Conditions report: Aspen Lakes expected to be in peak golf shape at least through September

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Greens at Aspen Lakes won’t be aerified until Oct. 17,
leaving smooth surfaces for weeks to come

With less than two weeks before summer officially ends, the march to fall is upon us here in Central Oregon. But you might not notice it by gazing at Aspen Lakes Golf Course.

At Aspen Lakes, the turf is emerald green and the firm and fast conditions are optimal for golf. And the best news is that the course will be that way for the foreseeable future.

“It is in pretty great condition,” said Josh Knapp, the superintendent for Aspen Lakes Golf Course. “We are at the point that we can safely say that we will make it through the season really well. We are in the last month of play and I expect us to be in peak condition through September and beyond.”

The conditions are so good that the Aspen Lakes maintenance crew has decided to hold off on aerating the greens until Oct. 17, allowing the bulk of the season play out with smooth putting surfaces.

“Right now we are not going to think of putting anything to bed,” Knapp said. “After the Pacific Amateur Golf Classic next week we will start thinking about winterizing more. But until then, overall, we will be in really good condition.”

That is not to say that the seasonably mild weather has not changed the maintenance practices.  Chief among those changes is that the staff has cut back water usage by a significant amount. In fact, Thursday marked the first course watering in nine days.

That made a noticeable impact on the playability of the golf course.

“It really firmed up the golf course and gave it those firm and fast conditions that every golfer seems to want,” Knapp said. “It made the course more playable.”

Of course, firm and fast applies to the greens, too. In fact, at one point last week the greens were so quick that they were nearly rolling at a speedy 13 on the Stimpmeter. Since, the greens have been throttled down a touch, Knapp said.

The pace of the greens are a sign of health and an inevitable result of the maintenance staff’s ongoing program to improve turf condition, especially on the putting surfaces. That program include tighter mowing, rolling the greens every day during the summer months, and the regular use of a drag brush.

“The greens certainly create a lasting impression,” Knapp said. “Really, we have been getting a lot of compliments.”

The uninformed may think the golf season ends after Labor Day, but the savviest among us know that September really is the best month of the year to play Aspen Lakes. And we have the peak conditioning to prove it.

Don’t let the finale of the golf season pass by without a trip to Aspen Lakes. To book a tee time, call 541-549-GOLF or book online at www.aspenlakes.com.

 

Conditions update: Peak conditioning at Aspen Lakes comes well ahead of summer

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Summer maintenance program begins as Aspen Lakes
enjoys near-pristine shape

Working a golf course into pristine shape is always a delicate dance each spring. Central Oregon’s winters can be harsh. The spring weather can be unpredictable.

So the Aspen Lakes Golf Course maintenance staff never wants to push the turf too far, too fast, which might make fragile greens susceptible to damage. On the other hand, Aspen Lakes always wants to offer the very best possible conditions.

Aspen Lakes’ staff performs this dance right up until those peak conditions are reached.

With this in mind, do not be surprised if you notice a look of satisfaction on the face of a member of the maintenance staff.

“The greens are right there where we want them for the year,” said Josh Knapp, Aspen Lakes’ superintendent. “The greens are smooth. They are quick. They are in excellent condition.”

Just a week into June and Aspen Lakes is on the cusp of peak condition, which means firm, fast greens in an emerald green setting.

“As hard as we pushed the conditions ahead of the Central Oregon Shootout, I am not surprised that we are in this kind of shape,” Knapp said. “But the course is in peak shape a little earlier than normal.”

More than that, though, the shape of the turf now allows the staff to adjust the conditions as needed. For instance, when Aspen Lakes hosted the annual Golfing for the Guard Tournament recently, Knapp and his crew dialed down the green to about 10.5 on the Stimpmeter for the laid-back scramble. For a best ball the following day, Knapp and his staff were able to quicken the pace to better than 11.

On most days, golfers should expect Aspen Lakes’ putting surfaces to roll at around 11, or even quicker, on the Stimpmeter.

Of course, a superintendent’s job is never done. To prepare for the warm summer weather, Knapp and his staff have already stepped up their watering program.

In the spring, it is typical to water the greens just once in a given week. But as the temperatures rise, so does the need for water, upping to watering twice per week.

Most importantly, Knapp and the crew must slow the growth of the bentgrass greens to protect the root structure.

“You don’t want to push bentgrass to grow in the summer,” Knapp said. “Too much growth can mean root damage.”

Otherwise, the staff is beginning to settle into its summer maintenance program. For them, that means concentrating on the beauty and playability of the golf course.

That includes things like precisely edging the bunkers, and focusing on the mowing heights of the fairways, approach areas and greens.

“So far our golfers have really loved the golf course,” Knapp said. “It has been fun for me to watch the whole crew take pride in the results so far this year.”

Come enjoy summer conditions while Aspen Lakes is still offering spring rates. Through June 9, 18-hole rates are as low as $33. Aspen Lakes’ peak-season rates are as low as $43.

To book a tee time, call 541-549-GOLF or book online at www.aspenlakes.com.

Conditions update: Aspen Lakes rounding into peak shape well ahead of summer

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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.

To book a tee time, call 541-549-GOLF or book online at www.aspenlakes.com.

Warm weather helping Aspen Lakes’ greens heal quickly

The conditions at Aspen Lakes are surprisingly  fantastic for this time of year.
The conditions at Aspen Lakes are surprisingly fantastic for this time of year.

The unseasonably mild weather in Central Oregon now may be beneficial for the golf course next spring

Josh Knapp remembers distinctly what the weather was like last October when Aspen Lakes hosted the annual meeting of the Oregon Golf Course Owners Association. The high was in the low 40s and the golf course was swamped with fog, a cold but not altogether surprising fall day.

Fast forward a year to Wednesday, Oct. 14, and the story was far different when Aspen Lakes hosted the Owners Association meeting. The temperature topped out in the high 70s and not a single cloud was in the sky.

The aerified greens, seen here on Tuesday, Oct. 13, have healed quickly.
The aerified greens, seen here on Tuesday, Oct. 13, have healed quickly in large part because of the unseasonably warm weather.

Such a day has been the norm this fall. Temperatures have consistently hovered above the average for this time of year, and hardly a drop of rain has fallen.

The conditions have been so summer-like that the greens that were recently aerified are already returning to top-notch condition well ahead of schedule.

“Those holes that we have, they are pretty much healed up,” Knapp says. “They have healed pretty quick. And the warm weather has a lot to do with it.”

That is great news for any golfer who wants to extend the golf season.

Great weather, great conditions

Perhaps the most shocking byproduct of the warm weather: Aspen Lakes has experienced just two frost delays so far this fall. That is just a fraction of what would be considered ordinary during the fall.

Naturally, a stretch of warm weather like this is bound to have a positive effect on the golf course.

“These are the best course conditions I’ve seen,” Knapp says. “I would say the conditions right now are just as good as they were in the summer time, which for this late in October in Central Oregon is pretty rare.”

Typically this time of year the turf is beginning to brown from dormancy. The ground has usually already hardened from icy overnight temperatures. And the irrigation system has already been shut down.

Instead, this year the turf is still almost uniformly green, even if Knapp and his staff are only irrigating sporadically. (Morning dew has acted like a natural irrigator, Knapp says.)

The key is that the bentgrass turf actually thrives in mild conditions like Central Oregon has been experiencing.

“It’s loving this warmer weather,” Knapp says of the bentgrass. “Yet it is still cool enough to where it doesn’t need a lot of water to keep it green.”

Even a little rain, which is forecasted for Saturday, should not slow the grass down as long as the highs are still moderate and lows still above freezing.

“With bentgrass, it will keep growing a little bit as long as we don’t get one of those really hard frosts for consecutive days,” Knapp says. “If you get those four or five days of hard frost (where temperatures drop into the mid-20s), you’ll see bentgrass start to change color and get a little shaggier as it tries to harden up for winter.”

Good news for next year

All this sets the stage for a great spring in 2016. The warmer weather has allowed the bentgrass to strengthen its roots ahead of winter.

Knapp took a core sample earlier this week and discovered that the roots are some 4.5 to 5 inches deep, significantly longer than expected. Stronger roots will help the grass handle the cold temperatures that are inevitable this winter.

In addition, Knapp and his crew will likely be able to apply fungicide later, which will help extend its usefulness into February instead of the more typical January. That should ease disease pressure in February and March, Knapp adds.

“Right now in this warm weather it is really good to try to get the grass to push more roots before it shuts itself off,” Knapp explains. “It is going to help us harden up for winter a lot better. And it is actually going to push the disease period back.”

“I feel like our turf will just take off in spring like it was summer time again.

Of course, in Central Oregon all this can change with one dose of winter.

Until that happens, though, Knapp will try to make the best use of the weather to get Aspen Lakes in the top condition possible for the rest of this season and into next spring.

“There is no real playbook on it,” Knapp says. “It can switch on you in a matter of a couple of days.”

Take advantage of the conditions before winter comes with the best rates of the year. To book a tee time, call 541-549-GOLF or book online at www.aspenlakes.com.

Offering a helping hand a way to play less expensive golf

Aspen Lakes is in rare condition so late in the season.
Aspen Lakes, seen here on Monday, Oct. 5, is in rare condition so late in the season.

Aspen Lakes to tee off its annual canned food drive; offer its lowest rates of the season

Hard to believe, especially with all the sun-drenched 70- and 80-degree days this October, but the holiday season is just a chip shot away.

For most of us that will mean a special time spent with our closest family and friends. However some in the Sisters community could use a little help. It is with this in mind that Aspen Lakes will once again offer its canned food drive and special fall rate.

Beginning on Tuesday, Oct. 13, golfers who donate three canned items can play 18 holes at Aspen Lakes for just $30 and nine holes for just $20 (additional fees apply for cart rental or GolfBoard). Aspen Lakes will then donate the food it collects to a Central Oregon charity.

It is just one way Aspen Lakes tries to enlist golfers to offer a helping hand to those families most in need.

A particularly great deal

The special rate could not come at a better time. The fall weather this year has been spectacular so far … some of the best in recent memory.

In addition, play tends to slow in October, meaning a round can typically be played much more quickly than during the busiest summer days.

“The course is in really great condition and typically have really nice weather,” says Rob Malone, Aspen Lakes director of golf.  “It’s cool in the morning but nice in the afternoons, and it is pretty much the prettiest time of the year to play.”

The course was aerified this week but it has gone smoothly. And with a new process implemented by superintendent Josh Knapp using smaller tines, the greens are far more playable than in past years. In addition, the dry, warm weather should help foster a relatively quick healing process.

“I was out rolling putts right after Josh completed the front nine (on Wednesday, Oct. 7), and though they were a little slower than normal, they were rolling true and not bouncing all over the place,” Malone says. “It’s still high-quality golf for a very inexpensive price.”

Lower rates in general

Even if a golfer forgets his or her canned food, Aspen Lakes reduced its regular rates, too.

Green fees  dropped earlier this week to $45 per round, which is a $30 discount off of Aspen Lakes’ prime summer rates. Nine holes can be played for $25. (Prices do not include cart or GolfBoard rentals.)

“As some of the other golf courses in the area close, we provide a very affordable option for players,” Malone says. “And with the good weather we have had in the fall, it is easy to take advantage of.”

To book a tee time, call 541-549-GOLF or book online at www.aspenlakes.com.

Time to aerify at Aspen Lakes; rates to drop for the remainder of the golf season

Aspen Lakes will aerify its greens on Oct. 7 and 8, which should set them up to be in pristine condition come spring.
Aspen Lakes will aerify its greens on Oct. 7 and 8, which should set them up to be in pristine condition come spring.

Aerification a necessary step to keep Aspen Lakes in terrific condition while new method should keep greens rolling

A well-planned fall can make all the difference come next golf season. It is for this reason that Aspen Lakes Golf Course will aerify its greens.

Using a new method that takes less of a toll on the putting surfaces, the Aspen Lakes maintenance staff will first aerify the front nine on Wednesday, Oct. 7. Then on Thursday, Oct. 8, the front nine will reopen and the back nine will be aerified. All 18 holes will reopen on Friday, Oct. 9.

The temporary inconvenience during fall comes for a good reason.

“We have noticed that if we aerate like we are right now, our greens come out in spring better and they heal up quicker from winter damage,” says Josh Knapp, Aspen Lakes’ superintendent.

“Everything we do in fall dictates how it’s going to look in the spring,” he adds. “If we don’t do these things now than in the spring the course is going to have a really tough time and have really poor playing conditions.”

A new aerification process

One of Knapp’s first acts as Aspen Lakes’ superintendent last fall was to change the way the golf course aerified its greens. The idea was to leave a less significant footprint on the putting surfaces in the days that followed aerification, a process that is a necessity at every golf course to maintain healthy turf.

The first year was a success.

“It’s about a 180-degree difference from what we were doing before,” Knapp says. “It’s just less invasive.”

The new method will first be seen on Friday when the maintenance staff fertilizes the golf course, which comes later in the season than what was considered typical.

“That will help with a real quick growth spurt,” Knapp says. “That way while we’re punching we’re still growing and we’ll heal  quicker. Plus it will help winterize the greens better and help them come out in spring in good shape.”

In addition, Knapp’s new aerification process punches smaller holes, making them less noticeable when the greens do reopen. Plus, the staff now uses a brush trailer, which allows the maintenance crew to use less sand to top dress the greens and apply it more evenly than a more conventional metal drag.

Finally, the staff will roll the greens and irrigate well to get the sand into the punched holes.

“Our aerification process is about as noninvasive as you can get,” Knapp says.

That bodes well for golfers who still want to squeeze more golf in before winter comes.

Knapp says he expects the greens to be nearly fully healed within about two weeks. And the smaller holes should keep the putting surfaces in fair condition in the meantime. In addition, a warm forecast should help speed the healing process as well as tantalize golfers.

“Aeration doesn’t mean poor course conditions,” said Rob Malone, Aspen Lakes’director of golf. “It just means that for a short period of time you’ll have a little bit more bumpy putt, but still very playable.”

That was certainly the case last year when Knapp first put the new process in place.

“We had compliments last year,” Knapp recalled. “The next day after we did the front nine, golfers said for recently aerified greens it still played pretty well.”

Lower rates are coming

Of course, with aerification comes new rates.

Beginning Oct. 7, green fees will drop to $45 per round, which is a $30 discount off of Aspen Lakes’ prime summer rates. Nine holes can be played for $25. (Prices do not include cart or GolfBoard rentals.)

To book a tee time, call 541-549-GOLF or book online at www.aspenlakes.com.