Our Mission: The Golf Course and Grounds Department is committed to providing the best possible playing conditions on a daily basis while being responsible stewards of the financial and environmental resources that we have been entrusted with.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Recovery Update: Promoting Creeping Bentgrass

The ‘silver-lining’ to the winter injury suffered on the greens this season was that it provided an opportunity to establish creeping bentgrass in the damaged areas to replace the annual bluegrass that dominated the damaged areas previously. The Golf Course & Grounds committee approved the recommendation of the USGA to establish creeping bentgrass and to favour the establishment of creeping bentgrass through the season in order to take advantage of having a higher percentage of creeping bentgrass as opposed to annual bluegrass (poa annua).
Creeping Bentgrass (right) does not have the same susceptibility to winter injury as poa annua
photo: R. Ackerman, Weston GC
The advantages of creeping bentgrass are:

  1. Winter Heartiness. Creeping bentgrass does not have the same susceptibilities as poa annua to winter injury and, therefore, by increasing the percentage of creeping bentgrass in the turf stand, a lower amount of the putting surfaces are at risk during the winter.
  2. Tolerance of Summer Stress. Once established, creeping bentgrass is a more robust plant and vigorous grower during the higher heat and humidity periods of the summer. It has a deeper root system allowing it be kept in a drier state without drought injury allowing for a firmer, faster surface.
  3. Salt Tolerance. The level of dissolved salt that is present in the water that the club uses as an irrigation source is very high and presents an acute and long-term risk for the health of the turf and the plants on the property. The current levels of dissolved sodium (Na) and chlorides (cl) are 100-350 ppm for sodium and 300-700 ppm for chlorides. These are 5-15x the desirable limit for healthy turf. Creeping bentgrass has a much higher tolerance of salt stress than poa annua.
  4. Lower consumption of resources. Poa annua is an annual weed, it invades all turf (and non-turf) surfaces and over an 87 year time span, due to competitive advantages, it begins to make up a higher and higher percentage of the surfaces. In order to keep an annual weed relatively healthy and able to withstand the stress of daily maintenance and golf traffic, a substantial amount of resources in the form of fertilizers, pesticides and water are required to keep the surface optimal, as compared with creeping bentgrass.
Poa annua (arrow) has a lower tolerance for salt
Photo: PACE Turf Labs
For these reasons the recommendation to promote the establishment of creeping bentgrass was adopted by the club and the plan was executed through the season. The recommendation came with a note of caution:

"Playability of the putting greens at Cutten Fields and other damaged courses will not approach the typical level of playability they have in the past. The turf is simply too young and too immature. Cutting heights are too high and it has been over fertilized to promote recovery. This leaves it more susceptible to stress later in the year. Thus a conservative approach to maintaining the greens in terms of playability is strongly recommended for this year. The greens are not likely to be as smooth or as fast, but being conservative and preserving turf health will allow the greens to be much better in the long run.

Depending on how much new annual bluegrass becomes established in the greens this year, they my also be somewhat susceptible to problems next year. This is especially true of smaller greens that experience more concentrated wear. It also will be true of greens where growing environments are not improved sufficiently.

There are thousands of types of annual bluegrass and a high percentage of the first ones to invade are the worst ones. They are prolific seed producers and they are the weakest and most stress and disease susceptible types. If a significant amount of weaker AB biotypes become reestablished in the greens, they will be prone to turf loss next year and beyond."

David A. Oatis, Director, USGA Northeast Region
4 June 2014, page 6

The amount of creeping bentgrass on the putting greens has increased 
Therefore, the management of the putting surfaces intentionally minimized disturbances (mechanical processes that can be managed like vertical mowing, brushing or low-mowing) that improve ball roll but would create more opportunities for poa annua to invade while taking advantage of environmental stresses (not manageable like heat or drought) to continue to increase the amount of creeping bentgrass while the newly germinated poa annua was in a weakened state due to environmental pressures. As a result of these practices, the surfaces were not groomed with the same intensity as in years past nor were they mowed at as low a height of cut. The juvenile bentgrass would not have been able to withstand the stress of intense grooming as well as the daily golf traffic and would have thinned creating an opportunity for poa annua to invade. This is apparent on the golf course in the poorest growing environments (5, 8, 16) the bentgrass growth has been the least vigorous and the poa annua invasion has been the greatest.

The poorest growing environments have the least vigorous creeping bentgrass
and, therefore the highest amount of poa annua reestablishment
The unfortunate legacy of the winter injury is that the ultra-dense ‘perennial’ poa annua that performed so well with the inter-seeded bentgrass is dead and the poa annua that will attempt to re-colonize the areas is the true ‘annual’ type poa that does perform as well but has the same high potential for winter injury. The opportunity that the extensive winter injury provided was the chance to improve the amount of creeping bentgrass that is on the putting surfaces with the improved heartiness and playability that comes with it. With a conservative approach to managing the juvenile plants, continued improvement of the growing environments and some patience, the gains that were made in creeping bentgrass populations will be sustained. 



Friday, 22 August 2014

Aeration: August 24-25

The golf course will be closed following the Junior event on Sunday and then all day Monday. While aeration is unpopular among most golfers, the improved health and performance of a stand of turf that results from aeration is very popular, and there are many benefits to employing a regular aeration program on important playing surfaces.

  1. Improved water infiltration. The agronomic practices that are used to create a firm, smooth surface plus the amount of traffic that the golf course receives can seal off the surface and hamper the ability of water to penetrate deep into the soil. By opening channels through the surface, water can move freely into the soil.
  2. Addition of sand to the root zone and surface. Sand topdressing helps to create a firm, smooth surface while increased sand in the root zone improves the ability of water to move through the soil and provides space for increased root growth.
  3. Gas exchange. Exchanging gases, specifically carbon dioxide and oxygen, is important for healthy roots. By opening up channels to exchange these gases, the overall health of the turf is improved and the efficiency with which the plant creates and stores energy is increased. Healthy plants are important in late summer and fall as they prepare to harden off and survive winter.
  4. Creation of a seed bed for seeding. During aeration the greens are seeded with bent grass. The seed is worked into the root zone to add to the overall density and heartiness of the stand of turf. A healthy turf stand over the long term will be of “perpetual juvenility.” Any perennial turf stand is made up of young, immature seedlings, juvenile plants and older senescing plants. The juvenile plants are the most robust, so a program of regular inter-seeding will help to maintain these levels. This is particularly important as the recovery from the winter injury continues. Optimizing the bentgrass populations will help to reduce the risk from ice cover and hydration injury.
An application of fertilizer will be made following aeration in order to begin the process of preparing the turf for winter and to continue to build up nutrients in the soil to counteract the effects of salt in the irrigation water. The greens will be completed first followed by the tees and then the approaches. As usual, fairways will be aerated and top-dressed in the fall.

Friday, 11 July 2014


Turf damage from lightning strike
On Tuesday, a lightning strike occurred on the 18th fairway. The alarms had sounded and the golf course had been evacuated. The strike that hit the golf course was the first strike of the storm. The alarm system detects the conditions that cause lightning as opposed to lightning itself and is set to allow for time to evacuate the golf course in most cases. It is important that players evacuate the golf course or seek shelter when the alarms sound as the first lightning strike of a storm could hit the ground.

A damaged switch- part of the irrigation control system
The protection system on the irrigation system limited the damage. 2 decoders and a switch were damaged which is an acceptable level of damage for what was essentially a direct hit.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Winter Injury 2014: Implications

Some have speculated that the winter of 2014 can be compared to Hurricane Hazel in terms of the long lasting implications that it will have on the golf industry in southern Ontario. Here at Cutten Fields the severe winter weather and historically cool spring have created damage to the golf course and caused delay in the recovery efforts. There will be many long term implications of the winter injury experienced at the club;

  1. Creeping Bentgrass- the injured areas have been re-established predominately with bentgrass, although some poa survived and some has re-generated from the seed that is present in the soil. The percentage of the putting surface that is now comprised of creeping bentgrass is much higher than at this time last year. Creeping Bentgrass is a sturdier turf that will be more reliable during the high stress periods of summer and winter.
    The amount of Creeping Bentgrass (blue/grey colour) in the stand has increased 
  2. Reduced ball roll- the putting surfaces have a large proportion of young, fragile plants that will be easily injured by the usual practices that are employed to obtain maximum ball roll. Low mowing heights, rolling, frequent brushing, vertical mowing and topdressing all contribute a certain amount of stress to the turf in addition to that which comes from daily golfer traffic. To decrease the stress load these high stress agronomic practices will be employed sparingly, if at all, resulting in reduced ball roll.
  3. Hole locations- as a result of less than normal ball roll, some hole locations that are not normally able to be used during the season will be able to be used on a regular basis. Many of the greens were constructed in the 1930’s, an era when the technology to mow, roll and prepare the turf was quite different and the greens rolled much slower. If a slower than normal ball roll is to be experienced this season, some of these unused, interesting hole locations will be able to part of the regular rotation.
    All of the greens will be back in play next week
  4. Change to winter preparations- the way in which the turf is prepared and protected will be re-evaluated by the Golf Course and Grounds committee prior to the arrival of winter. Protection strategies largely depend on a forecast of the winter conditions. Growing environments, mowing heights during the season and in the fall as well as the covering systems that are employed will all be examined in order to reduce the chance of winter injury and provide the expected standard of conditions while not perpetuating the problem turf (poa annua) that is susceptible to winter injury.
Greens Opening Schedule
The height of cut will be reduced to 4mm over the weekend on the greens that are still closed. On Monday all of teh greens will be topdressed and put into play.