Superintendent's Corner

Superintendent's Corner by John Ponti

September 2018

HAPPY FALL

On behalf of the grounds crew I would like to say thank you to the membership for all your kind words and support, it has really helped us get through what was for me one of the toughest seasons to grow grass I have ever had.  Mother Nature has thrown us curve balls all summer. We have seen diseases that don’t typically happen in our region and prolonged insect damage to key areas of the golf course. The only people who are happy with this year are the university plant pathologist and entomologist as it has given them a new base of data to  research on, in fact they are calling New England the new “transition zone”.

As the days get shorter and the nights get cooler our landscape transforms.  The trees turn colors giving us amazing shows of yellow, reds and orange. The native flowers along the brook give off their last bits of energy and bloom fully.  This marks one of my favorite times of the year. People often say to me, John you must be starting to slow down at work. This is not the case; in fact the fall is a very busy time for us.  The cool temperatures allow us to take a break from watering and focus on course recovery. This year was exceptionally brutal; the intense heat and humidity mixed with constant rain fall has done a number on the course.  I always say it’s not what you lost on the course, but how you come back from it is what can make or break your season as a superintendent.

At the middle of the month we aerated greens successfully, I can already see the new growth popping up through the aeration holes.  We laid approximately 7,050 square feet of sod on the approaches where I did not feel full recovery could be achieved from seeding. We also fixed some grading issues where large puddles would appear after rain events.  The fairway over seeding introduced a new cultivar of bent grass that I hope will take over. This is a practice that we will repeat year after year. As I like to say, germination is a process and it takes time. In addition to slice seeding we will also be aerating the fairways.  This will relieve compaction and open the soil for even more seeding, please be patient with us. I know it is not ideal to see a big green tractor coming at you when you are lining up your shot. It is also very stressful for the operator as it is not easy to stop and move when aerating.  If you do have a situation where you come in contact with us while we are aerating please simply move to the left or right or just wait for us to pass as stopping and moving for us will only prolong the time we are in the way.

The season is not over yet, there is still plenty of time to get out there and play.  Like every year we will keep the course open until it either freezes or gets covered in snow.

 

 

August 2018

STICKY SUMMER

Over the past three months approximately 10.46 inches of rain has fallen onto Nehoiden Golf Club.  Generally we welcome the rain as it hydrates the soil, flushes out sodium, bicarbonates and replenishes all the Lakes, rivers and streams, but when you combine heavy constant rain fall with an average temperature of 90 degrees and dew points ranging from 70-100 it can make things extra challenging.  To preserve the health of Nehoiden we will be starting a renovation plan that will ensure healthy playable conditions for time to come. In the next few week we fill be planting 700 pounds of grass seed in the fairways, we have carefully selected seed varieties that we feel will be sustainable on our property.   In conjunction with overseeding we will be starting our aeration campaign to all areas of the golf course. I understand that Aeration can be a bit intrusive to a golfer but I ensure you it is necessary. Our hope is to be invisible during this process, but at some point we are all going to have to co-exist. I thank you in advance for your understanding.  To learn more please read an article from the Golf Course Superintendents of America (GCSAA) that further explains the process and philosophy behind aeration.

 

 

July 2018

IT'S A WILD WORLD

I am from a small town in western Massachusetts along the Connecticut River in the Pioneer Valley.  We were a small farming community that did not offer structured activities, needless to say there was not a lot going on.  What our town did have to offer was endless outdoors, vast tract of wilderness with rivers and streams filled with native trout.  I spent every second I could in the woods exploring.  When school was out for the year, we were all sent to the fields to pick crops for local farmers, a job that framed my love for the outdoors and especially agriculture.  This is a big reason why I chose to work in the green industry.  My days now are not that different from when I was a young man.  The crop I grow now is not vegetables, it is turf.  The woods are not as vast nor the wild life as plentiful, but it is still there and I do not take it for granted.  The view from my office is always the same, a gorgeous property filled with mature trees, native grasses and oh yes, a golf course.  At Nehoiden we are lucky to be surrounded by woods that are home to various woodland creatures.  We are on constant alert and are lucky enough to coexist with the animals.  I would like to share with you some moments I have captured around our beloved Nehoiden. To view my album click here: It's A Wild World.

 

June 2018

I cannot believe it is already July!  I hope you all have the cobwebs out of your golf bags and have been enjoying the course and perfecting your game.  As the summer progresses and the weather gets warm, it triggers a chain of events.  For Mr. and Mrs. Golfer it signifies gorgeous weather, beautiful flowers and long days where you can play golf till 8:30pm if you like.  However, for the golf course superintendent and greens crew it signifies a whole different scenario.  The summer for a golf course greens crew is very intense as the warm nights and hot days put the grass into growing mode.  When we are awake the grass is growing…when we are asleep the grass is growing, and sometimes we wish it would just take a nap and stop so we can catch up.   However, this is not the case.  During the growing season a typical healthy putting green can grow one time its length in just 24 hours.  A fairway can grow up to 2 times, and the rough can grow up to 2 1/2 times its own length respectively.  Anybody who has been in the Nehoiden rough can attest to that!  During a typical week we will mow the fairways 3 to 4 times,  the greens 7 days, and the rough is such a vicious cycle that we will cut it up to 5 times in one week.

 During the summer months the weeds in bunkers can be prolific.  We do not treat the weeds in bunkers with herbicide due to the fact that herbicide will cling to the sand, which clings to golf spikes and then damages the greens if tracked on.   To combat this, we hand pull all the weeds.  Although this is a very tedious task, it is a necessary one.  If we did not keep up with this process, the bunkers would be unplayable.

The perfect hot summer day with high skies, full sun and just a little bit of pleasant wind to move the air is ideal for golf.  You know what it is not ideal for?  Growing grass on a putting green at 130 thousands of an inch!  Summer heat can be detrimental to grass on a golf course.  We are asking the plants to do things that they were not meant to do.  Grass was not meant to be mowed as low as we mow it.  Grass does not like to be trampled and starved of water and nutrients, but if you want playable hearty greens, tees, and fairways you have to find ways to manipulate Mother Nature by defying her logic and forcing these grasses to behave a certain way.  With that said, we spend countless hours watering by hand to ensure the plants get precisely the amount of water they need, not too much nor too little, as either one can be detrimental to the green.

I could write a 100-page manifesto about the inner workings of a golf maintenance program, but I will spare you the details.  I choose these three topics because they are the ones most visual to the membership.   I know it is distracting when you are lining up a putt and a maintenance vehicle or a mower goes by.  It is not our intention to be impatient or rude and we try to be as invisible as possible, but it is inevitable that we will at some point be in your way.   I can personally say that the stress of the job and the intense level at which we work to provide the conditions our members deserve can give you tunnel vision.  Sometimes I am so focused on my task that I can tend to lose sight of surroundings.  I can speak for my crew when I say that we are sometimes all guilty of this, we call it being “in the zone”.  The main reason that I am sharing these details is to help you understand why we are working while you are trying to play and why it is so important that we do these things. 

With all this said, I would like the take this opportunity to say thank you to everyone for being so wonderful and understanding.  I have worked at golf courses where the members did not care about their greens crew and just expected everything to be perfect.  This is not the case at Nehoiden.  You have all made me feel welcome and appreciated and for that I have to say thank you again, even if it is redundant.  We come to work every day to serve the members, everything we do out here is for you.  We take great pride in our work and care deeply for the member experience.  We will never stop working for you and we will never be complacent.  Our goal is to improve on everything,  constantly elevating conditions.  With your help and understanding I know we can have one of the best golf courses in the country.