Practice Tee: May 1, 2015

Beginning today, the Practice Tee is open for the season. We would like to answer some questions and concerns regarding the condition of the teeing ground.

The picture below was taken this morning. Over the last few weeks, we have painted the dormant turf. The noticeable lines are from the drainage (see blog post Practice Tee: Drainage, April 2, 2015) installed in March.

Tee 2 May 1

The cold spring has not allowed the Bermuda grass (a warm-season turfgrass species) to break dormancy. The cold temps also have not allowed our bentgrass (a cool-season turfgrass species) greens to fill-in from the aerification that occurred the first week of April.

Tee May 1

The picture above is the painted tee in the foreground and the dormant first target green. It is important to know that the Bermuda grass is ALIVE on the tee and all the target greens. The tee, along with all the Bermuda grass on the range, will green up as soon as the soil warms over the next several days.

In fact, the Bermuda grass has begun to pop from the few days that temps have reached 60 degrees. The picture below is from the first target green.

First Target Green

Just below the keys are Bermuda grass leaves beginning to makes it’s way through the dormant mat surface. From your desktop, your can click on the picture for a closer look.

stolon with arrows

Above is a sample from the tee. We began to see green, viable leaf tissue in early April. Here, the arrows are delineating areas of growth. Again, with warmer temperatures, we will see a continued upward movement of tissue, giving way to leaves. The green leaves in this picture is from the turf paint.

April 18 2013

We have seen in the past that a warm spring will lead to an early green-up of the Practice Tee. The picture above was taken on April 18, 2013.

The difference between this year and 2014 is that the growth of the Bermuda grass was in the upper two inches. In 2014, viable tissue was in the four to five inch medium, thus the long period to break dormancy last spring. However, all the turf removed last year and harvested to the rear of the range, came back in it’s entirety as Bermuda grass.

Old Practice Tee

We are currently exploring options for 2016 in regards to spring use of the Practice Tee. The option of reverting back to a 100 % cool-season turfgrass season should not be considered. The picture above is from 2012. The tee is loaded with crabgrass and voids from other weeds such as goosegrass.

Practice Range: Target Greens & Sustainability

Today we had hoped to continue with our spring aerification efforts, but the damp conditions and the possibility of more rain forced us to change our plans. Instead, our focus turned to changing out the mixed stand of turf (bentgrass, ryegrass and Poa annua) on the target greens to the same turf used on the Practice Tee, Latitude 36 Bermuda grass.

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This change in turf types is another step for the Club towards environmental sustainability. Bermuda grass requires less water, fertilizer and pesticides in order to survive than the mix stand of turf that has been replaced on these greens.

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Why is the Bermuda sod green and not yellow and dormant like the first target green pictured at the beginning of this blog post?

The sod has been over-seeded with annual ryegrass for some spring color.  The annual rye will die at some-point during the season and next winter these greens will be dormant just like the practice tee and first target green is now.

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Bermuda Grass Practice Tee Update

There was no rhyme or reason to what we were seeing in the Bermuda from the last two seasons.  The turf was breaking dormancy in some areas, while other areas had no viable turf on the surface.  Sample plugs revealed dead tissue in the upper 2 inches, while rhizomes in the 3 – 5 inch medium were viable.  These deeper areas of living tissue would have eventually pushed green turf to the surface, but this may have taken weeks to occur.  The issue was clear, we needed to sod.

Practice Tee 2

 Last week on Monday, May 26th, our staff began to prepare the front half of the teeing surface sod.

Practice Tee 1

Above, our staff begins to remove the unwanted turf.

Practice Tee 3

Above in the foreground is Gaudencio (Lencho) Rodriguez floating the surface with our bunker rake.  Below, left to right, is Jon McMillan (Seasonal Employee), Tim Friel (First Assistant Superintendent), Dave Smith -back to camera- (Second Assistant Superintendent), Nick Buoni (Seasonal Employee) and Jose Rodriguez (Seasonal Employee) raking any loose material left behind by the bunker machine.

Practice Tee 4

On Tuesday morning (May 27th), Latitude 36 Bermuda Grass was delivered in large rolls pictured below.

Practice Tee 6

At first light, our staff began the slow and arduous process of installing the sod.

Practice Tee 5

With some rolls left over from the shipment, we removed and installed Bermuda grass on the first target green.

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We will monitor the back-half of the practice tee and hope time will allow the existing Bermuda to pop through the over seeded ryegrass.  A decision will be made towards the end of the month if we will undergo the same process as the front-half of the tee.

Bermuda Grass Practice Tee Update

On April 19th we informed the Membership regarding the condition of the Practice Tee if it had survived the harsh winter weather of 2013/ ’14.  We initially thought if we did not see any progress on the surface, we would sod the tee this coming Monday.  Below is a picture of our “un-scientific” attempt to warm-up the teeing surface.  This resulted in no significant difference of growth between the window pane or black plastic bag.
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The back-half of the teeing complex is doing fine with our ryegrass seeding and will be ready for use in the coming weeks.  We have also seen very encouraging signs of Bermuda grass growth as well with warmer night-time temperatures.

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Above, Bermuda grass has broken dormancy on the left-hand edge of the teeing ground.  It appears that areas that remained drier during the winter months are greening-up quicker than areas that remained wet during the same time period.

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The pictures above and below, although sporadic, show more growth of the Bermuda on the tee top.

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What have we done and what are we going to do?

If you look closely in the picture above, we have applied a black organic fertilizer and solid-tined (aerified) the tee.  This was to promote more warmth to the surface, as well as, below the surface.  This was done Monday and the growth in the two pictures was present 24-48 hours after application and aerification.

We will also paint the tee this coming Monday to help promote as much warmth as possible.  We will continue to monitor our progress along with our USGA Agronomist, Darin Bevard, over the course of the next two weeks.  If we do not see significant changes, then we will sod out the front half of the tee in early June.

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.

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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.