I just walked off the 18th green after measuring green speed with a Stimpmeter and came away with a reading of 9.25’. The goal on these greens, with the heavy undulations and our volume of play, is anywhere from 8.5’ to 9.5’. Anything slower than this results in the slow greens complaint. Faster than this means complaints about pin positions and a reduction in usable space on putting greens resulting in excessive wear. I sometimes wish that I was managing flat greens again where the goal was simply to make putting greens as fast as you can while withstanding traffic. Managing greenspeeds within a range is much more difficult than just making them fast. I think we have a pretty good handle on where we are at now and for the rest of the season-for the first time in about 18 months or so. We have made the transition, finally, from finishing the recovery from the previous year and are back to where we can resume our maintenance (as opposed to recovery) programs as the picture below illustrates.
16 Collar 7-5-2019
While admittedly not my best photo, upon close inspection you can see two things here. Darker green patches of bentgrass (desired) interspersed with pale, sad green patches of Poa annua, also called annual bluegrass (undesired). Look at the areas in the sunshine and you can see the difference better. This situation is intentional in that we were able to resume our growth regulation programs on greens and fairways in June with the intent of “squeezing out” the annual bluegrass by creating a situation where the bentgrass outgrows the annual bluegrass. The PGRs (plant growth regulators) that we use encourage the lateral growth of bentgrass while weakening the Poa annua. These programs are especially important right now since the damaged areas last year were infested with annual bluegrass, some of which was tracked onto greens in the form of seed from golfers’ shoes. In order to encourage the long-term health of the golf course, we need to really commit to a program of weakening annual bluegrass while encouraging bentgrass. We had been on just such a program for over 15 years with solid success in keeping the golf course clean. Last year, however, we had to abandon the program in order to establish new turf in many areas of the golf course and you can tell. We have annual bluegrass throughout the course, it is not something that we cannot mitigate over a period of 2-3 years given excellent growing conditions like those that we have experienced of late. Our hope is for conditions that continue to be warm and dry as this will help us to maintain this competitive advantage for the bentgrass. So far, so good. More than anything, we do not need any more 6 month long winters with multiple freeze/thaw cycles.
Funny how one year can have such long-term effects on a golf course. Also interesting is that the management decisions we make regarding the golf course are long-term in nature-the best managed golf courses have a plan to ensure the viability of the golf course well into the future. As opposed to continually reacting to issues that will inevitably arise if this perspective is lacking. The challenge is in sticking to your guns in following through with these plans as sometimes the short-term pressures-both financial and from players-can cause one to deviate from the long-term goals. Financial pressure can cause us to simply not afford to continue our programs-such as our just mentioned regulation program as well as our annual drainage work that has worked wonders in improving course conditions. This golf course maintenance stuff can get pretty expensive. An example of player pressure would be in the form of complaints about slow greenspeeds while in recovery. The worst thing we could have done in June would have been to lower cutting heights below what has historically been our optimal setting as this would have tilted the field in favor of the annual bluegrass as well as encouraged the formation of moss on greens-but this could be the topic of another newsletter.
See you on the golf course.