It amazes me how the climate conditions in the South Eastern part of our province continue to play havoc on our golf courses each Spring. If you recall, last year we had a lot of damaged turf coming out of winter. I kept the course closed an extra week in May and the course ended up being in very good shape on opening day and great shape for the entire summer. Last year we opened the course on May 25th which was phenomenal given the work that was required and the poor weather conditions we had to grow grass. We opened with NO temporary greens. The new ownership group supported all of my maintenance endeavours to get the course ready and everyone including the membership was amazed with the results.
If we had chatted on April 15th, I would have said we are looking good but… would have prefaced by saying… “as long as the weather improves and night time temperatures stay above 0C”. At this point my greens and tees had completely bared off with minimal ice left on to melt and there didn’t appear to be disease or winter kill to speak of. I was certainly very pleased with what I saw and very hopeful of a different kind of spring than last year. I was encouraged 😊. Looks like we could open by the first week of May, so I was thinking. Even members who were around to scope out the place were thinking the same thing, thinking we should be able to golf the last week of April. Well, hold on folks. March, April and even May is always a critical time of the year for most golf courses as we come out of winter. The freeze/thaw cycles which take place in Spring where soil temperatures begin to rise but then temperatures fluctuate above/below freezing is not good for turfgrass. This can be very catastrophic especially for Poa annua turf grass. With cool wet days and below freezing temperatures at night, our turf unfortunately did take another hit once again.
So, the big question on everyone’s mind is when are we opening for 2019? For us here at Royal Oaks Golf Club we typically target for around the long weekend in May. Of course, I understand that if the course can be ready beforehand and if the weather cooperates, I definitely make it my mission. At the present time I am anticipating an opening date for around the last week of May – the same as last year. I realize our golfing season here in Atlantic Canada is so short to begin with, and every golf course has that underlying pressure to open before other courses or at least open when everyone else does hoping that it will somehow attract more green fees and increase membership numbers. No one feels this pressure more than your superintendent. The ownership and management team here at RO are also aware of this and keep it in mind but are dedicated to the mission of opening when we are confident that the facility is fully ready.
Royal Oaks Golf Club, as beautiful and stunning as it is in its finest shape, is a very exposed piece of property with little to no shelter to speak of. The design of the turf landscape especially the greens and fairways in low lying areas do not respond well to our very harsh climates. These areas are subject to pooling water were ice can accumulate and stay all winter. As I come into my 9th season here at RO I see it every spring and dread the outcome. Needless to say, I’ll have a few choice words for architect – Rees Jones if I ever get the chance to meet the man.
As you can see on the left, this is #16 green taken May 1st of this year. It’s our most sheltered green on the property and is one of our best greens to date. Notice the whitish (dead) looking turf in the approach area. This is Poa annua turfgrass and is native to our northern climates where it thrives best. With proper cultivation, fertilizer, warm temperatures and proper irrigation, it should regenerate and grow back relatively quick. One option for managing our poa greens is to consistently overseed with a bentgrass variety and hope it overgrows the dead poa before it has a chance to rejuvenate. Certainly not an easy task in our northern climates where poa thrives. In areas where micro climates are harsh and you experience turf die back, poa annua can cultivate an area in a very short amount of time. The Poa annua turf variety is what we now have on many of our greens and fairways. The majority of our approach areas, tee decks and high mounding fairway areas are still bentgrass and look very healthy as we come into a new golfing season.
The weather began to cooperate with me the last week of April so I started doing all the cultural practices necessary to get the facility back into the condition we all have come to enjoy and love about this golf course. Part of this process as I have already mentioned is an aggressive overseeding and fertilization program on the greens which is now complete. If the weather cooperates, we should see germination within 5-7 days. Things have already improved over the last few day from our efforts and now with the greens re-tarped, we should see greater improvement within the next two weeks.
The ownership group is making a consistent effort to improve the condition of the golf course and clubhouse facility each year and as such is supporting my efforts 110%. As a superintendent I can’t tell you enough how important and supported this makes me feel. The end result is hoping that you have a membership that is truly proud to be part of something special because of how it’s being managed from all aspects of club operation. Having the resources when available and control over the operation of the golf course grounds facility has been very encouraging and also exciting as we in vision the future of Royal Oaks Golf Club.
Please make an effort to come in and meet our new Director of Golf Blehr MacKinley. We are excited to have him on staff and the expertise he will bring to the position.
I look forward to seeing all your familiar faces for a new golfing season and please know that me and my team are working diligently to get your course ready asap for a new season.