Happy New Year from the Superintendent’s Corner!

After a 2016 that brought many exciting changes to Elkhorn Ridge, we’re looking ahead to an even better 2017. Our winter has been good and we’re anticipating that the course will be healthy and lush this spring. Our turf will have gone through it’s second winter and will be closer, if not identical, to the older front nine in terms of thickness, thatch and playability.

We have several improvements ready for next year, including an expanded driving range tee and cart staging area, modifications to the native turf areas and bunkers, more irrigation additions and more trees. But aside from the exciting year ahead, I like to use the winter months to educate the golfing public on a few of the topics that I hear about the most from YOU, the golfing public.

Let’s start with green speed: probably the hottest topic in golf maintenance in recent years. I assume most of you don’t know all of the factors that add up to fast greens, and that’s ok, you’re not expected to. Greens speeds can vary from day to day, and sometimes change faster or slower depending on these factors. Our greens generally roll between 10-11′ on the stimpmeter. This is a good balance that serves both high and low handicap golfers. Too slow, and the break and roll of the ball is affected. Too fast, and the average golfer can have trouble keeping downhill putts on the green!

The main factors and methods involved are fertility, water content, grooming, aerating, mowing height/frequency, brushing, rolling, verticutting and topdressing. A balanced combination of everything requires constant observations and upkeep from our crew. Most of these controls are daily morning activities, some only require attention every 1-2 weeks. Too much or not enough of any one thing can stress the turf and open them up to diseases, physical damage and longer recovery times for dry spots and ball marks.

We’ve always taken pride in our healthy greens, consistent speeds and our ability to recover quickly from any damage or diseases.

Another topic I hear about frequently is topdressing, which is closely related to the health and speeds of the greens. We apply a light sand topdressing to our greens every 2 weeks, generally on Mondays when we have the least amount of play.

Topdressing serves many purposes, and we in the golf industry are still discovering the benefits of adding sand to the green surface. One main result of topdressing is a smooth, true putting surface. The sand locks together and encourages upright growth of the turf. When we roll the greens, the sand forms a tight horizontal surface while still allowing the greens to hold golf shots coming in vertically.

Topdressing also helps control and even reduce thatch buildup in the turf. Too much thatch can create a “layering” affect that influences nutrient and water penetration. It can also create a safe haven for diseases to flourish, so the more we topdress, the less chance we have of diseases that can knock out greens in a short time period.

Thatch control also means that we don’t have to core-aerate as often, meaning less interference in your playing time. Frequent topdressing also results in faster recovery time from ball marks and mechanical damage from hail, animals, mowers and heavy feet! Just like filling a divot with sand, sand on the greens creates a “bridge” for the grass to grow together and remain consistent in appearance. All in all, topdressing is in the top-three maintenance activities, along with fertilizing and watering, that ensures healthy turf.

I hope you learned something today! I’ll be providing more tips and tidbits on the world of golf maintenance throughout the winter. In the meantime, stay warm!

Greg Brandriet