Monday, August 29, 2016

To Wet for Carts??

This past weekend we received a total of 0.71" of rain, not a lot but with the high humidity and frequent rain events it, kept the course soaked.  Disease pressure was also very high.

Friday Average Humidity: 82%
Saturday Average Humidity: 91%
Sunday Average Humidity: 88%

Today (Monday) we were able to get back at cutting rough and should be caught up by Tuesday.  Today Barrington High School golf team hosts other school for the annual outing at 1:30 PM.

Please be careful with carts on the course - when the peat bog becomes soaked, soft areas can sometime be hard to see and you will sink more than normal.

When the peat bog becomes saturated, wet/soft spots sometimes are hard to see. 

Any thin turf areas will stay wet longer and damage from carts even longer lasting.

The ropes really do mean - don't do it!  Not only will you sink in the soft peat, but also damage the seedlings.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Hot, Humid and the Bog

Hot, humid, wet weather is expected to return.  This type of weather is favorable to disease activity - especially the top three killers- dollar spot, brown patch and the dreaded pythium.  Pythium can kill large areas of turf overnight - entire greens/ fairways/ rough.

We treat greens, tees and fairways but the rough is not treated due to the cost of the chemicals - and even when you treat, control is not assured.

This summer has been very stressful, not only on the turf but the crews managing them - we have not had the real high day time temps, but the hot, humid nights are the silent killers.  As the soil temps have been rising and without the ability of the turf to cool and breath at night, roots on the turf have been shrinking.  Short roots make the turf more vulnerable to drought, diseases and other stresses.  Hopefully the forecasts are wrong and cooler, drier, less humid weather is coming - more typical of September.

Last week we finished seeding areas in the rough that died in the previous month.  Almost all of the large areas were where trees had been removed in the last year (mostly Ash trees).  The last three summers were relatively mild which allowed the Poa to grow.  This summer being hot, very humid and dry permitted the diseases to overtake the Poa.  It is a constant battle with the Poa at Biltmore - especially on the bog (with is all of the lower part of the golf course - including holes, 1,2,3,4,6,8,9,10,11,part of 13, 14,18 and 1,8,10,13 greens are also on the bog.  So when someone says - why does Biltmore have so much poa - its the peat bog.  The soil of the bog influence plants with  its very high organic and water holding (take a look around - not to many different types of trees on the bog).  The bog can stay very wet, except when the peat dries out, then it can catch fire and burn for months.  Moist humid air also settles over the bog at night.  Sometimes in the late evening you can feel the difference as you drive from 9 fairway up to 9 green, or 1 tee down to 1 fairway.  The bog sits in bowl, compared to the surrounding landscape.  This moist air helps diseases to fester and grow at night.

The bog is like no other golf course - some courses have a few holes, very few have greens, tees and fairways built on a peat bog.  The challenges in maintaining a golf course with this much peat (in areas the peat it is over 30' deep) are numerous - one other tidbit, our irrigation system is a one of a kind in the Midwest - it is held together by special ductile fittings which had to be warped in plastic so they would not corrode in the peat.  These fittings are used to hold natural gas lines together in earthquake zones (like California).   The fittings are needed because the pipes move in the looseness of the peat.  The peat does not stay put - it is always moving.  Even so, we still have pipes come apart in the peat - at least a half dozen each year.  A few years back there was a small earthquake - only a few people even felt it, the next day we had a dozen leaks because the peat moved like a bowl of jelly and loosened up the fittings.

The  bog is unique - requires special tools and management, the type they don't teach in school but has to be learned on the job, because, really who would build a golf course on a peat bog away? :)

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Poa Trivialis

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, the rough was taking it on the chin this year.  Poa trivialis is a grass that is found throughout the course at Biltmore, especially in the rough.  Why it is here, is a story for another blog, but it is here to stay.  It does great in cool, wet summers - but hot, humid or dry and its says good bye!  It also likes shade, so when trees are removed it is not a happy camper.  This summer we had some very hot, humid nights - perfect weather for diseases, especially Brown Patch, Pythium and Dollar Spot.  All three affect Poa Triv..

This week we begin renovating the areas - most notably where trees once stood.  Poa triv is also found around tees that have not been renovated in a few years and so those areas are now a priority to be repaired.  Smaller areas are aerified and seeded, while larger areas are roto tilled and seeded.  We hope to have most of the work completed this week or at least by early next week.  This is the perfect time for seeding and those areas should be back in play by mid October (large areas), however the smaller areas and sod will heal within a 3-4 weeks.

The rough around #8 tee was affected and we are taking the opportunity to straighten the edge of the tee and level the area.  This will be sodded in the few days.

Hydro mulch will be applied to the large areas in the rough - after they are leveled and seeded with Low Mow Bluegrass.
And if we were not busy enough, our sprayer sprung a hydraulic leak on part of #14 and #15 fairways.  We will have to wait and see how much turf is affected, but with aerification around the corner, that will help with the recovery process from this oil leak.  It is always something!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

CDGA Scouting Report - August 7, 2016

As the journey comes to an end, the nostalgia is building up – wait I’m joking, with this summer, in the words of a great woman 'aint nobody got time for that!' This week is the last week I will be on site in Chicago, but access via the current email and phone number will be available if there are questions until the end of September. Ron Townsend will continue with the CDGA and he is your point of contact if a sample collection is required. Ron can be contacted at or (312) 485-7570.
The week itself has been somewhat mixed. There has been a dry-down for some, but at this stage damage has been already done and the issue with green speeds has certainly come to the forefront as superintendents try to protect the greens through the brutal heat. One thing that has also almost certainly disappeared with the anaerobic soil conditions combining nicely with cruel heat is turfgrass roots. This means surfaces may become a little soft and inconsistent, so trying to judge best mowing heights is nigh on impossible. Remnants of Pythium can be seen in low spots and on some fairways, while further south unfortunately summer patch has made its way onto greens. Reports of grub digging have emerged already – indicating that the mild winter really did leave us a little off on the timing of various applications. It is just over one week, however, until Aug. 15 and so many are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.
Continuing to do the right things from an agronomical standpoint will win the day. Making judgment calls based on incoming weather conditions and staying calm in the face of adversity will get you through – no rash decisions! Our other annual issue – the disappearance of rough bluegrass Poa trivialis because it got too hot in the kitchen has really kicked in, and so the dormancy will leave a stain from now until the middle of September. Patience will be required as well as a lot of seed – get after it and finish strong!
Click here to view the August 7, 2016 Scouting Report
As always if you have a question or query please do not hesitate to ask and you can call or email.
Ed Nangle PhD
Senior Director of Turfgrass Programs
Chicago District Golf Association
Office: (630) 685-2307
Cell: (630) 423-1925
Follow us on Twitter @TurfResearch

Thursday, August 4, 2016

What Happened to the ROUGH!

My last post I talked about the heat. rain and diseases.  The rough took it on the chin!  After the rains, then came dry weather.  Peat soils are just not a great place to grow Kentucky Bluegrass, but Poa trivialis grows great when things are cool and wet, but hot, wet, humid then dry is not what it likes!  Brown Patch and Dollar Spot fungi love those conditions, especially if they can feast on Poa trivialis (or Poa for short and also called Roughstalk Bluegrass).

The other issue is we have removed quite a few trees (Ash mainly) and the turf (Poa) that use to live under them loved the shade, but was not to fond of full sun/heat.  So what looks like dead grass, is actually dormant Poa just waiting for cool, wet weather to return, I only wish it was really dead.  The stolon (root like things) are just waiting in the soil for the right conditions and then it will be back to "Biltmore Rough" once again.

The last few years we have had cool summers and the Poa made great inroads (not a good thing).  Some may remember when we started a program to kill all the Poa (Tenacity Treatments).  Since we stopped trying to keep it under control, it spread quickly in the cool summers.

This fall we will go back into the worst areas and rototill them and seed new varieties of bluegrass that in most years can hold their own against Poa.

The telltale signs that a tree was once here - Green sod with "dead" Poa trivialis that use to live in the shade of the tree.

In cool summers, the Poa can move into other areas (mix stands of turf), but when the tough weather comes - it checks out.

Quiz question - was there a tree here??  Yup!  There is also more shade on the North side of the tree, which is where you find more Poa triv.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Hot, Humid and Wet

In the last few days, temps have been hitting 90 degrees with frequent rains (3.37" in the last 4 days).  At the start, we needed the rain but now it is to much.  Disease pressure is very high which required extra applications of fungicides. The rough is not protected from diseases and many areas are affected which will cause discolorations and thinning.  Today (Monday) the course is soaked once again and we are unable to mow rough - hope to begin this afternoon.

We have two weather stations at Biltmore, one is linked online that you can view at anytime CLICK HERE to see the info from this weather station.  Also if you would like updates on carts, course conditions, frost delays, etc - sign up at - CLICK HERE for  You can also view all messages that I have sent on the website (without signing up).  Typically messages are sent early in the mornings when needed.

Data from our weather station

Today we are needle tine aerating greens - this is with a very small, solid tine that will not affect play.  This helps to allow air into the water logged soils.

Monday Course Work:

  • Edge bunkers and fix washouts
  • Walk push mow rough around greens and tees
  • Spray growth regulators on greens and tees
  • Cut tees and collars
  • Needle tine aerate greens and rolling (to smooth afterwards)
  • Grind greens mowers (sharpen)
  • Grind Rough Mowers (sharpen and routine maintenance)
  • Seed and soil (fill divots)

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Grounds Crew 2016

This year Tomas Durken and Wyatt Byrd produced a video chronicling the grounds crew and course at Biltmore Country Club using our new drone.

Grounds Crew 2016