Monday, June 10, 2013

What's that line on the first green?

The mowers we use to cut greens here at Whitevale are a walk behind style that requires an operator to walk behind and steer the mower as it crosses over the green surface. There are larger ride on mowers that some clubs use to mow green, and each style have advantages and disadvantages over each other. The single largest advantage for me on using walkers over ride on mowers is the reduced potential for damage. The ride on style mowers we have all run hydrostatically, with pressurized oil turning the drive wheels and the mowers, as well as the lift lower mechanisms. When these mowers are performing with no problems they can be productive and deliver the high quality all of us expect. But when a problem arises, it can turn into a nightmare.
It is because of this potential nightmare scenario I prefer to keep these ride on triplexes off of our greens. Unfortunately, sometimes we have to use these mowers on our greens surfaces. Verti-cutting may be the best example of this requirement. We have no option but to use the triplex ride on units with verti-cutting heads when trying to complete this necessary cultural practice. Last week we were performing this verti-cut on our greens when the nightmare happened.  A hydraulic hose failed and hydraulic fluid began leaking out as it crossed the first green.

This damage is ugly to say the least. On a small positive note, as bad as it looks the green is still rolling as smooth as ever. So the damage is 99% aesthetics. And, luckily enough only one pass was made. It was over 20 years ago that I had an inexperienced operator mowing greens on a triplex and a hydraulic hose failed on the 3rd green, and it was not noticed. Every green from the 3rd to the 18th green had lines all over them from each pass of the mower as it leaked hydraulic fluid.

 I have heard people suggest getting out soap and water in an attempt to wash this oil off the turf hoping to reduce the damage. But the actual damage is mainly from the extreme temperature of the oil burning the cells within the leaf that does the main and initial damage. It only takes a few short minutes of these machines running to cause the pressurized oil to become very hot. A very heavy spill can kill the crown as well as contaminate the soil.

This spill was, generally speaking, a light spill. We can see life in plants at the crown level so we are waiting patiently to see if the plants will grow out of the damage reducing the work we might otherwise have to invest to repair the damage. Over the next week or two we will see how well the recovery is coming along and can then determine if intervention with seeding or sodding is necessary.

You may have also noticed significant sand on some of the approaches over the weekend. Part of the USGA report last September highly recommended top dressing approaches, which is not something Whitevale has done in the past. We attempted to start this process last week only to get hit with some rain making all this sand wet. When the sand is wet we are unable to brush it into the canopy of the turf. With our maintenance day tomorrow morning one of the many jobs scheduled is to continue the top dressing of approaches. If the weather cooperates we should have the sand brushed in ahead of play, so most members will not notice the sand on our approaches.

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