A damper on the greens

Phil Hoy practices his swing Friday at the Toqua Golf Course driving range.

With warmer temperatures and sunshine just around the corner, all three Tellico Village golf courses are using the month of March to work on the greens and other areas in preparation for the new golf season.

Tanasi Golf Course was closed last week for aeration and maintenance but is back on a normal schedule this week. Toqua Golf Course is closed this week, followed by The Links at Kahite next week.

“The excessive rain fall, obviously, inhibits our ability to perform all sorts of agronomic programming that’s timely in nature. A lot of the critical things we do each year are done on the shoulder months,” Chris Sykes, Tellico Village director of golf operations, said. “Right now, for instance, you would be trying to pre-immerse for goose grass and crab grass, the soil temperature has hit that threshold. We’re now starting to do it, but it’s been challenging to do so with all the rain and to do so without doing damage.”

This winter has proven a difficult challenge for golf operations due to excessive amounts of rain for extended periods of time. February was one of the worst winter months on record with rain on 20 out of 29 days.

“We had up to 15 inches of rain at Kahite, so we had well over a foot at all three facilities, which again, is unbelievable,” Sykes said. “The last three Februarys are all in the top five for wettest in history, which is just a crazy pattern. Hopefully, that subsides, but the forecast is more of the same. But thankfully, the longer the days get, the higher the sun angle, things dry out more quickly, so we’ve been able to manage. You’ve got to keep an eye on erosion, things moving around, instability, some of the storms because we were so wet, we had some trees uproot and some things like that.”

The winter season is a prime time for maintenance workers to spray herbicides and other chemicals to eradicate weeds, but it’s not been an easy task the last few months.

“We were able to spend more time on some indoor projects, but probably the biggest effect it’s had on us is in terms of weed control,” Tyler Thies, Toqua Golf Course superintendent said. “The chemicals need some time to dry and then the sprayer that we use, it can’t be too wet on the course, or else you’re going to make a mess. Unfortunately, that kind of causes some issues trying to spray weeds in the wintertime. Luckily, it was kind of a cool period through February so that granted us some leeway, but we still had a lot of areas that we weren’t quite able to spray.”

Thies will be leading the aeration process this week at Toqua, which is an essential process to keep the greens healthy by controlling the amount of organic matter in the ground.

A typical aeration day can take up to 16 hours for staff, and they only receive one week out of the year to perform this process.

“We mowed the greens and just kind of prepared all the equipment ... and then we’ll go through with the machines and we’ll pull the course using a Toro machine called the ProCore,” Thies said. “After that, we’ll have a bunch of guys basically just picking up all the cores, and then we’ll put them out throughout the course in areas where we kind of need extra dirt. ... We’ll go through and blow it out real good, we’ll roll out the green to kind of smooth all the ruts from the machines and then we’ll topdress with a light layer of sand and try to brush that into the holes. For us, we do the whole process twice.”

Despite heavy patterns of inclement weather, business has still been relatively good for all three courses. Sykes has high hopes for the spring and summer seasons.

“February, obviously, we fell a little short, but we didn’t anticipate a lot of play in February,” he said. “With our home owners and our traffic patterns, they use the facilities more during the week and less during the weekend which is opposite for almost every other golf course you’ll encounter in a retirement community. Some of the few good days we did have were weekends, but on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, we’d sell out every time. If we’re nice on Saturday and Sunday, we’ll sell most of the times but not all of them. A little bad luck there, but hopefully things will change and we’ll get caught up.”