Green Speed Issues
An early taste of summer brought about humid conditions that caused many golfers to complain about slower green speeds. Higher humidity and slower putting speeds go hand-in-hand in the summer, and are usually most noticeable after a few weeks of dry conditions. Another common issue is putting green consistency, or lack thereof. Consistent playability on putting greens from one day to the next is impossible due to fluctuations in weather patterns. Poorly-draining, native soil greens with a mixed stand of Poa annua/creeping bentgrass will have inconsistent green speeds and firmness from time to time. Even well-built, sand-based greens with a pure stand of creeping bentgrass will vary in playability at times.
Many courses identify a target green speed, plus or minus one foot, when measured with a Stimpmeter. Dr. Tom Nikolai, Michigan State University, has thoroughly researched putting green speed under contemporary management practices. He has found that, on average, superintendents hit their target green speed approximately 70% of the time. Weather and necessary cultural practices (e.g. core aeration) negatively impact green speed the remainder of the time. From my perspective, those who complain about consistency are suggesting that hitting the 70% mark isn’t acceptable. However, I doubt that many of these players have a problem with the green speed being more than one foot faster than the target; it’s the slow end that causes complaints.
Green speed issues will never be resolved. The consequences of managing for green speeds too aggressively, unfortunately, also are not going away. Under saturated or hot and humid conditions, pushing the turf with extra mowing/rolling, limited moisture and fertilizer, and lowering the height of cut, all have been used to reach the desired target. The price paid for pushing for green speed during tough conditions, however, is never worth the short-lived benefit. Golf is a game played in the elements, on living plants that can be manipulated and managed, but not completely controlled. Consistent and fast green speeds throughout the entire season are not possible, and forcing the issue can be disastrous.
Annual Bluegrass Weevil
Annual bluegrass weevil activity continues to be of concern for golf courses throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. Damage, although not severe, has been observed as far north as Toronto. Golf courses throughout the New Jersey, New York, and New England states also have seen varying degrees of damage. The early warm weather in March likely caused variations in egg laying, which means damage could be more prolonged over the next few weeks. Rain and wet conditions often can mask the damage, making scouting even more important when trying to control this insect pest.
Turf Advisory Service Visit
USGA agronomists can provide insightful and vital information about all areas of golf course maintenance to help maximize turf health, playability, and efficiency. Contact Dave Oatis, director, firstname.lastname@example.org; Adam Moeller, agronomist, email@example.com; or Jim Skorulski, senior agronomist firstname.lastname@example.org for a Turf Advisory Service visit this season.