Green Speed Takes Backseat To Turf Health

By Todd Lowe, Agronomist, Florida Region
September 9, 2010

Increased thatch has caused significant issues on many Florida putting greens this summer.

An issue discussed on many Florida Region Turf Advisory Service visits is the impossible task of maintaining very fast putting green speeds of 10.5 ft. or more on a continuous basis throughout the summer.  The combination of high temperatures, high relative humidity, and cloudy weather are stressful on bermudagrass putting greens.  Prolonged periods of cloudy weather during the rainy season decrease the turf’s ability to create energy through photosynthesis.  Mowing height often is increased during the summer months to maintain turf health, but this has a negative impact on playability.

The Florida region has seen more problems than normal this past summer with regard to green speed and accelerated turf growth.  Many putting greens grew aggressively in late spring and early summer, creating more thatch.  Elevated, undiluted thatch causes mower scalping and overall decreased turf quality.  Oftentimes, mowing height is raised until aggressive dethatching and sand topdressing can take place.

Several golf course superintendents have noted that maintaining acceptable putting speeds has been more difficult this summer, even following intensive verticutting, core aeration, sand topdressing, and plant growth regulation.  It is important to resist the urge to lower your mowing height during summer months, as this can have a detrimental effect on turf health and cause significant turf thinning.

In lieu of lowering mowing heights, double mowing or mowing and rolling should be implemented more frequently.  It also is important to maintain appropriate fertility without over-apply nutrients.  Too much fertility creates lush turf growth, causing ball roll friction and greater chance for disease occurrence.  More superintendents are now using less total nitrogen, but with a higher percentage in granular form.   Superintendents that utilize granular spoonfeeding with supplemental potassium, iron and manganese, believe they maintain good speed consistency, turf rooting, and overall quality throughout the year.

As the growth rate of bermudagrass begins to slow down in the fall in response to cooler temperatures, lower humidity, and a shorter day length, it will be possible to provide faster putting speeds.  However, golfers need to be aware that there are still some limitations that must be respected so that turf health and quality is not compromised during the winter. 

Source:  Todd Lowe, or 941-828-2625
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