Aspen Lakes in full bloom early; maintenance staff continues to make progress on new conditioning program
The maintenance staff at Aspen Lakes always gets a surge of energy when a member of the crew hears praise from a golfer about the condition of the golf course.
For this small group, it is affirmation that the hard work they have been putting in is paying off. And it seems they have had plenty of affirmation lately.
“Especially this year, we are really starting to see the benefits of all the work we have put in,” said Josh Knapp, who took over as superintendent of Aspen Lakes in 2014. “The six guys on the staff last year worked their tail off. It is fun to see now that we are reaping those rewards.
“When golfers compliment them, it really fuels them.”
The conditioning of Aspen Lakes continually improves. And with the peak of the golf season just weeks away, it appears that the golf course is in the best shape in years.
The first real test came more than two weeks ago during the Central Oregon Shootout.
The greens were rolling quick. The fairways were smooth and well-manicured. And it was indeed noticed by the field of more than 350 golfers.
“The golfers at the Central Oregon Shootout seemed pretty impressed by it,” Knapp said. “I don’t think they’ve ever seen Aspen Lakes in summer-like condition so early in the season before.”
What has spurred all the raves?
Well, like Rome, Aspen Lakes’ course conditioning was not built in a day. Instead, Knapp has made incremental changes aimed at improving the health of the soil under the turf.
The greens have been consistently worked. The nutrients that feed the turfgrass in the fairways have slowly been replenished.
The pH level of the soil, which was at 7.8 when Knapp too over two years ago, has improved to 6.8 today.
The less acidic pH is important on several levels. For one, the lower pH fosters a stronger growing environment for bentgrass, while being less conducive for poa annua. One can see this on the more uniformly shaded greens. In addition, the lower pH strengthens the root systems of the plant.
“We just try to manage the soil instead of the plant,” Knapp said. “Healthy soil generally means a healthy plant, and I think golfers are seeing that at Aspen Lakes.”
In practice the healthier turf means greens are more enjoyable to putt, and fairways are less spongy. Well-struck shots are more likely to roll out, better rewarding strong play.
Today the greens are rolling at between 10.5 and 11 on the Stimpmeter, a touch slower than the 11-to-12 range Knapp expects during the summer.
In other words, the firm and fast conditions golfers crave are already here at Aspen Lakes. And with summer weather ahead, that should only get better.
“I think golfers are really enjoying where we are at right now,” Knapp said. “Right now the course is a test for better players but not so fast that regular amateur players are punished. I think that’s what golfers want.”
Come enjoy summer conditions while Aspen Lakes is still offering spring rates. Through June 9, 18-hole rates are as low as $33.