Golf Course Management

NOV 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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62 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 11.18 e year was 1989, and I was a superin- tendent surveying the golf course at day's end. e sun was low in the western sky as I drove by the east of No. 4 green. e natural light - ing highlighted small individual grass plants uprooted on the green. e obvious cause was the 8 mm spikes in the flat-bottomed sole of almost every golf shoe at that time. However, I walked the green bewildered by this phenom - enon I had never before witnessed. I had no idea why the grass plants were pull-ups. In 1994 I began performing alternative- spike studies. I read everything I could about the 8 mm spike that dominated in the 20th century. Research before the 1970s said that spike produced unacceptable indentations in the putting surface. I wondered why the 8 mm spike that had once caused indentations had started pulling grass plants out of the ground. e answer was "frequent sand topdress - ing," which had become a common practice in the 1980s. Until then, most courses top - dressed once or twice a year, often with sand/ peat or sand/soil mixes. I also learned that the PGA Tour pros gave the uplifted grass plants the nickname "Christmas trees." While Christmas trees are not a problem with mod - ern cleat and outsole designs, their indenta- tions can still be troublesome. e past several years, I have been doing golf cleat/outsole research with Dr. Douglas Karcher, Ph.D., at the University of Arkansas. We have studied cultural practices and their impact on foot traffic and have gathered data on golf shoe designs. However, since outsole designs will always change, we have focused on the combined effects of cleat and outsole materials. Results include: • Cleatless designs with rubber outsoles gen - erally caused less visible traffic than cleat- less designs with thermoplastic polyure- thane outsoles. • In general, cleated designs caused more vis - ible traffic than cleatless outsoles, and those made with thermoplastic polyurethane re - sulted in less visible traffic than outsoles made with a combination of polyurethane and thermoplastic polyurethane, while those made with thermoplastic elastomer outsoles caused the most visible traffic. • Ordinarily, as the number of studs on cleat - less outsoles, and the number of cleats on cleated outsoles, increased, visible foot traf- fic decreased. • e 8 mm spike and flat-soled golf shoes resulted in the most visible traffic. In other words, the most aggressive of today's designs were preferred over outsoles from the past. Regarding the impact of cultural practices on visible foot traffic: • Frequent sand topdressing increased surface firmness, reduced volumetric water content and reduced visible indentations on creeping bentgrass, annual bluegrass and bermuda - grass more than any other cultural treat - ment. • e greater the amount of moisture in the soil, the more obvious the visible indenta - tions from studs and cleats. • Rolling resulted in firmer surfaces. How - ever, it also led to greater volumetric water content, which can lead to more visible in - dentations. • e combination of rolling and grooming resulted in the most visible foot traffic in the research plots, presumably because the smoother surfaces provided by the com - bination led to smoother surfaces prior to traffic. • Higher nitrogen rates resulted in greater indentations from traffic on creeping bent - grass. We therefore recommend spikeless shoe designs with rubber, or possibly ther - moplastic polyurethane, outsoles on newly established cool-season greens, which nor - mally require more nitrogen. Overall, the research emphasizes the im - portance of implementing and maintaining an appropriate frequent sand-topdressing pro - gram. It also suggests that using time-domain reflectometry to establish the best soil mois - ture content for your root zone will preserve irrigation water and may also minimize the effects of foot traffic. A complete report will be handed to the USGA at year's end (when Christmas trees will be a common sight) for those desiring further assistance in decreasing the impact of foot traffic. Thomas A. Nikolai, Ph.D., the "Doctor of Green Speed," is the turfgrass academic specialist at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich., and a frequent GCSAA educator. Managing putting greens to tolerate foot traffic The most aggressive of today's designs were preferred over outsoles from the past. Thomas A. Nikolai, Ph.D. nikolait@msu.edu (up to speed)

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