Monthly Archives: January 2013

A Turfgrass Legacy: Par for the course

Bill Fach, superintendent at Black Bear Ridge Golf Course in Belleville, Ont., has been maintaining golf courses for the last 43 years. Photo courtesy Bill Fach

By Molly Doyle

During the summer, Bill Fach gets up around 5:30 a.m. to prepare the course before the first golfer tees off. He says every course has its own schedule, and staff normally works eight hours.

“They get the heck in, do their stuff and cut the greens, and get out, Fach explains. “They get their job done before the golfers get here because they slow us down. We have to wait for them every time we want to do something because we are in the way.”

Since Fach’s job is also his hobby, he works more than most people at the golf course—between 70 and 75 hours a week. He is out there seven days a week, pulling at least 10-hour days. He does not take weekends off, either. Since he lives at the golf course, he is outside about six hours a day on Saturdays and Sundays, and sometimes even finds himself driving around at night checking things out.

Fach looks after all the grounds, not just the golf course itself. He maintains about 107 ha (265 acre) of the 324-ha (800-acre) site by cutting the fields down twice a year so they do not overgrow with the trees, and maintaining the fine turf. Fach’s team cuts the greens and tees three times per week—about 2 ha (about 5 acre) each. The fairways (totalling 10 ha [25 acre]) are also cut three times a week, and the rough is cut continuously for a week. Then his team starts all over again. The holes in the greens are changed daily so when a golfer plays two days in a row, he or she does not have the same hole on the green.

The traps and bunkers are also raked by hand on a daily basis. Once a week, the crew is sent around to fill in the divots or chunks taken out of the turf with seed and topsoil—a task that takes about 15 to 20 hours to complete.

“You can see we just do not look after a little bit of turf—we have a whole bunch of other things to do to make things look nice and clean and neat,” Fach explains. “I mean, there are smaller jobs we do, but normally those are the basics of what golf course superintendents would do in a week for, say, 30 weeks.”

Read the full article: A Turfgrass Legacy: Bill Fach’s driving ambition

Synthetic Turf Fields: Synthetic turf field hardening

Routine Gmax testing helps track field hardness over time and identifies problem areas before they become unsafe. Photo courtesy Tom Serensits

By Tom Serensits

It is a common belief infill compaction is the reason fields get hard. For many of us, that seems to makes sense. We know heavy use on natural turf fields leads to soil compaction and, in turn, increased surface hardness. To what degree does crumb rubber and sand compact? Certainly, there is a ‘settling-in’ period in the weeks after installation, but based on observations of infill material and research plots at Pennsylvania State University (Penn State), compaction is usually minimal after the settling-in period. In fact, most infill is sized so only limited compaction is possible due to the relatively uniform size of the infill particles.

Research plots at Penn State provide an interesting example. In 2002, various synthetic turf companies installed their products, which were then used in a research trial that concluded in 2010. Over the course of eight years, a section of each plot was exposed to 96 simulated games annually using a traffic simulator. By the end of the trial, those sections were exposed to more than 1500 passes with the simulator. However, by the end of the study, surface hardness values were still well below the published threshold of 200 Gmax (i.e. surface hardness), set by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC). Even wheel ruts caused by the tractor repeatedly pulling the traffic simulator over the same area for eight years tested to be well below the 200 Gmax level. This helps illustrate compaction alone is most likely not the main cause of excessive surface hardness.

Penn State researchers have also observed specialized machines remove infill from an existing field, ‘clean’ it, and reinstall it back into the carpet in an effort to reduce surface hardness. The Gmax values before and after this process were essentially the same, only lowering after new rubber was added.

However, other reasons can compromise the infill resiliency and increase surface hardness. For example, excessive and repeated line and logo painting without the occasional cleaning of the painted areas—including removal or wash-through of old paint—can lead to a hard surface. Excessive deposits of debris and particulate matter may compromise the infill if the surface is not cleaned over time. The buildup of this type of debris often takes many years, and typically is not a major concern for fields with even moderate maintenance.

Read the full article: Synthetic Turf Fields: Managing surface hardness

The Increasing Need for Organic Matter

Photo courtesy Sean James

By Chelsea Stroud, B.Sc. Agr. (Hort.), GRP

Unexpected weather has become the norm over the past decade, and last summer was no exception. In 2012, Environment Canada reported parts of Ontario saw up to nine days above 30 C (86 F) in June, and areas across the country showed temperatures that were among the warmest 10 summers on record.

In terms of precipitation, Environment Canada reported Canada as a whole experienced wetter than normal conditions last summer. Although in Southern Ontario, precipitation was down approximately 10 to 20 per cent from historical norms.

As climate continues to be out of control, we are becoming more aware of our depleting natural resources. Years ago, Canadians would turn the air-conditioning up on warm days and water turf and gardens excessively throughout drought. Now, we know our fresh water is precious and needs to be conserved and protected. The question is, how do we maintain healthy plants with less water and warmer temperatures?

Read the full article: The Increasing Need for Organic Matter

Managing Pesticide-free Home Lawns

By Kathleen Dodson, MSc.

The advent of cosmetic pesticide bans within certain Canadian provinces has resulted in a need for research examining the efficacy of using lawn maintenance cultural practices without herbicides to maintain ideal turfgrass populations.

The topic of weed control in turf was reviewed by Dr. Phillip Busey, who found in 2002 alone, more than 750 papers on the use of conventional pesticides as the means of weed control were published, but only 25 papers on the use of cultivation methods. This suggests there is a gap in literature on the use of cultural practices for weed management. An understanding of weed encroachment and how to discourage weed invasion is required.

Weeds in general are considered to be indicator species of other problems in the turfgrass ecosystem. Nitrogen-fixing weeds (i.e. legumes) such as white clover and black medic are indicators of a lack of nitrogen availability in the soil, while plantain and prostrate knotweed are signs of compacted rootzones. Understanding why weeds are populating a lawn will help develop a pesticide-free maintenance program. A successful management approach incorporates cultural practices that promote healthy turf growth while addressing the problems typically associated with weed infestation. Cultural practices include, but are not limited to:
● mowing;
● fertilization;
● irrigation;
● overseeding; and
● cultivation.

Read the full article: Managing Pesticide-free Home Lawns

A Turfgrass Legacy: Bill Fach’s driving ambition

Photo courtesy Bill Fach

By Molly Doyle

Bill Fach has been maintaining golf courses for the last 43 years, working his way up from assistant to master superintendent. Named Superintendent of the Year by the Canadian Golf Superintendents Association (CGSA) in 2008, he says he cannot imagine doing anything else, not even for a million dollars.

In 1977, Fach graduated from the University of Guelph with a degree in horticulture. While attending school, he worked as an assistant superintendent at St. Georges Golf and Country Club in Etobicoke, Ont. After graduation, he worked at the Essex Golf and Country Club in LaSalle, Ont., for 10 years, then moved to Toronto to be the superintendent at Rosedale Golf Club. A decade later, Fach switched locations to work at the York Downs Golf and Country Club in Markham, Ont., which he looked after for five years. Then, in 2003, he moved to Belleville, Ont., to be the superintendent at Black Bear Ridge Golf Course.

“You could not give me another job,” he says laughing. “Maybe I’ll decide to become a baseball player and make a million dollars… but no, with my capabilities, this is by far the best job.”

Read the full article: A Turfgrass Legacy: Bill Fach’s driving ambition