Let There Be Light

By Patrick O’Brien and Chris Hartwiger, agronomists, Southeast Region
August 30, 2012

An inexpensive “app” for a tablet or smartphone can provide valuable information regarding available sunlight to a putting green.

Numerous USGA Green Section Turf Advisory Service visits this season have focused on assessing and analyzing sunlight patterns. Most of these visits were in conjunction with planned conversions to ultradwarf bermudagrass putting greens. With the use of new technology and the application of shade research from Clemson University, we are able to accurately identify any potential shade issues.

There are now numerous “apps” available to aid in the identification of the sun’s path at various times of the day and of the year. This is obviously very important when identifying trees and other objects that might be blocking sunlight from reaching the turf. The value of being able to stand on a green with a smartphone or a tablet and easily identify problem trees, and then share the information with others, is obvious.

A second step in the process is to analyze the findings and make recommendations. Dr. Bert McCarty and other scientists at Clemson University determined minimum sunlight requirements for bermudagrass putting greens. We apply this research to what we have observed on the golf course and offer specific recommendations if any trees need to be removed. Tree removal is almost always an emotional issue as well as an agronomic one, so basing these recommendations on science and technology is much better than the educated guess we had to rely on in the past. Plus, we occasionally find that courses have incorrectly identified which trees should be removed. Invariably, they are pleasantly surprised to find out that a tree that they thought had to be removed can be spared the chain saw.

For more information on the impact of shade on turf we have provided links to two excellent articles:

Sunlight Requirements for Ultradwarf Bermudagrass Greens

Made in the Shade

If your golf course is preparing for a conversion from bentgrass to ultradwarf bermudagrass greens, let us help you with a sunlight analysis to ensure your putting greens are receiving adequate sunlight for plant health and ultimately, playability.

Source: Patrick O'Brien 770-229-8125 or patobrien@usga.org  and Chris Hartwiger 205-444-5079 or chartwiger@usga.org

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