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Randy Wilson: Here at the 'Rock

Color And Invasive Species On The Golf Course

Posted in Skeletal Golf 23 February 2017 · 276 views

For decades, as I pursued affordable seasonal color with wildflowers, native grasses, ornamental shrubbery and ground covers, I worried about accidentally introducing dangerous, invasive species.  Our region has a history of suffering invasive species, the worst being Kudzu, Fire Ants, General Sherman, Carpetbaggers and Bentgrass.


I abandoned the traditional golf course color platform--the formal tee-side annual flower bed--for two reasons:  First, beds of summer begonias, spring tulips, and winter pansies were expensive . . . especially when all seven of our members capped their annual dues at $200. 



Second, formal flower beds did not mesh well with my Rugged And Adventurous Tillinghastian golf course philosophy, as they tended more toward Candyassian golf.


Beginning in '84, I had a few successful attempts at introducing color and texture to the golf course through wildflowers and native grasses.  I also had numerous failures . . . which I blame on trying to emulate Mark Hoban, without possessing sufficient science genes.


Our region has a history of suffering invasive species, the worst being Kudzu, Fire Ants, General Sherman, Carpetbaggers and Bentgrass.


During this phase, I cleverly deduced that color was seasonal and that colorful plants capable of blooming year round were kind of rare.  (Yes, I realize if I had studied horticulture instead of Special Ops, I would have learned that much earlier.)


In '88, I ordered the world's supply of seeds and soon arrived at the following rules of Rockbottum CC Affordable Color Strategies:


1. Wildflower Field Size.  Rather than try for the glorious, expansive Wizard of Oz fields of color, I concentrated small plots of color--about the size of a kitchen table--here and there amongst the native grasses.  This improved maintenance efficiency, because areas not subjected to regular disturbances like mowing will allow Fire Ants, pine trees and sword-thorn vines to take up residence.


2. Aggressive Invasives.  On two occasions, a large wildflower planting vanished.  At first I suspected aggressive deer, but it turned out to be the much more aggressive Ladies Golf Association, procuring color for their table settings.  This removed any chance of reseeding, but apparently the LGA did not study horticulture either.



3. Wildflower Success Rates.  I carefully documented which wildflowers were compatible with my course's climate and what times of year they offered color.  California Poppies and Ox-Eye Daisies were great in March, Lance-Leaved Coreopsis took over next and then Plains Coreopsis became our stalwart favorite. They often hung around until late summer, growing in poor soil, gravel parking lots and on car hoods.



4. Native Grasses.  Our native grass tactics also came from spying on Hoban.  He would fall-harvest golden broomsedge with a chainsaw, sprinkling seeds all about and providing a wonderful golden winter color that juxtaposed brilliantly with dark green overseeded fairways . . . another invasive species down here.



There is something hypnotic about the texture of varying shades of native grasses perched on a hillside overlooking a green, gently blowing in the wind.  However, I wasn't able to grow anything but broomsedge.  I tried Little Bluestem, Creeping Red Fescue, Sheeps Fescue--with mediocre results--and since we were in the middle of a three year drought in Georgia, I went big on Buffalo Grass in the out of play areas . . . and the rain returned.


(I'm not suggesting I caused the rain by planting Buffalo Grass, that would be ridiculous.  I caused it by beginning a major greens rebuild project.)


5.  Affordable Color/Erosion Control Ground Covers on steep banks, hillsides.  Uh, never mind.


6. Beauty Shrubs.  Just prior to my discovery of the Augusta Syndrome in '86, I contracted Azalea Poisoning and bought 300 azaleas while suffering from the fever.  I then discovered their bloom peak was only three weeks, followed by 49 weeks of cleaning out plastic grocery sacks, dogwood leaves, and mylar balloons captured by azaleas.


This same sack-capture phenomenon also occurs in the ground cover known as Ileagnus, (uglyagnes) and juniper, (juniperus horribilus) but at lesser levels in Vinca Bee Flat Minor.


7. Color Trees.  Our best consistent summer color came from Crepe Myrtle trees, with beautiful, huge pink and white and purple blooms.  The Crepe Myrtle can be kept short, using Bonsai techniques, won't shade turf, impede golfers or root up cart paths like an asphalt mole.


8. Totally Native Areas.  Win some, lose some.  Golf TNA must be waaaay out of play, for they will eventually harbor large scary reptiles, giant spiders, and local bureaucrats trying to catch you irrigating non-essential areas like rough, bunker faces and greens.  It is important to have a covert plan to maintain non-maintained Totally Native Areas.  Golfer complaints could lead to another form of invasive species, the Customer Service Evangelist and their week-long indoctrination seminar.  


Non-golf TNA might be out of your control, especially if the pro rents the course out to a local establishment of questionable repute, a situation that inevitably leads to extremely aggressive invasives.





Low Input Science At Work In The Lab

Posted in Skeletal Golf 14 February 2017 · 938 views

As promised, Mark Hoban hosts this inside look at a research lab, with Dr. Mussie Habteselassie, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Soil Microbiology at the University of Georgia Griffin Experiment Station campus.


Dr. Habteselassie, while conducting an experiment dealing with Trichoderma Atroviride and its use in controlling certain turf pathogens, shows us one method for counting fungi in soils.


While this film deviates from our typical offering and feels more like a college class in soil science . . . well, that's because it is.  So take a few minutes and learn about how Low Input soil strategies are being tested for actual scientific data.  If you complete this film, award yourself several hundred CEUs toward a Mystic Order of Greenkeeper AAA rating.


Also, keep in mind, a large part of the money funding this research is being provided by the Georgia Golf Course Superintendent Association, just another example of the Georgia section leading the way for the rest of golf.


Rockbottum Radio: The Millennial Workforce Problem

Posted in Rockbottum Philosophy 02 February 2017 · 546 views

In this first episode of Rockbottum Radio -- live from deep in the TurfNet Zone -- your host Randy Wilson goes Point | Counterpoint with Ludell Hogwaller on the topic of the Millennial Workforce Problem... and what to do about it.


Topics on the table include turfgrass education, The Tritabaugh Effect, hybrid staff positions and the modern housing dilemma.



Brought to you by VinylGuard Golf and Macrosorb Technologies.

Bikes On The Golf Course?

Posted in Skeletal Golf 30 January 2017 · 329 views

In Skeletal Golf, we look for every possible low-cost, extra-sustainable alternative to doing things the way they've always been done.  One of our favorite methods has been adapting the Human Powered Utility Vehicle (HPUV) to golf course operations.


It worked very well for years.  Sure, there was the occasional complaint from golfers who hated seeing the irrigation tech using a mountain bike to service controllers or water sod . . . but after I changed over to a tractor with no muffler, they pleaded for the return of the IMG, or Irrigation Mountain Bike.


Using bikes for course prep was a tremendous benefit for us.  The cup changer, when assigned a 3-Wheeler with a basket on the back, eventually had to give up cigarettes and his health dramatically improved.


But, as always, the pendulum swings the other way.  A few years ago, Rockbottum CC members began to bring their bikes out to the course and demanded to be allowed to ride, just like the crew.  It was a problem.


At least it was a problem until the most aggressive members began to mysteriously die. 


Dynamics in Golf Course Maintenance

Posted in Rockbottum Philosophy 15 January 2017 · 1,041 views

The most consistent complaint I receive concerning our films would be the perception of inconsistency.  The caller (it's always the phone, presumably to avoid leaving written evidence) lectures me on the need to stick with one kind of format, style, etc.


80% want golf related humor, mostly for stress relief after a difficult day.  Another 10% would prefer serious topics on industry trends, while about 9% just want to see features on fellow golf course superintendents.  That last 1% want me dead.


The process we follow here at The Bottum is based on Dynamics.  To understand Dynamics, we should first look at how it is employed in music.


The use of Dynamics in music is critical; the most powerful symphony will move from loud and powerful to soft and gentle, lulling one into a sense of calm, just before exploding in volume and tempo.  When Dynamics are ignored, such as when a hard-rock band from the 70s turns it up to 11 and stays there for hours, things quickly get boring.


The best film directors knew this key principle and used it to create movie masterpieces, in films like "Sullivan's Travels" or "Jeremiah Johnson".  A quiet scene intensified the sudden transition to action, unlike the modern action film that takes off after the title and never lets up until the credits roll.


The best golf course architects understood the concept of Dynamics, by creating an adventure to be experienced by the golfer.  A wild and difficult hole was more interesting if preceded by a gentle, or "breather" hole.  Simply stringing together 18 difficult holes would destroy player interest.


Golf course maintenance is similarly affected by Dynamics.  Narrow fairways bordered by deep rough and greens running at hardwood floor speeds are incredibly boring.  The player is forced to play one shot to remain alive and strategy fades out, replaced by a death march mentality.


It is impractical for golf to maintain the pace of a Jason Bourne film when setting up a golf course, but because of TV saturating weak minds, that's just what some superintendents are forced to do by committee demands.


Experts on the golf forums, especially the architecture forums, bemoan the "weak" hole they encountered on an otherwise acceptable golf course, often discussing ways to "toughen up" the hole.  Sort of cranking the course up to "11".  


 . . . remember that growth regulator that was causing melons to explode in Asia?

The Dynamics in use here at Rockbottum Films are similar to those I have attempted to explain in the previous paragraphs.  We like to alternate theme music, moving from Blues to Big Band to orchestras.  We try not to hit the same targets too often, we change film styles, avoid sneaking in the same hidden messages and vary the run time.  Over the years, we have learned that short comedy films do better in the summer--and longer films, full of deep intellectual premises, would be more successful in the winter, if only we had some intellect.


Anyway, take a close look at your course and see if Dynamics could improve how the player enjoys the round.  Oh, and for that 10% demanding serious films . . . remember that growth regulator that was causing melons to explode in Asia?  Here's a serious film on that topic.


Randy Wilson's blog is sponsored by VinylGuard Golf and Macro-Sorb Technologies

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