Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Importance of Course Maintenance Programs

After a conversation with Grant Monday about the condition of our fairways and roughs I figured it would be appropriate to write a post on Maintenance Programs and their importance to the health of the turf. Some may wonder just what is a Maintenance Program? A Maintenance Program is a schedule of events that is developed to maintain turf at it healthiest level throughout the year. A program includes the use of cultural practices like aerification of the soil, verticutting and topdressing greens, cutting heights and or mowing schedules, it also includes chemical treatments to help promote a healthier plant. These treatments consist of fertilization for the improved growth of the plant, fungicides that combat disease, growth regulators, that tighten up the nodes of the plant and insecticides to combat insects.  All of the above is taken into consideration and a plan of action is developed to impliment the Maintenance Program on a schedule that co-exist with types of expected play throughout the year. It is very important to have a program in place and follow it as close as possible.

We have used various programs over the last 15 years and have adapted these programs to what works best for our budget and club. As a Superintendent I have to not only build the needed program but I am also responsible for changing our programs to fit within Mother-Natures whims. Our Fairway programs use to consist of three to four fertilizer applications per year, the spraying of growth regulators to thicken up the matt of grass that holds your ball off the soil and cut down on clippings which would eventually become thatch around the exit pipes on the golf course after heavy rains. They also included the applications of insecticides to combat the fall army worms and mole crickets that like to devour the plants root systems. We would aerifye the fairways 2 times a year and cut on average 2-3 times per week in different directions. And lets not forget the watering schedules during our dry times which are done mainly at night so we do not to interfere with our members golf game.

Our greens programs were much more detailed using most of the fairways program and adding in the verticutting and topdressings needed to promote healthy turf at 1/8" and rolled as often as possible to give a smoother rolling surface.

We use to have a pond program which was mainly through using the proper chemicals to treat algea and control the growth of grass and weeds.

While we generally have some sort of Maintenance Program for every part of the course such as Trees, bunkers, Equipment and even our swimming pool, most people just think of this as normal maintenance.

I bet your wondering just where I am going with this? These programs cost money to impliment and sustain. and that is the key to this post. Upon my arrival in 1995 there was no true programs. After a couple of years we began to develope programs due to more resources becoming available. By the end of 1999 we had managed to get a new irrigation system and rebuild our greens. Our membership had jumped up to 550 golfing members and had a small waiting list to join. The added members also fueled our programs giving them the funds to improve upon what we have. We added weed control programs with budgets of $50,000 which had us on our way to cleaning up the course. We was able to replace and repair our equipment and acquire backups that would allow us to continue with the upkeep of the course when one whent down.

But those days are in the past and our programs had to be tweaked to account for our lower membership and lack of funds. Some programs had to be completely thrown out the window. We had to adapt to doing what cost us little or nothing in some cases. Over the last four years our fairway program has been reduced to hoping we can get one fertilizer application per year. Sure we can still do the things that does not cost us like the aerifications and mowing to an extent but the lack of funds has compromised  the overall health of the plant. Each and every year I see more weeds enroaching and the grass getting thinner and taking longer to come out of dormancy. It has gotten to the point where we do not have a program and operate from day to day. Making decisions like how often can I cut due to the cost of fuel for our mowers or do we aerifye in the fall due to the cooler weather and lack of fertility for them to heal over fast enough?

Maintenance Programs are a vital part of keeping a great golf course. They are used to promote the future growth of your course and keeping it headed in the right direction. While you may be able to skip a part of the program from time to time without harming the turf, you cannot do it over longer periods of time.