Tuesday, January 31, 2012

2012 Iowa Turfgrass Conference & Tradeshow Recap

The 78th Iowa Turfgrass Conference and Tradeshow was held January 17-19 at the Downtown Des Moines Marriott Hotel. This annual event is solely dedicated to the turfgrass industry and brings together educators, industry partners, and professional turfgrass managers. In total, attendees were able to network with over 50 vendors and participate in countless educational seminars while networking with colleagues and catching up with friends.

This event continues to be a success and provide attendees with tips or techniques they can take back to their facility to improve their operation. Below are pictures from the 3 day event. Enjoy!

Marcus Jones
Assistant Scientist
Iowa State University

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Nick Christians
January 25, 2012

Congratulations to Troy McQuillen and the Kirkwood (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) turf students for winning this years Turf Bowl contest at the Sports Turf Managers Association (STMS) meetings in Long Beach, California. This is a great accomplishment achieved through very hard work and dedication.

The following is a press release from Kirkwood on the contest.

Kirkwood Students Win National Turf Competition

Kirkwood students claimed a new piece of turf at a competition in Long Beach, California: Turf Bowl national champions. Students from the college’s Golf Course & Athletic Turfgrass Management program finished in first place at the 2011 Turf Bowl at the annual Sports Turf Managers Association annual conference earlier this month.

During the conference, students participated in the industry trades show, education sessions and panel discussions. One of the biggest draws is the student challenge Turf Bowl competition. It is comprised both two- and four-year colleges with turfgrass programs from around the country.

Seven Kirkwood students made up two teams that competed in the 12-team event. One team comprised of Luke Perkins (Iowa City, IA), Tim Sims (Galva, IL), Tyler Dean (West Branch, IA) and Tyler Timmerman (Genceo, IL) took first place in the two-year team competition. The other team, of just three students, included James Eaton (Muscatine, IA), Nick Dralle (Mason City, IA) and Levi Driesen (Hawarden, IA) placed sixth.

“I am very proud of the effort and dedication that the students put into the Turf Bowl competition this year,” said Troy McQuillen, Golf Course & Athletic Turfgrass Management faculty member. “These students are a great reflection for what the Golf Course and Athletic Turfgrass Program is all about.”

The first place Kirkwood team not only had the highest score in the two-year category, but also tied the four-year winning team, Purdue. Kirkwood’s winning team received a trophy and a $4000 check to the Turf Club to be used for tools and special projects for the classroom.

“We know that our students are well-prepared when they leave our program. Seeing them win the competition, and tie the best four-year school in the country … that’s something these students can be really proud of.”

The teams started studying for the competition in early October. They raised more than $6000 to fund the trip, with fundraisers like home lawn aerations, sod installations and renovation projects on high school baseball fields. The teams will travel to Daytona Beach, Florida next year to defend their title.

(Photo, L to R: James Eaton, Levi Dreisen, Tyler Timmerman, Luke Perkins, Tyler Dean, Tim Sims, Nick Dralle, Troy McQuillen.)


Iowa’s lowest-cost college | Most credit programs in the state | Annual credit enrollment exceeds 25,000 | www.kirkwood.edu

For media information contact Jon Keimig at 319-398-5651 or call Kirkwood Marketing Services at 319-398-5493.

Monday, January 23, 2012


Nick Christians
January 23, 2012

Here is a good internship report by undergraduate student Adam Gregersen on his experience with the Iowa State University Athletic Department. You can get the report to go full-screen by clicking on the lower right hand side of the document.

The recent rain and snow has given us some reprieve on the potential for winter damage, but the long range forecast is still for some mild weather during the critical weeks of winter. We'll keep you posted on the topdressing trial as the winter progresses.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Winter Weather Update and Topdressing Trial

Golfers are taking advantage of the uncharacteristically warm weather with a rare January round.

Temperatures dropped into the low 40’s over the weekend as a cold front moved across the state. Considering the weather we have experienced lately however, the “cooler” temperatures haven’t felt so bad. Many parts of the state broke records last week as daytime temperatures surged into the 50’s and 60’s. Temperatures during the month of January have been just over 10 degrees higher than normal. Golfers took advantage of the mild weather last week and dusted off their clubs for a rare January outing.

Overall, temperatures have been above average since last October and this has prevented the ground from completely freezing in many parts of the state. Precipitation totals were above average for the month of December thanks in part to 3 rain events. It appears that nearly all of the precipitation that occurred in December was able to soak into the ground. This was a very welcome development over northwestern Iowa where severe drought conditions are still present.

The threat of turf damage from dessication is certainly elevated with the open winter we have experienced thus far. Dr. Christians provided a nice historical perspective of turf dessication in his posts last week along with the benefits of late fall sand topdressing. We also took the opportunity to put out a couple sand topdressing trials last week to address this issue.

We applied sand topdressing to creeping bentgrass putting green turf exposed to northwest winds that had not received any topdressing for winter protection. Sand was applied at 1/16, 1/8, 1/4, and 1/2 inches. An untreated control was also included in the trial which received no sand topdressing.

Results from this trial should tell us if there are any benefits from mid-winter sand topdressing during “open” winters and how thick of a topdressing layer needs to be applied. Special thanks to Brian Abels, Golf Course Superintendent, Jewell Country Club, and James Legg, Golf Course Superintendent, Briarwood Club of Ankeny for letting us use their facilities for this work.

Pictures of the sand topdressing trial can be seen below. We will be evaluating the effects of this trial in the spring and will post results as they become available.

A wood frame with three layers of chicken wire was positioned over each plot.  The wire helps evenly distribute the topdressing sand across the plot.

Four thicknesses of sand topdressing are being evaluated in this trial for their effect on protection from winter dessication.  An untreated control was also included.

Overall view of winter topdressing trial.  Special thanks to Brian Abels, Golf Course Superintendent, Jewell Country Club, and James Legg, Golf Course Superintendent, Briarwood Club of Ankeny for letting us use their facilities for this work.

Marcus Jones
Assistant Scientist
Iowa State University

Monday, January 9, 2012

Still Time to Register for the 2012 Iowa Turfgrass Conference & Trade Show

There is still time left to register for the 78th annual Iowa Turfgrass Conference and Trade Show. The event will take place January 17-19 at the Downtown Des Moines Marriott Hotel. Information about the conference, exhibitor information, and registration forms can be found at http://www.iowaturfgrass.org/iticonference.htm.

Conference is a great way to network with peers and take advantage of educational opportunities. Whether you are just brushing up on fundamentals or learning about the newest trends and ideas relating to turfgrass science, there is something for everyone. A number of speakers from Iowa State University will be presenting in addition to a number of invited presenters including:

Zac Reicher, University of Nebraska
Ty McClellan, United States Golf Association
Derek Settle, Chicago District Golf Association
Kevin Norby, Herfort & Norby Golf Architects
Judd Duininck, Duininck Golf
Eric Hansen, The Preserve at Rathbun Lake
Allen Johnson, CSFM, Green Bay Packers
Amy Fouty, CSFM, Michigan State University
Jeremy Buhl, PBI/Gordon
Mark Howieson, Becker Underwood
Daniel Krohn, Becker Underwood
Troy McQuillen, Kirkwood Community College
Fred Whitford, Purdue University
Kevin Tracy, ASI Watercare
John Newton, CGCS, Veenker Memorial Golf Course
Jason Koester, CGCS, Grinnell College
Brad Thedens, City of Sioux Falls
Neric Smith, Indian Hills Community College
Steve Bush, CSFM, Bush Sports Turf

Preview the full conference program by clicking here. Complete conference information can be found at http://www.iowaturfgrass.org/iticonference.htm.

Marcus Jones
Assistant Scientist
Iowa State University

Friday, January 6, 2012


Nick Christians
January 6, 2012

Here is the 1987 Article on Topdressing to Protect Bentgrass Greens In Winter. It was published in GCM in September of 1987. It was based on 4 years of work.

This and other articles are available from the Golf Course Supt. Assoc. of America (GCSAA) at gcsaa.org.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Nick Christians
January 5, 2012

It is January 5 and it is 61 F in Ames, Iowa. For those of you not from here, that is very warm. In fact, we are likely to hit an all-time high for the day. This follows one of the driest falls that we have had for a while. We have also experienced some strong northwest winds in the last few days that are ideal for drying out greens.

While superintendents are worried about desiccation, golfers want to take advantage of the warm conditions and play some winter golf. This has been the primary question from golf course superintendents in the last few days. Should I open the course for play, or should we keep it closed?

While I have not done any specific research on the effects of winter play on greens, I have had some experience in this area. In the 1970’s, I was a superintendent in southern Colorado. In the area just east of the mountains, this weather is very common. Drying winds are also a problem. In that area, it is too cold to keep the water on. The soil also freezes, but day-time temperatures are often warm enough to play golf. We never closed. If someone wanted to play golf, we let them on. We had a special cup cutter with a large solid-steel ball on top of it. We would hit the ball with a sledge hammer to drive the cup cutter into the frozen soil on the greens. We had 5 positions on each green where we would rotate the cups during the dormant period of winter. Sometimes play was heavy and I remember a lot of wear around each cup setting by spring. I always worried that this would result in damage after spring greenup, but it never did. I was surprised at how well the greens recovered once the grass started to grow.

You do have to be careful during the few days of spring thaw. If the upper inch is wet and the soil just below is frozen, keep players off. But on frozen soil, you will see the effect of wear on the dormant turf, but it should recover well in the spring. You’re also keeping those few players who want to play happy and if you rely on greens fees, you can make a few dollars for the club.

If you covered greens, leave the covers down. The threat from desiccation this winter is high. Covers are good. If you let the golfers on, let them play to temporary flags ahead of the greens.

I also had a question yesterday from someone who had sand topdressed at the end of the season. The question that brings up is the concern that grinding the sand into the dormant grass with foot traffic may cause additional damage. I have not had experience with that, but I doubt that it will be a major problem unless play is high. If you can, have them play to temporary flags ahead of the greens, but if members insist on playing on the greens, I still think the greens will be fine.

I will want some feedback on this in the spring. The blog provides a permanent record and we can refer back to this in future years when we hit another weather pattern like this. I would also appreciate some feedback from you older superintendents who have lived through this before. Send me an e-mail with your opinion, and I will post it on the blog.

Some trials on winter topdressing are also going out today. Marcus Jones and Nick Dunlap got up early this morning to establish sand topdressing trials on Jewel Golf, north of Ames and in Ankeny south of Ames. We’ll keep you posted on that work during the spring.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Nick Christians
January 3, 2012

The article below was published in GCM in July of 1996. It is about the severe desiccation that occurred during the winter and spring of 1996. We have similar weather conditions to those that occurred in 1996.

Articles from Golf Course Management can be found at gcsaa.org.

Monday, January 2, 2012


Nick Christians

January 2, 2012

While this mild winter has been great for holiday travel, it will probably not be good for golf course superintendents. Surprisingly, it is the hard winters that are generally good for the golf course. Snow cover and cold temperatures through mid to late winter protect the turf from desiccation and the golf course emerges in the spring in good condition. It is the open, mild winter with windy conditions like we are getting today that results in drying of the turf (especially bentgrass) and causes damage that can persist well into the spring and even to early summer.

The last few winters have been anything but mild. The white Christmas has been the standard for the last few years and heavy snow cover has been common in many areas of the Midwest. Winter desiccation has been rare and we tend to forget about it. Unless the weather changes soon, this will be one of those springs where severe desiccation is common. In my experience here in Iowa, it is the northwestern part of the state that gets the worst damage because that area lacks tree cover and is exposed to the northwest winds of winter.

So what can you do about it? Greens covers are part of the answer and those of you who covered your greens a few weeks ago should be fine. But, there are many uncovered golf courses in the state. Fairways and tees generally go uncovered and these areas can be badly damaged even on courses that cover greens. Winter watering can be useful if you can do it. When I worked in Colorado years ago, winter winds would kill bentgrass greens and tees if we did not get some water to them during mild winters. It was too cold to charge the irrigation system. The courses had water trucks and it was typical to spray water over the greens every couple of weeks to keep them hydrated.

Topdressing is another way of protecting greens. In the 80’s and 90’s we did some work on this. I will post some information from that work in the next few days. The last couple of weeks I have had some questions on whether it is too late to topdress in January and if it is not, how much topdressing should we apply. I don’t know the answer to those questions. If the mild weather continues, we will try to get a quick trial together at the research station to look at these issues. I’ll keep you informed about the work during the spring.

Winter desiccation on bentgrass.

Watering in the winter in Colorado.

The effect of simple topdressing on bentgrass.

Area that was protected by a cover during a mild winter.