increase the overseed density next fall, providing we feel we can do so without seriously impacting the health of the underlying bermuda. 

That’s the latest from the Anthem Greens Committee. The Committee is very pleased with the direction of our long-range program and while we have had a couple of unexpected curves along the way, we believe this first year has us on an improved and sustainable course. Thank you once again for your continued support.  Questions, or comments, contact us at anthemgreens@icloud.com

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