Golf Course Management

OCT 2014

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

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84 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 10.14 Everyone talks about going green, and for most of us, I believe we all went green a long time ago. Most Americans like green in their landscape. Brown? Not so much. I blame an - cestors at the top of the family tree for our deeply embedded passion for the color green because it's been a part of our collective obses - sion for many generations. The USGA should be commended for sup - porting the lower-maintenance approach taken at Pinehurst No. 2 at this year's U.S. Open. It was a perfect national stage to show us all that some brown isn't all bad. That said, gaining widespread acceptance of brown is going to be a long, diffcult road. Outside of United Parcel Service, I'm not sure what brown has done for any of us, and at least at this point, we're not too anxious to fnd out. Make a list of all the things you like that are brown. Begin now. OK, what's on your list? Mine includes our hardwood foor, dark chocolate and the cat. Did you have your lawn on the list? How about your golf course? As a turf specialist in the transition zone who has promoted the reduced-maintenance and lower-water-use virtues of warm-season grasses for over 20 years, I'm not sure my propaganda has had much impact. The fve-plus months of dormant, brown turf that go hand-in-hand with the use of warm-season turf doesn't settle well. In fact, some homeowners are willing to pay whatever it takes to keep their lawn green. The typical homeowner's thought is, "If my neigh - bor's lawn is green, I want green too." Golf course superintendents in the South are experts at battling brown. Snowbirds visit - ing during winter months want to play golf on green grass. I guess that's because they think golf courses are supposed to be green, and after several months of winter dreariness, they long to see green, living things. That desirable green color has been achieved, at great expense, by overseeding with cool-season grasses, and more recently, by using colorants to paint the turf. I'm still waiting for that frst southern golf course to take the lead for all of us, skip overseeding or colorant appli - cations, and attract northern golfers with the new advertising slogan — "Brown is Us: Play Golf Here and Help Move the Golf Industry Forward." I don't think that's likely to work. Californians in the midst of a historic drought are longing for green. Forced not to water, homeowners are installing artifcial (green) turf or — you guessed it — painting their drought-dormant turf green. Some have resorted to the non-turf, mainly brown, xeri - scape approach. Their ancestors must have been from Arizona. I plead guilty to avoiding whatever psy - chological gymnastics are needed to convince homeowners that brown grass is OK. In fact, I've gone to the other side. Our research team has just completed a series of experiments to investigate which turf colorants and applica - tion rates are best for use in the transition zone to keep warm-season grasses green all winter. Our hope is that homeowners and golfers will be more accepting of zoysiagrass, bermuda- grass or buffalograss if they can avoid the de- pression that accompanies dormancy and the color brown. We all need to work on accepting a little more brown, and more importantly, convinc - ing others that a little brown is not the end of the world. Ultimately, the availability and price of water will infuence how much brown we can accept. Water is not just a California issue. More brown turf, whether the result of dor - mant, water-conserving warm-season grasses, or the lack of irrigation water in general, is coming to lawns and golf courses near you. Ready or not. Jack Fry, Ph.D., is a professor of turfgrass science and the director of the Rocky Ford Turfgrass Research Center at Kansas State University in Manhattan. He is an 18-year educator member of GCSAA. Jack Fry, Ph.D. Brown isn't the new green I plead guilty to avoiding whatever psychological gymnastics are needed to convince homeowners that brown grass is OK. In fact, I've gone to the other side. (through the green)

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