Aeration is arguably the dirtiest word in golf. The mere sound of the term makes both members and superintendents cringe. Just when the greens, tees, and fairways seem like they are at their best, the golf course maintenance team pulls plugs and jeopardizes the prized conditions everyone desires. This temporary inconvenience is created not to aggravate golfers or disrupt playability, but to improve and sustain good playing conditions. Among the many benefits of aeration are improved water infiltration, dilution of thatch, enhanced soil gas exchange, and deeper rooting. Good aeration practices are the cornerstone of championship conditions and are essential to the long-term vitality of great greens. Unlike courses in the Northeast and Midwest, the warm season turf varieties found throughout the Lowcountry benefit from summer aeration.
Both of the courses at Colleton River Club will be aerated twice this summer. The first of these planned cultural practices will begin on the Dye Course on Wednesday, May 29. The Nicklaus Course will follow three weeks later, on Tuesday, June 18. Please see the aeration schedule below that outlines our summer cultivations and plan accordingly. We apologize for this temporary inconvenience, but please understand sound cultural practices are paramount to the goal of sustaining good playing conditions.
Colleton River Club Aeration Schedule
Dye Course Aeration
May 29 – June 7
Nicklaus Course Aeration
June 18 – June 30
Dye Course Aeration
July 23 – Aug 4
Nicklaus Course Aeration
Aug 13 – Aug 26
May is one of the driest months of the year in the Lowcountry and offers plenty of opportunity to enjoy the course before the summer heat and rains return. If you find yourself short of birdies and eagles on the course, you may consider joining the growing list of bird enthusiasts in the community, including the Colleton River Birding Club. (Contact Karen Anderson: 203.451.5882 or Stephen Dickson: 414.243.1880.)
Birding provides many rewards and offers an opportunity to enjoy nature and heighten your sense of awareness. Birding engages your power of observation, expands your mind, and deepens your listening skills. Consider spending an afternoon locating and documenting some of our resident birds. See how many different birds you can identify using this helpful link https://www.allaboutbirds.org/. While out and about in the community, be sure to enjoy any number of Bluebirds dashing about gathering insects for their newly hatched chicks. Keep an eye out for the red flash of a Cardinal or a Scarlet Tanager. Consider spending a morning trying to get a glimpse of a Turkey meandering through the understory on Whitehall Drive looking for seeds or the Barred Owl returning to roost after a successful hunt. Recently, Red-tailed Hawks have been active on the Borland in the afternoons, while Ospreys can be seen working the marshes looking for fish. The newest member of our Bald Eagle family is creating quite a stir on Inverness Drive as he stretches his new wings despite the objections of numerous black birds and neighboring Crows. Expect another great month of golf at Colleton River Club, and take time to enjoy the natural beauty your wonderful Club has to offer.
The onset of warmer weather conditions allows us the opportunity to condition the greens more aggressively for upcoming events. If you’ve played in the past few days, you may notice remnants from recent surface-maintenance treatments on the greens. The fine lines evident on the putting surfaces are a result of recent verticutting/grooming procedures. Rather than cutting on a horizontal plane like a normal mower, these cutting units rotate vertically into the turf surface. Set slightly below the height of cut, these blades penetrate the turf severing stolons (plant shoots along the surface) and thinning the leaf canopy. Following the grooming, we topdress the greens to fill any voids and further smooth the surface. These cultivation techniques optimize putting quality, reduce grain, promote an upright growth habit, alleviate spongy surface conditions, and enhance surface smoothness. Immediately following this process, the greens may slow down slightly and appear scarred from the disruption to the surface. Approximately seven to ten days following the process, the greens will be smoother, faster, and firmer.
Ultra-dwarf bermudagrasses make excellent putting greens because they have been bred for their dense, fine leaf texture, and their ability to tolerate low mowing heights. Although we continue to stretch the limits of the grass, it is important to recognize that the natural growth pattern of bermudagrass is to spread and grow laterally. Periodic vertical mowing to further promote dense upright turf is an important part of getting the most out of our grass.
Based on the boisterous barks and number of chewed tennis balls, the newest Colleton River Club amenity, the Dog Park, has been a rousing success. In fact, the park has quickly become “the place to be” as a social gathering spot for members and their four-legged friends. The park offers a mix of sun and shade to both relax and provide ample room to stretch your legs without the encumbrance of leashes. For new and long-time members who love dogs, the park offers a chance to meet and greet fellow members with common interests while discovering the intricacies and personalities of different breeds of dogs.
In fact, we talked to Mr. Tom Eagan and his dog, Bosco, members since 2017, who raved, “We try to use the park every morning and join as many as twenty other friends at 4:00 each afternoon.” Mr. Eagan went on to say, “While frequenting the park, we have met several new friends,” and though Bosco is only part Rhodesian Ridgeback, he has been comfortable with all the breeds he meets. As the news spreads and the landscape matures, we expect the Dog Park to only get better.
While the park is open from dawn to dusk seven days a week, our teams will be conducting normal weekly maintenance on Tuesday mornings before 10:00 a.m. Out of courtesy to fellow members and our staff, please repair your own holes with divot mix provided in the wine barrel immediately to the right of the entrance gate. Thank you for regularly visiting the park and your efforts to make it the best it can be.
If you are new to the Lowcountry, you may be surprised by the many options available when selecting grass for your lawn. Unlike the bluegrass or tall fescue, you may be accustomed to, the grasses used in Bluffton are all warm season varieties. These grasses require a minimum of six hours of sunlight and will experience varying degrees of winter dormancy. Additionally, they normally can’t be seeded but are established vegetatively (spread using plant parts). When selecting a turf species, consider your lawn’s microclimate, the level of maintenance you desire, and how you intend to use your lawn. The following is a brief description of the five major grasses in our area to help make your decision a little easier.
Bermudagrass is the primary turf species found on both of our golf courses. Under full sun conditions, Bermudagrass is arguably the most resilient turf available. Under intensive maintenance, it produces a thick blue-green canopy that spreads aggressively and tolerates heavy traffic, while also resisting most disease and insect pests. In fact, the fairways on both courses have only been spot treated with fungicide once in the past two years. Despite these advantages, Bermudagrass is rarely used on home lawns in our community because it doesn’t perform well in shade.
Centipede grass is referred to as “graveyard” grass because it is low maintenance and is the least expensive turf to maintain. It is the primary turf species found throughout the Dye course high roughs and does best under low fertility situations. Centipede tolerates minor shade but prefers acidic soil conditions and does not perform well under traffic.
St. Augustine grass is the most shade-tolerant warm-season grass, although it still requires six hours of sunlight to thrive. Under high maintenance, it has wide succulent leaves and produces a moderately dense turf canopy. St. Augustine performs best with abundant fertility and water but is very susceptible to winter injury and is extremely sensitive to both insects and disease. These issues make St. Augustine one of the more expensive home lawn options in our area.
Empire Zoysia grass is the workhorse of Lowcountry lawn grasses. It is well adapted to a variety of environmental conditions and produces a dense apple green lawn. While it is slightly less shade tolerant than St. Augustine, it requires less intense maintenance, does well under modest fertility, is drought tolerant, has good salt tolerance, recuperates aggressively from injury, and is normally both insect and disease resistant. If heavy shade is not a problem, Empire Zoysia is a reliable performer throughout the Lowcountry.
Zeon Zoysia and Zorro Zoysia grasses are high density varieties that are close relatives to Empire Zoysia. They have many of the same advantages as Empire, but they require more maintenance and have slightly better shade tolerance than the wider-leafed Zoysia grasses. These grasses prefer a lower mowing-height and require periodic dethatching to prevent problems associated with heavy organic layering. We use Zorro Zoysia on many of the more shaded tee boxes on the Nicklaus Course where Bermudagrass would perform poorly due to the lack of sunlight.
A healthy well-groomed lawn adds both curb appeal and value to your home, and choosing the right grass for your situation is an important part of building a good landscape. While these guidelines provide an overview of what is available in the Lowcountry, it is always best to consult a landscape professional to help make the right decision for your own lawn.
Have you ever wondered how we maintain such consistently dense and fast greens?
Under normal conditions, our Tif-Eagle greens are mowed between 0.065 and 0.100 inches in height. Put in perspective, this is only slightly thicker than a single dime. In addition to these extreme cutting heights, we commonly use plant growth regulators to help promote the dense, uniform, and fast greens our members desire.
Each spring, in a planned approach to control the soil-borne fungus fairy ring, we must suspend the use of our normal turfgrass regulators to target this potentially destructive pathogen. If these control products are used in combination with plant growth regulators, they can have detrimental effects. The first of these two applications is completed in mid-February, and the second treatment will be applied closer to the end of the month.
We expect the greens speeds to be temporarily slower during this treatment process. Subsequently, we adjust our maintenance practices to include additional mowing and rolling to help maintain the speeds in an acceptable range. Thank you for your patience during these important preventative applications.
There is something soothing about meandering through the live oaks on the way into Colleton River Club. For first time visitors, the 2.4-mile drive cut through the natural forest alongside the Heritage Preserve builds a sense of anticipation of what lies ahead. Periodically this entranceway requires a bit of TLC to help protect the roadway from the forest that encompasses it. In the next two weeks, please use caution when entering and exiting the club as our crews will be performing maintenance along the entranceway. Along with cutting back native muscadine vines and unruly brush that is encroaching the road, we will once again be backfilling the shoulders of the road to help prevent increased erosion. While areas under maintenance will be clearly marked and staff will be wearing the appropriate high visibility vests, we ask that you please watch your speed when approaching work zones. We believe this necessary maintenance will enhance the native woodlands and help mitigate major maintenance expenses. Thank you for your kind consideration of our staff while we perform this work.
Last week’s edition of Kent’s Korner discussed the importance of renewal pruning roses. In addition to this normal garden remediation work, take notice of shrubs such as viburnum, wax myrtle, and ligustrum that have been planted as privacy screens or foundation plantings and may have outgrown their usefulness. Oftentimes, these plants obstruct the view of the house or become so top heavy that they shade out their own lower canopies resulting in a shrub that is sparse and has a mushroom-like appearance. When these shrubs reach this point, it is time to take an aggressive stance and perform rejuvenation pruning to control this unruly growth habit. Mid to late February is a good time to perform this work, before these plants flush out with new spring growth. While this may appear like a radical approach, it is a very beneficial process for many older plants. Aggressively cut back the old wood to correct the plants architecture, remove crossing branches, and diseased or damaged shoots. The resulting exposure to light produces healthy new growth that can be trained back to produce a dense and vigorous plant. Clean old mulch, pine straw, and/or leaves away from the crown of the plant, maintain adequate soil moisture, and apply a balanced slow release fertilizer on these shrubs to enjoy many more years of success from your landscape.
Oftentimes, rejuvenation pruning is a great option, however, this past week, near the intersection going to the tenth tee on the Nicklaus Course and the leisure trail, we opted to replace a group of overgrown shrubs that have outlived their usefulness. In this area we removed the unruly hollies and expanded the ornamental grass theme around the leisure trail to help obscure the tunnel but provide increased visibility at this busy intersection. We believe this change will enhance traffic flow in this area and is in keeping with the landscaping near the Halfway Café.
Roses can be used in a variety of situations and help create added interest in the garden. Since most roses flower on new growth, renewal pruning is essential to help keep your rose bushes healthy and looking their best. Prior to bud break, in late winter or early spring remove old, unproductive canes, crossing stems, damaged tissue and spindly branches less than the thickness of a pencil. Employing proper pruning techniques improves plant vigor, reduces disease, and enhances blooms. Remember to use sharp pruning shears and make cuts at a forty-five-degree angle one quarter of an inch above a healthy bud. Opening the center of the plant to encourage air circulation, helps reduce disease and minimizes insect pests. Following pruning, remove the remaining leaf litter from around the bush, incorporate compost, and fertilize the plants with a slow release fertilizer such as Rose-Tone 4-3-2, according to the label recommendations. If you subscribe to the Estate Service Program, depending on the weather, we are targeting mid-February to prune and feed your roses. If you would like help with this service, contact Karen Berry in the Agronomy office at 843-836-4480 or by email at email@example.com. Thank you and happy pruning.