Golf Course Management 'Down Under' February 27, 2015

Golf Course Management 'Down Under'

By John Foy, Director
October 31, 2008

The Green Section's 18 regional agronomists provide web updates that discuss turf and course management issues encountered while making Turf Advisory Service (TAS) visits. During the first three weeks of October, I did not make any TAS visits in the Florida Region because I was serving as the championship agronomist for the 2008 World Amateur Team Championships hosted at The Grange and Royal Adelaide Golf Clubs in Adelaide, South Australia. This was my fourth World Amateur, and this has been a wonderful opportunity to visit other parts of the world and be involved with course preparations for the "Olympics" of golf. Argentina and Turkey will host the next World Amateur Team Championships in 2010 and 2012, respectively.

In this year's Women's World Amateur, the team from Sweden captured the Esprito Santos Trophy by 12 strokes over Spain, and 14 over the USA. On the men's side, Scotland claimed its first Eisenhower Trophy with a 9-shot victory over team USA; and Sweden finished third to take the bronze medal.

While there are naturally differences in Australia, there are also similarities to Florida as far as turfgrass and golf course management. Bermudagrass or 'couchgrass' as it is known in Australia, is the base turf used on tees as well as through fairway and rough areas at the vast majority of courses. Seashore paspalum is beginning to be utilized because of water quality concerns. Even though extremely hot temperatures of more than 100 degrees can occur during the summer in the Adelaide, Melbourne, and Sydney areas, bentgrass putting surfaces, as well as collars and surround areas, are being maintained. While there are definitely challenges with growing bentgrass in the summer in Australia, they have very low humidity, and thus reduced disease pressure. And yes, Poa annua is truly a universal weed problem that also is being battled down under.

With regard to course conditions and presentation, the key words in Australia are dry, firm, and fast. This is true whether a course is being maintained for daily member play or a tournament. In many respects, this simplified preparations. Maintaining a consistent character and avoiding the development of extremely firm and fast putting green conditions was actually more of a concern at times.

In Australia, golfers of all ages prefer to walk rather than ride in buggies (golf carts). While most clubs have a few golf carts, they are greatly out numbered by pull carts. Furthermore, Australian golfers are not overly color conscious; and thus very judicious irrigation and nitrogen fertilization can be practiced to produce the desired dry, firm, and fast bermudagrass fairways.

A couple of other interesting differences with the Australian courses, and specifically the couch fairways, were the dominant varieties or cultivars being utilized and the heights of cut routinely maintained. At The Grange Golf Club, Santa Anna bermuda was maintained, while across the street at Royal Adelaide, common bermudagrass was the base turf on the fairways as well as through the roughs and on the tees. These bermudagrasses have a coarser leaf blade compared to Tifway (419), but still produced a very dense turf cover and excellent ball lies. This is especially true at The Grange Golf Club, where the fairways were maintained at a height of cut of 10 mm, or approximately 0.375-inch, and mowed twice daily for the World Amateur. The only difference between routine fairway maintenance for daily member play and hosting the championships was the increased mowing frequency at The Grange.

In consideration of the skyrocketing course maintenance costs, the Australian approach to bermuda/couchgrass fairway management and not over-fertilizing and watering has merit here in Florida. Average to high handicap golfers especially would benefit from increased distance with tee shots on dry, firm and fast fairways. However, before this can happen, we will have to overcome the major obstacle of having to provide lush green turf through every square foot of the fairways and roughs.

Source: John Foy,jfoy@usga.orgor 772-546-2620