2012 Spring Transition Cultural Practices – Cowan Creek Golf Club
What is happening to the greens on Cowan Creek?
As reported in the CA Golf Communicator last week, the greens at Cowan Creek are struggling to complete the transition from winter dormancy. Virtually all 18 greens are impacted, some more than others with #2, #3, #6 and #7 being the worst.
Cowan Creek endured a relatively mild winter this year, causing the greens to come out of dormancy earlier than in the recent past. There are several environmental factors, along with the high volume of traffic, that have promoted an unhealthy root system on the golf course greens. A combination of excessive rainfall and the compaction caused by foot traffic led to areas of certain greens sealing off, which inhibits water and air infiltration to the roots. In addition, although the temperatures have been warmer than usual for this time of year, the optimum weather for growing Bermuda grass needs to be a combined 150 degrees (when combining the daily highs and lows). This season has proven to be warmer, yet too cool to meet this standard, and a majority of the days have been overcast with limited sunlight. These unfavorable conditions promote certain diseases such as Bermuda grass Decline (Spring Dead Spot), Rhizoctonia Zea, and Pythium Blight.
At a meeting earlier this week of the Central Texas Golf Course Superintendents Association our Superintendents was able to compare notes with other Superintendents from
Central Texas. Several other golf courses in Austin and are experiencing similar conditions. San Antonio
What are you doing to improve them?
All of these factors mentioned above have resulted in our need for supplemental fertilizer and cultural practices, of which I will briefly list and describe below:
- 2/2/12: Fertilized greens with potassium nitrate (13.5-0-46.2), Feature Professional (micronutrient package containing iron)
- 2/7/12: Fertilized greens with C-85, Potassium Carbonate (0-0-60), Penecal, Salt-EX, Turf RxCa
- 2/8/12: Applied Headway (turf fungicide) for Bermudagrass Decline and Rhizoctonia zia prevention and control
- 2/10/12: Fertilized greens with potassium nitrate (13.5-0-46.2), Feature Professional (micronutrient package containing iron)
- 2/14/12: Planet Air Greens – spiked greens with Planet Air machine to promote water infiltration and provide roots with oxygen.
- 2/16/12: Fertilized greens with Power N (24-0-0), Power K (0-0-22), Astron, Renaissance, Perk Up, Raider Plus
- 2/21/12: Planet Air Greens, topdressed, fertilized with Hydrahume, drag brush
- 2/22/12: Fertilized greens with C-85, Potassium Carbonate (0-0-60), Penecal, Salt-EX, Turf RxCa
- 2/23/12: Rolled greens with Salsco roller
- 2/27/12: Planet Air Greens – spiked greens with Planet Air machine to promote water infiltration and provide roots with oxygen.
- 2/28/12: Fertilized greens with Power N (24-0-0), Power K (0-0-22), Astron, Renaissance, Perk Up, Raider Plus
- 2/29/12: Rolled greens with Salsco roller
- 3/6/12: Fertilized greens with potassium nitrate (13.5-0-46.2), ferrous sulfate (iron)
- 3/7/12: Rolled greens with Salsco roller
- 3/8/12: Verticut greens (less than 1/16th”)
- 3/8/12: Fertilized greens with Urea (46-0-0)
- 3/9/12: Verticut greens (less than 1/16th”)
- 3/10/12: Verticut greens (less than 1/16th”)
- 3/11/12: Verticut, topdressed, drag brush greens
- 3/11/12: Sprayed greens with Headway (fungicide), C-85, Penecal, Potassium Carbonate (0-0-60), TriCal (calcium carbonate)
- 3/12/12: Verticut greens (less than 1/16th”), rolled greens with Salsco roller
- 3/13/12: Fertilized greens with Power N (24-0-0), Power K (0-0-22), Astron, Renaissance, Perk Up, Floradox, Raider Plus
- 3/14/12: Rolled greens with Salsco roller
- 3/16/12: Topdressed greens, drag brush
- 3/19/12: Aerified greens (star tine), Verticut, Topdressed, drag brush, rolled greens with Salsco roller, mowed greens
3/21/12: Fertilized greens with 50 lbs. potassium nitrate (13.5-0-46.2), 25 lbs. ferrous sulfate (iron), 20 lbs. Urea (46-0-0)
When can we expect the greens to be back to acceptable condition?
Depending on the temperature and amount of sunlight that we receive, we should start to see improvement in health, color, and playability in the next few weeks. We will continue to perform minor cultural practices on our weak areas to promote lateral growth which will aid in their recovery.
Why are we experiencing these problems only on the Cowan Creek greens and not Legacy Hills when they both have the same turf type?
Although the turf variety is the same at both Cowan and Legacy, they are both being grown in a different soil medium. The Cowan greens were built on straight sand, whereas the soil profile at Legacy Hills is more mature (including the four greens rebuilt in 2010) and retains nutrients and water more readily. Sand-based greens are more susceptible to leaching of nutrients and drying out. Over time, the soil profile at Cowan will build up organic matter, which will alleviate the current issues.
What are the cultural practices being used?
Planet Air: The Planet Air machine is pulled behind a Pro Gator (larger utility vehicle), and is used to spike the greens with thin blades that slice about 2.5-3” into the turf. This process allows water to infiltrate into the root zone, as well as provides the roots with much needed oxygen. The practice does not normally impact the playability of the greens, however. When topdressing and dragging the sand in, we found that the grass would tuft up as the brush crosses the slit at the wrong angle. The obstruction can be avoided by dragging in the sand in the same direction of the Planet Air slits.
Topdressing: Adding small amounts of greens-grade sand periodically has multiple benefits. Sand fills voids caused by ballmarks and bumps which provides a smoother putting surface. Topdressing also improves the soil profile by diluting thatch buildup with sand, and allows more air and water into the root zone by having a pore space that is more diverse. One major benefit to topdressing is to firm up the putting surface, which speeds up the greens.
Drag Brush: Dragging greens is primarily practiced after topdressing. Using a drag brush works the sand into the soil profile, and helps disperse the sand more evenly across the green.
The drag brush can sometimes both help and hurt simultaneously. Last summer we experienced a period of an exceptional drought. During this time, we were unable to perform several of our weekly agronomic practices which included verticutting and topdressing our greens. Without knowing whether we would have a steady supply of water for our greens, we avoided these practices to keep them as healthy as possible with minimal disruption to the turf. In turn, the greens became grainy in certain areas. When using the drag brush this spring, the brush tufts up the grass blades when dragging against the grain. It is beneficial to stand the grass blade up with the brush as to reduce the grain on the greens, but by doing so this practice will temporarily make the putting surface bumpy until it is mowed. Over time, periodically verticutting and dragging the greens will decrease the amount of grain on the greens, making them a more uniform color with better roll.
Verticutting: Verticutting has several benefits to Bermudagrass greens. The machine used makes many small vertical cuts into the shoots of the grass plant, enhancing lateral growth, decreasing thatch, and closing up voids caused by aerifying, spiking, or slicing. The vertictutter also aids in working in topdressing sand, and helps decrease grain on the putting surface. Weather permitting, this practice will coincide with topdressing on a weekly basis to rid the greens of grain and promote a more consistent roll.
Aerification (Star Tine): The star tine aerification is a non-aggressive way to create pore space in the root zone, which provides oxygen to the roots and promotes water infiltration. This process has the similar effect as the Planet Air machine, but can be altered in terms of depth and surface area. The star tine is a solid tine which punches “X-shaped” holes on the putting surface, allowing room for sand, air, and water.
Rolling: We roll the greens using a Salsco roller periodically to increase ball speed and to firm up the greens. In winter months, we alternate mowing and rolling to decrease the amount of mechanical stress we put on the greens. Rolling greens after practices such as aerification promotes a more uniform recovery and reduces scalping from mowing equipment.
With the current stresses caused by environmental factors and traffic, our fertilizer program and cultural practices are a necessity to ensure healthy roots. Compaction (foot traffic), sealing off (water retention), disease stress (cool, wet climate), and low sunlight all have a negative impact on the roots. We raised our mowing heights in the late fall going into dormancy in addition to these cultural practices to increase the potential of a healthy root system. Although some of these practices may be perceived as destructive, they are essential to the long-term health of our greens. With continued agronomic practices and warmer, sunnier weather, we should see a dramatic positive response to the putting surfaces.