It’s Turfgrass Renovation Time!

By Darin S. Bevard, senior agronomist, Mid-Atlantic Region
August 27, 2012

If your rough looks like this, you are not alone. The summer takes a toll on cool season grasses, especially outside of the effective coverage of the irrigation system. Certain grass such as Poa annua and Poa trivialis are prone to decline during the summer in spite of efforts to keep them alive leading to clumpy, inconsistent conditions.

The air is a little cooler and the days are a little shorter. The grass is finally starting to grow again. Aeration programs are in full swing in our region. Some courses have already aerated their fine turf areas. Others are doing it as we speak. Still others will wait until later this fall to perform aeration as needed on various areas of the golf course. While nobody enjoys aeration, it is an important agronomic program. Even though the weather has improved, be cautious. If you have weak areas, use smaller tines or consider skipping weak areas until they have recovered. There is nothing worse than making it through a difficult growing season only to create damage through what should be a beneficial maintenance strategy.

A common topic during recent visits has been the rough, or more accurately, the lack of consistency in rough. Clumpy lies around greens and thin grass around fairways are common complaints. This is especially common on older, cool season golf courses. On a recent visit, the question was raised why rough at this golf course could not be more uniform and consistent. Throughout this golf course the rough was composed of varying population levels of bermudagrass (flourishing), Kentucky bluegrass (struggling), Poa trivialis (dormant), Poa annua (dead), perennial ryegrass (riddled with gray leaf spot), creeping bentgrass (thriving) and turf-type tall fescue (actually doing well). In case you lost count, that’s seven different grasses. Now why isn’t the rough consistent?

Having consistent rough is not a necessity. In fact, having to read different lies in the rough is part of the game. With that being said, it is desirable to have a reliable stand of grass in the rough. If the goal is to improve the season-long reliability of the rough, long-term programs must be put in place. It is not just a matter of buying a couple of tons of seed and incorporating it into the rough with various methods. Improving the rough takes a lot of planning. Timing of overseeding has a big impact. Usually, the rough is overseeded in late September or even October which may be too late to get a good catch of seedlings that can survive the winter and compete with established grasses. Oftentimes, these later overseedings elicit feelings of success as thin and bare areas fill-in as the fall progresses. Unfortunately, much of the grass that is actually doing the filling-in is Poa annua which will decline the following summer to repeat the cycle that put you in this condition in the first place.

No matter what grass you have, effective coverage of your irrigation system is another major factor in rough quality. If you cannot water it, keeping it alive through the heat of the summer is a struggle.

A full rough renovation program cannot be addressed here. The bottom line is that if you are serious about improving the rough, it takes a well thought out program. Capital expenditure will be needed to purchase the needed seed, fertilizer, herbicides, etc. to be successful. It may also be necessary to expand the irrigation system which can be very costly. If this type of expenditure is not an option, you may have to accept the inconsistent, summer conditions that are the basis for complaints. To discuss potential options for LONG TERM improvement to the rough, do not hesitate to contact our office.

The Mid-Atlantic Region agronomists are part of your agronomic support team.  If you have a question or concern give us a call or send an email.  You can reach Darin Bevard (dbevard@usga.org) at 610/ 558-9066 or Keith Happ (khapp@usga.org) at 412/ 341-5922.

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