An Extended Cooler Spring April 16, 2013 By Todd Lowe

These dark patches are the result of applying black sand to a green to create a leopard-like appearance for a jungle-theme golf tournament.

Turfgrass growth subsides as temperatures decrease and the extended cool weather has caused significant growth reductions in our region. Healthy putting greens have benefited from decreased turf growth, as improved putting speeds were maintained without the need for lower mowing or increased rolling. However, the weather this spring has been problematic for putting greens that experienced stress in early winter, as they have remained thin for weeks. 

There are several practices that can be implemented to hasten turf recovery during times of stress, but one of the most important practices during cool periods is to apply dark substances like charcoal, black sand or beneficial pigments. Dark materials increase heat retention from solar radiation and this slightly increases soil temperatures. In areas with semi-dormant turf conditions, it can provide significant benefits to turf growth and recovery. 

This became especially evident last month, as a golf course superintendent from south Florida applied black sand in patches on one of his greens. He did so to provide a leopard-like pattern on one of his greens for a “jungle” themed ladies tournament. A week later, these patches were noticeably denser and darker green than the surrounding turf. 

A warming trend has recently begun and it will soon bring a strong resumption of turf growth. This will inevitably create more work for golf course superintendents with healthy greens, in the form of increased rolling, grooming, verticutting and sand topdressing. However, it should also bring improved turf health and recovery for stressed greens as well. 

Source: Todd Lowe (

Information on the USGA’s Turf Advisory Service

Contact the Green Section Staff