Taking The “Ick” Out Of Excess Organic Material

By Larry Gilhuly, Director, Northwest Region
June 25, 2010

From the start of the year, the west side of the Cascade Range has set a record (Seattle area) for the most continuous days below 75oF. When this type of cool weather occurs, excessive rainfall usually follows from the Pacific, and 2010 has not disappointed those who like rain. Although cool season grasses (e.g. Poa annua, perennial ryegrass, bentgrass) truly appreciate this type of weather pattern, the conditions create potential for excessive organic buildup that causes surface firmness. In some cases, it is the soil underneath, but in many cases near putting greens, it is excessive organic material that does not let water infiltrate into the soil. The result is wet, unmowable areas marked by white paint. Can this condition be easily fixed at no cost or should all of these locations have complete renovation? Read on as one golf course superintendent found a low cost, workable answer.

When you watch the 2010 U.S. Senior Open at Sahalee Country Club in late July, several low areas between the mounds near the greens are natural water collection areas. At the same time, they are perfect locations for excessive growth of Poa annua and bentgrass. Sand topdressing and regular aeration are used to help negate the problems of excess organic material, but often this is not enough. After testing several methods to dry these areas, Rich Taylor, CGCS, struck upon the idea of using cup cutters spaced every one to two feet to go as deep as possible. The excessive organic material and some soil is removed and replaced with sand. This change essentially creates multiple dry wells in the area. If the soil underneath has reasonable permeability, the results are fast and effective. Follow-up sand topdressing is then practiced to minimize future layers.

In the past few years, previous wet areas around the greens are now gone by using this simple technique. In that time, other golf courses have tried this technique with similar results, viewed during one of the wettest springs in recent years. So, if you want to take the "ick" out of excessive organic material around your greens or other portions of the golf course, give this simple technique a try.

Source: Larry Gilhuly, lgilhuly@usga.org or 253-858-2266 

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