The Bentgrass Blues

By Bob Vavrek, senior agronomist, North Central Region
May 17, 2011

Any form of turf stress to greens, such as winterkill, vole damage or cultivation has been very slow to recover this spring. Turf conditions will improve significantly when a sustained period of warmer weather occurs.

Bentgrass must have the blues, because it sure isn’t green yet.  Golfers from the upper Midwest still remember the unusually early warm weather last spring and opportunities to play many enjoyable rounds of golf during late March and early April.  That memory has made some golfers very impatient with putting green conditions so far this season; albeit a season that has barely begun. 

Much of the annual bluegrass has snapped out of its winter funk, well, at least the Poa is still alive after 100+ days of ice cover at some courses in Minnesota and northern Wisconsin.  In contrast, bentgrass is still relatively dormant throughout the Region, which makes for some bumpy, sickly looking, patchwork quilt playing surfaces, especially at old courses that possess many different types of bents and Poa growing in tight, discrete colonies. 

Courses that aggressively cored the greens this spring in spite of the sluggish turf growth have been very slow to recover, which only fans the flames of the golfers’ discontent.  No doubt, it was a good time to drop down a tine size to minimize surface disruption or postpone cultivation until soil temperatures warm up a bit. 

It’s easy to forget that bentgrass needs a stretch of warm days in the 80 degree range, accompanied by mild nights, before it really begins to break dormancy and grow vigorously, especially when the adjacent Poa is neon green.  A couple of isolated mild days are little more than bentgrass teasers, especially when temperatures plunge back into the 40’s or 30’s each night. 

It’s unfortunate that something as uncontrollable as the weather can bring out the worst in some of the more unreasonable golfers, but it does.  Too many players have become obsessed with the notion that a golf course must be absolutely “consistent” from tee to green, from day to day and from season to season or else something is seriously awry with the turf management program.   Those golfers will always be disappointed because the quality of the playing surfaces will ultimately be influenced by the weather, and nothing changes more than the weather.

After all, what could be more boring than to find exactly the same course conditions each and every time you golf?  Why change hole locations or move tee markers?  Perhaps the players who are singing the blues this spring can learn a thing or two from others who believe that adapting to various course conditions is simply part of the game.  Days when course conditions are less-than-ideal can make the days when the turf conditions are nearly perfect be more memorable.  For others who cannot accept or enjoy anything but perfection and absolute consistency…there’s always the Golden Tee video game and the green fees are reasonable.

 

Source:  Bob Vavrek, rvavrek@usga.org or 262-797-8743 

 

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