COURSE CARE
Finally, The Grass Has Started To Grow! April 26, 2010 By John H. Foy

Everyone has been waiting for an extremely difficult and challenging El Niño winter to come to an end, and over the past couple of weeks temperatures throughout Florida are closer to normal for mid to late April. With daytime highs and nighttime lows in the 80 and 60 degree range across central to south Florida, both bermudagrass and seashore paspalum have resumed active growth and are recovering from winter traffic. The recovery process probably will not be completed before many seasonal golfers return to the North. In northern Florida and across the Panhandle, bermudagrass has greened up; yet until nighttime temperatures are consistently in the mid-60’s range, active growth will not occur, regardless of inputs.

The resumption of turf growth is a good thing, but the trade-off is a small decline in putting speeds. A common complaint by low-handicap golfers is that the putting greens are much slower compared to just a few weeks ago. With the onset and persistence of below-normal temperatures in early January, bermudagrass putting greens entered into a semi-dormant stage, which yielded routinely fast putting speeds. At several courses recently, putting green speeds had declined by approximately one foot, yet speeds were still in the 10 to 10.5 range. It is amazing that this putting speed is not considered acceptable (too slow), and there have been demands to further lower heights of cut and increase putting speeds.

In no uncertain terms, there is a real likelihood for negative consequences when pushing putting greens and maintaining extremely low heights of cut, including turf loss. This is especially true when coming out of the winter because carbohydrate reserves have been depleted and bermudagrass still is developing a healthy regionalUpdateContent system. It is more than height of cut. A highly integrated program includes frequent light topdressing, appropriate verticutting, growth regulator treatments, and regular double-cutting or cutting and rolling to produce optimum putting green conditioning. This is labor intensive, and with budget cuts mandated at many courses, being able to conduct these necessary practices in a timely and efficient manner is now much more of a challenge.

Although environmental conditions have not been conducive to warm-season turfgrass growth, they have been ideal for growth and maturing of cool season turfgrasses such as perennial ryegrass andPoa trivialis. For courses in the central and northern part of the state with winter overseeding programs, the concern for the next couple of months will be to accomplish a gradual, yet complete, transition out of the winter overseeding cover to avoid deterioration of course conditions. This is best accomplished with an active transition management program that gradually thins out the overseeding cover at the same rate that the base bermudagrass is able to fill in and maintain turf coverage.

As soon as environmental conditions are favorable for bermudagrass growth, the transition process should be initiated. A key component is increasing fertilization to promote sustained growth, while slightly lowering the height of cut on greens, tees, fairways, and over-seeded roughs to begin thinning the overseed canopy so that more sunlight reaches the underlying bermudagrass. With over-seeded putting greens, weekly light verticutting or use of groomer attachments two to three times per week is suggested to continue thinning the overseeding cover. Care needs to be exercised to thin the overseeding cover without damaging the base bermudagrass.

With greens over-seeded withPoa trivialis, do not allow rapid loss due to the onset of heat and drought stress. When mid-80’s temperatures occur in combination with windy and dry conditions, the greens should be closely monitored for heat and drought stress, and hot spots should be hand watered or syringed. On more than one occasion over the years, a fast and hard transition on putting greens occurred over a weekend, and then six to eight weeks was required for reestablishing bermudagrass turf coverage and achieve acceptable playability.

2010 FGCSA Poa annua Education Program

The USGA Green Section is providing the education for the annual half-day FGCSA Poa annua education seminar Friday, May 7th, 8:00 am – 12:00 noon at the Naples Beach Hotel. For more information, please call our office, 772-546-2620, or e-mail sfoy@usga.org.

USGA Green Section Turf Advisory Service (TAS) Discount

Take advantage of the $500 discount by pre-paying for a TAS visit by May 15, 2010. TAS fees are the same as 2009:

  • Half-day -- $2300 with a discount of $500 if paid by May 15 ($1800)
  • Full-day -- $3100 with a discount of $500 if paid by May 15 ($2600)


Download a TAS application by clicking on the link below: http://www.usga.org/course_care/turf_advisory_service/application/

You also can arrange a TAS visit by calling or emailing Todd Lowe (941-828-2625,tlowe@usga.org), or John Foy (772-546-2620,jfoy@usga.org). We look forward to working with you.