Dialed In

By Bob Vavrek, senior agronomist, North Central Region
June 24, 2013

This is a great example of how to manage an ultra-dense cultivar of creeping bentgrass on a new sand-based green. The putting surface has been open to play for almost six years, but timely inputs of cultivation and sand make it difficult to distinguish the original construction mix from the topdressing accumulation.

I was in a rut. It seemed like every course I visited was having issues with excessive organic matter accumulation in the upper soil profile of 5- to 8-year-old greens. Some were new, some were completely rebuilt, some were fumigated then regrassed, but all were seeded to an improved, ultra-dense cultivar of bentgrass. Spongy, pitted ball marks, black layer, moss, algae…you name it, they had it. The problem was easy to diagnose and the cause was always some combination of too much water, too much nitrogen, not enough cultivation and not enough topdressing.

You begin to wonder if thatch problems on new greens are inevitable until you finally visit a course where the superintendent “gets it.” They have the topdressing, cultivation, fertility and irrigation practices dialed in from day one. The greens provide golfers a superior putting surface with a minimal buildup of organic matter. In fact, you can’t even find the grow-in layer that occurs during establishment. Those visits always energize me and I can make unpopular recommendations of aggressive cultivation and topdressing to other courses with more confidence.

Need proof? Check out the soil profile of this over 5-year-old bentgrass green…great surface and no thatch. With the office being located in Milwaukee, there was only one last statement to make at the conclusion of this enjoyable visit; “It’s Miller time, and I’m buying!”

Source: Bob Vaverk (rvavrek@usga.org)

Information on the USGA’s Turf Advisory Service

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