Black Sand Experiment

We are trying an application of black sand to #5 and #10 greens. I listened to a presentation from a club that was using black sand to help the greens go through a snow covered winter.  Their main idea was that the sand would heat up quicker in the spring and help the green up process in the spring.

Root Rot Pythium Spores in the Root of the Turf Plant.

I wanted to see if we could get results from the black sand on our greens that have shade issues.  My hopes are that any light that these greens get, the black sand will help utilize that light to the fullest and give those greens just a fraction more heat at the surface to make the turf healthy enough to combat root rot pythium. This disease has become a reoccurring problem over the past couple years.

Results of the Sapling Removal.

Now with the saplings removed to the left side of the green, we are hoping that we can get this green through the winter a little more easily.

If you have any questions about the Pythium or anything regarding the course maintenance please contact me.

Justin Ruiz, CGCS, MG

My Name is...

Curtains are drawn to avoid me. If you spend to much time with me, you turn red. If you look at me, I hurt your eyes.  People gather to see me go away and wake up when I come back.  I can make good iced tea, or dry your clothes for you.  I can make it hard for you to see or light up your whole town.  Who am i?

In the Northwest we seem to be lacking much needed sunlight.  Throughout the winter months cloud cover resides most of the time.  The days become shorter and the sun angle is lower.  Sunlight for turf becomes a finite commodity.

#10 and #5 greens are the most hungry for sun out of any of the other greens.  Morning sun is the most ideal sunlight for healthy turf.  Don't get me wrong, any sunlight is better than nothing.  Shorter days and increased cloud cover make for some difficult micro-climates.

IMAG0099Here is a project that we have just started to help #10 get some more sunlight.  We opened up a slot for about and hour or so of sunlight.


If you have any questions or comments about sunlight and the necessity for healthy turf please feel free to contact me.

Justin Ruiz, CGCS

Fall Aerification Video

I wanted to share this video.  This was our process this fall with the 1/2" I.D. quadtines.  The process was successful and the greens recovered quickly.

If you have any questions please contact me.

Justin Ruiz, CGCS

Frost on the Pumpkin
I worked at a club a few years back in Sun City and the Pro, Tom would call me up in the mornings when it would actually get to freezing and say, "There's a little frost on the pumpkin, huh."  I always think of that saying as the weather begins to get a little colder.

During the times of cold winter weather we will need to delay traffic on the turf until frost is melted. We want to avoid frost damage, because recovery is very slow this time of year. Damage from a cart or a walker can take weeks to recover. The damage will start out purple in color and turn to a straw brown as the leaves begin to dry.
I like to use the analogy of a piece of glass shattering, when I explain frost damage. When the leaf blade of the plant is frozen and becomes crushed by a tire or a shoe it is basically like a piece of glass shattering into many pieces. Microscopically when the leaf blade sustains the damage the cells shatters into pieces. The pieces move through the plant destroying cells in its path. Once the plant begins to thaw the plant fluid leaks out and the leaf blade and will look water soaked and purple. This is the grass basically bleeding out.  The leaf blade is now dead and will turn brown. Rarely does this damage affect the crown of the plant so the plant itself is not dead. The problem is that growth is slowed during cold weather, which makes for a slow and painstaking recovery.

With that being said with my turf nerdy twang, we ask that walkers and cart traffic avoid turf while it is frozen to protect the grass. If there are any questions about frost and how we make the decision to delay golf please contact me.

Justin C. Ruiz, CGCS

Fall Aerification 2011 recap

Fall aerification on the greens is now behind us.  Here is some pictures of the process.

If you have any questions or comments about our process or aerification in general please contact me.

Justin Ruiz, CGCS




We had to install a new magnetic clutch on our Procore.



We used a lot of the extra plugs to fill in any sink holes or low areas on the course.

Our Toro Workman blew a head gasket after the last pass on #12 green. 


6 days after aerification.


9 days after aerification.

Aerification Day

We finished the front nine today.  The greens became a little soft from the amount of material we were removing and being a little soft from the recent rain.

Overall the process went well with one minor set back.  The aerifier blew the clutch causing a two hour delay while we got the aerifier from Hawk's Prairie.  Rick was nice enough to let us borrow his machine to finish today and complete the back nine tomorrow.
The greens will be a little bumpy over the next few weeks.  Please bear with us while we are building the foundation for the future health of our playing surfaces.
If you have any questions or comments please feel free to contact me.
Justin Ruiz, CGCS

Aerification Test Run

Today we started with the small practice greens and the big putter.  The greens were very soft from the rain over the weekend.  Sand and rolling has done good on firming the greens back and smoothing out any heaving.

Tomorrow we will be starting the front nine greens since they seem to be the most dry.  The back nine has more greens located in pockets of trees and shade.

If you have any question feel free to send me an email.

Fall Aerification 2011

This week is aerification week.  Yes, it is that time of year again.  The course will have the nine holes that we are not punching open for play.  On Tuesday the 20th, we will aerify the front nine.  On Wednesday the 21st the back nine will be our focus.  Weather depending we should have all the greens aerified and sanded.

The spring aerification consisted of a slightly different process then what was completed in the past.  We used seven inch long tines, three inches longer than the standard aerification tines.  We were able to get below the thatch layer and increase the ability for deeper roots and healthier turf.  This also resulted in softer conditions during aerification.

The USGA recommends a 20% removal of organic matter each year.  This is a good number for maintenance purposes.  This does not take in account if you already have a little extra thatch.  It is important for us to reduce thatch to increase drainage and avoid turf problems in the future.  If you would like to read in more detail about aerification, click here.


This fall we will be using another process that is unique to this property.  We will use ½” quad tines to remove a little extra organic matter.  These tines will be the usual four inch depth.  The change in depth is to also avoid any plow pan that may occur from continuous aerification at the same depth.  Plow pan is when the roots reach the depth of the aerification tines, but cannot penetrate any deeper.  If we can keep changing it up hopefully we will eventually get roots down deeper.

If there are any questions about aerification or the science behind the process feel free to contact me.

Justin Ruiz, CGCS

Irrigation Break

Last week we had a unique break in an irrigation line.  Above the tunnel to the first hole we had a leak in our landscaped area.  When we turned on the pop up heads with the control valve water came gushing out from under the concrete path.


Christian dug down around the path to hopefully find the break near the path, but had no luck.  The break was obviously underneath the concrete path.  After some words of frustration, we had no choice but to break up the concrete to access the broken line.  In the process we broke an abandon sewer line that was not located on the city maps.  The fix became much more difficult than what was expected.

Once Christian exposed the irrigation line he turned the valve back on to check the location of the crack.  He was suprised to find that the break was not in the pipe that he exposed, but a pipe buried even deeper into the ground.  The pipe was broken from the roots of the surrounding vegetation.


Christian was able to find the pipe and fix the leak.  Shortly, the concrete company that repaired our cartpaths will be out to repair the panel that we had removed to make the repair.  If you have any questions about the irrigation break or the irrigation system in general please contact me.

Justin Ruiz, CGCS

Did you Know Vol. 1

Did you know that the mowing equipment we use to cut greens is adjusted to thousandths of an inch?

Yes, the mowing equipment used on the greens is adjusted with a tool called an accugauge.  This tool measures the distance from the bedknife to the bottom of the rollers in thousandths of an inch.  For example the greens are currently cut at 115/1000".  In the past, to get the greens speeds fast for tournament play, the greens have been cut as low as 90/1000".

When the mechanics set the greens mowers up, they have many variables that apply to their adjustments.  They must maintain a 5 degree angle on the face of the bed knife for the mower to properly stand the leaf blade upright for cutting.  The must obtain the proper clearance between bedknife and reel at .002" to allow for heat expansion under operation.  And finally they must maintain a parallel relationship between the reel and the rollers to ensure an even cut across the width of the mower and to avoid uneven wear of the reel causing a cone shape.
With that being said it is imparitive that the mowers are checked daily for adjustment.  Quality of cut and proper height of cut can be compromised by loading and unloading the mower or even a small particle of sand can cause havoc on the cutting integrity.
Now, with the importance of proper adjustments made daily to the mowing equipment also affects the turf as well.  Turf when mowed with a sharp mower is much more healthy.  The plant has a better opportunity to heal and a better ability to sustain the damage caused by mowing.  As for a dull mower, it will leave the leaf blade shreaded.  The plant uses energy made from essential nutrients to repair the damage.  All grasses prefers the production of leaves over roots.  So in the case of dull mower damage the plant will expend it's energy trying to produce more top growth to ensure the efficient production of energy made from photosynthesis. "Shoots before Roots"

What does that mean?
The plant will then use more resources to make this process happen.  The plant will require more water, more fertilizer and more plant protectants to outgrow any stress that the plant is under.


So, back to the important role of our equipment manager.  The equipment manager is critical in the overall health of the golf course.  In turn the health of the golf course will dictate nutrient and water needs.  We rely on their precise and persistent adjustments made everyday to the mowing equipment.

Probably a little more than you needed to know about mowing equipment, but none the less, it is an integral part of our golf course maintenance.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact me.

Justin C. Ruiz, CGCS

US Open Pictures Courtesy of John Kaminski

...follow up to last photo. Finishing touches on the first hole of the day. #usopen #attentiontodetail

Hole in white applied to the hole. Key is the bucket...touch up paint. #usopen

Just a minute ago on number #15. #usopen awesome shot of fairway mowers.

HDTV makes things look worse than they are. This is perhaps the worst area on any green and there's lots of green in there. Recovery begins tomorrow. #usopen

Blowing, rolling, and raking #5 @ #usopen.

Mr. G walks #7 green after the double cut and roll. (I was replacing the tees for the players positions from last night) #usopen

Big thanks goes to John Kaminski, PhD. for the inside look at the maintenance practices at the 2011 US Open.  Pretty great photos. you can follow him on twitter, @johnkaminski and read his turf diseases blog at

Hydraulic Tree

In preparation for the warmer weather of the summer... do we have summer here? We have re-written the hydraulic tree on our central control computer.  This computer operates the irrigation system in the most efficient way possible, as long as it is programmed properly.

If you would like to read more about the irrigation system you can visit for a four part series called system check.  I wrote this series a while back to help explain the importance of the irrigation system and the procedures that can be taken in the spring to ensure there will be no suprises come summer.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact me.

Justin Ruiz, CGCS

Turfgrass Disease

This last weekend we had some heavy rain.  The spring has stayed cool which has given us some disease pressure. 

This is a picture of Snow Mold, a disease that is common on Poa in cooler wet weather.

If you have any questions or comments about turf disease or the course in general please contact me.

Justin Ruiz, CGCS

Head Edging

Over the last week we have been working on getting the heads edged in preparation of the Member/Member event this weekend.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact me,

Justin Ruiz, CGCS

Topdressing Greens

Topdressing the greens is an important and necessary practice on a golf course. The frequent incorporation of sand ensures that the putting surface remains true and healthy. Sand continually applied to the green also keeps thatch manageable.

If you have any questions about topdressing or any other questions regarding maintenance feel free to contact me.

Justin Ruiz, CGCS

Mowing the Greens

Mowing the greens is an important practice that takes place on a daily basis.  We mow greens regularly to ensure consistent ball roll and to improve density of the turf stand.  We combine this practice with rolling to increase ball roll and in most cases protect plant health.  Rolling and mowing at a higher height can make our jobs easier without compromising plant health.

Broken Sprinkler Head

Today we had a broken sprinkler on #17.  The head was struck by the rough unit mowing around the tees.  It was quite a fountain.

The irrigation system on the golf course is a little different than the irrigation in a homeowners lawn.  We have pressurized lines to each individual head.  So when a head breaks, it shoots water out like a fountain.  At your house you have a valve manifold that holds the water back until it is opened.  Then once opened it runs multiple heads.  Unfortunately you may not catch a break until it washes something out or create standing water over night.

A prudent practice would be to head out in your yard over the next month and turn on you irrigation system.  It has been quite a while since we have needed to water and as the weather improves and watering becomes necessary, you might catch something before the turf struggles and your flower bed washes into your lawn.

If you have any questions please contact me.

Justin Ruiz, CGCS

Sliding Gates

As everyone knows we have been having trouble with the sliding gates between #5 and #6.  To get ready for the season we are going to get the gates operational both ways for better access for people going in the opposite direction.

Tee Aerification Uncut

Fairway Aerification

Aerification cont.

We are starting fairways and tees this week.  Fairways are getting punched with 1" tines and tees at 5/8" tines.  We will fill the holes with sand.

Questions?  Contact me.


We were able to finish the front nine today even though the weather did not cooperate much this morning.  We have some clean up that still will need to take place in the morning, but the crew did a great job getting as much as we could done while dealing with the weather woes.
We will be Aerifying the back nine tomorrow.  The back nine will be closed for play in the morning and the front nine may open a little later than usual to allow for some last minute clean up.
Thank you for your understanding as we try to get the course back in shape as quickly as possible.

Cart Path Repair

The cart paths that were affected by the tree roots are now getting replaced.  The old concrete is getting removed and the tree roots that are doing the damage are being removed.  In some cases the path is being altered to make more room for the larger trees.

Phosphorus Ban Passes

Heather Hansen, our golf course lobbyist in Olympia, has filed the following report:
HB 1489 – “Restrictions on fertilizer containing phosphorus” has passed the legislature.  The only step left if for the Governor to sign it.

As passed, it will ban the use of fertilizer that contains phosphorus from sale or use on turf.  It will not affect fertilizer labeled for other purposes.  Exemptions are provided for newly established turf, repair of damaged turf and turf with a soil test that shows it needs phosphorus.  The act will be administered by the WA Department of Agriculture, however, they will have no authority to issue penalties.
Bagged fertilizer labeled for use on turf, must be phosphorus free.  Bulk fertilizer or fertilizer labeled for use on trees, shrubs, gardens, vegetables, etc. will not be affected.  Sod farms and all production agriculture is exempt.

In order to buy or sell bagged fertilizer labeled for use on turf that contains phosphorus, the bag or tag will have to include directions for use on newly established turf from seed or sod or for repairing turf via over seeding or patching, etc.

It will be legal to sell fertilizer with phosphorus to those with a soil sample showing they need it.  It remains to be seen if it will be readily available in most stores.
There is no exemption for organic fertilizer.  The intent section was removed.

The act takes effect January 1, 2013.

Remember that only underlined language and Section 2 are new, the rest is existing language.

This article was from the WWGCSA website

Growing Degree Day Usage Explained

Ok, I will explain the process from the beginning. You can skip ahead if you already know the basics.

First off a degree day is a unit you can calculate using a base temperature and a maximum threshold temperature. Some insects or weeds (poa) can have different min and max temps for calculation.

Example would be Masked Chafers have a lower max temp than billbugs. This temperature is important only when the high for the day is greater than the threshold.
These parameters are the limits of that insect or plant’s active development. That is what we are trying to measure so we can anticipate optimum stages to control with either cultural or chemical practices.
Once you have the starting date to begin GDD measurement of the specific insect or plant which is usually March 1st, but can also be January 1st, then you are ready to get started.
The basic way to measure degree days can be calculated as follows:
Take the daily low and the daily high and add them together. Then divide them by 2 to get the average for the day. Take the average and subtract your base temperature. If the number calculated is positive then you have accumulated degree day units. If the number is negative then zero is accumulated. You take this measurement daily starting at your scheduled date March 1 or Jan 1. Each days accumulation is added together to get the overall collected GDD’s.
The number from this calculation is a decent way to figure out your degree days but it is not as accurate as the sine wave method.  The sign wave method takes in account the time during the day that the temperature is within the optimum development temperature. This calculation is done with a complicated formula programmed into a computer.  The website that I have used, with this option accesses a weather station very close if not on your property.
You can make use of the maps and zoom into your property and find a nearby weather station. An ideal situation would be on your property but over a few years of data collection you can get really accurate keeping track of when insects emerge or locating them at the ideal stage of development for control.
I used the internet to look up the insects that we deal with annually. I looked for growing degree day models for each insect and found a lot of info that was useful.
For billbugs we use growing degree days to anticipate spring emergence for contact control and egg hatch for larvae control. We also match this data with pitfall traps and adult count to see if we are on track. Usually you can get pretty close at recognizing a peak in capture numbers and degree day accumulation. That is when we use a contact product to reduce the population heading to mate and lay eggs. I am hoping we can get to a point where this is all that is required and we can accept minor damage from the survivors. We continue to accumulate GDD’s to anticipate the most vulnerable stage at which we can get control with a systemic. I also forecast this number to allow time for the chemical to enter the plant and move through the plant using phloem and xylem, if that is how the chemical works in the plant.
Cutworms are a little different. We use light traps to observe peak flight. Once we have collected a peak in capture numbers then we begin our degree day count to anticipate the proper instar stage to get the greatest efficacy from our chemicals or my goal is to begin using nematodes. Once you get the hang of anticipating these insects with great accuracy then we can think about using biological control that may only be in the soil for days or weeks rather than getting a synthetic chemical with long residual.
Above, I mentioned trapping. I use pitfall traps for billbugs and a light trap for Masked Chafers and Cutworms.

Pitfall traps are placed a couple paces from the native areas, parallel to the maintained turf edge, and located in severely damaged areas in the previous years or a south facing slope because it will warm up the quickest in the spring. I also slightly angle the pipe downhill so there is a slight elevation change to drain water and make it an easy trip for the billbugs to follow to the collection can. I use an eight foot section of 2” pvc with a slit cut down the middle about a ¾ of an inch wide. The action threshold is a judgment made by you. If you collect 5 or 50 it is up to you to determine what is too many. I have also collected cutworms in these traps. We were surprised to find them.
We have also set up a light trap. I had a horrible time last year trying to keep it running through the summer with the battery dying at night. This year I have a better plan and will have more consistent results. I ordered this trap from You have your choice between a 12volt or 110volt ballast. I was told that if you can locate it in the middle of your course and in a fairly open area so they don’t have to go through a lot of tree cover to get there. For this reason I went with a 12volt system but I am now thinking about finding a fairly central clock and using the 110volt plug at the bottom for more consistent use.

The trap works well at collecting a ton of insects so I placed a pest strip at the bottom to kill the insects once trapped so they don’t beat themselves up beyond recognition. I use the wings to look for obvious cutworm characteristics. The few days I could get a full night of operation, the trap worked very well. I had to ultimately result to old school curative applications. My goal is to get to where I can apply a contact surrounding the greens and never see them on the green. As we know cutworms lay there eggs on the leaves of the plant. We mow greens daily making it very difficult for survival on the greens surface but the surrounds are a different story and if you spread your green clippings you are also spreading the eggs. Once they hatch they make there way to the green. I have noticed as well that they also favor areas with nearby lighting.

As for Masked Chafer’s the same rule applies. Once peak flight is observed degree day count is collected and then chemical control can be predicted. Again, common sense is used to understand that south facing slopes are usually the worst. Mapping is also very helpful, if you are getting some damage in areas you did not spray. They have some prediction models that you can use to anticipate peak flight but if you have the light trap it seems more accurate and then you can make your own model specific to your course.
The moral of the story is degree day models are just that, a model. They are mostly accurate because growing degree days are calculated according to climate. So, across the country a billbug in Ohio and one here in Arizona may develop at different calendar dates but same degree day counts. It gets you away from the adopted method of following a date, set 30 years ago by some guy spraying mercury based chemistry, to spray April 1st every year. What if you warm up early or get a cold snap. You could potential miss the entire control window or just get horrible results.
If you have any question, please feel free to contact me,

Justin Ruiz, CGCS

Bunker Work

We have been working on the bunkers over the past couple weeks.  Removing weeds and cleaning the edges of the bunkers has been are most recent project.  The guys went from bunker to bunker digging out the rhizomes and stolons that creep into the sand. 

This project is preparing the bunkers for more sand to top off any bunkers that may be thin.  This will probably be the last year we add sand to most of the bunkers.  We have enough sand in the bunkers now, but if they start to run low then we will add more sand as needed.  We will not add sand on all the bunkers.
If you have any questions or comments about the course or the bunkers feel free to contact me.

Justin Ruiz, CGCS

Aligning The Tees

I wanted to give everyone a quick explanation of the paint markings on some of the tees out on the course.  Dan has been marking out tees to be either mowed out or left to grow in.  Over time we start to lose the integrity of the tee design only because it is pretty difficult to mow exactly the same each time the tee is mowed.  The tees can shrink in some cases or expand in other. 

This exercise is just to bring the tees back to the original design and in most cases give us a little more teeing area to help spread the wear during heavy traffic months.

If you have any questions or comments feel free to contact me.

Justin Ruiz, CGCS

Water in Washington??

Photo courtesy of

There is nothing like having kids.  It is by far the most rewarding thing that you could possibly do in life.  As they get older and start to become more aware of their surroundings, they can think of some pretty unique things.  My wife was driving in the car and my daughter asked her why Washington was named Washington.  You know kids, always question everything.  Before my wife could explain to her a reason for the name, my daughter had already came up with her reasoning.  She said, "is it because everything is always getting washed by the rain?" 

I am enamored at the fact that even though Olympia may get quite a bit of rain, irrigation is still an important task for us as turf managers.  Spending the last ten years in Arizona water was a fighting word.  Conservation was required, not just an option.  The experience that I have gained from this style of water management has played well into my forte of asking why things are setup in a certain fashion.
Computer controlled irrigation is an important tool for us.  When the computer is programmed  properly is takes, pipe size, equipment specs, pump station flow, weather calculations, etc. and uses all this information to manage the irrigation system to operate over 1000 sprinkler heads on the course efficiently.  Without programmed computer management you run the risk of too many heads running at the same time resulting in less than desirable distribution.  Without good distribution, playability suffers and water is wasted. 
With that being said, our central control computer did not have a hydraulic tree programmed into the computer.  The absence of a hydraulic tree removes the computer’s ability to properly manage nightly watering.  The computer is only as good as the information that we give it.
Photo courtesy of
To make a long story short Christian, our irrigation technician, is starting the tedious task of creating a hydraulic tree that will give the computer the correct information to manage all the sprinklers properly.  If you would like to read a little more in depth article on the central control computer, click here.  If you have any question about the irrigation system or would like to see what we are working with please feel free to contact me.
Justin Ruiz, CGCS

Full Speed Ahead!


The weather has not given us much remorse this past week.  Rain has been a loyal companion as we forge ahead into the start of the season.  The Men's opening dinner went well with great comments and a warm welcoming.  I mentioned a couple things that we would be working on over the next couple weeks to prepare the course for spring.

Trimming the underbrush and limbing up some low hanging branches is an ongoing process.  These areas that we can clean up help us in a few different ways.  The obvious is being able to better find and play your ball.  The not so obvious that we benefit from is allowing sprinklers to operate without obstruction, mowers to be able to travel without interuption and better air movement and sunlight to increase the health of the turf.  We like projects that increase playabilty and help us out at the same time.

Bunkers work has also become a priority coming into the season.  We have some bunker sand stock piled out near #5.  We use this sand to top off bunkers with subsoil showing, or sand that is too shallow.  The bunkers that have sand added to them will be a little more fluffy than the others until the sand settles.

Along with these small projects, we are keeping a constant eye on the greens to make sure nothing out of the ordinary pops up.  Dan found some Pink Snow Mold (Microdochium Patch) on #8 green.  As I stated on the turf page of our members website, I look at problems and try to understand them fully to hopefully be able to come up with a sound solution.  Since we sprayed a fungicide 21 days ago and it should have lasted 28 days, I asked the question, "Why?"


When we spray greens we split the course into two tanks, since one tank is not enough volume to cover all the greens.  8 green just happens to be the last green on a tank.  My inner turf nerd tells me that we need to investigate how our spray rig works toward the end of a tank.  Did we get good coverage?


If you have any questions about turf disease, bunkers or thinning and trimming, please feel free to send me a message or contact my office.

Justin Ruiz, CGCS

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