COURSE CARE
Revenge Of The Triplex Ring July 15, 2010 By Bob Vavrek

Many superintendents have been hand mowing greens so long that a triplex ring is a distant, faded memory.  However, painful cuts to maintenance budgets in the wake of a sluggish golf economy have forced numerous courses to resurrect the riders with hopes of saving a few hours of labor each day.  

Some courses returning to the riders have noticed the putting surface dramatically decline along the clean-up pass during the past few weeks of unusually hot, humid weather.   Experienced superintendents can’t recall the last time turf has taken a nose dive so quickly in response to some stressful weather.  Is there more going on besides good old triplex ring injury?

Probably not, though, in some ways, the triplex injury of 2010 is not the same as the triplex injury of 1995, which might have been the last time the riding unit was the primary mower for greens.   First, it’s a safe bet that the mowing height of the triplex needed significant adjustment this spring before it touched the greens for the first time in 15 years, and it’s a sure bet that the height wasn’t raised.   If the old unit had the ability to cause triplex ring at 0.150, just imagine the havoc it can wreak at 0.100. 

Now consider what else may have happened to the greens since the triplex was put in mothballs 15 years ago.  No doubt, the percentage of Poa annua has increased in response to lower heights of cut, especially at old courses that have antique cultivars of bentgrass.  In addition, courses often made the mistake of responding to golfer complaints by cutting back or eliminating topdressing and core cultivation from the maintenance program.  Soft, thatchy Poa greens that were shaved down to the edge of survival didn’t need to be stressed all that much by a triplex unit to lose turf during a stretch of unusually hot weather.

Superintendents have devised ways to minimize the potential from triplex injury:

  • Mow the clean-up pass every other day.

 

  • Mow the clean-up one day, skip the next day and then move the mowing in one foot on the 3 rd day to reduce stress from tire tracking.  However, you need a well-trained employee to mow along the original perimeter line on the 4 th day or you will quickly experience “the amazing shrinking green.”

 

  • Make sure the employees throttle down the speed of the mower during the perimeter cut.

 

  • Mow all the green with a triplex, except for the clean-up, and then use a hand mower for the perimeter.

 

All these techniques have merit and you need to experiment with what combination works for your course. 

Perhaps the take home message is that we have really pushed old greens very hard and right to the edge of survival during the past 10 to 15 years.  All is well during a mild summer, but it takes less stress, like the early hot weather of 2010, to cause rapid turf decline.  Every season the bar is raised higher, but the old greens are a little weaker.  At some point we need to lower expectations or change the grass, which is a good topic for a future update.

Source:  Bob Vavrek, rvavrek@usga.org or 262-797-8743

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