Let The Cultivations Begin

By Todd Lowe, senior agronomist, Florida Region
May 15, 2013

Mower scalping followed by aggressive verticutting are excellent cultivation practices for bermudagrass fairways.

Over the past week or so, golf facilities throughout southern Florida have begun cultivating and “working” the turf through a series of maintenance practices. Bermudagrass and seashore paspalum produce an abundance of aboveground and belowground stems that can accumulate to produce thatch. Cultivation practices are necessary to reduce this stem layer, dilute thatch and improve overall turf quality and playability. 

In Florida, cultivation practices generally take place from late spring through late summer, as warmer temperatures improve turf recovery. Each practice provides a slightly different benefit and several of them may take place at the same time to produce the desired effect. These include:

  • Circle cutting – Mowing turf in a circular pattern reduces grain that can develop from mowing repeatedly in the same direction. This practice usually takes place on tees and fairways in the spring. Circle cutting is the least aggressive cultivation practice discussed in this update because it only addresses the surface canopy and does not dilute thatch.
  • Scalping – Scalping includes aggressively lowering mowing heights to remove much of the turf canopy and it generally takes place on golf course roughs. Bermudagrass roughs are often maintained at 1.25 to 1.5 inches but are scalped to less than an inch for several weeks to improve turf uniformity. Scalping exposes the underlying stems and makes the turf appear yellow to tan for a week or two until new leaves are produced.
  • Verticutting – Verticutting, or vertical mowing, uses a series of vertically-oriented blades that thin the turf canopy and underlying thatch. Shallow penetration depths provide a light surface grooming effect, while deeper penetration dethatches putting greens, tees and fairways and requires a longer healing period.
  • Core aeration – Core aeration removes small plugs of thatch and soil. In addition to dethatching, core aeration reduces compaction and improves soil physical properties on each playing surface. This practice is quite aggressive and can require a week or more for recovery, depending upon tine size and spacing.
  • Sand topdressing – Sand topdressing is not necessarily considered a cultivation practice and sand is applied throughout the year on Florida golf courses. However, increased topdressing is applied throughout the summer months to dilute thatch and to backfill aeration holes. Budget constraints often limit its use to putting greens and tees, but sand topdressing dilutes thatch and improves surface firmness on fairways and approaches as well.

These practices are a bit messy and can temporarily produce unsightly playing surfaces, depending upon the intensity of each practice. Short-term inconvenience is certainly worth the long-term benefits that these practices provide. 

Source: Todd Lowe (tlowe@usga.org)

Information on the USGA’s Turf Advisory Service

Contact the Green Section Staff

Partner Links
AmEx image
AmEx image
AmEx image
AmEx image

The USGA and Chevron have committed to using the game of golf to encourage students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines. This commitment has led to the creation of extensive golf-focused STEM teaching tools, and has resulted in charitable contributions to support golf-related programs through Eagles for Education™

At U.S. Open Championships the Chevron STEM ZONE™ is an interactive experience highlighting the science and math behind the game of golf through a variety of hands-on exhibits and experiments.

The partnership has also produced educational materials such as the Science of Golf video series and a nationally-distributed newspaper insert which are provided to teachers as tools to enhance existing curriculum in schools. These lessons teach the science behind the USGA’s equipment testing, handicapping, and agronomy efforts.

For more interactive experiences featuring golf-focused STEM lessons, visit the partnership homepage.

Chevron image

Rolex has been a longtime supporter of the USGA and salutes the sportsmanship and great traditions unique to the game. This support includes the Rules of Golf where Rolex has partnered with the USGA to ensure golfers understand and appreciate the game.

As the official timekeeper of the USGA and its championships, they also provide clocks throughout host sites for spectator convenience.

For more information on Rolex and their celebration of the game, visit the Rolex and Golf homepage.

Rolex image

IBM has partnered with the USGA to bring the same technology, expertise, and innovation it provides to businesses all over the world to the USGA and golf's national championship.

IBM provides the information technology to develop and host the U.S. Open’s official website, www.usopen.com, as well as the mobile apps and scoring systems for the three U.S. Open championships. These real-time technology solutions provide an enhanced experience for fans following the championship onsite and online.

For more information on IBM and the technology that powers the U.S. Open and businesses worldwide, visit http://www.usopen.com/IBM

AmEx image

Lexus is committed to partnering with the USGA to deliver a best-in-class experience for the world’s best golfers by providing a fleet of courtesy luxury vehicles for all USGA Championships.

At each U.S. Open, Women’s Open and Senior Open, Lexus provides spectators with access to unique experiences ranging from the opportunity to have a picture taken with both the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open trophies to autograph signings with legendary Lexus Golf Ambassadors in the Lexus Performance Drive Pavilion.

For more information on Lexus, visit http://www.lexus.com/

AmEx image
American Express

Together, American Express and the USGA have been providing world-class service to golf fans since 2006. By creating interactive U.S. Open experiences both onsite and online, American Express enhances the USGA’s effort to make the game more accessible and enjoyable for fans.

For more information on American Express visit www.americanexpress.com/entertainment

AmEx image