Going For Gold In The Golf Marathon

By Adam Moeller, agronomist, Northeast Region
August 1, 2012

Anthracnose disease continues to be a problem at golf courses with annual bluegrass putting greens, especially those that utilize ultra-low mowing heights in pursuit for fast green speeds.

The golf season is often compared to running a marathon for turfgrass managers. The grass is trained in the spring so it can finish the long, grueling, race (i.e., summer). While each marathon presents different challenges such as elevation change, each summer is different too with hot weather, periods without rainfall, or heavy rain at the worst times (before or during a heat wave). 

For turf managers in the Northeast, we’re on mile 20 of 26.2. Just a few more weeks of challenging weather lie ahead until September, which often yields weather much more conducive to grow annual bluegrass (i.e., Poa annua) turf. July was a very challenging month to grow annual bluegrass, which makes up most of the turf at many golf courses in the Northeast. Creeping bentgrass, however, has performed much better in most instances although it has even experienced some decline in a few parts of the region. Thankfully the second half of July had a few days of manageable weather which allowed very stressed putting green turf a chance to recovery slightly. 

A few unlucky areas within the region seem to keep receiving heavy rain that has left their turf trying to survive in saturated soils. Each summer, some part of the region gets hit hard with heavy rain and hot weather, a devastating combination in most instances when drainage is poor. Using defensive management programs such as raising the mowing height, reducing mowing frequency, abandoning grooved front rollers, verticutting, and grooming, applying light amounts of nitrogen, and regular venting aeration may be necessary to make sure the turf can cross the finish line in September. 

As we near the middle part of August, many golf courses perform core aeration, which removes thatch (i.e., organic matter) and modifies the upper rootzone profile, allowing for healthier turf and better golf conditions. Keep in mind that the root structure in the putting greens is likely very weak and core aeration could elicit summer patch disease. A final preventative application may be a good idea if you are susceptible to this disease. 

Other golf course observations in the last two weeks include Cicada Kill Wasp damage, root Pythium, anthracnose, summer patch, fairy ring, and sedge weed breakthrough. In most instances, these problems have not been too severe but with only a few weeks to go be sure to stay on alert because the turf is at its weakest point in the season. 

USGA agronomists can provide insightful and invaluable information involving all areas of golf course maintenance, which will help maximize turf health, playability, and efficiency. Contact Dave Oatis, director doatis@usga.org; Adam Moeller, agronomist amoeller@usga.org; or Jim Skorulski, senior agronomist jskorulski@usga.org for a Turf Advisory Service visit this season.

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