Hobbit’s Glen Aerification Updates and Information

The greens at Hobbit’s Glen will be aerified during the week of March 5. During this week, the back nine will closed on March 5 and March 6 and the front nine will be closed on March 7 and 8. The greens will be aerified using ½” coring tines. The greens will be topdressed, brushed and rolled after. There will be small sand filled holes (1/2”) visible for an estimated four weeks, with the exact duration of these conditions being weather dependent.

Renovations started on February 26 to the cart path on Hole #13. The portion of the path that will be replaced stretches from the beginning of the fairway to the black tee on Hole #14. This portion of the path will also need to be backfilled with soil and sodded. Because the area between the fairway and cart path is not very wide, we are evaluating the benefits of sodding from the path to the edge of the fairway. This project will take approximately two weeks to complete. During this process, Hole #13 will remain open with modified tee placements to enable the construction process.

It is important to know the factors that are taken into consideration when assessing the scheduled timing of aerification projects. Aerification is scheduled based on recovery time, the golf calendar, labor availability and to minimize annual bluegrass encroachment. Taking these factors into consideration led to two options for timing our spring aerification.

One option is to aerify in mid-May because bentgrass and other cool season grasses are at a 100% peak growth potential. This factor will allow the greens to heal the quickest during this time. This is typically after annual bluegrass has already germinated, so there is less risk for annual bluegrass encroachment. With that being said, the course is typically in great condition this time of year; the fairways are greening up, the rough is in great shape – and then we disrupt the greens if we aerify.

The other option was to aerify in early March. The bentgrass is not growing but the temperatures are typically too cold for annual bluegrass germination. The greens take significantly more time to heal due to the cooler temperatures, although less rounds are impacted this early in the season.

Both times of year have unique advantages and disadvantages that must be weighed during the decision making process. Last year, we aerified in May in order to prevent further annual bluegrass encroachment and to reduce the recovery time. We received a lot of feedback that members preferred for the greens to be aerified in March, despite the longer heal time.

Our decision to move forward with the early March time frame for aerification is a direct reflection of the value we place as organization on the voice of our members. From an agronomic perspective, we believe we can aerify in early March, prior to annual bluegrass germination. This timeline is contingent on our effective use of pre-emergent herbicides to prevent further annual bluegrass encroachment. Aerifying in March is consistent with our goal for the course to be in peak condition for as much of the year as possible.

Below is a link to an article with more information about aerification timing.

Adam Moeller-Core Cultivation: Timing is Everything

Hobbit’s Glen Turf Talk: April 2018

Spring conditions can be inconsistent due to the seasonal growth variations of turfgrass. Temperature and moisture affect the turf to a greater extent, by far, than any fertilizer or chemical application.

We have irrigation systems that provide the water when needed, but there is very little we can do about the temperature. Adequate soil and air temperatures are required to initiate growth in the spring, whether we are dealing with cool season grasses such as the greens and rough or warm season grasses such as the fairways and some tees. Even with adequate temperatures, different grass species respond differently and will often have faster or slower growth rates.

This effect can be seen on the greens now.

The annual bluegrass, also known as poa annua, is growing at a faster rate than bentgrass. Mowing and rolling help to smooth out the greens, but warmer temperatures are needed before the greens will be in top shape. Annual bluegrass is impossible to prevent or to eliminate, however, so management strategies have been and will continue to be used. The greens will be smoother as the bentgrass growth increases and poa annua growth decreases in warmer weather.

Please see this USGA article for more information regarding the variability of spring conditions.

The greens were aerified during the week of March 5 using half-inch coring tines. The greens were topdressed, brushed and rolled after. There will be small sand filled holes (1/2”) visible for an estimated four weeks, with the exact duration of these conditions being weather-dependent as we have seen so far this year!

After aerating at the beginning of May last year, we received a lot of feedback that the membership preferred for the greens to be aerified in March, despite the longer heal time. Our decision to move forward with the March timeframe for aerification is a direct reflection of the value we place as an organization on the voice of our members. Aerifying in March is consistent with our goal for the course to be in peak condition for as much of the year as possible.  Click here for an article on Why do we aerify?

Weather has caused a delay in the completion of the cart path project on Hole #13. I’m happy to announce that they have finished paving the pathway, and it looks great! They have reinforced a few areas of the stream bank where is was needed and installed an asphalt curb to replace the existing wooden curb. The edges of the cart path have been backfilled with soil and the area graded smooth to prepare for sod. We began sodding the rough on Hole #13 the week of April 9 and will finish early next week. Until the turf starts rooting, we will make the rough on the right side “Ground Under Repair,” as relief should be taken in the fairway.

We also ask that carts do not drive through the area, so please enter the fairway after the green tee and exit at the furthest point toward the right greenside bunker or go around the backside of the green, keeping plenty of distance from the green.

The long range plan includes replacing sections of the cart path each year. We will also take the opportunity to improve the rough in-between the path and fairway as it is replaced. As part of the project, sod will be installed to the fairway edge to provide consistent rough and a well-defined fairway edge. Below are some pictures of the new pathway as well as the area on Hole #17 cart path near the fairway bunkers that were replaced.

The fairways will soon break dormancy and resume growth. Soil temperatures consistently at a temperature of 65 degrees are needed to allow the fairways to grow in completely. This historically has occurred in mid-May. We will mow the dormant material off the week of April 16. A chemical will then be applied to kill unwanted cool season grass clumps in most fairways.

Hole #12 and the last third of Hole #14 were overseeded to HGT bluegrass this past fall. The shaded areas of these fairways struggle in the spring and late fall. Over the summer, we will continue to evaluate how the Bermuda grass transitions and how well the bluegrass holds up. A decision will be made in the fall if it is a viable option for Hobbit’s Glen Golf Club in shaded areas and lagging fairways.

I hope this information was helpful! Please do not hesitate to ask me about any course conditions topics or make suggestions for future articles.

Nick Mooneyhan, CGCS

Director of Golf Course Maintenance

It is hard to believe it is already August. The theme this year appears to be weather extremes. We had single digit temperatures with 60 mph winds in January, followed by 80-degree days in February, a frozen March and April, rain most of May, drought-like conditions in June and 15 inches of rain in July! I know superintendents are always talking about the weather, but it is the most uncontrollable and unpredictable factor that impacts course conditions. The extended forecast is favorable temperature-wise, so I’m optimistic that the course will continue to hold up as days begin to get shorter.

In an effort to limit further disruption to the course, we have decided that the greens will not be core aerified. In lieu of coring, the greens will be aerified with a small 5/16” solid tine and verticut, followed by a light application of sand. This procedure will allow the greens to recover from the summer stress and level imperfections and increase turf density, too. Members should anticipate minimal disruption and a short recovery time of less than a week. During the recovery window, the greens will play significantly better than if we had core aerified. I wish we could forego any greens maintenance, but given the previous disruption caused by the winterkill of the fairways, this is the best route to promote the long-term health of the greens. During these times, we must remember that greens are a living, ever-changing system that require ongoing maintenance to preserve.

The fairway restoration efforts have made a big impact. An additional 10,000 square-feet of sod was installed on Holes #14, 15 and 18 the third week in July. The fairways now have just minor blemishes. We will continue to sod smaller areas over the next couple of weeks. The sprigged areas are mostly grown in and will continue to receive compost and fertilizer treatments. You may have noticed the goosegrass on several fairways. Given the winterkill we experienced, the decision was made not to apply a pre-emergent herbicide to prevent goosegrass and crabgrass. This decision was made with the considerations that the presence of a pre-emergent herbicide would have further delayed recovery and would have temporarily limited our overseeding options. All the fairways have now been treated with a post-emergent herbicide to kill the goosegrass. On August 6 and 7, the fairways were treated with a herbicide to also remove any cool season grasses, with the exception of Hole #12. This will prepare the fairways to be overseeded in September.

As discussed in the last issue of Turf Talk, overseeding the bermudagrass fairways with either ryegrass or HGT bluegrass is the best viable short-term option to produce more consistent fairway conditions. The major difference between the two strategies is the disease resistance of the two grass varieties. Given the disease susceptibility of ryegrass, the fairways would need to be chemically treated in late spring to transition back to bermudagrass, whereas the disease resilience of bluegrass allows it to withstand the disease pressure throughout the summer.

Perennial ryegrass can provide an excellent playing surface. Overseeding with ryegrass would improve playing conditions when the bermudagrass is dormant. However, playing conditions would be less desirable in June and July, as the fairways are transitioned back to bermudagrass. The challenge is knowing how much bermudagrass is still present prior to the removal of the ryegrass. If the ryegrass dies too quickly due to temperatures, disease or chemical application timing, large voids may be evident. A less common approach is to forgo chemically removing the ryegrass and attempt to maintain a mix stand of rye and bermuda grasses. Dr. Joe Roberts, a turfgrass pathologist with the University of Maryland, was consulted when researching ryegrass overseeding. Dr. Roberts indicated that, “while significant improvements in disease resistance have been made, perennial ryegrass requires a season-long fungicide program to minimize turf loss.” In order to minimize turf loss, an additional $30,000 would be necessary for fungicides. About 10-12 fungicide applications are required to maintain healthy ryegrass, and in many years turf loss is expected despite them.

Annual ryegrass overseeding is required to establish ryegrass each fall. The turf loss on several ryegrass tees at Hobbit’s Glen and Fairway Hills this year highlights the challenges and disease susceptibility of maintaining ryegrass. Our research and experience with ryegrass, thus far, indicates that this option would improve conditions from November through May, but may be result in a less dependable playing surface from June through September.

Over the past two years, I’ve been researching and testing an alternative two-grass system of bermudagrass and bluegrass (dubbed “bluemuda”). As part of the research, Joan Lovelace and I attended the University of Kentucky’s (UK) Plant Science Department field day. Professor and Extension Specialist at UK, Dr. Munshaw, has been testing “bluemuda” for several years and discussed the results, which were extremely positive.

Joan and I also visited two courses that implemented “bluemuda” three years ago, as well as Frankfurt Country Club, which converted from 100% ryegrass fairways to 100% HGT bluegrass a year-and-a-half ago. The observable results were impressive. It was clear that the fairway conditions at the three clubs we visited were a source of pride for the membership, especially over ryegrass or 100% bermudagrass fairways.

As noted previously, we have demonstration areas at Hobbit’s Glen. The fairway on Hole #12 and from 100 yards in on Hole #14 is now mostly HGT bluegrass, as the bluegrass, due to excessive shade, has out-competed the bermudagrass. There is a large square of “bluemuda” on Hole #18 fairway at the top of the hill. All of these areas are good representations of the conditions we are confident that we will provide by transitioning to “bluemeda”. Shaded areas will most likely transition to predominantly bluegrass, while sunny locations will be a blend of the two species. Additional overseeding would be necessary each year to maintain the blend in growing environments where the bermudagrass is aggressive, such as fall sun and southern facing slopes. Bluegrass is susceptible to turf diseases, but to a lesser extent than ryegrass. A season-long fungicide program is not required. Three to four applications of a fungicide, annually, will maintain a healthy stand of bluegrass.

Our collective research, testing efforts and feedback elicited from the green subcommittee is leading us to the best decision for our membership. We will continue to evaluate the two short-term options over the month of August, concluding with a presentation to the Golf Committee in late August. A final decision as to the appropriate short-term option will be made at that time.The initial overseeding of the fairways is tentatively scheduled for the week of September 17. Carts will be restricted from the fairways for two weeks post-germination, from September 24 to October 7. Although overseeded bermudagrass remains a viable long-term option, we will continue to research other options previously discussed, ranging from sodding to bentgrass to zoysia. Sodding the fairways would require grading permits and closing the course for part of the year. A fairway renovation involving sod would take two or more years from planning to implementation.

Several tees have thinned out, allowing goosegrass and crabgrass to emerge. Most, if not all, of these areas were predominantly perennial ryegrass. Turf loss in a ryegrass stand is expected, despite routine fungicide applications every two weeks and the application of turf health products, especially during hot, humid conditions on saturated soils. We will begin aerifying and seeding several tees over the month of August. Over the years, our bentgrass and zoysia tees have performed the best and the most consistently, however divot recovery is slow for both. The strategy going forward is to use bentgrass on tees large enough to spread wear, while utilizing the two-species turf combination of bluegrass and bermudagrass for smaller tees. The white tee on Hole #8 is being repaired, this week (Aug. 6) by sodding to HGT bluegrass. A comprehensive project to level and regrass several tees throughout the course is needed, for which we will begin the planning process and cost projections this off season. For the remainder of the season, we will continue our efforts to improve selected tees as time allows.

I mentioned this back in May, but it is worth mentioning again: Even when Mother Nature stacks the deck against us, our team remains unnerved and enthusiastic about tackling the challenges the season throws at them. I am thankful for every team member at Hobbit’s Glen and Fairway Hills and their dedication to serving the golf community. I am equally grateful for the patience and understanding of the membership as we work to improve the golf courses each and every day.

Nick Mooneyhan, CGCS

Director of Golf Course Maintenance

Turf Talk: September 2018: Overseeding Announcement

By Nick Mooneyhan, CGCS

I’m pleased to announce that the bermudagrass fairways at Hobbit’s Glen Golf Club will be overseeded this fall.

After extensive research and consulting with the USGA Green Section, turf research specialists and plant pathologists from the University of Maryland and University of Kentucky, we have determined that the two-grass system of Kentucky bluegrass and bermudagrass, known as “bluemuda,” is our most viable interim method for producing a resilient playing surface capable of sustaining great conditions year-round.

The blend has been tested onsite at Hobbit’s Glen for the past three years with positive results and feedback. The Golf Advisory Committee is in support of overseeding the fairways after reviewing the research, recommendations and the onsite performance of the blend.

While overseeding with Kentucky bluegrass is the best option to improve the year-round condition of the fairways in the interim, other turfgrass species that involve considerable disruption and course closure to establish will be evaluated for future consideration.

Frequently asked questions about overseeding:

Why has the decision to overseed fairways been made?

Bermudagrass is susceptible to winterkill resulting from a complex combination of factors that results in death of the plants. Hobbit’s Glen has experienced winterkill to some degree every three to five years, with the worst events occurring in 2008, 2014 and 2018.

Restoring the fairways pulls resources from other areas of the course, resulting in a substandard course for the first quarter of the season. Overseeding the fairways with bluegrass will produce a two-grass system that is more resilient to weather and environmental factors, as well as being capable of supporting great conditions year-round.

What can I expect?

Bluemuda will provide green fairways year-round. The fairways will be a dense playing surface that is predominately Kentucky bluegrass in the spring and fall, and a mixture of Kentucky bluegrass and bermudagrass in the summer.

Will the fairways be 100% green the first winter?

No. The bluegrass will need the beginning of spring to completely fill in. The fairways will look green from the tee (the 300-yard look), but you will see dominant bermudagrass through the seed lines as you get closer. We anticipate relatively green fairways by mid-April this first spring.

When will the overseeding take place?

The overseeding will take place approximately the week of September 24. The temperatures need to be cool enough so that the bermudagrass is not growing excessively. However, it is important to seed as early as possible to allow for the bluegrass to establish and fill in. It will take seven to 10 days to seed all 24 acres of fairways in three directions.

Is the process of overseeding disruptive?

No. The playing surface is minimally disrupted using a “slit” seeder. Small lines will be seen in several directions. It will be difficult to tell anything was done after one or two mowings.

Will there be cart restrictions after seeding?

Carts will be restricted from the fairways for two weeks after the seed has germinated. Germination is expected 10 days after seeding. You can expect some restrictions from October 6-30. All fairways will not be restricted at the same time due to the length of time it will take to seed fairways. Carts will be allowed to drive alongside the fairways to lessen the inconvenience.

Will the fairways need to be overseeded each year?

The fairways will need some overseeding each fall to maintain the desired blend. Fairways that are heavily shaded will likely require no overseeding, as the Kentucky bluegrass will outcompete bermudagrass in low-light growing environments. Full sun and southern facing slopes will need to be overseeded, although at a lower rate than the initial seeding, due to the aggressiveness of the bermudagrass.

What height will the fairways be cut at? Do heights need to be raised in the fall like the bermudagrass fairways were?

The height of cut for most the season will be ½” – ⅝”. Raising the height to ⅞” in the fall will no longer be necessary.

Why Kentucky bluegrass and not perennial ryegrass?

Historically courses, especially south of Maryland, have overseeded bermudagrass fairways with perennial ryegrass. The fairways are transitioned back to bermudagrass by chemically removing ryegrass or by allowing disease and hot temperatures to remove ryegrass. Our region’s susceptibility to bermudagrass winterkill makes ryegrass a poor choice.

The advent of new varieties of Kentucky bluegrass with significantly improved disease and drought tolerance now allows the alternative method of managing both species producing a two-grass system. HGT Bluegrass is the particular blend of improved Kentucky bluegrass varieties that has been selected to use. The varieties found in HGT are all ranked among the highest for turf quality, disease and drought resistance in university trials and the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program.

Will I get more ball roll?

Yes. Our observations and feedback have led us to believe that you can expect more ball roll, especially compared to 100% bermudagrass. Bluemuda is a tighter lie over 100% bermuda, but allows the ball to sit up more than what could be expected on bent.

Click here to view a letter from Paul Jacobs, Agronomist, Green Section, Northeast Region, on this topic.

Fairway Repair Plan Information

The impact of the frigid winter and unseasonably cold spring is now evident. Courses throughout the Mid-Atlantic region and transition zone have suffered various levels of winter kill of their Bermuda grass fairways and tees.

There is approximately nine acres of fairway area at Hobbit’s Glen Golf Club and two acres at Fairway Hills Golf Club that will need remediation. Needless to say, the Bermuda grass fairways at Hobbit’s Glen are not meeting the members’ or our expectations.

We have arrived at a two-pronged solution. The first solution is focused on bringing the course up to standards for this season. This work began the week of May 21 and will take about 30 days to have its maximal impact (growth). This means that the course will improve over the next month and should be in prime shape for about three quarters of the season.

The detailed plan is as follows:

Week of May 21:

  • Apply nitrogen to all fairways every three to five days to promote growth and tillering of existing Bermuda grass.
  • Replace injured areas near approaches on holes 3, 4, 6, 9, 10, 10 and 17 with 007. This effectively removes the Bermuda grass in winter injury prone areas and expands the approaches.
  • Selective plugging and sodding of small “in play areas” throughout.

Week of May 28:

  • Continue sod and plugging
  • Continued nitrogen applications
  • Sprig areas on holes 2, 6, 7 and 9. Areas will be core aerified prior to sprigging. Carts will be restricted from sprigged areas. The new irrigation system allows for head adjustments to prevent the rough and non-sprigged areas from being overwatered.
  • Sod 27,000 square feet of Meyers Zoysia at Fairway Hills on holes 15 and 18 and several approaches.

Week of June 4:

  • Continue nitrogen application.
  • Sprig areas on holes 10, 15, 17 and 18. Areas will core aerified prior to sprigging. Carts will be restricted from sprigged areas.
  • Sprig areas on holes 2, 4 and 5 at Fairway Hills.

Sprigging is a disruptive process that involves the spreading of Bermuda grass plant material on the surface. The surface must be kept excessively wet for the first two weeks. The surface will be playable after two weeks post sprigging and a good surface after four weeks.

The second solution that we will explore is what to do in the long term. The decision to switch to Bermuda grass was made about ten years ago with the support of the Green Committee, staff and USGA. The reason for the regressing to Bermuda grass was due to poor performing ryegrass fairways plagued by turf diseases such as pythium, grey leaf spot, brown patch and dollar spot. Significant turf loss was experienced from 2003-2005.

While Bermuda grass was the choice given the state of grass technology at the time, we have suffered a fairly significant loss at Hobbit’s Glen every three winters or so. There is no perfect grass species for fairway use in the transition zone, but there have been advances in turf breeding/genetics, chemicals and overseeding techniques that now allow several options to be considered and evaluated.

Over the next few months the following several steps will be taken to help assist us in making the best decision for Hobbit’s Glen.

  • USGA agronomist comments and recommendations
  • Dr. Turner visit to discuss options and recommendations
  • Provide viable options with preliminary establishment of cost, strengths and weaknesses
  • Research and evaluate options, which will include on site and off site visits and discussion with green sub committee
    • June – Kentucky trip to research HGT Bluegrass and HGT Bluegrass/Bermuda options
    • Site visit to Woodmont to research and discuss zoysia
    • Bentgrass evaluation at Hobbit’s Glen (several approaches)
  • Establish project scope and timing
  • Final recommendation
  • Establish budget

Thank you for your patience as we address the current fairway conditions and develop the solution that will provide the conditions that we all want for the golf courses.

Nick Mooneyhan, CGCS

Director of Golf Course Maintenance

Dear Members,

Here’s our latest update on fairway restoration efforts — as well as our research and evaluation of fairway grass selection.

Restoring the bermudagrass will be the quickest pathway to good conditions for the remainder of the season. However, bermudagrass — non-overseeded — has not provided the playing conditions that we want for our members. We are evaluating options moving forward.

Considerable progress has been made with restoring the fairways and will continue until they are fully restored. The sprigging of the large winterfill areas of the fairways on holes 2, 6, 9, 14, 15 and 18 was accomplished on June 12 after rain delayed the operation for a week.

Sprigging is a painful process that involves keeping the areas completely saturated for two weeks. I am pleased with the results, and we are now allowing the areas to dry down. The sprigged areas will be mowed during the week of July 2. These areas will be fertilized aggressively over the next few weeks to force the bermudagrass to fill in.

Additionally, 30,000 square feet of sod was installed on holes 10 and 17 on June 9 and June 13 respectively, and these areas can already be played. The seam rule does apply. The sodded areas will also be mowed for the first time during the week of July 2. Smaller areas on holes 1 and 7 are being repaired via sod the week of July 2 as well. Work on Hole 7 will likely continue into the week of July 9.

We are also taking the opportunity to expand several approaches. This week, we have replaced 4,000 square feet of bermudagrass with 007 bentgrass. This is the strategy we employed on Hole 12, which is also 007 bentgrass. The advantage of expanding the bentgrass approaches is that it provides a more consistent playing surface where delicate chips are made and eliminates the bermudagrass winterkill issue in these areas. This allows for more strategic watering of the approaches based on the newly installed irrigation system.

Our long-term strategy is to replace an additional 15,000 square feet of bermuda with bent on holes 3, 4 and 17. This will be completed the week of July 9.

While we continue to evaluate and research long-term options, one thing that is clear is that we will not be proceeding with non-overseeded bermudagrass at Hobbit’s Glen Golf Club. I use the term “non-overseeded” as the current fairways — with the exception of Hole 12, the bottom half of Hole 14 and plot on Hole 18 — have not been overseeded with a cool season grass species. The strategy on the overseeded areas is that it is then considered a two-grass system, taking advantage of both warm season and cool season turf species.

The three options that have emerged — without consideration of establishment costs and course disruption/partial year closure — are bentgrass, a two-grass system (blue/bermuda or rye/bermuda) and Zoysia. A conversion to bentgrass or Zoysia requires further investigation, a lengthy planning process and a partial-year course closure of three to five months.

The project planning involved would likely take the better part of the year should bentgrass or Zoysia be chosen. The appropriate time for converting to bentgrass (August-April) and Zoysia (May-June) must also be considered. Converting to bentgrass may be particularly challenging due to the presence of 24 acres of bermudagrass. Some bermudagrass can survive even after a non-selective herbicide application or even physically removing it due to rhizomes deep in the soil. Bermudagrass encroachment is likely. The question remains: How severe?

Given the need for additional research and the lengthy planning process, the success of the overseeded areas on holes 12, 14 and plot on hole 18’s fairway, and course disruption of a bentgrass or Zoysia conversion, the decision has been made to overseed the fairways in September using either bluegrass or ryegrass. Research and evaluation of using bluegrass to overseed will continue over the summer, but right now it appears to be the better option over ryegrass.

While a two-grass system of bluegrass and bermudagrass is the best short term option and should be considered as a viable long-term option, the decision in no way closes the door on a bentgrass or Zoysia conversion. We will continue to research these options. A full report of our finding and recommendations provided by the USGA, turfgrass researchers and the Golf Committee will be provided at the conclusion of our evaluation period in August/September.

Columbia Association, including my team, is committed to improving the conditions of the fairways now and for the long term. This has been a difficult few months for our membership and my team. Be assured, the worst is behind us. Going forward, fairway conditions will improve each and every time you step on the course.

Nick Mooneyhan, CGCS

Director of Golf Course Maintenance