Athletic Field Fencing: Function or Fashion?

So you think perimeter fencing around your community athletic fields is ugly?

Here’s why I disagree…

 

Here’s a previous video post I did that shows a field without perimeter fencing to compare. So what do you think? Is it “fashion over function” or “function over fashion” when it comes to our community athletic fields? It might be the difference between offering quality turf and a safe playing surface, or not. Let me hear it and leave a comment below?

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FORE The Sake Of Integrity

I am excited to post this article I contributed in latest edition of @GolfScene Magazine. I feel very strongly about the decreasing integrity and etiquette in our game. If you agree with my points in this article, share it, retweet it, post it at your facility or write one from your own perspective. This article was a combined effort and I greatly appreciate the professional insight and review from John Vaught, Director of Golf Operations, TN. John is not only a great Turf Professional, but I am happy to call him a friend. Check out the article below or better yet, go to GolfScene and check it out there

 

iStock 000017257879XSmall resized 600Once upon a time, fairways were rough pastures and bore very little resemblance to our ‘carpet like’ grass of today. In those days, a round required two caddies to guide the golfer through the links. An assistant caddie or ‘fore-caddie’ would forge forward and scout the ball for the caddie and the golfer. The caddie would yell “FORE!” as a short form for (fore-caddie) in order to warn his partner of the dangers of an approaching ball.

The tradition of requiring a caddie to guide us around the course has changed. The usage of the term FORE however has continued through centuries of golf, but has the ‘meaning’ and its use followed?

No it has not.

FORE has kept its tradition, but it has lost much of it’s integrity. In the world of turf maintenance, FORE has seemingly been lumped in with the urgency of phrases like FIRE IN THE HOLE!HIT THE DECK! – or – RUN!

I have been hit by a golf ball as have so many of my colleagues in turf. It hurts, it injures and it kills. Launching a golf ball and being acutely aware of its flight path should be a conscious decision. And so should the proper use of FORE in the game.

For turf workers, wearing head protection is very important, but a helmet is not a suit of armour or a ‘free pass’ to ignore the integrity and meaning of the term FORE. Which, when used properly, serves as an effective preemptive warning signal.

I have played golf with others that discount the importance of waiting for an area to clear of maintenance staff, or who suggest that maintenance workers are ‘used to it’, and will ‘get out of the way’. Well, let me assure you, one never gets used to being hit by a golf ball. And tracking a golf ball coming towards you is much more difficult than watching it from the spot where it was hit.

What do I think?

I believe, we as golfers generally care and want to do the right thing. Yes, some are ignorant or misinformed of the etiquette involved. It is our responsibility as fellow golfers to guide and teach them to protect others and uphold the integrity of the game.
We need to be realistic about our level of skill and where the little-white-ball might go. We need to STOP if something doesn’t feel right and simply wait patiently for the area to clear, just like we would if a foursome was within range. Maintenance workers are not being rude, they are doing their jobs. They are trying to make the golfing experience more enjoyable.

Can maintenance crews do anything different? You betcha!

Often groundskeepers get caught up in the task and, at times, lose perspective of the surroundings. This can be disastrous. Golfers have the right of way … period. Educating staff, members, and customers is a vital part of the co-existence equation, in addition to empowering service staff to endorse the message.

Let’s remember the history of the fore-caddie and the integrity of the caddie team. Let’s bring back the integrity of the term FORE and respect and protect each other in the process.

As a colleague of mine once wisely stated, “a simple FORE, goes a long way”.

Are you concerned about the integrity of our game? How would you change it? Leave a comment below and let’s put our heads together to bring the integrity back.

 

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Don’t Let The Rain Keep You Off Your Turf

Rain? What rain?

There can be great learning opportunities to be found if you slap on the rain gear and walk around your golf course or athletic fields in the rain. Sometimes it pays to be a drowned rat!

Check it out…

Do you make a point of walking your turf areas in the rain? What interesting findings have you come across and problems? Let’s hear it!

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Athletic Fields: Unnecessary Turf Stress

Scheduled “Hours of Use” is a biggie in the world of an Athletic Field Manager. Unscheduled “Hours of Use” can be a nightmare! Unknown field use can come in many different forms and here is just another example of unnecessary turf stress that might have been avoided with better planning…

Check it out…

What do you think is the best solution to this problem? What do you think they could have done in the planning stages to avoid this? I wanna know… let’s learn togther.

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Green Overseeding Strategy: Call me Crazy!

I spend a lot of time on the road and in that time I think. That’s right, think… scary thought eh?!

I had just finished up a visit with Matt Hallman, Golf Course Superintendent at Whistle Bear Golf Club and in that visit he was showing me the terrific “catch” he got from his recent core aeration and overseeding. Matt punched his greens with 1/4” hollow tines on 1 1/2” spacing and had every intention of taking advantage of the holes by overseeding with a newer creeping bentgrass variety. As I walked on the green I could see the silhouette of each hole sporting a tuft of turf sticking straight up (loud and proud!) higher than the other turf surrounding it. 
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But, wait a second!

It was very exciting, but my first instinct is to STOP look at all the variables and make sure this is what I am seeing. I have questioned seed catches in the past as just being established turf filling in and thriving in a better growing environment after a much needed aeration.  

Matt and I crouched down, brushed the greens surface, picked away at it… you know, the stuff that turf nerds do. I grabbed one of the tufts of turf from a hole and held it up. Yes, there was absolutely no mistaking that it was young bentgrass seedlings with nice white roots thriving in those holes. Awesome!

We wrapped up our meeting and as I was driving home, I continued to think about Matt’s success…
overseeding success of bentgrass

Was it the timing?  

 

Was it the topdressing?

 

Was it the weather conditions?

 

Was it the fertility? 

 

 

 

 

Yes, definitely all those things, but I couldn’t help but think that a great strategy on Matt’s part was choosing hollow tines rather than solid venting. It is much easier to use a solid tine and create that same surface disruption without all the messy clean up. After all, 1/4” hollows on 1 1/2” centers is really only 2-3% material removal… right? True, BUT I really believe the clean cut and removal of the soil core provides a better potential for germination time and success than simply pushing a hole in with a solid venting tine. I think it delays the recovery just that much, that the new seed as less competition and a bit more time to establish as opposed to the solid vent.

I really have nothing to base these thoughts on other than my feelings, and observations. Yes, there are a ton of variables and strategies. Did Matt just get lucky? No, I don’t think so. He had a strategy in place and executed it… and Mother Nature happened to be nice for once!

Am I crazy?

I think 1/4” hollows on tight spacing is an excellent way of creating an environment for successful overseeding. Better than solid 1/4” venting tines. Cutting and removing the soil core is better than driving a solid object in and pushing the turf and soil aside. 

I would love to hear whether you think it matters or whether I am “out to lunch”? What is your overseeding strategy and what are the key elements of its success? Let’s talk and learn together.

 

Big thanks to Matt Hallman for letting me share his story and the success he had with his recent overseeding project!

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Deep Verticutting Greens: “Oldie’s but Goldie’s” from the Past

My wife Shannon was working on our daughters photo album when she showed me some old turf pics that made it into a file that I had forgotten about. They made me smile when I flipped through them and brought back some good memories!

I decided to implement a deep verticutting program twice per season when I was at Rebel Creek Golf Club as a Superintendent. There are lots of different ways to “skin the cat”… sorry, not meaning to be insensitive to our cat lovers… just like the term. Deep verticutting is an interesting method for addressing undiluted thatch and proved to work great for us. We just decided to fine tune our program and deal with thatch and root zone compaction separately.

At the time, I felt we were getting the maximum amount of surface disruption with a shortest recovery time. Again, many ways to “skin the cat”, but this is what worked well for us and our event scheduling. 

If you want to read about it in more detail, check this out or how about this, or just enjoy some pics that I stumbled upon yesterday…

Sisis Walk-behind. We actually ended up using the debris catcher which expedited our clean up greatly.download1 resized 600

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Canadian Loonie!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We picked up a turbine blower, which was much better!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 Well, there you have it! I work with many different programs and situations. Golf Course Superintendents know what works best for them and their properties. The deep verticut achieved results for us at the time and they continue to use it now. 

I have heard some unique ideas for cultural practices. Please leave a comment below and let’s share together.

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Etiquette: I wanna be a “Golfer”

Sad, but true...I started out with this post being mad! After a couple sips of coffee and some further thought, I calmed down a bit. Nothing gets a turf guy more “fired up” than a divot out if a green! It wrecks our day, it makes you wonder who is out to get you and it makes you reflect on the state of the game of golf. 

Ok, so you “non-turfies” are saying “WHOA buddy, it’s a divot out of a green. Not something that I would do, but DON’T take it so seriously!”. Yes, I get it, we as Turf Professionals take our jobs seriously (maybe too seriously) and it likely comes from the crazy early mornings and nursing turf along after a hot, dry summer. But, a divot out of a green is an insult to us.

I have an amazing circle of Turf Professionals that I communicate with regularly on Twitter. Check them out on my “Total Turf” list. I asked them if any one could send me a photo of a divot pelt out of a green. I also used it as a bit of an experiment, to see what kind of response I would get from my colleagues. Let’s just say, it didn’t take long for the pics to start coming my way, each one with a tweet of disappointment or frustration attached. That is sad…

Jump back a bit…

 I have been thinking about the etiquette of the game of golf for a long time. Are we doing a good job at using the “etiquette” to grow the game? I remember being taught as a boy that I didn’t move on to my next shot until I stopped (no matter how crappy my shot was) and finished the shot. “Finishing the shot” meant filling/fixing my divot, raking the bunker, repairing my ball mark, etc. I was taught to leave my area in as good (or better) condition than I found it. 

Ya, ya… I am “turfie” right? Nope, that was way before I ever caught the bug of managing grass. It came down to a great teacher “my Dad” and a respect for the game I was learning. 

Everything came together for me recently as I was chatting with a fellow Turf Professional. 

He said… This is how I look at it,  there are “golfers” and those that “play golf”  The “golfer” is the guy who fixes his divots, rakes traps, ball mark repair, and is respectful of the game and those who work there. The people who “play golf” are the ones who have no respect for anything on the course including the people. They found a deal some place and want to try and get through as quickly as possible.”

Those are harsh words, but I am sorry folks, it’s true. There are a lot of people that “play golf”. 

We need more “Golfers”

We need to continue growing the game of golf. It is a fantastic sport (yes it is a sport) that brings people to nature and suits a wide demographic. We need to make golf stronger, but we need to bring back the importance of “etiquette” as we teach. Are the people that “play golf” no good for the game? No way, we need those people! We just need to find a way to see if they are interested in being “Golfers” and teach them. 

 I used to get embarrassed when my Dad would call out another person (who played golf) in our group. “Hey, you didn’t fix your ball mark sir”. I would give my Dad the big eyes and the nervous head shake, but now I realize his efforts and the good he was doing for the game. 

There will always be people who “play golf”, but let’s not give up on them. Let’s help them be “Golfers”. 

I would love to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment below. If you want to check out the divot “wall of shame” that was generously, yet ashamedly contributed by my fellow Turf Professionals… here it is “Sad, but true…”

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Head Injuries “This career shouldn’t be this dangerous”

Concussions in sports

As I sit in my hotel room at 5:00 am, there are many, many thoughts rolling through my head. I had every intention of actually sleeping-in this morning before we make our way back home to hug our daughter that we haven’t seen for four days. That’s a long time in the world of a three and a half year old!

 

 

The risk of head injuries and concussions have been on the fore front of my mind for the past two weeks. I have had the pleasure of connecting with some important people and listened to some interesting stories related to this topic (more to come).

This is something I think about quite regularly in my business, but this is different.

Just recently a colleague of mine was hit in the head by a golf ball and received some serious complications because of it. I have only met John on Twitter, but I do consider him a friend and we share common interests.

John is a Golf Course Superintendent and was doing his job, just like many other friends and colleagues in my business of turf. 

Please check out John’s story here and pass it along.

 

 

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Nitrogen Rates: When “Science” and “Feel” Come Together

Here is a recent article I contributed to Engage Agro’s “the loupe” newsletter, about dialing in your nitrogen rates. Engage Agro is involved in the sales and marketing of specialized and niche market crop protection. Tim Steen, Golf & Sod Business Unit Manager and Justin Parsons, Turfgrass Specialist can be contacted here.

Irrigation Water Quality

Let’s face it, Nitrogen is the ‘big cheese’ in the world of turfgrass nutrition. Does that mean we should ignore the other nutritional elements that are found in the soil and plant? Absolutely not! But, nitrogen is found in the highest amount in the leaf tissue and is directly related to the production of chlorophyll and the process of photosynthesis. As we know, this is also directly related to growth and density of our turf.

 Our putting surfaces are maintained with one foot on the gas pedal and the other on the brake. We need enough growth to achieve a quality surface by out competing the stress and abuse it takes, but not too much to create ‘fuzzy’ greens in the afternoon and lush turf that is susceptible to heat stress and disease.Nitrogen rates on turf

What is the correct amount of nitrogen to apply throughout the season?

You can follow general programs if you choose, or better yet, work towards understanding what nitrogen rates suit your location, environment, turf and soil type, stress levels and quality objectives. Sunlight and temperature are factors we cannot control, but there are many components we can.

 

Dialing in your nitrogen rates is a combination of ‘science’, such as:
-  fertilizer technology
-  plant tissue testing
-  soil testing specific to nitrogen
-  measuring clipping yield weight
-  measurement of organic matter in relation to air temperature

As well as ‘feel’, such as:
-  application interval
-  mowing heights
-  mowing frequency
-  water management
-  visual observation of turf quality
-  environmental management

 It is very important to note that proactive cultural practices are also essential to the mineralization of organic nitrogen and nitrogen availability to the plant. No soil oxygen and no microbes adds up to NO GOOD!

 Take the time to collect data on how your turf and environment are being affected by your nitrogen applications. Get a true measurement of your rates of actual nitrogen and the the exact intervals you are applying them. Collect some accurate data on what your turf is taking in and what that response is in growth rate. Do your best to follow your program as you normally would, but be diligent with your documentation.

The real strategy comes into play when you sit down with a coffee at the end of the season and connect all of the dots to fine tune your nitrogen program for next year. Consider a balance of ‘science’ and ‘feel’ in your nitrogen fertility and focus on a program that is right for you and your environment.

Your turn: How do you manage your nitrogen fertility. Are you a “Science” or a “Feel” person? Or better yet, do you bring them both together? Please let me know in the comment section below. 

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Irrigation Water Quality for Turf: You Can’t Manage What You Don’t Measure

 Here is a recent article I contributed to Engage Agro’s “the loupe” newsletter, talking about understanding your irrigation water quality. Engage Agro is involved in the sales and marketing of specialized and niche market crop protection. Tim Steen, Golf & Sod Business Unit Manager and Justin Parsons, Turfgrass Specialist can be contacted here.Irrigation Water Quality

 

 

Many of us utilize tools and technology for building and fine tuning our turf maintenance programs. These tools help us identify issues before they become problems and allow us the opportunity to be “proactive” with our management techniques.

How about your irrigation water source?

Irrigation Water Quality for Turf

Many times we determine our water ‘quality’ by the quality of our irrigation system, capacity of the pump station and the size of our irrigation pond. Well, ‘bigger isn’t necessarily better’ when it comes to the quality of our irrigation water source. A big pond with nasty water quality can mean, well, a whole lot of water that is really no good!
 

 

 

Irrigation water quality can be a challenge and changing your water source is very difficult and costly in most circumstances. So, it is what it is in many cases unfortunately. However, the true value is in having it regularly tested and a true understanding of how to best manage your turf with the water you have. I believe that soil and irrigation water testing need to come together in order to understand the true picture of your agronomic challenges. Many times, one will present a clue to indicate a problem with the other.

‘Good’ guys and ‘Bad’ guys

Your irrigation water is comprised of ‘good’ guys and ‘bad’ guys. The bad guys, such as sodium, might outnumber the good guys and contribute to a poor turf environment during prolonged irrigating periods. Learn how to deal with the ‘bad’ guys.
 Irrigation Water Quality for Turf

Do you aim to apply 1 inch of water on your turf per week? Did you know that: One acre inch of water containing 1063 ppm of salts, translates to 241 pounds per acre of salts. That’s a lot of salt! And with it comes the potential to hinder turf growth under the wrong watering practices. Your irrigation system can apply elements from your water source (good and bad) at a much higher rate than any sprayer or spreader.

 

You Can’t Manage What You Don’t Measure

Understanding your irrigation water quality can be an important step in taking your turf management program to the next level. Look at the sources that contribute to the water that is entering your pump intake. Sample at your pump intake and sample each source that may contribute to the melting pot that is your irrigation water. This data can prove to be very valuable through those dog days of summer and prolonged irrigating periods.

Your Turn: Do you test your irrigation water regularly? How does it affect your turf environment and do you have a plan in place to manage it effectively? Let’s talk!

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