Josh Knapp has made it no secret since becoming the superintendent at Aspen Lakes that he wants to improve every facet of the golf course’s conditioning. In fact, Knapp and his staff have been aggressive in his first full season in whipping Aspen Lakes into pristine shape.
That work appears to be paying off. Not even soaring recent heat, which appears finally ready to relent this weekend, can seem to slow the progress down.
The difference can be seen in the bentgrass greens, which are rolling truer than they have in years. Like most every golf course in the Pacific Northwest (who can forget the reaction to Chambers Bay?), Aspen Lakes has to fight the intrusion of Poa annua on its bentgrass greens.
Knapp instituted a new growth-regulating spray program this spring, lowered the greens PH levels to appeal more to bentgrass, and used lower mowing heights to help even out the bentgrass and poa.
“A lot of people have been shocked by how true the greens are rolling now,” Knapp says. “Some people have been saying that they have noticed a lot more break in the greens. They said the bumpiness isn’t there and we’ve had a couple golfers say that the poa hasn’t been an issue.”
Such praise is music to any superintendent’s ears. But that goes doubly so for a new superintendent who has made some changes.
“It seems to be working,” Knapp says of his new programs. “It’s nice to know that the golfers appreciate it. That’s who we are trying to impress. We want to make sure they come back.”
Heat not a problem
The heat in June was record-setting in many locales in the Northwest, but the turf at Aspen Lakes has weathered the high temperatures well.
This is no accident. In spring, Knapp instituted a program of deep and infrequent watering. That meant irrigating the greens as little as once a week, the rough twice a week and the fairways three times a week.
“That helped our roots get pretty deep,” Knapp says, adding that roots are now a more drought-tolerant 3-4 inches deep. “It kind of teaches your roots to start reaching for water instead of hanging out on the surface. … The surface might be dry, but a couple inches down it might still be a little wet.”
Even during the run of hot weather, greens were still being watered just three times a week.
Yet, very little turf dried out, the course’s playability has not been diminished, and the
aesthetics remain what you would expect at one of the most beautiful golf courses in Central Oregon.
“Overall I think we are holding up pretty well,” Knapp says.
Still room to get better
Like any superintendent who sets a high bar, Knapp still believes work remains to get Aspen Lakes in truly optimal condition.
The staff does not have any significant projects this summer. But Knapp wants to continue to fine-tune the irrigation of the golf course.
“My goal is to have the fairways release and get a little more roll with your drive,” he says. “I want the greens to be a little more receptive. For public play, that’s what you want. That has kind of been our goal from the start of the season.”
Not that Knapp is complaining. He has heard almost universally positive feedback so far this year. And that is a source of pride for him and his whole crew.
“Overall, everybody is pretty happy with it,” Knapp says. “The playability is still really good.”
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