Conditions: With aerification nearing Black Butte Ranch has its eyes on readying the golf course for winter
The best laid maintenance plans can pay big dividends come spring, which is exactly why Black Butte Ranch superintendent Phil Lagao and his staff will work so diligently this month.
Beginning on Monday, Oct. 12, Black Butte Ranch will begin its two-week-long aerification process by closing down Big Meadow. The maintenance staff will then spend a week aerating everything on the golf course, including greens, tee boxes, fairways and rough.
Then on Oct. 19, Big Meadow will reopen (at least through October, weather permitting) and Glaze Meadow will shut down for the season so it can be aerified.
The job is labor-intensive for the maintenance staff, but crucial in managing the thatch in the turf profile, Lagao says.
“It’s not a process you can skip for the long-term health of the golf course, especially the greens,” Lagao says. “You have to get them opened up and get air in there. You have to get sand in there to keep them firm and smooth and playable. It’s just something you HAVE to do.”
Black Butte Ranch actually holds off on aerating later in the season than many Central Oregon golf courses. Some aerate in spring, others in September, in an effort to have plenty of growing time before snow hits.
But Lagao sees advantages to holding off until October. For one, the manpower for the maintenance staff is stronger in fall.
Another is that by holding off until October, it keeps Black Butte Ranch’s two golf courses in prime condition longer, effectively extending the golf season.
“We try to stretch our season as much as possible,” Lagao said. “There are a lot of different theories about aerification. A lot of guys want to get their greens healed in before the snow flies. But we’ve seen no adverse effects from our timing. If anything, it probably helps us drain a little bit better in the spring.”
This year will mark the first time that Black Butte Ranch has aerated Glaze Meadow during the fall since its $3.75 million renovation was completed in 2012.
Lagao switched the Glaze Meadow schedule this year, in part, because he thought that spring aerification was pressing into prime golf season a bit too much. And he sees other benefits, too.
“I think this is going to give us a WAY better start to the spring not having to worry about aerification,” Lagao says. “We can get the greens going and I think it will help our green speeds in the spring, especially at Glaze Meadow, because we won’t have a bunch of sand on our greens in May.”
Lagao says that another benefit to October is that the fall weather in Central Oregon tends to be a bit more predictable than in spring.
Fall tends to be a bit drier, and if it stays dry during the aerification process it should be good news for golfers when Big Meadow reopens.
“If it’s dry while we’re doing it, it cleans up a lot better,” Lagao says. “If it’s rainy or wet then there is a slight more mess and it’s a bit more noticeable.
“We’ll still mow them and we will try to make them as smooth as possible, but they are still aerified greens,” Lagao adds. “We will make them as playable as possible.”
Lagao’s fall work will not be limited to aerification, of course. Over the course of the next month Lagao expects one last fertilization, to go through a process of tree removal where necessary, and to clean up the courses to prepare the turf for snow mold applications. The staff will also have to clear the irrigation systems of water on both golf courses.
And there is always work that pops up along the way.
“Anytime the wind blows right now we have tons of pine needles and pine cones coming down,” Lagao says with a laugh.
“The end of the season is really packed full of stuff that sets us up well for the following spring,” Lagao says. ‘We’re trying to get everything done so we can have the best spring possible.”
All if it should set up Big Meadow and Glaze Meadow for another spectacular golf season … next year.
Don’t miss the a chance to squeeze in a few more rounds before the end of the golf season. Book a tee time online, or call 855-210-5305 or the Golf Shop at 541-595-1545.