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 are links to two articles discussing more information regarding greens aerification and aerification timing.

USGA-Why do golf courses aerate so much?

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

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