COURSE CARE
Use A Different Approach February 27, 2015

Use A Different Approach

By Larry Gilhuly, Northwest Director
July 27, 2009


What is the most difficult and frustrating shot in golf?

No, it is not a fried-egg bunker shot or a downhill slider on a green so fast that speed limit signs should be posted. It also is not the shot that gets knocked down into a lake by the wind or the one that must go around the tree and ultimately out-of-bounds. The most difficult and frustrating shot in golf? Being forced to get a ball close to a forward hole location on a firm green with an approach that is much softer. Hit the green and the ball bounces long. Hit the approach and a dart tournament just broke out.

Over the past 25 years, I have visited golf courses of every type, but this issue is still in existence. Although, with the introduction of spin topdressers that allow greens and approaches to be treated equally, this condition has noticeably improved. In that time period, there was no way to test both surfaces at the same time other than walking on both and estimating firmness, or hitting shots and watching the reaction of the ball. With the introduction of the USGA TruFirm a definitive method can now help golf courses determine if the approaches are the same, softer, or firmer than the greens.

During the past year, numerous Pacific Northwest and Hawaii golf course greens and approaches have been tested with the TruFirm to determine if these surfaces were similar in firmness. Of the nearly 50 golf courses tested, only three measured similar firmness for the greens and approaches. Out of this many golf courses, how could only three be of equal firmness when nearly all golf courses regularly topdress both greens and approaches? To minimize the negative impact of excess organic material, three management programs were found to be common to these courses.

First, the three golf courses aerate their approaches 10-15 yards in front of the greens twice annually. Second, before the aeration is completed they also deep vertical mow to remove any extra organic matter at the surface that may have accumulated. All three superintendents realize that aeration causes disruption for at least one to two weeks anyway so deep vertical mowing at the same time does not extend it any longer for the players. Third, each completes a cross-over pass in front of the greens to apply double the amount of sand since the approach mowing heights are generally higher and organic production is often more extensive than lower-mowed putting surface.

If your golf course has a similar issue, give this program of aeration, vertical mowing and additional sand topdressing a try. It may be exactly the approach that has been needed at your golf course.

Source: Larry Gilhuly, lgilhuly@usga.org or 253-858-2266.