The 113th United States Golf Championship Merion Golf Club

The historic East Course at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, PA hosted the 113th US Open Golf Championship over Father’s Day weekend, and for second year in a row I was fortunate enough to be live on location for another Major Championship.  As I walked along in the galleries or sat in the grandstands I truly saw up close and firsthand what the players were up against.

113th US OPEN MERION

113th U.S. OPEN – Merion Golf Club

Merion Golf Club has rich US OPEN history from previous Champions with the likes of Lee Trevino (1981), and Ben Hogan (1950) who hit the legendary “1 Iron shot” from the 18thfairway on the 72nd hole where a bronze plaque now marks where his famous shot was taken from.  Merion Golf club is also famously recognized for its unique Red Wicker Basket flagsticks, it treacherous bunkers nicknamed the “white faces”, and the “gauntlet like” stretch of holes leading into the clubhouse.

Ben Hogan 1 Iron Plaque

Bronze Plaque marking the spot where Ben Hogan shot his legendary 1 Iron on the 72nd hole in 1950

The US Open Golf Championship has always been highly regarded for its extreme level of difficulty delivering one of the toughest tests in golf.  Narrow fairways, challenging greens, demanding pin placements, penalizing rough, long yardages, and extremely fast green speeds leave golfers with very little margin for error.  Precision and accuracy on every shot are a prerequisite on a golf course where a par seems like a birdie and mistakes are compounded quickly resulting in scorecards filled with black numbers and squares instead of red numbers and circles.

Although Merion is considered a short golf course (under 7000 yards) by todays Championship standards, anyone who tuned into this past US Open quickly saw how challenging the golf course was from every angle.  For the second straight year, the winning score was over par (+1 Justin Rose) with every golfer in the field including the likes of the Worlds top golfers Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy scoring over par.

RED WICKER BASKET

Famous Red Wicker Basket with Tiger Woods and Leader Board in Background

As I observed the golf course from a turf management perspective, I couldn’t believe how perfectly dialed in every aspect of the golf course was from the creeping bentgrass greens, tees and fairways, to the white faced bunkers lined with knee high fine fescue growing along their edges, to the deepest, thickest Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass rough I have ever seen.  Many years of planning and preparation made it possible to manage the turf across the golf course at the highest level so it hit its peak during the tournament.

Merion Bunker - White Face

White Face bunkers surrounded by brutal rough in front of the 16th green

Managing the key cultural practices correctly played a major part in the golf course looking and playing the way it did.  Core aerationoverseedingtopdressingfertilizationpest managementirrigation, and mowing practices all contributed to the success of the turf management.  For all the nay sayers, and people who doubted that the Merion would be too easy and short for the golfers and the technologies of today’s game….. I say wait a minute, not so fast!

Money Clip buried in the Brutal Rough just a few yards from the fairway

Money Clip buried in the Brutal Rough just a few yards from the fairway

In a very difficult, but yet fair challenge, Merion Golf Club stood her ground even when the weather wasn’t on her side.  After the last shot was struck, and a champion was crowned the white faces of the bunkers were smiling and the blades of grass in the greens, tees, fairways and rough were still “green side up” adding another chapter to the rich history of Merion Golf Club.

A view of the 521 Yard Par 4 18th hole from the grandstands. (Quarry Hole)

A view of the 521 Yard Par 4 18th hole from the grandstands. (Quarry Hole)

Insect of the Month – White Grubs

In an average landscape, hundreds, even thousands of insects make their home across parts of the lawn, in flower beds, in plant materials, in trees and shrubs, and many other environments they see fit. The good news is, the majority of these insects are considered beneficial and non-harmful or destructive to the landscape. Only a small group of insects are classified as destructive turfgrass insects, and if left untreated they can cause major damage and devastate turfgrass in a lawn.

 

The White Grubs, commonly known as the “European Chafer”, “May/June Beetle”, and “Japanese Beetle” are very common in home lawns across many regions of the United States and Canada. White Grubs are very destructive and can devastate and damage a lawn in short time if left untreated. Extensive damage to the lawn is also commonly created by animals digging in the lawn searching and feeding on the white grub larvae such as racoons, skunks and birds. In many cases this damage can be far more severe than just areas of dead grass. Often sections of the lawn are ripped up, overturned and torn away as the animals dig through the soil in search of the white grub larvae to feed on. Evidence of animals digging is usually a very good indication that white grub larvae could be present or some other type of damaging insect is active.

 

One of the most important aspects of insect management is making sure the insect causing the damage is properly identified what life cycle the insect is in, what the infestation threshold limits are, and the location in the lawn where the insect is. These pieces of information will all help determine what control options are available and what the best course of action is required.

To learn more about the white grub identification, life cycle, threshold limits, damage, and control options click here to view presentation.

Early Spring Fertilizer

Now that Spring is finally here, it is time to get back out on the lawn and help prepare it for the long growing season ahead. There are a number of key recommendations one can follow to ensure the lawn gets a running head start before the long hot days of summer begin including an important early spring fertilization.

An early spring fertilizer application is important to help “jump start” the lawn and especially help areas of the lawn that were damaged by winter kill and snow mold disease. Spring fertilizer will help green up the lawn quickly and wake itself up out of its winter dormancy state. Fertilizer blends that contain Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium provide the turfgrass with the plant essential nutrients required to sustain and encourage healthy growth.

Spring Fertilizer

Spring Fertilizer

The spring season is typically when cool season turfgrasses grow most actively with the combination of optimal temperatures and precipitation in most regions. This makes spring fertilization very important since the turf requires the most nourishment by way of fertilization during this period.

Rate of application is an important variable that can be determined by a number of factors including, blend analysis, type of fertilizer (liquid or granular), release technology (quick or slow), and the nutrient source (organic or synthetic). The typical recommended rate of application for a spring fertilizer is 1 lb of (N) Nitrogen per 1000 sq ft. This provides the adequate nutrition the turfgrass requires for the spring growing season.

Fenway Park – Home of the Boston Red Sox

Just recently I visited the city of Boston and had the oppertunity to see “up close” the oldest ballpark in America and one of the most recognized sports venues in the World, Fenway Park.  Home to the 7 – time World Series Champion Boston Red Sox, Fenway Park opend over 100 years ago and is currently the oldest Major League Baseball stadium still in use today.

Fenway Park

To go along with all the history and as impressive as Fenway Park is with most of its original design and architectural features still intact, the natural grass playing surface was one of the things that excited me the most.  Forget the original wooden grandstand seats, the retired hall of fame numbers lining the walls, or the famous Green Monster, the grass field has to be one of the most well maintained playing surfaces in all professional sports.

View of Fenway From the Top of the Green Monster

Having said this, apparently the field at Fenway Park didn’t always look so perfect.  What you see today in the result of a major renovation that took place in 2005.   The original 93 year old field was completely replaced from the soil up.   Compacted soil, unlevel playing surface, and poor drainage,  were replaced with a new sand based growing medium, the playing surface was laser levelled, drainage was installed,  and a special blend of Kentucky Bluegrass sod was planted to resurface the 2 acre playing field.

View From the Press Box

The grass at Fenway park is so popular that homeowners want the same grass in their lawns.  Available for purchase are the Scotts brand, Fenway Park Kentucky Bluegrass seedmix , and Fenway Park lawn fertilizer that contain the same seed varieties and fertilizer technology used by the Director of Grounds, David Mellor to maintain Fenway Park.

As more and more synthetic turf surfaces replace the all natural grass surfaces, its always a treat to see such well maintained grass like i saw at Fenway Park.

 

So Long Crabgrass….Until We Meet Again Next Year

Each and every year as the fall season approaches and the temperatures cool, the Crabgrass infestations that covered many parts of home lawns begin to quickly die back just as fast as it germinated and began infesting lawns during the summer. Crabgrass is an annual plant, which means it dies each year in the fall and then germinates again in the next year beginning in late spring and into summer.

 

 
The most common types of crabgrass found in home lawns are typically both smooth and hairy crabgrass species. Crabgrass typically becomes a major problem in home lawns beginning in late spring and throughout the summer months into the early fall. Infestations are common in areas of the lawn that are growing thinly, in areas where exposed soil exists, around and along the driveway and sidewalk edges, and in other weak areas of the lawn where the desired grass can be outcompeted due to under fertilization, poorly drained soils, and lack of water.

 

Crabgrass Infestation along curbside

Crabgrass plants grow very low to the ground and expand laterally in a circle upwards of 12 inches in diameter. As the plants grow bigger, and the infestation increases, the desired grass typically gets outcompeted quickly and the crabgrass completely takes over. A single crabgrass plant can produce over 150 000 seeds over the course of a season, and these seeds are what germinate come late spring the next year. knowing this, it is very important to re-establish desired turf back in these areas during the fall so the crabgrass has a much harder time finding its way back in the lawn the next season.

Crabgrass dying off turning purplish colour in the Fall

As the crabgrass plants begin to die off, the colour generally turns from lime coloured green to a purplish/yellowish/reddish colour. This discolouration indicates its time to begin a combination of cultural practices that can help with filling these infested areas back in with desired grass again. The fall is a great time for seeding and establishing new grass, and aggressively overseeding or slit-seeding these areas is recommended. Core aerating and topdressing these areas in conjunction with seeding will help speed up this re-establishment process even more.

This is Talladega Superspeedway!

With the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heading to Talladega Superspeedway this coming weekend, I was lucky enough to be live on location in Alabama to see first hand how thebermuda grass infield gets prepared just days before the big race.  With crowds expected between 150 000 – 200 000 race fans, all eyes will be starring down at pit row and towards the finish line so the turf certainly needs to look its best.

 

 
Standing on the edge of pit row just in front of the grass infield I saw up close how the turf was being prepared.  Along pit row is where the 40 + race cars will make a combined 500 + pit stops to make it through this 500 mile race so dozens of sponsors will have their company logos painted into the grass infield and displayed for the hundreds of thousands of spectators watching live and the millions of viewers watching the race on TV.

 

Talladega Logo’s Painted in Grass Infield

To help cover up some of the imperfections in the turf such as weeds and stressed areas, the grass infield was being painted with a dark green paint to make sure everything looks perfectly uniform.  This process takes some time, similar to painting a wall in your house.  Several layers and coats of paint are required to ensure this uniform colour consistency.  Once this is completed, the sponsors logos are outlined and painted in the grass infield and their brand is displayed brightly very similar to the same thing you see on football fields in the endzone.

A lot of preparation goes into each NASCAR event both on and off the race track and at Talladega the famous grass infield is no exception as the turf needs to look its best too on race day.

This is Talladega Superspeedway

 

Early Instar White Grub Damage

Early instar White Grub damage is becoming increasingly evident in lawns across Canada and the USA this time of the year.    White Grubs are the larvae life stage of several destructive turfgrass insects including the European Chafer, May/June Beetle, and the Japanese Beetle.  During the larvae life stage the white grubs aggrssively feed on the roots of the turfgrass plant causing major damage to lawns.  The Adult beetles (European Chafer, May/June Beetle, and Japanese Beetle) laid their eggs early in the summer and these eggs have hatched, thus the early instar activity of these white grubs.

 

 
Early Instar White Grub Activity
 
For most white grubs, their life cycle takes 1 year to complete and the most damaging stages of their cycle is during the larvae stages which takes place over the fall and into the next spring.  As the larvae cycle ends the white grubs then stop feeding and pupate into an adult beetle.  After the adults have emerged, they lay their eggs and start the entire process over again.

 

White Grub Life Cycle

 

Major damage can also become evident in lawns from animals, birds and rodents that are searching and digging for these white grubs as food.  Often times, the damage created from this digging is much more severe than the grub feeding damage itself.

 

 

 
White Grub Larvae Closeup
 
White grub larvae are cream white in colour with a tan coloured head, and have 3 pairs of legs at the front of its body.  A raster pattern (arrangement of tiny hairs) can be found on each grub larvae at the back end.  Depending on how good your eye sight is a magnifying lens may be required to see this raster pattern.  The raster pattern is what is used to identify and determine what type of beetle the larvae grub will become.  For example an “Open Zipper” pattern indicates the grub will become a European Chafer beetle, and a “V-Shape” indicates it will become a Japanese Beetle.  This identification process is important because grub life stages can vary slightly depending on the particular grub species and timing control applications is imparetive to ensure good quality control.

 

 

European Chafer Larvae Raster Pattern

Japanese Beetle Larvae Raster Pattern

 

For more information on white grubs click the following link. White Grubs

Weed of the Week – White Clover

This weeks weed of the week is White Clover.  Commonly referred to as the “Shamrock” white clover consists of 3 oval shaped leaves that together grow from the central stem and make up this famous shamrock symbol. As luck would have it, it is estimated that approximately 1 in about every 10 000 three-leaf clovers a very lucky four-leaf clover can be found.

Native to North America, White Clover is one of the most common weeds that can be found in lawns all season long across Canada and the USA. In some cases, white clover is even being planted by homeowners in place of grass as a natural dense ground cover reducing the maintenance, water, time and money required to maintain a grass lawn.

White Clover (close up)

White Clover is a very low growing broadleaf weed that is green in colour and has 3 leaflets that form what we most commonly call a shamrock. White and pinkish flowers grow and bloom as the plant ages making it much more obvious in a lawn when the clover is flowering. White Clover typically creeps its way through the lawn growing in patches, and multiple layers under the canopy of the turf. This makes it very challenging and difficult to control given its growing nature. Multiple applications are required throughout the season to help eliminate this weed.

To learn more about White Clover click here to view Power Point Presentation.  Weed of the week – white clover

 

Chinch Bug Alert!

Chinch Bug Alert!

Summer heat is in full effect and lawns are now showing signs of browning out.  Be aware, this could be more than just drought. Tiny surface insects called Chinch Bugs are very common during the summer months.  Chinch Bugs typically live in the thatch and suck the juices from the grass leaf blades causing damage that looks very similar to drought stress.

 

 
Chinch Bugs are very tiny but can cuase major damage. The damaging nymphal life stage of the chinch bug is bright red in color with a white stripe across its back.  In order to find them you will have to get down on your hands and knees and spread the turf apart.  The best place to look for active chinch bugs is in areas where the stressed turf meets the healthy turf.

 

Different Life Stages of Chinch Bugs

Damage caused by chinch bugs is usually permanent and the lawn will not recover when it rains or the lawn gets watered. It is very important to identify, treat and eliminate these chinch bug Infestations before they multiply and the damage becomes extensive to a lawn.

Chinch Bug Damage to a Lawn

Click here to learn more about chinch bugs.

Pristine Kentucky Bluegrass Lawn in of all places – Pisa, ITALY

Earlier last month I travelled over to Europe in Italy and came across some of the nicest Kentucky Bluegrass I have seen in a long time.  I was in the city Pisa at the historic site of the Worlds most famous tower “The Leaning Tower of Pisa”.  The grounds surrounding the tower and famous cathedral next to the tower were meticulously manicured and the turf was in pristine condition…so much so that I did a live on location video for all the people back home to see.  The turf was beautiful lush green without a weed in sight…..i suspect chemical weed control restrictions are not yet in effect!  Although the leaning tower was a sight to see, being the grass expert I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful turf that made it that much more special.

You’ll be hard pressed to find a better looking Kentucky Bluegrass lawn than this one in Pisa!