As we head into the 2015 golf season we want to keep you up to date with course conditions here at the Ridge at Manitou. This past winter has been one of the toughest we’ve come out of since the construction of the golf course. This spring we have received damage to our fairways from hydration injury and snow mold as well as minor injury to some of our greens. The good news is the damage is primarily aesthetic and the course is still playable. We anticipate we’ll have the course back in great shape by mid June, weather permitting.
In the meantime, we will be offering any golfer who plays The Ridge in May a voucher to return to play during the summer… at our spring discounted rate of just $80 (limit one per person and cannot be combined with any other offer).
Keep reading for more details of our challenges with Mother Nature this year…
UPDATE: May 11th, 2015
Wow, what a difference 2 weeks can make. I am happy to report that we have had some unbelievable recovery here in the last 4 days. We are much further ahead than I thought we would be at this point and I am pleasantly surprised. I am cautiously optimistic that we will be fully recovered by the end of this month and not into June as I had originally thought. Good weather and recent rains have really added in recovery.
Above is a picture of #1 fairway from the green looking back on May 5th. Below is the same view on May 11th
The start of the story really happened back in the fall of 2014. October was extremely wet with little good opportunities to get our preventative fungicide treatment for snow mold. The wet weather continued on into November. Constant rain turned to snow at the end of the second week of November and by the beginning of the third week of November we had approximately3 feet of snow on the ground.
We were in the middle of our pond construction project and the snow caused us no end of issues with trying to get the project completed. The snow hung on until early December and then we had a big melt. However, we did not loose all of our snow at the course. We were about 50% exposed after the melt and then the temperatures started to drop.
The exposed turf suffered from desiccation due to the cold temperatures and the wind during this time. Also a result of the cold temperatures we had frost penetrate into the ground which is unusual for this area. Typical for us is no frost because of snow accumulation over unfrozen ground. The snow then turns into an insulating blanket to keep the frost out of the ground.
We then started to receive a significant amount of snow just after Christmas and into the New Year. Temperatures plummeted for the next 3 months as I am sure everyone is well aware of. I think this has been one of the consistently cold winters that we have had in a while.
Towards the end of March things started to warm up and the sun was definitely stronger. Slowly the snow started to dissipate especially on the slopes. This is where things started to go wrong for our fairways. The weather going into the winter, frost in the ground and constant freeze thaw started to take its toll on the turf. When the snow started melting as daytime temperatures creeped up above 0C.
The water created from melting snow then traveled through the snow pack to the ground. This created a layer of water which started to build up on frozen ground. The water has no where to go but slowly travel along the surface. Then, as the temperature dropped as we went into the night time, that layer of water then freezes. This process happens over and over again weakening the turf each time it happens.
The injury that results from this process is called Hydration injury. The usual process in the fall is that the turf will “harden off” in preparation for winter. Water content in the cells of the plants is reduced while solutes within the cell act like antifreeze protecting the tissues for the winter. When a water layer develops under the snow pack and the turf is exposed to this situation long enough, the water will seep back into the cells of the plant. This dilutes the solutes which are acting like antifreeze and raise the freezing point of the cell. Then as the freeze thaw cycle continues it continually weakens the plant. Eventually of the cells of the plant freeze then the resulting ice crystals will then lacerate the cell and the contents will then leak out. If this happens to the cells within the crown of the turf plants then the turf plant will die.
This is what happened to large areas of turf on our fairways. The icing on the cake was that conditions this spring were excellent for snow mold development. The turf was already in a very week state and the long snow cover in most areas (156days or more) created an ideal environment for snow mold development. It came in behind the hydration injury and created more damage to the turf. Insult to injury so to say.
Most of the areas effected on the course were on the fairways. We had some hydration injury on a few of our greens but not that extensive and not severe enough to consider temporary greens. So, that is what our best guess of what happened. We could have done nothing to prevent it. I think sometimes Mother Nature makes sure that you know that despite what you think, you are not really in charge. She is and she will do what she wants, when she wants.
Where do we go from here?
We have already begun the steps to bring the course back to the conditions that are expected here at the Ridge. Small areas of damage on greens have already been over seeded and put under a grow tarp to help force the areas along.
As of today, we have started the process of overseeding damaged areas on our fairways. Some are more affected then others. I am already encouraged by the recovery that I have seen despite the cold weather of last week. I am confident that we will have the course back on track in short order.
I will be posting pictures on a regular basis to show our recovery process. I hope you join us on our journey and check in regularly to see how we are doing. Also, the course will still play as it always has. The damage will not affect the playability of the course. It is really just cosmetic damage that we have to recover from.
So what was our process to get the course back on track to a full recovery?
First was overseeding. After I had determined the total area affected on our fairways, I started the process of selecting seed that would fit our location. The current bentgass variety that was in the fairways was Dominate Extreme. It was a good cultivar in the time of construction but seed genetics and breeding has advance quite a bit since our first planting back in 2003. I felt it was time to transition to a newer variety that would have improved characteristics such as disease resistance and better tolerance of environmental stresses. There are a lot of new varieties that have come on the market in the last 10yrs and it was not that easy of a process to select the one that would be a good fit for our course. Things that you have to take into consideration is not only the characteristics that you want, you also have to be concerned with appearance and how that will mesh together with the existing variety that is there. A great resource are the Nation Turfgrass Evaluation Program results that have been done on all new varieties that are on the market. NTEP results for a number of turf types can be found at www.ntep.org. I decided to go with a new variety called “Luminary” that performed well in the trials in areas similar to our climate here in the Parry Sound area. Once I had chosen the grass type and had the seed delivered, we immediately went to work overseeding all affected areas around the course. We used two different methods.
Method 1: Double verticut the affected areas. Blow off the material pulled out in this process and then use a Brillon Seeder to overseed the affected areas. We would then topdress these areas with sand and brush the whole mixture into the slits created by the verticutting.
Method 2: Single verticut of the affected area following by blowing off of the material generated. Overseeding with the Brillion and then overseeding again with a different machine called a Triwave. This machine is an all in one unit that creates a slit in the turf with blades and then deposits a seed directly in the slit.
Method 3: Double overseeding with the Triwave overseeded. Went in two different directions to create a diamond patter in the affected areas.
Next steps after overseeding were to topdress the fairways with a layer of sand and then brush the sand into the turf with a brush that is dragged behind a utility vehicle. This process ensures good seed/soil contact which is important for the germination process of the seed.
After topdressing we applied fertilizer to the fairways to help stimulate growth. We are very conscious here in regards to fertilizer applications, especially phosphorus, because of our proximity to Lake Manitouwabing. Through soil testing we determined that we did not need to apply additional amounts of fertilizer containing phosphorus as we still had amount already in the soil that would aid in recovery. So we applied a 30-0-5 fertilizer to help kick start the turf. Nitrogen is our main focus as that is the driver of growth and is really the Throttle on the growth engine.
Our next step was just to provide the best environment possible for germination of the seed and recovery growth. It was important to keep these areas moist for germination but not too wet. This was a bit of a challenge up until this past Saturday as it seemed that we when from winter to summer like conditions in the blink of an eye. It was hard to believe that we were having to water the course regularly and deal with isolated dry spots only about 5 days after we lost the last little bit of snow that we had. However, recent rains this past weekend has really aided in the recovery of a lot of areas.
I am very pleased with our rate of recovery to this point and the long range forecast looks like the good weather will continue to help us. Like I said before, I am cautiously optimistic that we will be very close to full recovery on all areas by the end of this month. We will continue to monitor growth and fertility levels and do everything within our power to continue the great success we have had to date. I thank all of you who have supported the Ridge and look forward to seeing you on the course. I have attached several before and current pictures so you can see how much we have recovered to date.
General Manager/Course Superintendent