COURSE CARE
Summertime Cultivations Ramp Up In Florida June 27, 2010 By Todd Lowe

Left: Cultivation practices like core aeration and verticutting reduce soil compaction, improve turfgrass regionalUpdateContenting and maintain proper dilution of thatch and organic matter.  Right: Circle cutting and scalping creates ugly brown fairways for a few days but provide significant long-term benefits to playing conditions.

The summer months for most Florida golf courses are always slow, as few golfers can brave the near-100 o F heat and stifling humidity. However, golf course staff are very busy, since the bermudagrass grows at an accelerated pace at this time. In addition to continual mowing, golf courses are busy with annual cultivation programs, including verticutting, circle mowing, scalping, sand topdressing, and core aeration.

Bermudagrass produces intermingled aboveground and belowground stems that are referred to as thatch. Excessive thatch decreases golf course aesthetics and playability, and cultivation practices are necessary to reduce thatch and improve golf course quality.

Grain patterns can occur as the bermudagrass becomes "trained" through continual mowing practices. Circle cutting is a form of fairway cultivation where mowers are operated in a circular fashion, mowing the turf at different angles and reducing grain. Scalping occurs when mowing heights are lowered to the point where green leaves are completely removed and the underlying stems are exposed. These practices are implemented each summer to create a more uniform and consistent ball lie on bermudagrass golf courses.

Core aeration provides several benefits, including thatch reduction, compaction relief, improved soil porosity, and organic matter dilution. Core aeration is an often-hated practice by golfers, as it produces bumpy putting greens and inconsistent aesthetic quality throughout the golf course. The negative impacts of core aeration are short lived, but the long term improvements they provide are well worth the slight inconvenience.

There are no set criteria for the intensity and frequency of cultivation that should occur at any particular golf course. Turfgrass management is both an art and a science, and requires a knowledgeable golf course superintendent as well as an understanding golf club membership. When it comes to cultivating bermudagrass in Florida, the best-maintained golf courses are often the most aggressively cultivated ones during the summer months.

Source: Todd Lowe, tlowe@usga.org or 941-828-2625