Golf Course Management

SEP 2018

Golf Course Management magazine is dedicated to advancing the golf course superintendent profession and helping GCSAA members achieve career success.

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Page 66 of 101

09.18 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 63 is article is an open letter providing ideas and recommendations to superinten - dents who are passionate about providing top- quality course conditions but are novices at putting green regrassing and renovation and have greens that need serious help. e golf course superintendent's job is to provide the best playing conditions with the given resources and environment. e re - sources include budgetary items such as labor, equipment, irrigation system, etc., and the environment encompasses the soil, vegeta - tion and climate. Playing conditions are lim- ited by resources and/or environment. A golf course renovation is an opportunity to miti - gate environmental limitations — to remove limitations caused by excessive moisture, tem - perature, shade and/or humidity. A successful renovation should allow a superintendent to use resources more efficiently throughout the golf course (8). Putting greens e courses discussed here have greens that are typical of cool, humid zones and have lasted 50 to 100 years or more. ey have a significant surface slope, and, over the last 15 to 40 years, they have been treated with an aggressive, consistent topdressing program. is smooth surface and mowing technology have allowed you to reduce cutting heights from 0.16 inch (4.06 mm) in 1990 to 0.10 inch (2.54 mm) today, all with the same plant. Your greens are as good as the cultural prac - tices allow and are, frankly, as good as the weather. What they are missing — and what the renovations are all about — is a grass that has been bred to thrive (not adapt) in a putting green situation and a construction system that removes the environment — that is, moisture — from the equation. is putting green situation is not unusual, and you have provided excellent playing con - ditions — in many cases, better than those of your competitors. e issue is that, as other courses add new grasses and construction technology, your course starts to lag because cultural practices alone cannot match their upgrades. e more renovations your mem - bers experience at other courses, the more they will note the absence of improvements in your greens. It will not get better. Greens in this climate are a mixture of creeping bentgrass (Agrostis palustris) and an - nual bluegrass (Poa annua var. reptans). e matic conditions are favorable. Greenkeepers can do this with fewer inputs (multiple mow - ing/rolling), and the putting surface/grass suffers less stress throughout the season. e new creeping bentgrass varieties are finer-tex - tured (narrow leaf width), denser and have an upright growth habit (the preferred qualities of annual bluegrass), and also have outstand - ing heat, cold and wear tolerance and recu- perative ability, as do all creeping bentgrass varieties. e turfgrass breeders have done their jobs. Putting green renovation requirements Drainage In order to grow and maintain creep - ing bentgrass varieties and minimize annual bluegrass invasion, the putting green site must have a drainage system (natural drainage is rarely significant enough) and be shade-free (morning shade at the very least) (Figure 1). Significant compromise on either factor will lead to an ultimate failure of the renovation — or at the very least an unrealized potential. Creeping bentgrass prefers well-drained conditions. For a putting green, this means ei - ther installing tile drainage in existing greens, or constructing greens with sand-based root zones. If sand-based greens already exist and function properly, then few modifications are necessary. If the greens were originally push- up greens that were built with on-site native soil and then sand-topdressed, internal drain - age must be addressed. e first option is to install specifically Drainage system creeping bentgrass varieties are typically older and have likely been in place for 50 years or longer. e annual bluegrasses are naturally occurring botanical varieties that have adapted to the environmental and cultural conditions of the putting surface. Rarely is there a mono - stand of older creeping bentgrass, but there are certainly plenty of examples of extensive stands of annual bluegrass. Creeping bentgrass — especially the newer varieties — performs better than an - nual bluegrass with less water and fewer chemicals. Annual bluegrass has a fine leaf texture and provides an excellent putting surface when environmental conditions are favorable and, for this reason, may be cul - tivated and tolerated on putting greens de- spite its need for extensive inputs. Fifteen years ago, before the latest round of creeping bentgrass breeding advancements, annual bluegrass provided the best putting surface when conditions were right. Because they survive a similar height of cut, the newer bentgrasses that became available around 2010 are equal to or better than annual blue - grass and certainly provide excellent putting surfaces throughout a wider range of seasonal and climatic factors with far fewer chemical inputs (10). e new varieties have a finer leaf blade when compared to older creeping bentgrasses. e wider leaf blade of the older creeping bentgrasses is a genetic function that cultural practices cannot change. e newer creeping bentgrass varieties can provide an exceptional putting surface throughout the season, not just when cli - Figure 1. In order to grow and maintain creeping bentgrass varieties and minimize annual bluegrass invasion, the putting green site must have a drainage system (natural drainage is rarely significant enough) and be shade-free (morning shade at the very least). Significant compromise on either of these factors will lead to an ultimate failure of the renovation, or at the very least an unrealized potential. Illustration by Alec Kowalewski

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