On The Road With The USGA - November 2009
It’s very interesting to watch neighbors maintain their yards. Interesting because there are direct ties to golf turf maintenance and they tend to either over or under manage. The tie is the similarity between golf course rough and home lawn maintenance. However, not many courses catch and remove clippings when the rough is mowed, nor do they bag and remove leaves. Homeowners, will often do both. Removing clippings and leaves adds cost and compromises environmental friendliness and the compromise can be significant. It must be a lack of knowledge and/or the tendency to compete with neighbors. Research is clear – returning clippings and mulching leaves reduces cost and the negative environmental impact of disposing, while also allowing quality turf. Clearly, mulching leaves on fairways will not work due to the lower mowing height and compromise to playability, but it can work very nicely in the rough. Blowers can be used to spread the pulverized leaves. Research has shown that, when appropriate mowing heights and reasonably good density are in place prior to mulching, there is no negative impact on plant health.
While I’ve never talked with a course about returning clippings when rough is mowed, because everyone already does, it is a common topic with fairway management. Proper fertilization and appropriate use of plant growth regulation can set the stage nicely for returning clippings on fairways. Clipping production, when regulation is in place and fertilization properly fitted, is manageable and there can actually be a reduction in fertilizer input. Catching and removing clippings will force more fertilization to achieve the same/healthy turf. Additionally, since clippings have no impact on thatch accumulation, housekeeping becomes the only argument for catching and removing. A quick dragging of fairways or blowing can disburse any clipping clumping, should it occur. The end result is typically less maintenance cost; a more environmentally friendly operation; and, no change (good or bad) in playability.
This is the time of year when it is common for various projects to be pursued along with routine maintenance. As such, it is important to guard prioritization. In the final analysis it is routine maintenance like aeration, fertilization, continued appropriate mowing frequency and pest management, which will directly impact health and playability next season. Projects offer improvements, but never will improvements justify compromising needed maintenance. Closely tied is the importance of separating the cost of improvements from routine maintenance. The operating budget is normally fitted to maintenance needs and trying to add projects or renovation can quickly pull down the ability to do either.
With the 2009 – 2010 conference season underway, the KTC Turf Conference in Bowling Green, KY has already come and gone. Next up is the Ohio Turfgrass Conference and Show during the 2nd week of December in Columbus, OH (http://www.ohioturfgrass.org/index.php). Call or email anytime and keep in mind the value of a fall visit to review 2009 and plan for 2010.
Source: Bob Brame, firstname.lastname@example.org or 859.356.3272