Thursday, May 5, 2016

Dear Members,

We chose a week with horrendous weather to aerate greens!

The actual process of solid tine aeration was completed this morning. (Thursday) However, we still need to topdress greens, double aerate collars and add fertilizer products. These procedures will be done next week. Greens may be a little bumpy until they heal over and warmer weather will help!

A few green edges (weak areas) of greens were chewed up by aerators, especially #14. We are repairing these now and will continue until complete.

Greens’ speed was aided this spring because of four chemical applications to prevent Poa annua seedheads from appearing during May and June. These applications also slow the growth of greens’ turf, and provide fast green speeds for golfers. 2016 is the first time we’ve applied these growth regulators since 2013 because turfgrass wasn’t strong enough in 2014 and 2015 after those severe winters.

Next week, we will aerate and overseed old areas of cartpaths that were sodded over a few years ago. This sod has thinned out since the original planting.

Wall to wall crabgrass herbicides have been applied. Broadleaf weed control has begun, but the rainy week has stopped our progress for now. An insecticide will be applied within the next few days to control annual bluegrass weevil adults, the first of three or four applications to control this persistent turf munching pest.

Thanks to many members for the many kind comments about golf course conditions this spring. Thanks also to our hard working crews whose efforts we all enjoy!

And always, if anyone has any questions about our operation, we are always happy to explain any aspect of golf course maintenance. Feel free to email me at

Hope to see everyone soon…..and feel free to bring some sun with you!

Patrick Gertner CGCS

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Dear Members,

It's amazing that as of April 5th, greens have been open for almost four weeks....yet today are covered by six inches of snow! Snow yesterday was not totally unexpected, but the cold reality of going back to winter has not been pleasant! Golf course turf will be undamaged after accumulated snow melts and hopefully putts will be rolling again at Potowomut sometime this weekend. We will keep everyone posted about snow melt progress!

During the winter we spent time on these tasks:
Removing weedy sumac trees that were growing along golf course perimeters on holes #5, 6, 11 and 12.
Removed two large trees that were causing turfgrass problems due to shade behind #7 green.
Lime was applied to 70 acres of golf course rough for proper soil nutrition.
All greens' sprinkler heads were taken apart and thoroughly cleaned.
Refurbished golf course accessories and mowing equipment.
New water well that was drilled in late 2015 was opened up increasing its initial output by over 50%. Prices are being procured for the Board of Governors to determine costs to utilize this potential new water source.
Late February and early March weather had us way ahead of schedule compared to the average spring. Pumps and irrigation have been fully operational since March 9th. Seasonal help was hired early and the golf course was extremely clean before last weekend's winds. When crews return later this week, we will get right back to numerous spring tasks which include:
Wall to wall chemical applications for pre-emergent crabgrass and annual bluegrass weevils.
Sprinkler edging and yardage tag cleaning.
Clean up of clubhouse and golf course planting beds including new mulch installation.
Edging a few greenside bunkers not completed during 2015.
Converting greens' sprinkler rotors to full circle for improved irrigation to edges of greens.
Preventing greens Poa annua seedhead formation from applications of growth regulator Ethephon.
Collar aeration.
Hope to see everyone back on the golf course very soon....where we all belong!

Patrick Gertner CGCS

Sunday, May 3, 2015

14 and 15 greens

Turf on greens 14 and 15 has not improved and will be replaced. On Monday May 4th we will remove failed areas and replace with sod from our nursery near #2 tee. We believe this is the quickest way to get greens back to normal. We have had good luck moving Potowomut nursery turfgrass to failed greens’ areas in the past, although on a smaller scale. Greens will be playable faster using sod for repairs, versus the alternative of seeding, then waiting for seed to germinate and juvenile plants to mature going into summer.
We expect the transformation to be completed within one or two days. Play may be limited for a few days while new turfgrass roots into soil.
After the new sod is planted, sodded areas on #14 and #15 will play different from our other sixteen greens. Thanks for your patience and we will do our best to convert new sod to perfect putting surfaces!
Also next week, we are scheduled to aerate greens. However, instead of the dreaded and disruptive conventional aeration process, we will use the new Planet Air machine to only poke holes into greens’ surfaces. This machine does a wonderful job of venting soils with NO surface disruption. We will apply far less sand than usual and expect greens to return to normal by Thursday or Friday next week.
Finally, winter damaged fairway turf that continues to struggle will be aerated and seeded in coming weeks. It may take a little time to get some of these areas back, but we are confident that green grass will soon replace ice damaged fairway turf.
Thanks to everyone for your patience and understanding.

Patrick M. Gertner CGCS
Golf Course Superintendent

Friday, April 17, 2015

As our golf course comes out of its winter sleep, problems on two greens have become evident this week. Greens fourteen and fifteen are showing weakness, as well as smaller spots on other greens. (4, 7, 9, 13, 16, 17 and 18.) Damage is evident only on apple green colored Poa annua grass, the darker colored areas of creeping bentgrass are thriving despite the ice cover.
Greens’ turf was suffocated from extensive and extended snow and ice cover. Turf plants need oxygen during winter and this requirement wasn’t met. Poa annua is a weak weed grass (that we often despise) that has low survivability when subjected to environmental stress.
How severe is the damage?
Dr. Mitkowski, pathologist at the University of Rhode Island estimated that Potowomut damaged areas have lost between 60-70% of their turf. This is severe turf loss. Remaining plants are extremely weak and are in precarious condition straddling the edge of life and death. How the living turf component responds during the next two weeks is very important.
The PLAN(s) (Applies to all voided turf areas)
We have a two part plan to rescue greens. Under both plans, we will raise the greens’ mowing heights and eliminate rolling. The first part of the plan is to save as many live plants as possible.
1. Greens will be fertilized every five days to fatten surviving plants. We will pamper these plants so they can grow and laterally fill in voided areas during the next six to eight weeks. Dark green dyes will be applied to help us maintain warmer soil temperatures, and thus, aid recovery.
The second part of the plan is to re-establish new bentgrass plants.
1. Greens will be spiked and seeded next week. Bentgrass seeds will not germinate until soil temperatures reach 59 degrees. Current soil temperatures are in the mid 40’s, so by placing seed in the ground now it will begin the germination process within a few weeks, with average April weather.
2. Dark colored organics will be applied to help warm surfaces.
3. Seed will kept wet to aid germination.
Depending on the progress of the 30-40% living turf on the greens, or lack of it, we may need to take more drastic measures in coming weeks such as closing 14 and 15 greens during recovery. This determination has not yet been made, as we are optimistic and focusing on pumping up living plants full of nutrients to aid their survivability. We will keep you informed with daily emails if needed.
We are not alone. Speaking to people within the golf course industry this week, we have heard that most clubs with Poa annua greens in New England and our area are in a similar situation, many with half their greens severely damaged.
We are doing all we can to bring back poor areas of our greens as quickly as possible. We still have hopes that more plants can be coddled back to health by getting them fat and happy as soon as possible. If greens continue to decline the next week or two however, we will get new bentgrass plants thriving as soon as possible with the least disruption to you.
As always, we welcome your feedback, comments and questions.

Patrick M. Gertner CGCS

Monday, March 16, 2015

Grain on greens.....With sincere thanks to Johnny Miller

I had a question from a member about grain on greens. Here is my answer....

Sincere thanks for your inquiry about grain. I hope you don't mind my highly opinionated, long response....

On today's greens in the northeast, grain isn't present anymore. We hear Johnny Miller speak of grain on every telecast he
does for NBC.....and as he does thousands of Superintendents like me cringe at his comments.

Let me explain. Grain was prevalent on bentgrass greens in the 60's and 70's. I remember it well; it could be very nasty to make an accurate putt through it. Back then,
greens' height of cut (.190") would present a green that would look downright shaggy (and more prone to grain) by today's standards. Higher grass length caused grass blades on sloped areas to grow horizontally and not vertically. The ball would not roll through grain, it would bounce, roll unevenly and decelerate quickly.

First, northeast greens (including Potowomut's) are comprised of two different grasses. Poa annua (a weedgrass) is the dominant species comprising over 50% of the grasses
on our greens. Creeping bentgrass is the other (and preferred) species because it holds up much better to environmental stress than Poa annua. Bentgrass surfaces were the grainy ones from golf's past while Poa annua cannot become grainy because of its growth habit. So, half of the greens' turf by area is immediately eliminated from any grain conversation.

Secondly, green speeds have risen dramatically during the last twenty five years. To attain today's speeds, we perform many maintenance tasks that eliminate grain on bentgrass.

These include:
Extremely low heights of cut (.120") with mower reels sharpened daily.
Mowing 7 days per week
Frequent sand topdressing
Aggressive aeration programs and summer venting.
Vertical mowing
Grooming (similar to vertical mowing)
Lean fertilizer programs
Growth regulator programs
Establishing newer fine textured bentgrass varieties that when maintained properly grow up very upright.

The result of these programs is smaller turfgrass plants that grows upright. Grain can't become a dominant feature because we're always
doing something to eliminate extra growth instead of promoting it. We prepare a surface for golf where speed and smoothness are the traits that are desired.

When Johnny learned our great game in northern California, he had to deal with grainy greens. No doubt. And I am not saying that greens in southern latitudes comprised
with bermudagrass and seashore paspalum can't establish grain because they can. At better clubs in our climate, I believe grain has been my opinion.

Whenever I hear our friend Mr. Miller talk about grain on a green, in my mind I just change the word to slope. "He has to putt through the....slope." "This putt is down the ....slope."

Please email me or call with any questions. I am quite sure most Superintendents in our climate would provide a similar response to mine because Johnny's talk about grain
will always illicit a nails on chalkboard negativity among us!! Once again, thanks for writing!! I'd love to go out on the golf course and continue our conversation!!

Patrick Gertner CGCS
Golf Course Superintendent

Friday, March 13, 2015

March 12 Update


Three feet of snow has shrunk to less than a foot in most areas of the golf course. The quick thaw reminds us that golf balls will soon be in the air instead of snowflakes.
Unfortunately, the entire golf course is closed until further notice.

Soils are saturated from melting winter snows. Combined with frost still in the ground, any golfer traffic will leave muddy and deep footprints.
Please be patient during the next few weeks as we prepare for the golf season. We will keep you informed about lifting this notice, and about a date to open the greens either later this month or during early April.

Thanks everyone for your patience and support.

Patrick Gertner CGCS

March 1 Update

March 1st Golf Course Update

On behalf of my entire staff and I, please join me in thanking Assistant Superintendent Dan Virgulak for his over fourteen years of service to Potowomut Golf Club. Dan has accepted a similar position at Bellevue Country Club outside Boston and begins new duties March 9th. We have all seen and benefited from Dan's hard work and talents. Thanks Dan on behalf of our appreciative membership, and we wish you good luck in all future endeavors.

Now, about this crazy winter of 2015....Many of you know I am a hearty native of upstate New York where 100" annual snowfalls are common occurrences. However, even I am shocked by this winter's relentlessness. The good news is March is here, temperatures will warm and snow will melt as the sun continues to rise higher in the southern sky.

What will emerge underneath the two to three foot snow accumulation? Let me explain two different potential problems, ice and disease.

The first type of potential damage occurs when turf is covered by an impermeable layer of ice similar to what is seen on a skating rink. Turf death can occur after 42 days of ice coverage. Soils need to breathe even during winter, and a layer of ice prevents this needed exchange. Snow alone is excellent protection for turf, snow and ice together can lead to disaster.

The second type of potential turf damage is fungal disease snowmold. These diseases can injure turf when it is covered by heavy snow accumulation. Destructive fungi present in the plant begin growing when environmental conditions needed for the disease is present. (cold, damp snow covered ground) You have probably seen this damage during a previous spring. Snow mold shows itself as circular patches three inches or larger in diameter and turfgrass leaves often have a pinkish color.

So what will we see when our golf course re-appears in later March or April?

In my best guess, we will have no ice damage but will see some turf injury on fairway and rough in the form of snow mold damage.
Ice damage described above will NOT be an issue because accumulated snow first fell to the golf course January 26th. No ice formed on turf before Monday February 23rd after a minor warm up and rain event last Sunday, Feb 22nd.

Greens and tees were treated to prevent snow mold diseases on December 2nd 2014. Those areas should be excellent in spring. Fairways and rough however, could have some damage. We hope most damage will be superficial and will grow out quickly with warmer spring weather as is typical for winter turf disease.

All in all, I believe we will escape major damage and have good golf course conditions for spring. The possibility that snow mold damage is present will remain as snow melts in coming weeks.

Can't wait to see everyone in a few short weeks!!

Patrick M. Gertner CGCS