Turf Conversion Projects Are A Popular Topic In California

By Pat Gross, director, Southwest Region
July 9, 2014

 (L) At The Valley Club of Montecito, converting fairways from perennial ryegrass to Santa Ana hybrid bermudagrass has resulted in better summer playing quality and a 30 percent reduction in overall water use. (R) Black Gold Golf Club continues efforts to convert to kikuyugrass by seeding and applying mulch as part of their efforts to have firmer, drier fairways while reducing overall water use.

Once considered too disruptive and costly, turf conversion projects are now being discussed at courses in response to water restrictions and rising water prices in many parts of California. A recent visit to The Valley Club of Montecito near Santa Barbara provides a good case study highlighting the significant amount of water that can be saved by replacing perennial ryegrass fairways with Santa Ana hybrid bermudagrass. The project at The Valley Club was completed in two phases during the summers of 2012 and 2013. Each year nine holes were closed from Memorial Day (late May) to Independence Day (July 4) for turf removal, renovation and sodding. The original goal of the project was to improve summer playability and reduce costs for disease and weed control.  As drought conditions worsened in 2013 and 2014, the reduced water use of the hybrid bermudagrass proved to be an even greater benefit, resulting in a 30 percent overall reduction in water use in 2013.

Black Gold Golf Club in Yorba Linda is another example of a golf course originally planted with perennial ryegrass that has improved summer playability and reduced water use by planting a warm-season grass, in this case, kikuyugrass. The kikuyugrass establishment program was initiated five and a half years ago using a combination of seeding, sodding and spreading kikuyugrass sprigs without shutting down the golf course. Nearly all fairways are now at 90 percent kikuyugrass coverage. This has resulted in drier, firmer playing conditions and a significant reduction in overall water use.

Pat Gross (pgross@usga.org)

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