Its hard to believe that we are moving into the last month of our golfing season. Given that our seasons are so very short to begin with, it hardly seems fair for me to be talking about putting the course to bed for the winter. I must say that we have had an exceptional golfing season here at Royal Oaks Golf Club and your Turf Maintenance crew has worked hard all season to provide top playing conditions for everyone to enjoy. The feedback my crew and I have received over the season on the condition and aesthetics of the golf course has be humbling. My staff have shared with me on many occasions their delight in coming to work and performing at their best because of the positive encouragement given by the members and guests, and I continue to be grateful to be part of the Royal Oaks experience.

This year was another hot and humid summer for the Southeastern part of the province putting our turf under stress once again. Fortunately, we had a consistent water supply to keep the turf well-hydrated in many areas. Many of these days were spent hand watering localized dry areas with wetting agents… especially on select tee deck and fairway areas that are typically prone to dry up quicker than other areas on the course. Now that we are experiencing seasonal temperatures for the Fall, most areas on the course have greened up quite nicely and it is quite a site… especially when late afternoon hits and the shadow reflections between light and turf meet.

Fall Maintenance Strategies

As we move into the month of October, it is that time once again where we have required turf maintenance that must take place. Along with a strong fertility and chemical program for winter protection, the process of thatching and aerating turfgrass is another major component to maintaining and sustaining healthy turf and certainly a practice that I have strived to perform every year here at Royal Oaks. I am pleased to say that all of our tee decks have already been thatched and aerated. We will continue to repair divots, overseed and fertilize till the end of the season in our efforts to keep the turf plant strong going into winter.

Our driving range tee decks have also undergone this same process and from my perspective the turf is loving it. I have received many positive comments over the season about the condition of our Driving Range. Keeping it closed a while longer in the Spring with the assistance of germination tarps was a definite contributor to bringing it back quickly for play. In like manner, and in leu of recently thatching, aerating and overseeding these tee decks, we must kindly ask all golfers to keep off the range deck and remain on the driving range mats for the remainder of the season so as to keep it healthy and strong going into winter.

What is thatch and how does it impact the sustainability of our turf?

Thatch is that layer of dead and living grass composed of shoots, stems and roots that shows up between the soil and the grass blades. Thatch build-up starts when the turf produces organic debris faster than it can be broken down. Having some thatch in your turf is actually beneficial. Thatch helps with the strength and health of your lawn. It is a good protector, as it provides insulation against temperature extremes and variations in soil moisture.

Unfortunately, too much thatch can result in some serious problems. Thick thatch layers can cause extensive root damage. Because thatch heats up and dries out quickly, the roots risk becoming too dry. Wet thatch holds too much water during rainy periods, resulting in root rot. Lawn mower blades can scalp areas of thick thatch. When the wheels of the mower sink into thatch, the height of the cut is lowered. Also, crowns of grass plants growing in thick thatch layers tend to be elevated above the soil, making them more susceptible to scalping. Another concern of thatch build-up is that it could potentially harbor large populations of disease-causing organisms and insects. Continuous applications of pesticides over a two or three-year period can bind to the thatch, reducing their effectiveness and preventing their movement into the soil. Also, some insecticides reduce earthworm populations resulting in reduced thatch breakdown.

The Aeration of Fairways & Greens

The process of aerating the fairways will begin the first week of October as weather permits. During the aeration and cleanup process of each Fairway and for the safety of your maintenance crew, these holes will be closed for play until the process is complete. The Proshop and the Starter will be notified on a per day basis and Signage will be posted at the tee deck area. We would kindly ask that golfers not play these particular holes while the aeration process takes place and proceed directly to the next available hole.

I am pleased to announce that the process of aerating greens will not take place until October 15th. The ownership and the staff of Royal Oaks hopes that the weather will be cooperative for continued golf play as we move into October and keeping our greens playable during these two weeks, we feel, is of great value to our members and guests. Please keep in mind that once this process begins, the intention is to aerate 9 holes a day. Therefore, the golf course (front or back) will need to be closed down for the day. Aeration will move one day later if we are unable to aerate due to bad weather. The aeration process for our greens will conclude with an aggressive overseeding and heavy sand topdressing. This will take place at a later time of the month and before the turf plant goes into dormancy.

One of my Highlights

As I conclude, please let me share the following experience. The biggest highlight for me this season was having Royal Oaks Golf Club host The Atlantic Golf Superintendents Association Golf Scramble in support of The Atlantic Turfgrass Research Foundation. Many golf course superintendents, general managers, golf professionals and turf industry suppliers from across Atlantic Canada participated in the days’ event. It was a sellout crowd with 30 teams registered. Having been heavily involved with both of these associations for many years at the board level, I was very honored to host such an event. I will first say that the entire staff of Royal Oaks was outstanding in their service and performance. Your superintendent was clearly under the microscope that day as you can imagine, but my maintenance staff, the proshop and the exceptional service at the clubhouse level as a whole did not disappoint. Thanks to Geoff, Luc and each of their staff for their high-class service and professionalism. The food was exceptional. I have to commend the Starters and Marshalls for their exceptional service in all pre-tournament preparations. Special thanks to Esmond Clouthier, Patrick Minuttie, and Russ Howard for their support of this event and giving back to the superintendent’s association that I have been a part of for so long. Esmond and Russ also played in this event with me. We ended up placing 3rd – not to shabby. Yes… the entire Royal Oaks staff did an exceptional job. There is still a buzz within the turf industry about how successful the event was. Everyone loved the golf course and the exceptional shape it was in. I have to say there is nothing more humbling and gratifying than to have your colleagues and peers give a compliment and commend you on your accomplishments. It ended up being an emotional experience for me to say the least. I tell you individuals stood up and noticed Royal Oaks Golf Club that day and the message received was that Royal Oaks is alive and thriving within the golf community. Our actions definitely speak louder than our words so congratulations to the entire Royal Oaks Family for a job well done.