Tuesday, May 27, 2014

USGA Site Visit Summary May 2014

USGA Site Visit Summary

Last Wednesday we had the Todd Lowe from the USGA come out for the first half of a full day visit. The purpose of the USGA Green Section is to assist subscribing golf courses in matters of agronomic management. All recommendations are offered free of bias, since the USGA has no connections or obligations to any manufacturer, supplier or contractor. Additionally, since quick fixes seldom result in permanent improvement, some of the recommendations in this report may not be easy to implement and could take more than a single season to produce the desired results. The entire visit was spent at White Wing and was focused primarily on the greens. This was Todd’s first visit to Sun City and it was great to have someone with his experience and knowledge available as a resource.

The USGA report is attached and includes the USGA’s findings and recommendations.  

In addition to our current practices and per the USGA’s recommendations we will be doing the following during this recovery period and moving forward:

  • Applying dark materials to the greens to help promote heat retention in the upper root zone
  • Aerifying collars to reduce sand dams so that excess water can drain from the greens surface
  • Solid tine aerification of the greens bi-weekly
  • Investigating the use of Primo (product that promotes lateral growth) to see if it speeds up recovery time
  • Implement a more proactive covering procedure before going into next winter
  • Make adjustments in our fertility program greens using slow release nitrogen fertilizers once the recovery period is over

In addition to this report I am pleased to inform our resident golfers that after numerous calls to various sod farms in the state we have been able to locate and purchase some TifEagle sod. The reason we are able to get it now is because the demand has been so high throughout the state that this particular sod farm is having it shipped in on refrigeration trucks from Arizona and dividing the freight cost among all of the golf courses in need to keep the cost down. This sod is slated for delivery the week of June 2nd. The procurement and installation of this sod will help shorten the recovery time and get us back on the greens at White Wing sooner than later. We will continue to update everyone on the progress through the Golf Communicator and the Golf Maintenance Blog.

United States Golf Association

Mr. Gary Wilson, Director of Golf Course Maintenance
Mr. Jonathan Ayers, White Wing Golf Course Superintendent
Mr. Ron Delaney, Director of Operations
Mr. Todd Lowe, USGA Senior Agronomist

Todd Lowe, Senior Agronomist | Green Section | Florida Region 127 Naomi Place | Rotonda West, Florida, 33947 | (941) 828-2625 | Fax (941) 828-2629 | tlowe@usga.org

USGA Green Section Mission: The USGA Green Section are leaders in developing and disseminating agronomically, environmentally, and economically sustainable management practices. We help golf facilities maintain better playing conditions for better golf through science-based and practical solutions.

The purpose of the USGA Green Section is to assist subscribing golf courses in matters of agronomic management. All recommendations are offered free of bias, since the USGA has no connections or obligations to any manufacturer, supplier or contractor. Additionally, since quick fixes seldom result in permanent improvement, some of the recommendations in this report may not be easy to implement and could take more than a single season to produce the desired results.

It was a pleasure visiting White Wing Golf Course on behalf of the USGA Green Section. This visit is the first half of a split full day course consultation service visit, where a return visit will be conducted later in the year. The only topic of discussion that took place today was the condition of the putting greens on the White Wing Golf Course, strategies for improving turf health and golf course conditions, and techniques for avoiding similar situations (to the degree possible) in the future. This report is a summary of the observations and recommendations that were made during the visit and also contains attachments to additional resources concerning the topics discussed.

PUTTING GREENS The putting greens on the White Wing Golf Course experienced turf stress in late winter/early spring, as well as an extremely slow recovery due to the extended cool temperatures that have taken place over the past six weeks. Turf stress has occurred on many golf courses throughout this region, due to several important factors, with the greatest of these being prolonged cool weather experienced over the past six to eight weeks.
Diseases: Several turf diseases were diagnosed on White Wing’s putting greens from late fall through late winter and a variety of fungicides have been applied to address these diseases. In fact, fungicides are still being applied to reduce the likelihood of fungal attack on the weakened turfgrass. While diseases are not the entire issue, they are an ever present stress factor that waits patiently for a proper time to attack turf and cause disease. Extreme shifts in temperature have taken place this past spring, as several days over 90°F were followed within a week’s time by nighttime temperatures below 35°F. This not only creates shifts in turfgrass physiology, but also creates windows of opportunity for plant pathogens to grow. Prolonged cooler temperatures following the initial disease attack encouraged increased turf thinning and delayed recovery.
The recent increase in soil temperatures has caused a favorable response to the greens and I was encouraged in both aboveground and belowground turf health. If temperatures continue to trend upwards, so too will bermudagrass recovery and I feel that the putting greens should experience a near full recovery within the next six to eight weeks. I recommend applying dark substances to the turf, like black sand, charcoal or dark pigment, at this time to increase heat retention within the upper root zone. New turfgrass root and shoot growth occurs within the upper inch of the soil and anything to encourage heat retention is recommended (see Regional Update).

The collars surrounding putting greens become elevated over time from years of sand topdressing. These "sand dams" reduce surface water flow and cause additional soil saturation along putting green perimeters. Elevated collars also exert more physical stress from mechanical practices like mowing and rolling. I have found elevated collars to be problematic on both bermudagrass and bentgrass greens, especially during cooler months. I was pleased to learn that the impact of elevated collars was already being discussed and programs devised to address the issue this summer. It was mentioned that multiple large tine aerations are being considered with subsequent rolling to smooth them out and reduce collar elevation. These programs can be effective if they are incorporated several times each summer. A more aggressive measure might be necessary on putting greens with particularly high collars. Collar stripping with a sod cutter is a rather aggressive program that might require prolonged closure but provides excellent results (see Strip 'Em Bare).

Recovery: A good recovery program has already been initiated on the White Wing putting greens, including eliminating play and creating temporary greens, raising mowing heights, solid-tine "venting", increased fertilization and fungicide treatments. I recommend continuing these practices and applying dark substances as well. It was questioned during the visit whether applying the plant growth regulator Trinexapac-ethyl (Primo) would be of benefit at this time. The label states that Primo should not be applied to stressed turf but there is research that suggests that Primo might actually increase bermudagrass grow-ins. So, I recommend possibly treating half of a putting green for a week or two and evaluating its performance. If the bermudagrass was still in a stressed appearance, then I might suggest not applying Primo. However, the disease has already taken place, causing thin conditions. The turf that is growing at this time is quite healthy and Primo might benefit its growth and overall recovery and performance. If there is any apprehension on behalf of Mr. Ayers, then I recommend erring on the side of caution and not applying Primo at this time.

From the appearance of the putting greens, I feel that they are on the road to recovery and that within a week or two, you will be able to notice the extent of the damage. Agronomically, it is ideal to allow the bermudagrass to recover on its own, but this oftentimes gives golfers the wrong impressions that the management either doesn’t see or care whether they are thin. These sentiments are furthest from the truth, as most golf course superintendents, including those at White Wing Golf Course, want the very best conditions possible for their golfers. It is for this reason that I recommend fixing the bare areas by replacing them with nursery sod in a prioritized manner. This provides a quicker recovery and shows the golfers that the management has the golfers’ best interest in mind.
Looking Forward: Turfgrass management is an art and a science, and it is important to remember that, at the end of the day, golf course superintendents are a lot like farmers. Like other plants, turfgrass is a living, breathing organism that responds positively and negatively to the weather and the cultural practices that are put into place on a daily basis. As mentioned earlier, maintaining appropriate soil moisture is important throughout the year but even more so in winter. Also, in light of the fact that several golf courses in this region with bermudagrass greens have struggled this winter, I recommend incorporating a more proactive putting green covering program. If temperatures are expected to drop below 28°F for more than eight hours, then it might be prudent to cover the putting greens.
Management Programs: An alternative approach that is gaining popularity is exclusive use of slow-release nitrogen fertilizers and reduced total annual nitrogen application rates to harden off the plant, which results in a finer, more upright shoot growth character. With this, there is reduced resistance to ball roll such that higher heights of cut, in the range of 0.150-inch, can be maintained. This was reported in the article Changing Times in Ultradwarf Putting Green Management and the following is a summary of the key and common components of this management approach.

Week One:
Lightly verticut using a triplex setup with thin blade verticut reels. The verticut reels are set at the effective height of cut, so that they are touching the bench top but can still be rotated by hand. Double verticutting is routinely performed, either going up or coming back down the same pass or at a 90° change in the angle of attack. This is followed by routine mowing to remove the verticutting debris. Lightly topdress with a true medium particle sized sand at a rate of 0.25 to 0.5 ft3 of material per 1000 ft2. This is followed by incorporating the topdressing sand into the turf canopy with a carpet backed drag mat.

 Fertilize with a granular complete type formulation that contains only a slow release nitrogen source to supply 0.25 to 0.33 lbs. of actual nitrogen per 1000 ft2. The most common fertilizer formulations being used have either a 1:1 or 1:2 nitrogen to potassium ratio. The fertilizer application is then thoroughly watered in, which helps further incorporate the topdressing sand.
      The day following the above treatments, the putting greens are rolled, but not mowed, and then routine mowing is resumed through the remainder of the week. At some courses, single cutting of the putting greens on a daily basis is sufficient for providing fast putting speeds and at others, rolling is alternated on an every other day basis with routine mowing. When very fast putting speeds must be provided, mowing and rolling are routinely conducted; however, it has been found that target area rolling 20 to 30 ft. around the hole location can also be practiced and golfers are not able to detect that complete rolling of the putting greens has not been performed.
 A follow-up broadcast spray application of the micronutrients iron and manganese plus the growth regulator trinexapac-ethyl at a rate of 3 to 4 oz. of product per acre is also routinely conducted on a weekly basis. However, basic micronutrient sources that do not contain soluble or readily available nitrogen are used exclusively. Furthermore, care is exercised when fertigation is used to avoid applying any additional nitrogen to the putting greens. A supplemental application of a readily available nitrogen source such as ammonium sulfate is performed when routine summertime core aeration is conducted, to ensure full recovery occurs as quickly as possible.

Week Two:
  An application of potassium to supply 0.25 to 0.5 lbs. of actual K per 1000 ft2 is routinely conducted the week following the application of the complete granular fertilizer formulation. At some courses, the above light verticutting and topdressing are conducted on an every 7-day interval. However at others, an every 14-day rotation is employed.
Again, a broadcast spray application of micronutrients plus trinexapac-ethyl is always part of the weekly routine. 
Based on experiences at other courses, six to eight weeks is typically required for the turf to fully acclimate to the granular fertilization program, and as this occurs, the height of cut can be increased without a loss of putting speed. As with any "program" it is important to monitor turf health and weather conditions so that adjustments are made as necessary. This is especially true as far as conducting preventative or curative fungicide treatments during times when environmental conditions are conducive to disease activity. Also, since the grass is growing less, it is recommended to use less aggressive measures in winter, like smooth rollers on mowers and skipping "clean-up" passes with verticutters. This will help maintain good turf quality on putting green perimeters throughout the peak season.

Thank you for the opportunity to visit and discuss your golf course maintenance operation as part of the USGA Course Consulting Service. In addition to this visit and report, please do not hesitate to contact our office at any time during the year with further questions to take full advantage of our service.


Todd Lowe

USGA Senior Agronomist