Friday, June 24, 2011


You may have never heard of "THE AUGUSTA SYNDROME" but ask any Golf Course Superintendent anywhere, and they are all too familiar with it. Simply explained it is the unreal expectations of members for their home course to have perfect conditioning because of what they see on TV during professional events (not just at Augusta).
Sitting at home seeing what look likes perfect course conditions during televised PGA events makes many members at private clubs all over North America start to think this is the norm and is easily achieved, where as the truth is far from that. Cameras can pick and choose where they are located and what direction they are pointed in. The Director can pick from many different cameras and only call up the best of the best to be beamed through space and into your home. On top of this, camera filters are adjusted making all turf look greener than it really is.

I had first hand experience with this when I hosted the nationally televised Canadian PGA Championships in 2001, 2002 and 2003. Even though I knew all about the television crews ability to show only what they thought was good enough to air, I had never experienced it first hand until then, and even I was shocked at the outcome the Director had at manipulating the picture we saw.
After this past weekends US Open, it is clear that not everything can be hidden. I don't know what the exact issues were with many of the greens at Congressional, but I do know the extra stresses put on the turf as a course leads up to a tournament, and how easy and quickly a disease can ravage the turf.

So for fun, I though I would give you all a little test! Don't worry, I will not be marking you, but feel free to keep track of your own correct answers.
I have 11 pictures below which were taken around different parts of the course yesterday. I will give you a quick description of where, and when symptoms showed up from the different problems you will see.
See if you can diagnose what the problem is. At the end I will give the answers. Shall we begin?

Picture 1. Browning of the Poa on the collar of a green over 3 or 4 days. Turf continues to thin more each day. Bent grass is unharmed.

Picture 2. Turf on A bunker edge browning off and thinning. Turf closest to the sand is in poorest condition, but slowly improves the further away from the bunker you go.

Picture 3. Straw brown turf in a irregular pattern in the bluegrass about 2 feet off the fairway. Upper part of the leaf blade dried up and curling in but grass deeper below has less damage. The further down towards the soil surface, the less the damage. The spot was not there first thing in the morning, but was apparent by mid morning.

Picture 4. Straw brown turf just outside the edge of a tree well. This damage showed up after staff had trimmed grass at the base of the tree.

Picture 5. Browning and wilting of Kentucky Blue grass in a irregular pattern on the side of a tee getting progressively worse over the course of a week. Grass around the area remains green and very healthy with no signs of a problem.

Picture 6. Browning of Bent and Poa on a tee. Spots or area of damage getting larger every morning but no change through the day.

Picture 7. Complete death of turf in a circular pattern around the base of a tree. Yesterday the turf was completely healthy with no signs of an issue.

Picture 8. Large dead patch just off the edge of a bunker. Turf right on the edge of the bunker is alive, but within the irregular patch no living turf is found. The area was a funny brown/gray colour yesterday with no symptoms the day before that.

Picture 9. Major browning and curling up of the leaf blade on 5 fairway. Irregular pattern with some areas showing no damage at all right up against areas with sever damage. Other parts with damage seems to reduce the further you go from the centre of the major damage. No symptoms what so ever the day before.

Picture 10. Long brown shiny looking dead turf found on the top of a tee extending out into the bluegrass. No visible issues first thing in the morning, but severe damage by mid morning.

Picture 11. Light brown circle (smaller than my smallest finger nail) on a tee. No damage to the turf what so ever. Observed 7 or 8 in no pattern at all first thing in the morning, but were gone and nowhere to be seen by mid morning. The next day same visible signs on the same tee but in different locations.

So, there you have it. 11 different less than perfect areas that are found here at Whitevale (and would never be shown on TV if we were hosting a televised event here).

Were you able to find an answer for each of them?

Lets see how you did.

Pic. 1. This should have been easy for you. This is the same picture I posted on my last blog from the collar at 5. This damage is from the larva of the Hyperodes beetle which feeds only on Poa annua. We have since seen some damage on a few tees and continue to watch closely for other areas that will require treatment.

Pic. 2. Turf here is completely growing in sand and suffers from extreme heat stress. The sand in the bunker heats up from the mid day sun making the area along the edge too hot for turf to remain healthy. This area also dries quicker, causing a drought condition, but its the extreme temperature causing the main problem.

Pic. 3. This damage was caused by the exhaust of one of the mowers. This older model has the exhaust pointed down towards the turf and if the operator stops to pick up some debris in front of them, the heat from the exhaust causes wilting of the upper part of the leaf blade. (And yes, staff are trained to turn the mower off if they have to stop, but they don't always remember)!

Pic. 4. This turf was simply scalped by one of the line trimmers used to trim grass around the base of a tree. A line trimmer is a handy tool which allows us to efficiently trim grass in tight and hard to reach places, but they don't cut as cleanly as other mowers and sometimes tear the turf. Maybe a little like performing surgery with a pair of scissors.

Pic. 5. This is caused by drought. But why then do the areas around it look so good?

Its what you cant see! Soil below the turf in this area is heavy clay and is very difficult to re-wet once it drys out. Some areas on the course are high in sand, and also dry out much faster than other areas. Increasing irrigation run times to get moisture into these areas would turn the areas around it into muddy bogs.

Pic. 6. Hopefully this one you recognized. Dollar Spot cost more for us to control than any other turf disease. We don't get to worked up when we have some active Dollar Spot on tees or fairways as it is more of an aesthetic issue in these locations. On greens is where it will negatively impact puttability, we have zero tolerance.

Pic. 7. The turf at the base of this tree was sprayed with Round up. This product does kill all turf it comes in contact with. So why did we spray to kill grass? Killing the grass around the base of all the trees reduces the labor require to line trim and perhaps more importantly eliminates damage to the trunks of the trees from getting the line trimmers too close to the bark when trying to get all the grass cut. It also allows members to find balls that may end up along the base of a tree.

Pic. 8. A fertilizer spill kills grass! Once a spill occurs the small prills fall down deep into the thatch of the turf and around the crown of the plant. This draws the moisture out of all parts of the plant it touches causing a fertilizer burn, and ultimately death. This area has already been resodded.

Pic. 9. If you ever worry the products we use to maintain healthy turf might be bad for you if you touch them, well hows this news? Of all the products we use only Round up harms the turf at normal rates. But pull out your bottle of insect repellent and spray it all over your legs, and the small droplets that miss your legs and hit the turf, kill the grass! So that shows how poisonous bug spray is! In this photo you can see the shape of the shoes in the damaged area as the shoes stopped the spray from hitting the turf in that location. Please don't spray bug spray when you are standing on the turf, we prefer you stand on a paved path to prevent this damage.

Pic. 10. This ugly mess is from a hydraulic hose that burst on a rough unit. If the hose breaks under the machine it is very difficult for the operator to see and usually means damage over a larger areas before it is detected. Although most of the oil in these systems is vegetable oil and is inert, the temperature of the oil is extremely high and the real damage is caused by the turf being burnt by the hot liquid. Hoses are replaced on a preventative maintenance schedule to reduce this type of issue, but it is impossible to eliminate this potential leak on any machine which runs on hydraulics.

And finally, Pic. 11. I don"t know how well this picture showed it but this is not actually on the grass as much as it is above it. This is a mushroom growing on a tee, but unless you bent down for a close look it does look like a small dollar spot. Mowers cut the mushroom off when they mow, but more will grow back overnight.

Even with 11 different pictures, I could have shown more............such as grass clippings clumped, incorrectly repaired ball marks, ant hills, animal urine damage, dead divots..............well the list goes on. Hopefully you spend your time on the course looking for the green areas, and not the imperfections which are found on every course!

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