Take Some Time to Reevaluate the Golf Course Maintenance

By Keith Happ, Senior Agronomist
September 8, 2011

Being able to play defense when environmental conditions dictate can be the difference between a good season or a bad season.

As we move toward fall golf course superintendents are implementing recovery programs to rejuvenate the turf.   Many greens in the Mid-Atlantic Region are weak and have experienced severe stress this season.  Core aeration and topdressing strategies may not be enough.  You may need to rethink how the surfaces are prepared for daily play.  A maintenance standards document can define how the golf course will be prepared under various weather scenarios.

The pursuit of green speed can cause serious problems.  More specifically, it can weaken the turf reducing its ability to tolerate harsh environmental conditions.  The weather conditions experienced the last two summers have been very difficult and, after examining turf during Turf Advisory visits over the last two seasons, one thing is clear.  When golf course superintendents have been able to “play defense” at the right time of the year, the turf has survived.  Adjusting procedures to sustain the turf rather than focusing solely on green speed can make a significant difference.  The Green Committee, Golf Committee and golf course superintendent should be on the same page with course set-up in times of severe turf stress.  Playing defense should be an element of the golf course maintenance standards document. 

Anthracnose outbreaks have been a common topic of recent phone calls.  Treating with fungicides will protect unaffected turf of this stress-related disease, but it will not revive plants infected with crown-rotting anthracnose.  New plants need to be grown to restore surface density.  Judicious fertilizer applications should be a part of the recovery strategy.    

There are many ways to fertilize turf.  Using an integrated approach and treating problems areas more aggressively will produce a positive result.  Superintendents are even taking the time to test different nutrient products to evaluate results at their course and under their management conditions.  Just because XYZ course down the road uses a product does not make it the best strategy at your course.  Take the time to test a material or, at the very least, leave a check plot to see if there is any visual evidence of a growth response. 

While we approach the end of another golf season, it is time to prepare for next year.  What takes place over the next few months will help develop healthy grass for the future.  Decisions on how to sustain that degree of health will impact the golfer enjoyment.  

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 e-mail.  You can reach Stan Zontek (szontek@usga.org) and Darin Bevard (dbevard@usga.org) at 610-558-9066 or Keith Happ (khapp@usga.org) at 412-341-5922.


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