Bermuda Grass Practice Tee

The picture below was taken one year ago yesterday, April 18th.

April 18 2013

This was our first mowing of the season and the Bermuda had just broken dormancy from the winter.  Fast forward to now, and the picture below shows that the Bermuda has yet to green-up at all.

Picture 264

Why is part of the tee growing green turf and the other half is not?  When we sodded the tee two years ago, half was delivered with over-seeded ryegrass.  This was done to open the tee in time for member usage in 2012.  What is interesting to the numerous agronomists and consultants that have viewed the tee over the last two plus months is how long ryegrass seed is viable in the ground.

Picture 262

We have just experienced the coldest and snowiest winter for the our area in the last two decades.  We are still experiencing very cold temperatures at night affecting not only the Bermuda grass on the tee, but also the bentgrass on the greens.  What are we to do with our tee?  Above, we are experimenting with different methods of warming up the canopy with window panes and black plastic trash bags.

Picture 042

In addition, we have decided to seed the back half of the practice tee with ryegrass.  Above, Raynor Paulsen (Spray Technician) is dragging the tee surface to “scuff” the dormant turf in preparation for seeding.  The decision to seed was made with recommendations by Darin Bevard of the USGA, Andrew Green – our course architect, and Jim McHenry of Oakwood Sod Farm.  Oakwood provided the sod to us in 2012.  It is our hope that over the next two weeks we begin to see green-up.  If this is the case, we will know that the Bermuda did survive the brutal winter.

Why is the tee slower than other courses with Bermuda in the Philadelphia region to break dormancy?

Practice Tee February 20 2014 d

Could it have been the decision to remove the snow in February?  At the time, we had an ice layer (an example of poor drainage) on the tee.  We know the effects of ice on Poa annua, but we still are not sure of the effects of ice on Bermuda. 

Could it have been low mowing heights going into the winter season?  We were at the same mowing heights in the fall of 2012 as we were in the fall of 2013 – but the winters were drastically different.

USGA Report

We mentioned above regarding drainage.  The hard copy report above details the need for installing drainage on the practice tee, and in addition, the first fairway.

Warm Season Grasses (Bermuda, Zoysia) do not perform well with wet conditions in COLD weather.  Inversely, Cold Season Grasses (Bentgrass, Poa, Fescues) do not perform well with wet conditions in WARM weather.

This was illustrated last summer in the first fairway below.

1 Fairway August 15

What is the Plan?

As stated, we have seeded the back half of the tee with ryegrass.  We will monitor the front half for green-up.  (A)  If it breaks dormancy over the next two weeks, we begin regular maintenance of the tee. (B) If the front half does not break dormancy, open the tee on dormant side (front half) while back half has time to mature with ryegrass.  We will sod out the front half with Latitude 36 Bermuda grass on May 19th and sod out back half in the middle of June. 

Why sod again with Bermuda?

Over the last two years we have had one of the finest hitting surfaces over the length of an entire golf season.  If we revert back to a cool-season turf tee (bentgrass or ryegrass) as we had in 2011 and earlier, we will undoubtedly fight the same conditions of no grass but crabgrass and goosegrass.

Putting Green Project

With a spring-time renovation project, there is a need to secure quality putting green sod to allow the Club to utilize the new practice area this summer.  Bentgrass grown for greens had become scarce in the Mid-Atlantic area.  We needed to see for ourselves the product we would be investing in for the future.  Therefore, on March 14th, we boarded a plane to the outskirts of Asheville, North Carolina.  Below is the view of the C & D Canal heading southwest to our destination of Morganton, NC.

C & D Canal

After a smooth first leg, we visited Pro Green Sod Farm.

Pro Green Sod Farm

The green turf on the right-side of the picture above will be the field in which the sod will be harvested soon for the new putting green.

Pro Green Sod Farm b

Above is a close-up of the bentgrass turf.  When it is harvested in the next 10 days, the turf will have a more dense canopy and lower height of cut.  Weather in Morganton has allowed the turf to establish quickly.

Pro Green Sod Farm c

Above is a sod washing conveyor belt.  The installation of sod for putting green is a technical practice in which we do not want any native soil on the underside of the sod.  The native soil would create a layering effect and will pose growing problems for the green in the future.  As the sod moves along the belt, right to left, soil is removed, leaving behind the root system.

McDonald & Sons

On March 27th, we officially began construction as they rolled into the parking lot.

Day 1

The of the first steps in the renovation process to create the floor of the shell.  Below, two track-skid loaders work to prep the cavity.

Green Shell

Although heavy equipment is used for most of the project, there are facets in which manual labor is a necessity.  Below, an employee of the McDonald & Sons cuts the edge to the green’s shell.

Green Shell 2

Below, Golf Course Architect – Andrew Green is checking percent slope with a laser level.

Andrew Green 2

Andrew, as with other projects in the past for the Club, has spent countless hours in the field with this project, but also knows a thing or two behind the wheel of the skid loader seen here below.

Andrew Green

Below is a view of the green complex from the practice tee.

View from Pract Tee

All-in-all, the new green will be 9,000 square feet.  Below, the orange paint delineates drain lines for the green.  The white paint values are the percent slopes.

Drain Lines

Below is the start of the drain lines.

Drain Lines 2

Below is an example of the grade stakes used throughout the renovation process.  The first line near the bottom of the stake represents the 4 inch layer of gravel stone used in a USGA spec green.  The upper line, with the asterisk, represents the 12 inches of sand and soil mix that will be installed.

Grade Stake

The black plastic below is the vapor or wicking barrier that is used in USGA spec greens.  This prevents water moisture from escaping to the native soil surrounding the green shell.  The material in front of the wicking barrier is drainage stone.

Green Shell 3

Below shows the install process for the drainage stone.

Drainage Stone

Below is a video displaying the technique used when shaping the green floor.