Superintendent's Corner

Superintendent's Corner by John Ponti

June 2018

I cannot believe it is already July!  I hope you all have the cobwebs out of your golf bags and have been enjoying the course and perfecting your game.  As the summer progresses and the weather gets warm, it triggers a chain of events.  For Mr. and Mrs. Golfer it signifies gorgeous weather, beautiful flowers and long days where you can play golf till 8:30pm if you like.  However, for the golf course superintendent and greens crew it signifies a whole different scenario.  The summer for a golf course greens crew is very intense as the warm nights and hot days put the grass into growing mode.  When we are awake the grass is growing…when we are asleep the grass is growing, and sometimes we wish it would just take a nap and stop so we can catch up.   However, this is not the case.  During the growing season a typical healthy putting green can grow one time its length in just 24 hours.  A fairway can grow up to 2 times, and the rough can grow up to 2 1/2 times its own length respectively.  Anybody who has been in the Nehoiden rough can attest to that!  During a typical week we will mow the fairways 3 to 4 times,  the greens 7 days, and the rough is such a vicious cycle that we will cut it up to 5 times in one week.

 During the summer months the weeds in bunkers can be prolific.  We do not treat the weeds in bunkers with herbicide due to the fact that herbicide will cling to the sand, which clings to golf spikes and then damages the greens if tracked on.   To combat this, we hand pull all the weeds.  Although this is a very tedious task, it is a necessary one.  If we did not keep up with this process, the bunkers would be unplayable.

The perfect hot summer day with high skies, full sun and just a little bit of pleasant wind to move the air is ideal for golf.  You know what it is not ideal for?  Growing grass on a putting green at 130 thousands of an inch!  Summer heat can be detrimental to grass on a golf course.  We are asking the plants to do things that they were not meant to do.  Grass was not meant to be mowed as low as we mow it.  Grass does not like to be trampled and starved of water and nutrients, but if you want playable hearty greens, tees, and fairways you have to find ways to manipulate Mother Nature by defying her logic and forcing these grasses to behave a certain way.  With that said, we spend countless hours watering by hand to ensure the plants get precisely the amount of water they need, not too much nor too little, as either one can be detrimental to the green.

I could write a 100-page manifesto about the inner workings of a golf maintenance program, but I will spare you the details.  I choose these three topics because they are the ones most visual to the membership.   I know it is distracting when you are lining up a putt and a maintenance vehicle or a mower goes by.  It is not our intention to be impatient or rude and we try to be as invisible as possible, but it is inevitable that we will at some point be in your way.   I can personally say that the stress of the job and the intense level at which we work to provide the conditions our members deserve can give you tunnel vision.  Sometimes I am so focused on my task that I can tend to lose sight of surroundings.  I can speak for my crew when I say that we are sometimes all guilty of this, we call it being “in the zone”.  The main reason that I am sharing these details is to help you understand why we are working while you are trying to play and why it is so important that we do these things. 

With all this said, I would like the take this opportunity to say thank you to everyone for being so wonderful and understanding.  I have worked at golf courses where the members did not care about their greens crew and just expected everything to be perfect.  This is not the case at Nehoiden.  You have all made me feel welcome and appreciated and for that I have to say thank you again, even if it is redundant.  We come to work every day to serve the members, everything we do out here is for you.  We take great pride in our work and care deeply for the member experience.  We will never stop working for you and we will never be complacent.  Our goal is to improve on everything,  constantly elevating conditions.  With your help and understanding I know we can have one of the best golf courses in the country.