Posted by: Tyler
It has been a of couple busy weeks with two big tournaments at the Plateau Club. We held the annual Member-Guest tournament and Pacific Northwest Pro-Am. These are the most exclusive tournaments of the year and the course was in great condition. The greens were firm, fast and smooth. The fairways, tees, and approaches were all in great condition. The Turf Dept. started two consecutive days at 4 a.m on Friday and Saturday in order to double mow, roll greens, hand rake all the bunkers and set the pins before the players hit the course for an 8:30 a.m. shotgun on all 18 holes. Friday night we came back at 5:30 p.m. to mow the fairways, roll greens, hand water the greens, mow the intermediate rough and re-stripe the green and tee surrounds. It was a long couple of days but was a great experience. Superintendent Jim Myers put in a lot of pre-planning and coordination to get the golf course in shape for this huge tournament. The whole staff did a great job and all the members and their guests were extremely pleased.
This week I want to talk to you about the art of fertilization on a golf course. When I say the “art” of fertilization I mean it! Each superintendent has his or her own bag of tricks to fertilize the golf course. The main issues with fertilizing are timing, the product and application rate. When preparing for a tournament, a careful plan must be set and followed months prior to the event. While most courses like to see dark green, healthy grass across the entire property, that is not always the case for a tournament. Players are looking for playability over aesthetics. I am not saying that the fairways and greens will be dirt brown so they are fast and firm, but there may be some brown spots here and there on the fairways in order to achieve those conditions. Fertility on fairways doesn’t occur very often at most golf courses except before large tournaments such as a Member-Guest or Players Invitational. This is due to the high cost of fertilizer and labor needed to apply the product. At the Plateau Club, fairways were sprayed two and a half weeks prior to the event with a 21-0-5 liquid formulation at a rate of 50lbs/acre. This allowed the fairways to “green” up and get healthy a week prior to the event and taper off in order to be firm and fast on the day of the tournament. The difference between a successful and an unsuccessful fertilization can be a matter of a couple days. Timing is crucial!
Fertilizing greens is a whole different story. Fertilizing greens depends on weather conditions, grass type, tournament schedule and cultural practice timing. For example, Mike Magnani who is completing his internship at the highly exclusive Cypress Point Golf Club fertilized the greens with a 21-0-0 application at a rate of 100 lbs/acre after a double verticut. This is a high rate of Nitrogen to apply to the greens and perfect spacing needs to occur in order to avoid striping and burning. Of course Mr. Magnani pulled it off like a champ. As far as tournament fertilization is concerned, a different approach will be taken with regards to the product, timing and application rate .With higher expectations for faster green speeds, fertilization usually occurs as early as three to four weeks prior to an event so they are on a hard taper on the days of the tournament. At the Plateau Club, greens were fertilized three and a half weeks prior to the Member-Guest tournament with a 10-4-16 Micro Grade fertilzer to keep the greens healthy throughout prior weeks. An application of Iron was made five days before the tournament in order to add some green color and keep them hearty for all the traffic that the tournament would bring. At the end of the tournament the greens were looking thin, and not perfectly healthy due to all the traffic and stress. An application of 10-4-16 was made to the greens and approaches the day after the tournament to allow recovery from a stressful month of hot weather, little fertilizer and lots of use. The greens performed excellently and all the players were impressed.
So you may be wondering, why not fertilize a week before the tournament so the grass is extra healthy and green? The problem with fertilizing this early to the tournament is that when the grass is pumped full of nutrients and fully healthy, it is near impossible to achieve fast and firm conditions. When they are pumped full of nutrients they grow more throughout the day making the speed lower and harder for the superintendent to mow at lower heights of cut. There are many deeply scientific and complicated reasons for not fertilizing the week prior, but these are the main reasons. Fertilizing occurs on a detailed schedule by superintendents in order to achieve a good balance between playability and aesthetics. Fertilization is a true art form and all superintendents go about it differently.
I am going to be volunteering at the Boeing Classic at TPC Snoqualmie this week and am looking forward to a great experience. The Boeing Classic is a PGA Senior Tour event with names such as Fred Couples, Loren Roberts and Brad Faxon in the field. I look forward to writing about my experiences at this tournament next week. That’s all folks. Talk to you soon!