HAVANA - Maintenance

The following is provided as description of the general golf course maintenance performed on an annual basis here at Havana Country Club. The Head Superintendent and I hope this assists golfers in understanding what occurs to the golf course throughout the year and to show that the golf course is a living breathing entity which must be handled in many varying ways depending on the season and even the month.

For this piece; we shall start with summer when our base grass, Bermuda, is present as our playing surface and growing at its optimal rate. We will then move to fall and a description of our annual overseeding process; then winter and finally spring when the winter overseed starts to “check out” and our base grass, Bermuda, starts to grow again. We will also throw in a few other practices you may run into during your rounds of golf like spraying and varying the mowing heights on greens as well as aerification thoughts. We hope you find this piece enjoyable and educational.

The “Dog Days of Summer” equates to long hot summer days and intense turgrass management!!!

Summer has arrived and the humidity has risen dramatically in recent weeks. The warm but pleasant spring days are a long gone memory. Our base grass, Bermuda, is thriving and growing now at its optimal rate for the entire year; the maintenance teams are now cutting a lot of grass. This time of the year is also when Jeff and his team work the hardest. The days are placing all the turfgrass under a lot of stress so the maintenance teams watch carefully all areas of the golf course for any signs of stress. There are procedures “cultivation practices” that Jeff and his team will perform during this time frame to assist the golf course. Summer cultivation practices will include core aerification, verticutting to dethatch the turfgrass, topdressing to remove/replace proper soil material and even ‘spot” watering to relieve stressed areas. Even though the practice of aerification is hated by golfers it offers many benefits to the turfgrass plant itself; it reduces the thatch layer, reduces compaction and improves the soil. The negative impact of the aerification process is fairly short lived while the benefits for long term improvement are critical. “Spot watering” or hand watering is sometimes necessary to relieve hot spots on the turfgrass. Golfers, as well as the golf course superintendents, don’t like the humid summer days of Florida. During our hot summer days the plant releases water into the air which actually ‘cools” the plant; unfortunately in the very humid days of the Florida summers the air has so much water in it that the plant doesn’t release its stored water so the end result is that plant doesn’t cool itself as efficient.

Fall; Relief has Arrived
Good bye humidity and 100 degree summer days and hello paradise; the fall has arrived and the desire to play golf is on the rise for all of our Villagers. Its fall days that reminds us why we will here in Florida; warm weather with low humidity. Even though fall is here Jeff and his team are as busy as ever; for the fall brings another procedure to the golf course; “overseeding which is the process from changing from warm season base grass (Bermuda) to the cool season winter grass (Rye). To help reduce the disruption to all of our residents we will be first overseed greens and tees. After the greens and tees are completed, we will overseed the fairways. In about 4 weeks the entire process is completed and the mowing heights are back to are normal cutting practices.

The Cold Gray Days of Winter
The overseed has been down for some time now and all playing surfaces are being mowed at normal heights. During the winter months Jeff and his maintenance team see less grass growing which means less grass to mow on a daily basis. Less mowing allows for various “odd “jobs to occur. During the winter you may see trees being trimmed and various on course projects being performed (like additional drainage) which assist Havana CC to run as efficient as possible. During late winter, Jeff will be applying a pre-emergent application which assists the maintenance team in weed resistance management by controlling the geminating of weed seedlings by creating a “shield” on top of the soil. The end result will be a healthier turf with greatly reduced intrusion of unwanted weeds. Sometimes we get asked why some winters the Bermuda looks really brown and some winters it doesn’t? It really comes down to the overall warmth of the winter nights; what are low temperatures are which decides the degree of winter dormancy that the base grass Bermuda goes into.

Spring is in the Air; Come on Warm Weather!!!
With warmer weather we will start to begin the annual transition period from our cooler winter grass (Rye) to our summer base grass (Bermuda). The Havana Country Club superintendent; Jeff Morris and his team will be working hard to make the transition go well and allow the residents to be interrupted as little as possible. With the warmer comes warmer nights and statistics show once the night time temperatures are consistently at 65 degrees or higher our base grass; Bermuda, will start to turn color and grow. There are a couple of maintenance practices you may encounter during the spring time which assist the Bermuda grass to start growing. First and foremost we need to transition/remove of winter overseed grass; Jeff and his team will assist the process by regularly verticutting the green surfaces. This process removes small amounts of the winter overseed; allowing the water and the sun to reach down to the Bermuda grass. The verticutting roughs up the putting surface a bit so you will see some very light top dressing during this period to smooth out the overall putting surface. Jeff and I also wanted to point out a few other significant happenings here at Havana concerning golf course maintenance.

Aerification, Why Do We Need to do This!!!
This process occurs twice annually here at Havana Country Club. First it occurs in May, and during this aerification Jeff will use about 3/8th inch size “tines”. These tines are cyclical shaped tubes which pull solid cores of plant material and soil from the ground. After the “cores” are removed then the maintenance teams replace the pulled material with new sand material and amendments. The process has multiple benefits; it assists in the prevention of compaction to the ground first and foremost. The holes allow air and water along with any fertilizer which might be placed down to go into the ground and directly with the plant root zone. Finally, this process prevents an over accumulation of thatch to be present. Please watch the Daily Sun as well as look at our web site www.golfthevillages.com were all aerification schedules are placed to assist you when choosing your next golf outing.

Overseeding; Winter Grass and the Benefits
Overseeding is most commonly done here in Florida because we utilize bermuda grass, which goes dormant (turns brown) during winter months. In the fall (October & November here in the Villages) the maintenance team will overseed the golf course with  ryegrass seed (fairways and tees) on top of the bermuda grass, timed so that as the bermuda grass goes dormant when the ryegrass grows in. When dormancy occurs as temperatures drop below 60-70 degrees at night; this causes the grass to basically stop growing.  Thus; damaged grass leaves that normally would grow back, do not get replaced.  Damage to grass is an ongoing activity from walking, driving and playing on grasses.  While our bermuda grass is not growing we need to place a layer of “active “grass on top of the bermuda to give the bermuda layer a break. If the bermuda is not given a break then excessive traffic will wear the plant down and you will have bare soil areas in the spring.  This is not a recommended practice for a playable golf course. Please watch the Daily Sun as well as look at our web site www.golfthevillages.com were all overseeding schedules are placed or stop by any of the Villages Country Club golf shops to assist you when choosing your next golf outing.

Craig Shelton, Head Superintendent, and the Havana Country Club maintenance team continue to make wonderful strides in maturing the golf course. You will find the golf course in good shape, but please be patient until the golf course has a chance to mature. When playing golf, please help us out by avoiding the high traffic areas when entering and exiting fairways to assist the grass in its maturation process, also be aware of high traffic areas in and around the bunker and green complexes. The playing conditions are firm and fast, but with the passing growing seasons along with scheduled aerifications to relieve the compaction to the soil caused from the foot traffic on the greens and golf car traffic on fairways we should see our playing surfaces softening up in years to come. Compaction also reduces the amount of oxygen available to the roots, so the aerification process promotes more air movement and water movement throughout the soil and root zone which helps keep the grass healthy. Data shows under optimal conditions it takes a golf course approximately 5 years to reach maturity. Havana Country Club opened in February 2007 and since early 2009 mother natured has not assisted greatly with rain fall and thus the maturation rate of Havana Country Club has slowed.

Finally; I would request to use caution when hitting around the maintenance workers.  The maintenance teams work tirelessly on the golf courses in all conditions year round. Please be aware of their presence; they have been trained to move aside when they see golfers present but working on loud machinery sometimes they miss oncoming golfers.

Again, Craig and I hope this report offers some educational insight to what occurs ergonomically and operationally here at Havana Country Club. If you ever have questions please don’t hesitate to stop and ask us; that’s why we are here.

Tyler Krager, PGA
Head Golf Professional

Craig Shelton
Head Superintendent
ASG Solutions

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