A Short Look Back and a Long Look Forward

The 2014 Golf Season was defined by the epic level of turf injury that occurred from the severe winter weather of the "Polar Vortex". Widespread turf loss was reported throughout the Northeast and Canada. Unfortunately, six greens at each of Stowe's courses experienced some type of turf loss. The areas that experienced the most damage were greens seven and thirteen at Stowe Mountain Club (SMC) and twelve and thirteen at Stowe Country Club (SCC). Fairway damage was also significant at each course. While many golf courses suffered for months with visible damage it was hard to find any damage on either of Stowe's courses by late June. The hard work and diligence of both crews  is commendable.

Late Fall of 2014 was a productive time at SCC with focus on drainage, infrastructure repair, and tree management. Most projects on the to-do list were completed with exception being the repair to the green-side bunker on the ninth hole. Completed was the repair to the bunker on one green and the fairway bunker on eighteen. Good sand and new drainage were installed, and the bunkers will play and look better in any type of weather. The re-contouring of the bunker on eighteen provides an important architectural feature-the hazard is now visible from the tee.

Re-contouring SCC 18 Fairway Bunker
Last season a tremendous amount of work went into improving the drainage at both courses. "Slit drainage" was installed in multiple areas. Slit drainage utilizes a unique two inch pipe that is back filled with straight sand. This design has proven its success on our clay based soils. The fairway drainage on nine and eighteen will now allow for firmer playing conditions especially during extended wet periods.
Installing Drainage SMC 14 Fairway
The unique location of the SMC course provides a challenge for turf survival due to the length and intensity of the winter weather. We are continually developing new methods and practices to prevent winter kill. Keeping the playing surfaces free of standing water is paramount to good in-season playing conditions and winter survival. At the SMC course, fairway drainage work was initiated on eleven, fourteen, and fifteen. Many of the new drainage lines were left open for the winter to assist in water movement during the spring thaw. These areas will be recovered before opening day. 

This winter we have been busy with the continued implementation of the SCC tree management program. For more information and to review this program, read the blog posted on 5/11/14. As it was last year, the focus this winter is on damaged trees that pose a safety hazard and trees that are overgrown and impacting play and the aesthetic of the course.

Golf is a game of options. Many of the trees found next to teeing grounds force the player to play only one type of shot. Opening up the tee shot to multiple options is a sign of a well designed golf course. For example, two white pines were recently removed from the ninth tee. These two white pines forced play to the left from the white and blue tee box. From the back tee, the tee shot was exceptionally narrow due to the overgrown canopy. Players now have the option to draw or fade the ball into the landing area. The next trees to be removed will be the white pines behind the sixteenth green. These four trees have been damaged by the violent storms that have rolled through the area in the past decade. The interior of the trees have signs of rot and are deemed hazardous. 

White Pine behind SCC 16 green with severe
structural damage and rot
From an architectural perspective the number sixteen green sits atop a beautiful rise that provides a panoramic view. It is a common misnomer that all golf greens need some type of backdrop for the purposes of "framing". While in some cases a frame provides focus and depth, in others an open sight-line behind a green can also provides an exciting challenge for golfers. In researching the course history the architect, William F. Mitchell, did not intend for this particular green complex to have a backdrop of trees. As a result, no replacement plan is in place once these damaged trees are cleared.

The Stowe Golf Agronomic Team is excited for the upcoming 2015 golf season and we hope the winter weather is as good to the golf courses as it has been to the skiers and riders. While we continue to enjoy the winter season, we will continue working hard at both Stowe Country Club and Stowe Mountain Club.