Getting “Down and Dirty” at Meadow Links
Operations team members, perhaps more often than any other group of Great Parks employees, are routinely privileged to witness and experience both the wonder of nature and the forgiveness of natural systems to man-made damage or disturbances. At no place is this more evident than on Great Parks’ golf courses. Weather extremes, high temperatures, drought, turf disease and insect pest pressure, when combined with the daily wear and tear created by golfers, mowers and maintenance equipment, challenge the health, viability and resilience of golf course turf.
Operations turf managers know only too well that there are good and bad turf years, regardless of our best efforts. We need to remind ourselves frequently that we are only truly in control of a small portion of the turf picture, despite what we might think. We also know (and often depend upon) the surety that turf is forgiving. The heat wave will break, it will rain (or stop raining) or the skunks and raccoons will eventually get their fill of white grubs and cease their clawing and pawing at the turf. When the effects of those negative factors lessen, we take a breath, do what we can and await the rejuvenation of those areas.
Caring for so many acres of turf can sometimes be a worrying or intimidating experience, but witnessing the annual recovery of worn or damaged areas can also have a parallel restorative effect on the confidence and psyche of those who are responsible for this tremendous resource. Soil, seed and straw in the spring and fall (when conditions are optimal for growing turf from seed) are often all that’s needed to recover from seasonal turf losses. In the event of a widespread or catastrophic turf loss, or when new turf is needed during the hot summer months, another option is available for achieving a faster turf improvement or recovery: installing sod.
Sometimes a stand of perfectly good, otherwise healthy turf no longer meets its original purpose or design function must be altered. This situation occurred recently at the Meadow Links & Golf Academy’s program center, which has hosted thousands of golf lessons, the annual Golf InReach program, the Special Olympics and countless other events. One particular area, which was originally intended to provide short fairway approach shots from high irons to the chipping green, was outdated and in need of improvement. Field meetings were held, a plan was conceived for creating a new teeing surface and the work was given the green light.
Over the course of several weeks, Operations and Projects crews worked cooperatively to define the project area, haul in and spread soil fill, add topsoil, modify existing irrigation heads and finish-grade the new surface in preparation for the installation of sod.
On the morning of July 2, a truck loaded with 550 yards of beautiful rolled bluegrass sod arrived. A team of 12 Winton Woods Operations members assembled to carry, place and knit the cut sod pieces into a living quilt of green grass over the bare soil sub-grade. The daytime high temperature on that bright, sunny day was 86 degrees, and the crew worked hard together, sweating profusely make sure all the sod was laid by the end of the day.
If you have ever worked with sod, you know that the first few weeks after installation are critical to the survival and successful establishment of the “instant lawn.” A smooth sub-grade is essential for ensuring good root growth as is the timely, frequent application of water. Mowing is done carefully for the first few weeks and can be increased as the sod knits together. The mowing height can also be progressively lowered to the desired finished level, until the area is ready for use. This new area at Meadow Links is still in the “grow-in” phase, but will soon be ready for use by guests and golf staff.
Almost everyone has probably heard the old joke about the importance of training employees to lay sod “green side up.” The Winton Woods crew took that basic concept to a whole new level with this project, increasing not only the versatility, but also the utility and overall aesthetics of the program center. Congratulations and thanks to all the Great Parks team members involved for your participation in this effort. The final result is something of which we can all be very proud!
Dan Shaw, North District Superintendent