Friday, July 10, 2009

There is Unrest in the Forest...

3rd Green at 10:00am Friday July 10th.

Our new third green is not performing as well as I would like. The green was planted with aerator cores containing a mix of annual bluegrass and bentgrass as well as bentgrass seed. Bentgrass requires a lot of sunlight to perform well whereas annual bluegrass is adapted to shade. Bentgrass is also less wear tolerant than annual bluegrass. The green grew in very well last fall and this spring. Once the green was opened for play and the trees got their leaves, it started to decline. I have been watching the green several times a day since it was planted so I have a very good understanding of what is going on. Because of the dense shade, it does not have the recuperative ability necessary to recover from a full days play. We have had the green open every day for a few weeks now and it has been in a downward spiral which goes something like this: 250 golfers walk on it and all end up near the hole causing a lot of wear around the hole location. The hole gets moved the next day and the old location starts to recover. The new hole location gets wear from 250 more golfers. The hole gets moved again and again but the first hole location never recovers fully by the time the hole needs to go there again. The first hole location then gets worn even more and the cycle repeats.

I have had the green tested for disease and fertility and there are no issues. The issue is the most obvious one: we need to remove more trees! We were told this by Dave Oatis from the USGA Green Section before we started construction and again this spring. He predicted the exact situation that is now occuring. I did some pretty extreme tree pruning to see if that would help but it is not enough. As you can see from the picture above a large portion of the green is still shaded at 10:00am (it is much worse earlier). The green only gets full sun starting at about 11:00am but then starts getting shaded again in the late afternoon. It is widely recognized that morning sun is the most important for photosynthesis.

As I see it, we have two choices:

1. Keep the trees and realize that the green will have to be closed on and off for the rest of this year. The green will eventually adapt to it's surroundings and become 100% annual bluegrass. This process will be painful and the green will likely get worse before it gets better and may take several years to fully adapt.

2. Remove trees as suggested by David Oatis to add to the recuperative potential to this green. Unfortunately, even if we do this tomorrow, the green will still need time and reduced traffic to fully recover. This is a longer term strategy that will help us next year and beyond.

I realize that many people do not like to see trees removed but remember that golf is a game that is played on grass.

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