Superintendent Notes

Did you ever find yourself on the course enjoying a round of golf and comment to your playing partners about how great the pace of the greens are. Some enjoy the moment and some wonder why the greens can’t be like this everyday?
There are a large number of variables that affect turfgrass growth and in turn affect putting green speed. What is able to be achieved at one time of the year may be impossible at another time of year.
The biggest affect on turf health and playability is the weather. Air and soil temperatures have a tremendous affect on turfgrass growth rates. Moisture and humidity do as well. Rain or irrigation events combined with fertilizer applications can cause a spike in turf growth. This effect can be magnified under warm conditions, with the result being increased surface resistance and reduced ball roll. Similarly, hot humid conditions cause turfgrass leaves to retain moisture and remain fat, and this may also result in reduced green speed. Dry, windy conditions can cause the plant to wilt, which can reduce surface resistance and increase green speed. Putting green speed will vary from day to day simply as a result of weather influences and the seasonal changes turf undergoes.
Many maintenance practices affect green speed. Mowing and rolling increase putting green speed. Topdressing, which is required to dilute organic matter, may initially reduce the speed but after a few days the smoothing effect of the sand application will increase the speed. The same is true for brushing. We have an out front brush for our greens mower. The brush, stands the grass plants up before they enter the cutting units. This operation removes any grain and ensures the greens putt true, but can slow green speed down for a day or two before stimulating an increase.
Many other factors affect turfgrass growth. Growing environments, soil conditions, application of growth regulators, applications of plant protectants and applications of fertilizer play a huge role. Anything that affects turf growth will in turn affect green speed. In the Turfcare Department we are constantly juggling these maintenance practices with the weather to maximize playability and maintain consistency the best we can. Despite the science, training, equipment and experience it is impossible to maintain consistent putting green speed everyday of the season.
The question is why would you want it to be the same everyday? Adjusting your game to the set up and the course at hand is what the game of golf is all about. The golf course is a living thing and it changes everyday. Being outside in nature is what draws people to the game. Varying how the course plays through set up and how one has to adjust one’s game based on playing conditions is what makes the game interesting and challenging. So next time you think about green speed maybe think a little about all the pieces that put that puzzle together.
        We are heading into fall, which is arguably the best time of year for golf. It is also the time of year for turf maintenance practices. We will be continuing to aerate fairways this fall. Please be patient with the Turfcare staff and allow them to clear an area before you play into it. This fairway aerating has been a huge help in greatly minimizing the amount of days we have to be cart path only, so please be patient.
Matt Blackburn
Golf Course Superintendent
*references from “Why Can’t Green Speeds Remain Constant”, USGA Course Care, June 17, 2016.
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