Photo Quiz: Brown circles, tee box damage

Calling all turf buffs: Can you solve the mysteries behind these two cases of discolored turf?


Filed to: Photo Quiz

GCM’s Photo Quiz is presented in partnership with STEC Equipment.

STEC Equipment

Problem A: Several brown spots with hole in the center

Brown circles golf green
Location: Naples, Fla.
Turfgrass area: Putting green
Turfgrass variety: TifEagle bermudagrass

Problem B: Mysterious discoloring of turf

Tee box discolored turf
Location: Bluffton, S.C.
Turfgrass area: Tee box
Turfgrass variety: TifGrand bermudagrass

Scroll down for answers.












Problem A: Several brown spots with hole in the center

Fireworks turfgrass damage

When the golf course superintendent at this club in southwestern Florida first saw the brown spots on this green, he also noticed the marks had a hole in the center. To investigate the damage further, he pulled out his trusty knife and probed one of the centers, where he found a dark gray pellet with its top still exposed in the hole.

The golf course had played host to a huge professional fireworks show to celebrate New Year’s Eve 2019. After the event, there had been no visible damage to the turf — just a lot of debris that was cleaned up the next morning. About a month after the display, though, these brown spots began to appear.

It turned out that the small pellets from the fireworks, composed of metal and salt compounds, had been deposited on some of the greens during the show and remained in the TifEagle canopy, slowly releasing their components. When the materials had built up to a high enough level, they began to burn the turfgrass roots, causing these brown spots. After the pellets were removed, the areas healed on their own.

Photo submitted by Andy Newton, a superintendent in Naples, Fla.

Problem B: Mysterious discoloring of turf

Insect repellent turf damage

This photo shows something many of us have experienced, although this damage is substantial compared with most.

When the longtime superintendent — who oversees the course at a junior golf academy — came upon the damage, he was baffled. This facility is a boarding school for high school students who come from all over the world with the desire to take their golf game to the next level, and this turf discoloration was on the first tee of the facility’s chipping course.

At first, the superintendent thought it looked like pesticide burn, but knowing they had not sprayed the area, he searched for other causes. Later that day, he opened the scorecard box on the first tee and found his answer: The students had been spraying insect repellent on themselves before teeing off, and, as a courtesy, had been leaving the can for the next group.

Photo submitted by Bill Henderson, the superintendent at Beaufort-Jasper Academy for Career Excellence in Bluffton, S.C., and a 30-year GCSAA member.

Editor’s note: Have a photo for Photo Quiz? Email it to author John Mascaro.

John Mascaro is the president of Turf-Tec International.