Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Horrible Hundred!

With Memorial Day only a few days away I always think of  Ted Horton around this time. When I was at my previous course I was lucky enough to have had Ted do some consulting work for us. Ted is one of the legends in the industry with a resume that includes head positions at Winged Foot, Weschester, and Pebble Beach. Ted was superintendent during the "Massacre at Winged Foot" when Hale Irwin won the 1974 US Open with a seven over par total score. I bumped into Ted at the the GIS show in San Diego this February and mentioned to him that he had a great influence on my career with one simple article that he had written. The article was dubbed MIGS and is just as relevant now as when he wrote it some 15 years ago.

MIGS stands for Mow, Irrigate Groom, and Spray. It is Ted's belief that the time period between Memorial Day and Labor Day in the Northeast are the "Horrible Hundred" days in the year for a golf course superintendent. Ted believes that if you follow MIGS approach your course and yourself will be in much better shape when the "Horrible Hundred" is over. The MIGS approach is a simple and basic program but I have noticed that most of the very successful superintendents stick to the basics and are not lured into the laatest and greatest fads.

The M in MIGS stands for mow. During the heat of the summer mowing needs to be closely monitored. If real stressful weather is predicted mowing heights might need to be raised and in extreme conditions mowing may be skipped to protect the plant. Monitoring the quality of the cut is a daily ritual as grass heals much quicker from a sharp cut than it does from a dull one. Think about this. If you were going to be operated on would you want the surgeon use a scalpel or a steak knife to make the incision? Grass is no different as it is also a living organism so mowing and the quality of it becomes even more important during the "Horrible Hundred. Dull mowers equal a poor cut which allows for fungus to infect the plant more easily. With the M in mind here at FHFC our mantra during the summer months is "keep em sharp!".

The I in MIGS stands for irrigate. Another gentleman who had a great impact on my career was Geoff Simril. Geoff was my regional manager for a company that I worked for years ago and  he said to me the most important part of my job was water management. When to turn the water on and when not to is a daily and sometimes hourly decision. More courses experience self inflicted problems during the "Horrible Hundred" due to water management decisions than any other thing. In the Northeast in the summer less is usually more and keeping the turf on the drier side keeps it healthier.

The G in MIGS stands for groom. Keeping the course clean and tidy is of extreme importance. Trimming long grass around trees, ball washers, cart paths, and landscape beds shows an attention to detail that golfers not only appreciate but deserve. While I am speaking about people who have influenced me I have to mention my first boss in the business Pete Pedrazzi. Pete used to tell me that he could always tell how good a course was going to be by the detail work. If the course looked messy usually the were other problems with it also. Pete was obsessed with ball washers and making sure they were clean, full and tee towels were available. Pete said that if these so called little things were overlooked by the green staff they surely would not be overlooked by golfers playing the course. These overlooked little things subconsciously make golfers look for other things on the course that may be not up to par. Just like in life its the little things that stand out.

The S in MIGS stands for spray. A solid spray program is the backbone of the agronomic plan for the year. In keeping with my career influenced theme I must mention Clay Putnam. Clay was another regional manager that I worked for and stressed the importance of a well thought out spray program. Clay taught me to plan next years spray program in the fall when successes and failures were still fresh in my mind. Plan, plan, plan, was Clay's take home point so your turf is going into the "Horrible Hundred" as healthy as possible. I have taken pride in the fact that I basically know what are spray schedule is for the upcoming year in October. I know what the spray program will be because I have forced myself to follow Clay's example of planning.

One of the other things that Ted mentioned in his article was that during the "Horrible Hundred" is to avoid major projects. He said that it is hard enough managing the course during this time with all that Mother Nature will throw at you and projects can be a distraction. Ted stressed to keep your eye on the prize and that prize is a fun, well maintained golf course during this time frame. Ted, Geoff, Pete, and Clay are among some of the many people that have had an influence on me. These basic lessons in turf can be carried over into other aspects of life. In life as well as in turf the acronym KISS (keep it simple stupid) keeps the stress level lower.
Saturday, May 22, 2010


Do you think they should have driven a cart up this hill on the third hole?
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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hyperodes weevil

The above photo shows the hyperodes weevil larvae that are responsible for the damage that is apparent on the collar of the eight hole. The hyperodes weevil feeds on Poa annua. While we will aerate this area and seed it with bentgrass it makes for some ugly looking turf right now. The tough thing about this insect is that it is so hard to control and has documented resistance to some of the more popular insecticides on the market. If you have read some of my previous posts I have mentioned the advantages of bentgrass over Poa annua and this is one of them as hyperodes weevil only occasionally feed on bentgrass. Unfortunately FHFC has a very large population of Poa annua so letting these little guys dine away to increase the bentgrass population is not really feasible. We will be treating the areas that are effected with another round of insecticide this week but some of the damage is done. As my old boss and mentor Pete Pedrazzi used to say,  "Poa is like an old girlfriend, you don't now how much you miss her until she is gone".
Saturday, May 15, 2010

Week in review

It was a busy week for the green department this past week. Starting off with cleanup from the winds of the past weekend the crew did a great job clearing fallen trees, limbs, and debris and getting the course clean and playable for the outing this past Monday. On Tuesday we verticut and top dressed the greens and top dressed the approaches. Verticutting the greens tends to stand the grass up so the ball is rolling on the tips of the grass which creates less friction and provides a more consistent surface. Following the verticutting we mowed them and then followed with topdressing them. The topdressing aids with thatch reduction, drainage, and smoothness. Our goal is to lightly top dress the greens every other week during the season. We also applied granular fertilizer to the green and bunker banks on Tuesday in anticipation of a rain event on Wednesday. We also applied wetting agents to the bunker banks on Tuesday. The rain did come on Wednesday and the crew was thankful that it came on their short day and they did not have to spend a full day working in the rain. On Thursday we caught up with mowing and also applied foliar fertilizer and growth regulator to the greens. as well as distribute new sand to several bunkers that were in need of it. Friday the crew tacked edging of all the Belgian block on the course, planting annuals around the clubhouse, spraying natural areas for weeds, spraying hot spots with wetting agents, and hand pulled some weeds in natural areas. While we were at it this past week we also managed to mow greens, tees, collars, approaches, fairways, step cut, rough, bunker and greens banks, rake bunkers, roll greens, change cups, fill water coolers, top off ball washers, maintain equipment, water seed, trim irrigation heads, make divot mix, divot tees, divot fairways, chip branches, blow off cart paths, seed bare areas, program irrigation, and have a foul shooting contest at the end of the day. I think you will agree the green department staff had a very productive week.
Thursday, May 13, 2010

Fifth Green

I am very happy to say that today we mowed the fifth green at the same height as the other greens on the course. This is another step in its progression towards uniformity with the rest of the putting surfaces. We are doing some things a bit differently, namely the amount of top dressing it receives. The fifth green will be top dressed weekly for the foreseeable future to smooth out any bumpiness in it.
This green will also be brushed and verticut more often to increase density in the turf stand. Despite some of the aforementioned differences I am very encouraged by its progress and considering our target date for opening was Memorial Day I hope you are too.
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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Nice Quote

Often, the very highest recommendation of a bunker is when it is criticized. That shows that it is accomplishing the one thing for which it was built: It is making players think. DONALD ROSS
Monday, May 10, 2010

Tree damage from wind

We only lost one tree due to the winds of the past two days, unfortunately we lost a beautiful Zelkova on the tenth hole. The photos show why trees need to be planted properly. The Zelkova was planted too low and never fully developed its crown. "Plant it low will not grow, plant it high never die" is a quote from Steve Kristoph my tree identification professor at Rutgers and it still holds true today. The other photos show why white pines and Chinese elms are not the best trees for golf courses as their inherently weak limbs make them susceptible to wind damage. We expect to have the course cleaned up much quicker than we would have in the past now that we have the ability to process the branches through the wood chipper that was aquired this past winter. This machine is truly a time saver.
Sunday, May 9, 2010

Fast and Firm & Windy

I played the course today and must say the conditions were challenging. Wind gusts up to 40 miles per hour made for some interesting golf. I am sure some of you would say "too windy I'm not playing" or "I hate playing when its windy". I would have to counter and say that a firm golf course on a windy day like today is really fun to play. The wind forces you to play shots that you normally wouldn't and by using the ground more you can see many of the nuances of our Tillinghast golf course that you normally wouldn't notice. The firmer and tighter approaches are allowing for run up shots when in the past most shots had to be flown right to the green. These conditions force you to think and not immediately grab the club you always play from a certain distance. Windy conditions force you to THINK! The following is an excerpt from Robert Trent Jones Jr. in his book Golf by Design which I think sums up the thinking aspect of playing in windy conditions quite well.

When playing in windy conditions, you should think about your next move as in chess or your "leave" as in pool. Ascertain how the wind will affect the way you play the shot following the one you are about to hit. This process may cause you to select a different shot than your initial impulse indicates. For example, if you are approaching a green defended by bunkers on the right side but "defenseless" on the left, the left normally would be the best place to miss the green because it presents the easiest recovery possibilities. If, however, there is a strong left-to-right crosswind, a recovery shot into the wind from a bunker on the right may be an easier shot, so your preferable "miss" area could be the right side.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

FHFC Team wins Rutgers Turfgrass Classic

I had the pleasure of playing in the Rutgers Turfgrass Classic with Mr. R. Garrigan, Mr. T. Maher, and Mr. G. Vinci this past Monday. With the red hot putter of Mr. Vinci, the long ball of Mr. Maher, crisp iron play of Mr. Garrigan and a shot or two from myself the team shot 14 under in the scramble on the Fiddlers Elbow Forest Course to take top prize. This year the event reached a milestone of raising $1,000,000 over the past fifteen years. These funds have been used to support practical problem solving research, student scholarships, and new facilities for the Rutgers Turfgrass program. Some recent examples of practical Rutgers Turfgrass research are as follows:
  • Golf Course Superintendents now have available to them valuable information on how to best manage Agrostis and Poa annua putting greens with a history of anthracnose disease and summer turf decline.
  • Rutgers scientists have conducted pioneering endophyte research related to pest resistance and stress tolerance in ryegrass and fescues.
  • Rutgers research on sand topdressing, mowing, rolling, and growth regulators on Agrostis and Poa annua greens has provided superintendents with important decision making information.
  • Rutgers researchers continually evaluate pesticides providing turf managers with the most up to date recommendations for insect, disease, and weed control on cool season turf.
  • Rutgers world renowned turfgrass breeders release dozens of new cultivars each year with improved insect, disease, and stress tolerance.

I would like to thank my playing partners for participating in this event. We are truly blessed to have this world class institution right in our own backyard.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

New Poll

After the results have been tallied from the last poll there was no need to worry about hanging chads or absentee ballots. It seems, and it is no surprise here, that the biggest issue folks had with the golf course was the bunkers. I would now like to get an idea on exactly what the biggest issue with the bunkers is so that we may develop plans to rectify it or them. I must caution you that bunker work can range from relatively simple and inexpensive to extremely disruptive and very costly. Considering the economic climate, bunker reconstruction is not in the foreseeable future but there may be other cost effective practices that we can undertake to improve the overall condition of the bunkers. The poll is located in the right hand colum so get to the vote` today! Thanks
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A.W. Tillinghast

A.W. Tillinghast
Architect Forest Hill Field Club "I know of one club which is about to make heroic efforts to eliminate every root of poa annua which flourishes on their greens and yet these same greens are remarkably true. This would seem to bear out the contention of one celebrated expert that poa annua should be encouraged and not despised. He asserts that if it is not regarded as a weed but nourished and kept carefully cut, it will produce wonderfully hardy and true turf." "That is poa annua, a sort of outcast blue grass. It drops its seed plentifully and spreads rapidly. Maybe it would be well to try a test bed of it and give the poor old bum a real chance. He may prove a gentleman after all."

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I hope you enjoy this look into our department and find it informative and fun. I will be posting on topics that are related to the maintenance of the course, projects, interaction with the enviroment, and golf course architecture. Please visit often.

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