Solving problems in turf

Challenges in turf involve more than the grass and range from weak trees to fake news.


Solving problems in turf1
John Hoyle, CGCS, golf course superintendent at Corning Country Club in Corning, N.Y., addressed renovating his course's fairways from "hodgepodge" to Luminary creeping bentgrass as part of "Turf Solutions I" on Jan. 27 at the Orange County Convention Center. Photo by Roger Billings

Education sessions at the Golf Industry Show were jump-started the morning of Monday, Jan. 27, by “Turf Solutions I: Everything but the Kitchen Sink,” followed Jan. 28 by “Turf Solutions II: Everything but the Mower.” Both sessions addressed some old — and some newer — problems.

We’ve all heard the saying, “Right tree, right place,” but golf course architect Jim Nagle of Forse Design says the old adage does not always mean tree removal. American golf course architect William Flynn argued that moving a hole to the left or the right could save a tree that was worthy of keeping. Because trees can significantly affect the playability and the management of the golf course, tree selection, placement and maintenance are critical. A few of Nagle’s guidelines for tree selection and placement:

  • Decide whether you want a native or non-native species — native species often perform better — and look at what is already doing well on your property.
  • Go to more than one nursery to get different genetics in your trees — this can prevent all your trees from being susceptible to the same insect pest or disease.
  • Make sure your trees have hard bark so they can withstand being hit repeatedly by golf balls.
  • Susceptibility to winter weather is a problem for “weak” trees like white pines and silver maples that are easily damaged by storms.
  • Trees can present problems from top to bottom: Canopy density can interfere with play, as do roots on the surface of the soil, and roots below the soil in bunkers and in irrigation lines can cause maintenance issues.

Turf Solutions I, which was moderated by University of Florida’s Jason Kruse, Ph.D., also featured John Hoyle, CGCS, golf course superintendent, Corning Country Club, Corning, N.Y., who discussed renovating “Heinz 57” or “hodgepodge” fairways to Luminary creeping bentgrass; Josh Weaver, agriculture compliance specialist, Clemson University, who looked at the possibilities of using biostimulants in turfgrass management; and Kenneth Cropper, Ph.D., turfgrass research coordinator, University of Kentucky, who explored the potential for saving time and money with curative disease control, particularly of dollar spot.

Solving problems in turf2
Travis Shaddox, Ph.D., discussed effective application of iron on greens during "Turf Solutions II" on Jan. 28. Photo by Montana Pritchard

The problem-solving continued during “Turf Solutions II: Everything but the Mower,” moderated by Beth Guertal, Ph.D., from Auburn University.

Presenter Travis Shaddox, Ph.D., addressed the effective application of iron on greens. Like U.S. superintendents in general, 84% of the audience applies iron. In addition, 90% used foliar on greens, and 65% applied foliar iron to other areas of the course. The popularity of foliar over granular iron applications is well-founded. Non-chelated granular iron products are not effective because they lose solubility within one hour of application. However, chelated granular iron products (EDDHA, DTPA and EDTA) will retain solubility, but they must be applied at a rate of more than 20 pounds/acre, and the soil pH must be greater than 7.0 but less than 7.9. In contrast, foliar products are applied at 1 pound/acre. (For more information, see Soil solubility of iron fertilizers.)

Challenges of a different sort were addressed by Rick L. Brandenburg, Ph.D., and Travis Gannon, Ph.D., both from North Carolina State University. They discussed how superintendents can debunk myths (which Brandenburg calls “fake news”) associated with pesticide use on the golf course. Brandenburg also urged audience members to post only information that has been confirmed by a credible source. Frank Rossi, Ph.D., from Cornell University discussed the importance — and difficulties — of maintaining ecofriendly golf courses to attract the next generation of golfers.

Teresa Carson is GCM’s science editor.