Superintendent's Blog

Spring Update

Date: 3/16/2018

Spring break for the University is next week although the ten day forecast doesn't look very spring like. However, we are almost there, and the weather will get warmer soon. Most of our seasonal staff has returned and have been busy working to cleanup and improve the course. We lost 12 trees and had debris all over the course after the heavy winds from two weeks ago. 5 of our seasonal staff returned to work the following Monday and were a big help in getting everything cleaned up quickly.

We have also slowly been making progress on our bunkers. We have cleaned out contaminated bunkers and added four 22-ton trucks of sand thus far. We have two more truck loads on the way and plan to continue on improving their conditions. We are trying to prioritize and take care of the most problematic bunkers first. It should also be noted that bunkers with fresh sand will also be much softer. We try to compact the sand as best as we can but it may take a little time for them to firm up.

We currently have our spring aerification of greens scheduled for March 26 and March 27. Hopefully weather is better after we complete this process and greens will heal fairly quickly.

We have also recently joined up with Audubon International to take part in their Moncarchs in the Rough program. Over the last 20 years the Monarch Butterfly population has declined by 90%. As part of the program we will be planting enough milkweed seed to create close to an acre of habitat for the monarchs. We are currently in the planning process of creating an event with the University to have students come out and help us plant the milkweed seeds.

As Norm Starkey would say, "Come on spring!"

 

Brendan Rapp
Golf Course Superintendent

 

August Greens Aeration and Record Rainfall

Date: 8/7/2017

On August 21-22, we will perform our late summer aeration using 3/8" coring tines. 9 holes of the golf course will be closed each day (front 9 on Monday, back 9 on Tuesday). Aeration can be a dreaded process but it is a necessary maintenance procedure to keep greens healthy and playable.

This summer started out very dry, receiving only .9" of rain for the entire month of June which is very near all-time record lows. The drought continued from July 1- July 21 where we had only three rain events totaling 1.55" which were still record low levels. Everything changed on July 22 when we received 1" of rain followed by 2.5" rain on July 23. From July 22- August 3 we received 12.8" rain. We went from drought to record setting rain in two weeks!

We are still working to get bunkers repaired. Heavy rains have made us start over from scratch several times and it looks like we may have more heavy rain to deal with in the next coming days (upwards of 1" today, August 7th). The bunkers have also lost a significant amount of sand. We will need to order at least a few truckloads of sand (44 tons) to try and restore sand levels to their appropriate depths.

Please be mindful of the cart rules and follow them to help keep our course in good shape during these wet times.

 

Brendan Rapp
Golf Course Superintendent

Winter Update

Date: 2/15/2017

It has certainly been an unusual winter for our region. It even felt more like May weather a few times this month. Hopefully this trend continues once we get into March.

I am happy with the state of our Bermuda fairways this year. I think everyone can see that our programs have been working and we have a much cleaner and consistent playing surface. While I know it is not ideal, I have to ask all golfers to please keep your carts off of the fairways while the Bermuda is still dormant, unless you are crossing the fairway. Cart traffic on dormant Bermuda grass can significantly impact spring green up and conditions. Traffic over the course of winter damages the plant and it does not have the ability to recover until it wakes up and is actively growing. When it is damaged, the plant must regrow from the crown which can delay green up by a couple weeks or even a month. This means that the conditions we all want out on the course will take longer to get here. So please help us by keeping your golf cart off the fairway.

I would also like to provide an update on the work we have been doing over the winter months. The majority of our crew is laid off for the winter months but there is still plenty of work to get done. We have been putting our new stump grinder to use. Over 200 stumps have been ground throughout the course. I would estimate that 95% of the stumps on the front 9 are no longer there. We still have a significant number of stumps left to grind on the back 9. We only have a few holes left to backfill on the front 9. The grinder can make quick work of the stumps but it still requires a lot of man hours to remove the debris and backfill the holes with soil. We have also removed a good number of dead and hazardous trees from the property, although, we still have others that we need to address. Refurbishing accessories is another job we get done this time of year because once the season begins we will not have time to work on them. Trashcans and ball washers have been sanded and repainted. New tee markers have been cut and painted from some beech tree limbs as well. We still need to do a light sanding on benches and apply a fresh coat of stain. Course cleanup is also a constant job on the course with the number of trees we have on our property. Once we get into March and some of our seasonal employees return we also plan on getting some of our troublesome bunkers back into form.

One last request that is always important but especially this time of year. Please repair your ballmark and at least one other when you are out playing the course.

Thank you and I look forward to seeing you out on the course!

 

Brendan Rapp
Golf Course Superintendent

Spring is almost here!

Date: 3/6/2016

Looking at the extended forecast it looks like spring may be arriving a little bit earlier this year than last year. The next month will be a very busy one on the golf course. Our seasonal employees will be returning to work over the next few weeks to help us get the course ready for the start of the golf season. We are all anxious for the return of warmer weather and it felt good getting our first mowing of the greens done this week.

On Monday 3/7(Weather Dependent) we will be applying an herbicide to our front 9 fairways. This product will kill any poa annua contamination in the Bermuda grass fairways. Removing poa annua will provide a more consistent and clean playing surface. It will also help when the Bermuda grass is coming out of dormancy by removing its competition. We are only spraying 9 fairways in this application because this product must be able to dry before allowing any traffic on it. We will follow up with an application of the same product on our back 9 fairways on Monday 3/14 (Weather Dependent).

Another project that will soon be underway is the construction of a bridge across the dam on hole #9. Materials for the bridge are set for delivery on Wednesday 3/9. Once we have the necessary materials construction will begin. The construction process may take a few weeks. I thank everyone for their patience and I think we will all be happy once we no longer need to use the temporary detour that has been put in place.

Spring also means that it is time for aerification on our greens again. Our aerification is scheduled for Monday 3/14 and Tuesday 3/15. The plan is to aerify the back 9 on Monday and the front 9 on Tuesday. We will be using ½” coring tines. While aerification can be a dreaded process it is essential to provide the best playing conditions throughout the golf season. Once the cores are removed we will put down dry topdressing sand and work it into the aerification holes. The sand filled holes left behind will help maximize the bentgrass’s new root growth and prep it for the heat of summer.

Bunker repair will begin next week as well once we have some more manpower. To put the bunkers back together after some of the weather we have received over the last month will be a time consuming process.  We have also ordered 2 truckloads of bunker sand to continue adding/replacing sand in bunkers as is needed.

With the great temperatures forecasted for next week I hope to see you out on the golf course!

 

Brendan Rapp
Golf Course Superintendent

Winter is almost here

Date: 11/24/2015

Weather has finally begun to cool off and things are starting to slow down on the golf course. The majority of the leaves have come down and we are continuing to work on keeping the course clean and playable. Fall has been warmer than usual which has kept the crew busy with more mowing than is typical for this time of year. The temperature changes over the past week appear to have finally slowed down the growth of the grass however.

 The Bermuda grass fairways have begun to go dormant and have lost a lot of their color as the seasons change and more frosts take their toll. Once the Bermuda grass is dormant I would like to see as little cart traffic as possible on it.  Excessive traffic on dormant Bermuda can cause winterkill and will lead to a much longer spring recovery. While playing and driving to your ball it would be helpful if you keep your carts in the rough and off of the fairways as much as possible. This will help out dramatically come spring.

On Monday 11/30 we will begin purging the water from our irrigation pipes. This is when we blow compressed air through our miles of irrigation pipe and blow it out of each of our irrigation heads to remove all the water. This is performed so that the irrigation lines do not freeze which could lead to pipe breaks or broken irrigation heads. If you notice irrigation heads being turned on, it is the water being pushed out of the system. This process should take 3-4 days and should not have any impact on golfers.

Once we have caught up with leaf cleanup, the size of our crew will decrease dramatically, but we still have plans for projects throughout the winter season. We will continue to repair bunkers, work on drainage projects, level areas adjacent to cart paths, perform tree work, and root pruning.

I hope everyone enjoys their Thanksgiving Holiday. It looks like beautiful weather on Thursday and Friday. Come out and take advantage of the warm weather while you still can. 

 

Brendan Rapp
Golf Course Superintendent

Greens Aeration

Date: 8/11/2015

On Monday, August 17 we will perform our late summer ¼” core aerification followed by light sand topdressing. The golf course will be closed all day for the aerification. We are also planning on aerifying the practice greens on Thursday/Friday of this week. Doing the practice greens this week will give us a head start and allow everyone to see how the aerification will affect the greens this weekend. The greens will receive a little bit of additional fertilizer this week and we will also lower the rate of our growth regulator. In doing so, the holes will fill in at a much faster rate, but the speeds may be a little slower. The ¼” cores we are removing are very small and should not have a major impact on playing conditions. I expect the greens to be healed up completely in 1 ½ to 2 weeks.

Aerification is a proactive and necessary maintenance procedure that keeps greens healthy and playable. The holes from aerification provide the roots more oxygen, in turn making the grass healthier and at the same time aiding in firming up the playing surface of the greens. The process is a temporary disruption for a long term benefit as we strive to provide the best possible playing conditions at all times.

Overall the greens have performed quite well this year. Over the last couple of weeks we have seen some areas begin to show some stress and the toll of lots of play and foot traffic. As a proactive measure we have started to walk mow the greens on holes 13-16 to remove some of the stress. We also relocated some of the fans used on the course to focus on areas that have been receiving heavier traffic. Visually I have already noticed a positive response to these changes.

We are also continuing to work on the bunkers. We ran out of bunker sand last week but received two new truckloads of bunker sand yesterday. A crew is working on adding/replacing sand on hole #8 today (8/11). This is a time consuming process, but we are committed to improving the condition of our bunkers on the course.

Remember to fix your ballmarks and divots! Thank you!

 

Brendan Rapp
Golf Course Superintendent

Hot, Wet Start to Summer

Date: 6/26/2015

We have had an extremely hot and wet start to summer this year, but the course has held up quite well. As of this post we have experienced 19 days of 90+ temperatures since the start of May. Last summer we only had 12 days reach 90 degrees all summer long. According to DC area weather history we are off to one of the hottest starts to summer on record. To top it off, June has also been an extremely wet month. After another .7” of rain on the 26th, we have received 9.65” for the month(most on record in June since 1972) so far with another 1-2” expected in the last few days of the month. The average June rainfall is 3.8” for the entire month.

While rain can be good for our turfgrass it can also be harmful when we receive excessive amounts; especially when combined with extreme temperatures. Because of the prolonged wetness and heat combined with humidity, the grass has been very susceptible to disease. We monitor daily for turf diseases and spray products preventatively to protect the grass. Root loss is another major concern when dealing with these conditions. When the upper portion of the soil remains wet, the plant does not need to send roots deeper to find water. This will cause the grass to wilt more rapidly as the summer goes on. Fortunately our rooting is still looking very good to this point. We were able to perform a “venting” on our greens 2 weeks ago at a perfect time. Venting is the process of using small needle tines to create effect holes in the green which allow for air and water to exchange through the profile. One more negative impact of the recent weather pattern is the amount of ball marking that occurs due to the softness of the greens surface. This has become much more evident in the last week. Please be conscious of this when you are playing, and try to take a few extra seconds to fix your ball mark plus someone else’s when you are on a green.

While the heat may not be good for our Bentgrass surfaces, the Bermudagrass loves it. After a slow start, the Bermudagrass has finally started to fill in nicely on the fairways. Last week we sprayed them with Primo, a plant growth regulator to help tighten them up and provide more consistent playing conditions. The 9th fairway is still lagging behind the other fairways for several reasons. The primary reason is due to how poorly the fairway drains. This is one of the first areas we need to address when adding drainage this year. This fairway also suffered a lot more winterkill than the other fairways on the course. This week we laid Bermuda sod on weak areas of par 3 tees on holes 3, 8, and 11 as well as the driving range. These surfaces should be ready for play in three weeks.

Thank you and I look forward to seeing you out on the course!

Brendan Rapp
Golf Course Superintendent

Golf Course Update

Date: 5/15/2015

My first blog entry will be focused on two areas I have fielded many questions about since beginning work at the course in February. First I’d like to talk about our plans for the Bermudagrass fairways in the month ahead and down the road in the future. Next week we are scheduled to apply a post-emergent herbicide called Revolver on the fairways Wednesday and Thursday afternoons. This product will kill any Poa Annua that is in the fairways. Once the poa dies out, we will give the fairways some fertilizer to help push the Bermudagrass and allow it to fill in quickly. The Bermudagrass has really started to green up in the last few weeks but it is still hard to assess any damage that it may have received over winter due to the large amount of Poa annua present currently. Once the Bermudagrass takes off after the fertilization I will be able to assess any damage and determine if we have any areas that may require sprigging or sodding.

In the future, I plan to keep the fairways clean of Poa annua and other grasses while the Bermudagrass is dormant by altering a few management practices. I will plan on applying a pre-emergent in late August/early September that will prevent a large number of Poa annua seeds from germinating next spring. I also plan on applying a post emergent fungicide over the winter months while the Bermudagrass is still dormant that will clean out any other grasses or weeds that remain in the fairways. This will result in a better playing surface through the early spring months. The fairways will be brown but consistent without uneven growth patterns.

Keeping the fairways clean of Poa annua will also be helpful to our greens and rough areas. A lot of seed has spread from the fairways to the primary roughs and our Bentgrass greens. It is important that we do all we can to protect the investment put into the greens by keeping them Poa free to the best of our ability.

Another common concern I have heard is the state of several of our bunkers on the course. There are many areas where the liner is coming up through the sand. Many bunkers also need to have sand moved around or added to restore their post construction conditions. The bunkers have often been raked in the past using a machine called the sandpro. This machine can sometimes catch a piece of the liner and pull it up through the sand. We have started hand raking the bunkers nearly exclusively to avoid contributing to this existing problem. I had two truckloads of bunker sand delivered a few weeks back but our staff has unfortunately not had the time to put any of it out on the course. All the rain we had early in the season was followed by a stretch of abnormally warm weather for this time of year, and the grass has taken off in the past few weeks as a result. The maintenance staff has been doing all it can to stay on top of mowing the grass to provide the best conditions that we can. We have a few more employees starting over the next few weeks and the grass will slow down. Once we have an opportunity, we will go through all of the bunkers to cut out any fabric that is exposed and begin moving and adding sand as necessary to provide a better, more consistent playing surface for our golfers.

Thank you and I look forward to seeing you out on the course!

 

Brendan Rapp
Golf Course Superintendent

May Update

Date: 5/17/2018

This past winter and "spring" were tough on several areas of our Bermudagrass fairways. It was very cold, dry and windy for most of the winter. Normally, low lying areas that stay wet are the areas that suffer the most from winter kill on Bermudagrass. This year, we saw more winter kill than normal due to the dessication as a result of how dry and windy it was. The sand based Bermuda tees struggles more than anywhere else in this weather pattern. We will begin resodding some of these tees on Monday, May 21, 2018 (weather permitting). The old Vamont Bermuda, which makes up the majority of our fairways, seems to have handled the winter much better than some of the newer varieties that were sodded and sprigged into areas on the fairways. Sod lines are clearly visible, particularly on some of the Back 9 fairways and so we plan to create our own sprigs from healthy areas of the fairways to fill in the areas of winter kill. That being said, the fairways have improved dramatically in the last week. We fertilized them a week ago and we verticut them twice which has really started to push some growth and help fill in thinner areas to create a denser stand.

This May, we have been dealing with heavy rain nearly every day for a full week. Since Saturday, May 12, 2018 we have received 3.5" of rain. The forecast for Friday, May 18 and Saturday, May 19 is calling for another 2.5" of rain. Obviously, this means that the course is extremely wet and it will take a bit of time to dry out. Our roughs really started to take off and grow in the last week as well. With this large amount of rain, we will not be able to mow rough or any grass until things start to dry out. You should expect the course to play extra soft and to find US Open lies if your ball finds the rough. Thanks to the rain, many of our bunkers are washed out again and will take some time to put back together. All this being said, we were very dry and we did need some rain....just not this much! Hopefully next week we will have more sunny days to help dry out the course and help the Bermudagrass along.

On a side note, my first son, William Anthony Rapp, came into the world almost 3 weeks ago. He has already been a handful, but it has been the best experience so far in my life. Mom and baby are healthy and doing well.

William Anthony RappBrendan and William

Brendan Rapp
Golf Course Superintendent

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