Stowe Mountain Club Approaches

While night time temperatures are dropping and daytime humidity is somewhat disappearing, we know that the seasons are starting to change before our eyes. And even though we've had another tremendous summer, we are always looking to create conditions that provide the best golfing experience possible. This post will help describe how we do that on our "approaches" at Stowe Mountain Club.

My team has two primary focuses, health of turf, and playability for you the golfer. Increasing quality assists in providing exceptional aesthetics and playability helps you better enjoy your good, and maybe not so good, shots.

We have recently been giving added attention to the green approaches at SMC. The "approach" is a commonly overlooked facet of the golf hole because most golfers attempt to have their approach shots land on the putting surface - past the approach. But at SMC, with our small greens and backdrop of the mountains and trees, depth perception can sometimes be thrown off. Since we can't move mountains, we have opted to improve the surface where a great many shots are landing. By maintaining the approach, a greater variety of shots can be played from in front of the green.
At many courses the approach is maintained like a fairway. This means a higher (HOC) and less frequent fertility and turf treatment. While this may seem like an okay idea, in the long-term this frequently played -off turf can start to thin. At SMC, our focus is on providing golfers with many playing options, including putting, from the approach. With shorter cut turf, your approach shots experience no interference from the grass, giving you the ability to create more spin and control. And just like your careful shots around the green, our maintenance practices have to be handled with care. 

A look at the approaches being expanded back to the fairway.

Instead of using a typical triplex machine to mow the approach, we have employed a hand walk-behind mower. With this hand mowing effort, the attention to detail can increase immensely. The walk-behind can bring about it's own concerns, so for that reason we've provided some practices to offset these concerns. Walk-behind mowers require tight frequent turning in order to make the next pass. This tight turning can cause thinning and unnecessary wear on this short-cut turf. To offset this concern, we've started using turning mats for greens mowing and approach mowing. Whether it be for turning on the collars for a green or the primary cut for an approach, the turning mat allows for a firm place to turn. In addition, you may have even noticed that most of the approaches at SMC have been expanded out toward the fairways.

Using turning mats on the green surface while mowing hand mowing approaches.

We have also started topdressing more frequently. Expanding the lower height of cut (HOC), while advantageous for playability challenges the turf plant. The crown (heart) of the turf plant becomes more exposed with a shorter HOC. That is offset  with topdressing sand to insulate this crown. Even though the surface may seem more "sandy" immediately after its completed, with a few nights of overhead water and a day or two of mowing, this sand will settle right down to where it needs to be. However, insulation isn't the only reason to topdress. Topdressing also helps us achieve a decrease in thatch build up and an increase in surface soil porosity. This increase in porosity helps the root system maintain a consistent delivery of water and nutrients.

Ultimately, we are maintaining the approach playing surface more like a green. This new focus on approaches takes a little more effort to maintain, but with the right practices and the right focus in place, you will continue to see exceptional conditions at SMC!

Thanks for your continued support! See you on the course!

Topdressing approaches for crown insulation.