Golf Course Management

JAN 2017

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

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66 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 01.17 Bob Becker, CGCS at Scioto CC in Columbus, Ohio, took a unique approach to creating firmer, faster greens at his facility, building new greens with a mix of 80 percent sand, 10 percent soil and 10 percent porous clay from Profile Products. Photo courtesy of Bob Becker ing the heat of the day. May, a graduate of the Rutgers University turfgrass program, says he was never taught about UVB turf damage in school. "But when you do the research, it makes sense," he says. A new topdress mix When the greens were rebuilt at Scioto Country Club in Columbus, Ohio, seven years ago, superintendent Bob Becker, CGCS, says his goal was to give the membership what they really wanted: fast, firm greens. He asked the members to name other clubs they'd played that had the firm greens they desired, and what he found was that the firmest greens were on a course with what Becker calls a "dirty mix" of sand and soil in the USGA pro - file. The 19-year GCSAA member thought that if he mixed straight sand with soil, he'd get "concrete," and that would certainly pro - duce firm, fast greens, but his fear was that neither water nor fertilizer — nor turfgrass roots, for that matter — could penetrate a greens profile like that. So, instead, he recom - mended the greens be built with a mix of 80 percent sand, 10 percent soil and 10 percent porous clay from Profile Products (Profile Po - rous Ceramic [PPC]). The PPC particles create porosity and cap - illary space while holding moisture in the root zone, says Randy Hamilton, western market - ing development manager for golf, sports turf and landscape for Profile Products. Hamilton says adding PPC into a USGA greens mix im - proves the balance of capillary and non-capil- lary porosity in the root zone, improves infil- tration rates compared with 100 percent sand, and improves ability to flush the root zone. Other benefits, he says, are reduced buildup of organic material for firmer greens, and re - duced compaction, water usage (up to 20 per- cent), fertilizer applications (up to 25 percent) and localized dry spot. It worked. The greens at Scioto were fast and firm enough to host the 2016 U.S. Se - nior Open last August, and to satisfy Becker's membership. "They performed exactly as a USGA golf green is supposed to," Becker says. Conventional wisdom in the golf industry preaches that the mix used in the USGA-rec - ommended greens mix should also be used for topdressing. In Becker's case, a mix of sand, soil and PPC as a topdress medium was im - practical — at least, the soil component — and using straight sand (the most common form of topdress material) was objectionable. "I didn't want to build a new green on top of the old one," he says, which is what he thought would happen if he topdressed with sand alone. Instead, Becker uses a light topdress mix of 80 percent sand and 20 percent PPC. Hamilton says his company is further challenging the status quo by encouraging the use of PPC mixed with sand as a top - dress medium, even for greens built only with straight-sand USGA recommendations. The idea, Hamilton says, is to remediate the USGA greens mix by infusing it with the PPC particles. He recommends backfilling aerifica - tion holes with the sand/PPC mix, or using dry injection to move the mix down into the root zone. Hamilton says these methods are actually more beneficial to the green profile than light topdressings on the surface of the putting green. Fresh perspectives Examples such as these aren't to suggest that all conventional wisdom is incorrect or that superintendents must change the way they think about every golf course manage - ment practice. Rather, these stories illustrate how some creative minds in the industry have taken a look at what superintendents do from a slightly tilted angle, and how that can be a good thing. Change does come slowly in golf, however. "Golf course superintendents are pretty skeptical people," May says. "We want to be shown." Stacie Zinn Roberts ( is the head writer and marketing strategist for the Mount Ver - non, Wash.-based marketing firm What's Your Avocado? "I started talking about UVB damage to turf and got blank stares. People thought I was off my rocker." — Scott May

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