Friday, April 16, 2021

April 15, 2021 Course and Club House Update

 Hi Folks,

I hope this update finds all well and still excited for the upcoming year.  The snow has finally melted, even in the dark corners of the golf course and the frost is coming out of the ground.  Work continues on the club house, both exterior and interior, and we are working on the course to recover from the winter.

Like the March Update I'll lead with some photos of the Club house so you can see the progress.  

The Multi Purpose room on the second floor is really taking shape now that the drywall has been installed.

Multi Purpose room from another angle.

Although hard to see (no lights installed yet) this will be the simulator room and the members lounge.  The open space in the wall will house a window to spectate and or heckle.

The stone patio out side the restaurant is almost finished and the siding is being installed

Same patio from the south side

Here's the club house from the one tee side. The stone work on the wall facing the parking lot is making great progress and looking great! 

The interior of the existing clubhouse is also getting a facelift.  We are adding an office for Brett and reconfiguring the hall to create an entrance to the new facility.

Another view of the clubhouse from 9 approach.

The slightly warmer weather we've been experiencing is beginning to show us where the golf course has suffered from the winter.  As predicted from the samples we had pulled early March, there are pockets of ice injury around the golf course. 18, 10 13, 7 have taken the worst of the damage, suffering roughly a 60 percent loss sporadically around the greens and predominantly in the low areas. 

18 green Ice damage

Number 7, back of the green

Number 10 green freshly tarped. Our tarping team today from the left are Mack, Lincoln and AJ.

Number 7 in the front.

 The current temperatures (with the exception of a few out lying days) have been below the level where the turf will really take off.  I am encouraged by the growth that we’ve had already, during the small amount of warmth we experienced.   The healthy plants will take advantage of the warmth and grow more quickly while the damage plants will be slow to show any movement.  As things get warmer and the plants find themselves in better growing conditions the less healthy will show improvement.   

Our process to correct the damage includes a hard brushing in both directions, fertilize with plant available liquid fertilizer, over seeding with our bent grass seeder, roll and then covering the green with a tarp to elevate the temperatures.  We would normally include watering the seed, but I am concerned about any lingering frost in the ground that might damage the irrigation system.   This weekend is supposed to be wet, and we will most likely charge the system next week to continue keeping the seed moist. As a side note, this is the earliest I have ever seeded in New Brunswick, typically the first week of May is our target.


Here's the tarp installed on 18. The tarp elevates the soil temperature and helps to reduce loss over night.
It’s unlikely to see much germination while the temperatures are this sporadically low but in the event we see some growth, we will be that much further ahead.  There is no magic pill for recovery from these situations, it's more of war of attrition.  We seed, tarp, hope for growth, seed, tarp, hope for growth.  As the weather improves each seeding layer will see better results, until the damage is fully recovered. 

 2, 3, 8, 11, 16, 9 also suffered some injury but at a much lesser degree.  These areas are of lesser concern, main due to their smaller size and reduced but not decimated population.  I expect as the conditions improve these will areas will get smaller.  Treatment remains the same, brush, fertilize, seed and tarp. 

Number nine green from the club house, the whitish areas are the damaged sections.

This is the "reduced but not decimated population" area on 13 green at the back left. This will improve much faster as there are already mature plants in place.  

Here's the same spot on 13 but from viewed from 18tee. The guys are tarping just the weak sections.

That leaves 1, 4, 5, 6, 12, 14, 15, 17 in great shape. 

Number 2 from the back, looking great!

Number 4 from the back, also looking great!

Number five from four green, you guessed it, also looking great!

On the whole not a terrible winter result but we definitely have some work to do.  At this point we are still looking at our traditional opening date of Mid may,  but are optimistic with good weather and some luck we might be earlier.  Please stay tuned for further updates and a discussion about moving the putting green!

Thursday, April 1, 2021

March Update 2021

Hey Folks,

Happy New Year and welcome!  Thanks to the those who have decided to return and to those who have chosen to join us for the first time.  When I started here in 2016 the golf course had nine holes with about 90 members and since then we have grown in so many ways.  Our community has expanded to include more streets and homes, the golf course has increased to 18 holes with attention to detail and playing conditions, and our membership has increased to over 400 great people that are awesome to work with.

In keeping with our efforts to continue the offerings at West Hills, the 2021 season will bring with it a state of the art club house featuring Saint James Gate restaurant, a second floor with golf simulator and multi purpose great room, and many more amenities for your use. 

While all of this has little to do with the actual cultivation and maintenance of the turf I'm pretty excited to be part of this project and wanted to share a portion of that with you! Here are some photos of the clubhouse and the interior during the construction.

The view of the club house from 15 tee.

From between 18 and 9 greens.

From 9 green.

This will be the view of nine green from the second floor deck in the previous picture.

18 Green from the same deck as the previous picture.

From inside the second floor, this is a common room overlooking 18 green, with doors opening to the deck in the previous two pictures.

The ground floor where the restaurant will be situated, with 18 foot windows overlooking 9 and 18 green.

The view from the common room on the second floor over looking the 18 green.

Obviously there is still quite a bit of work to be done but the crew are here everyday making progress with the construction.  

Now on to the turf.

As far as winters go, the 2020/2021 season was pretty tame.  Not really a whole lot of snow, but cold by average standards.  We didn't really have any significant snow fall accumulation until at least the 16th of January, and there fore, a reduced amount of ice build up on the playing surfaces.  The average temperature in March this year was about 6 degrees colder than the historical average, and the heating degree days were more than the average by about 40 degree days (basically means we needed to run the heat more often when below 18 degrees C) . Not a terrible winter by any means. 

By the second week of March I had begun the process of removing the snow from the greens. For the most part things looked pretty good. Most of the greens had some form of ice on them, and definitely sections where it could be problematic but not a global issue.  I took some samples of the those areas and put them in the shop to warm up. 

The path to 16 green

Three green.

This is a cross section of the snow on 15 green.  The layers exposed here represent the thawing events through out the winter where the snow melted and created an ice layer on the surface.  Then subsequent snows build up until the next thaw. I always hope for this kind of pattern as it acts a natural barrier to keep ice from the green.  

The term "winterkill" is often used to describe the death of turf from various causes during the winter months. It's a layman's term that covers any reason for turf loss but usually the culprit is either one of the following or a combination of each. Here are some excerpts from earlier blogs where this is explained.

During the winter the environmental conditions at ground level are conducive to fungal growth that thrives in the wet and cold.  Pink snow mould will form within 2 months of snow coverage and Grey Snow mould within three months coverage.  If left untreated these two fungi can devastate a golf course.  As part of the prevention program a fungicide is applied late in the fall to protect the turf beneath the snow.
The disease pressure this year was extremely strong, most likely because the turf was very wet and still not completely dormant prior to the first snows in January. Any areas not treated (mainly the rough) are showing signs of damage.  Fortunately, due to the length of the turf in these areas they should recover quickly.

This is from the walk up to 13 green, Being in the rough its not an area we would normally treat and is quite thick with mould this year.

Number 17 tee.  The left side of the photo (the tee surface) was treated, and the right (the rough between the cart path and the tee) deck was not.

Another form of injury to the turf from the winter is prolonged ice coverage.  The injury varies in severity based on the species of turf and the duration of the ice coverage.  Poa Annua, an invasive native turfgrass, can only survive ice coverage for about 45 days.   Bent Grass, the turf species used in most northern green’s construction, can survive longer stretches of ice coverage, almost twice that of the Poa.  In very general terms, the ice encases the plant and suffocates it.  So far I have seen little evidence that the ice that had developed on the course has caused extensive damage.  There are definitely pockets of trouble, much like last year, but it remains to be seen how extensive that damage is.

Number 10 Green right after I had cleared it.  This green had a considerable amount of ice on it.

Ten green with about three inches of ice.

A great example of what walking or driving on snow on the green can do. These are snow shoe tracks on ten green.  The snow gets packed down and eventually forms ice on the surface.  If you chose to walk on the course be mindful of where the greens are.

The putting green.

"Winterkill" also comes in the form of Crown Hydration Injury.  This typically occurs during the late winter and early spring portions of the year.  Plants generally slow to a form of dormancy that aids in winter protection, remaining until temperatures are once again high enough to begin the spring growth period.  Similar situations are evident with trees and shrubs, buds start to form, and the plant wakes up.  Occasionally we have a few warm days in March or April that fool the turf into believing the its time to get started.  The crown of the plant (where the leaves grow from) flood with cellular activity and the plant begins growing. 

Unfortunately, these warm days are usually followed by a very cold night or two and the plant basically freezes, the cells break, and the plant desiccates.  As with ice damage, the severity of crown hydration injury varies with the species, mainly based on what temperature that species emerges from dormancy at. Poa Annua will begin cellular function at 8 degrees Celsius, making it much more susceptible to injury from an early spring warming period.  Bent Grass will hold out until 14 degrees Celsius before cellular active begins, making a more resistant to this type of injury.

This has to be considered when taking the snow off the green. After removing the snow this year we had a cold snap follow the the exposure of the greens. I was concerned about the bent grass suffering from crown hydration injury.  The samples I had pulled on the 15 of March were showing growth the end of the week and I was pleased to see that the Poa had actually suffered much more than the bent grass.  

The sample from 9 on the 16th of March

Number 9, 4 days after sampling at 20 degrees Celsius.  Note that some of the tips are burnt, but he crowns, where the plant grows from, are greening up.

This is the same green 14 days later at 20 degrees Celsius.  The dark green leaves with pointed tips are the bent grass and the rounded tip leaves that look unhealthy are the Poa Annua plants. Clearly, there is a difference in the growth pattern.

While the samples look good, we have to remember that I am sampling a very small portion of a very large area.  In the series of photos above the time span is about 14 days in  a controlled environment at a set temperature. As the soil temperature warm up we will have a better idea of the conditions.  Please stay tuned and if you have any questions feel free to ask away! I enjoy the feed back and look forward to hearing from you!