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How To Establish "Bluemuda" Fairways September 20, 2019 By Zach Nicoludis, agronomist, Central Region

Golfers used to experience declining playability as the bermudagrass fairways entered dormancy. Now, interseeded bluegrass provides a quality playing surface during the shoulder seasons. 

  • Weather conditions in the transition zone make it possible to grow both warm- and cool-season grasses.
  • Golf courses that have bermudagrass fairways in the transition zone struggle to produce quality, consistent playing conditions in the shoulder seasons when the bermudagrass is dormant. Additionally, bermudagrass can suffer winter injury when harsh weather conditions are experienced.
  •  Interseeding HGT bluegrass into bermudagrass fairways makes it possible to utilize the strengths of both a warm-season grass and a cool-season grass to provide golfers with quality, consistent conditions all year.

‘Quickstand’ bermudagrass fairways were established in the early 1990s at Danville Country Club in Danville, Kentucky, because this turfgrass provides a quality playing surface during the hot, humid summers common to Kentucky. However, fairway playability during the shoulder seasons became an issue because the turf was dormant. Seeking a way to improve playing conditions without closing the course for an extended period of time, several test plots were established to determine if HGT bluegrass could be seeded into the existing fairways to develop a two-grass system that capitalized on the strengths of each grass. HGT bluegrass was chosen because it can provide a quality playing surface at fairway height and has excellent disease resistance.

The test plots showed that slit seeding HGT bluegrass into the ‘Quickstand’ bermudagrass fairways in two directions would improve playing conditions during the shoulder seasons. It was decided the golf course would be closed for 10 days during late September 2017 to seed all the fairways at a total rate of 3 pounds of seed per 1,000 square feet. Seed was planted in two directions to reach the total desired rate. A starter fertilizer with the analysis 16-28-12 was applied at a rate of 0.8 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet to supply the seedlings with adequate nutrients.

Golf carts were restricted to cart paths for three weeks when the golf course reopened so seedlings were not injured and to avoid rutting since the fairways were soft from the light, frequent watering required to support the new turf. Even though carts were restricted to the paths, most of the golfers were happy to hear the course was only closing for 10 days to complete this project.

The new blend of bermudagrass and HGT bluegrass in the fairways has been nicknamed “Bluemuda.” After the first full year of playing on the new fairways at Danville Country Club, this project has been considered a success. Golfers were playing on healthy bluegrass turf in the spring of 2018, a combination of bluegrass and bermudagrass all summer, and then the bluegrass took over as the bermudagrass entered dormancy in the fall of 2018.

Even though a cool-season grass was established, fungicides were not applied to fairways during the 2018 golf season. HGT bluegrass has excellent disease resistance and only isolated areas of dollar spot and brown patch occurred during the most stressful period of the season. Turf loss did not occur since the disease outbreaks were minor.   

Consideration must be given to the type of bermudagrass on the fairways before establishing a two-grass system. Some bermudagrasses have denser canopies which could impact the success of interseeding to establish “Bluemuda.” As the bermudagrass at Danville Country Club entered dormancy in the fall of 2018, it was noticed that the HGT bluegrass did not establish as well in isolated areas where denser types of bermudagrass existed. Regardless of the situation or grass varieties involved, it is a sound decision to establish test plots to evaluate turf health and playability at your facility before making any decisions about moving to a two-grass system in the fairways.

There is never a perfect choice when it comes to selecting a turfgrass, especially in the transition zone. Each has their strengths and weaknesses. The “Bluemuda” approach makes it possible to utilize the strengths of a warm-season grass and a cool-season grass to improve playability throughout the year.