By Mike Jiggens
PLANTâ€ˆScience’s annual Turf Academy series changed direction in August
with the addition of USGA green section agronomist Adam Moeller to lead
groups of golf superintendents on walks through five Ontario courses.
The past four years saw Dr. Joe Vargas, a plant pathologist from the University of Michigan, identifying various problem areas at the courses he visited and offering solutions to turn things around.
“We did four years with Joe and cycled through the province,” said Plant Science Inc. president Rob Field. “Most of the guys had been to a Joe Vargas turf academy once or twice—some guys three times—so we thought it was time for a new educator to bring the guys something new.”
Moeller, who represents the USGA’s northeast region, visited Hamilton Golf & Country Club, Twenty Valley Golf Club in Vineland, King Valley Golf Club in King City, Muskoka Lakes Golf Club in Port Carling and Equinelle Golf Club in Kempville over five consecutive days, from Aug. 8-12.
Moeller’s area of expertise is in aeration and topdressing, giving the superintendents in attendance a different perspective.
“He’s got a little routine he goes through,” Field said. “The neat thing about this is it’s like a one-on-one consultation with the superintendent.”
Normally, a golf course will hire Moeller’s services in which he will walk the course with the club superintendent, general manager and president, offering solutions to help the course overcome specific agronomic challenges. The turf academy was structured in a way that had Moeller making an on-site visit with each participating club’s superintendent while all others in attendance were interested observers.
“He reinforces the importance of getting sun to the greens and proper topdressing programs and the importance of aeration, and then he’ll write a report making all these recommendations,” Field said. “It ends up being support for the superintendent.”
The summer’s Turf Academy marked a record turnout of superintendents since the annual event’s inception. Past years have seen four course visits, but a fifth was added this year. Field said the intention is to try to cap attendance at each course at 30 superintendents, but the stops at Hamilton, King Valley and Muskoka Lakes exceeded that number.
Superintendents who attended the academies earned 51/2 continuing education credits for their efforts.
In his follow-up summary to Field, Moeller noted putting green organic matter control and drainage, sunlight and air movement, fertility and plant growth regulation, and best management practices for collars were common discussions at each facility.
“Putting green organic matter control and drainage are keys to providing reliable turf and good golf conditions,” he wrote. “Many courses, unfortunately, do not perform core aeration and topdressing adequately due to play volume, golf complaints, and labour/resources issues. As such, organic matter can quickly become problematic and leave the turf susceptible to summer decline periods of environmental stress as well as have poor playability via soft conditions and inconsistent smoothness/pace.
“Poorly draining greens, either from heavily textured soils, a lack of root zone modification or excessive organic matter are a serious agronomic concern. Drill-and-fill aeration and sand channel drainage (e.g. XGD) installation are excellent tools to improve drainage properties in greens. In some instances, rebuilding is the most appropriate solution.
“Shade and limited air movement are often the underlying causes for poor putting green turf performance, and these issues were observed at every facility we toured. Putting green turf growing microclimates with shade and/or limited air movement will always be jeopardized compared to those growing in full sun, open locations.
“These are basic physiological requirements necessary for growing turf and, as a result, many tree removal recommendations were made. Improving morning sun was a main focus. Another focus was the greens which had limited sun during the autumn, winter and spring months which predisposes the turf to winter problems.
“Lastly, recommendations for clearing underbrush and perhaps the installation of a large, oscillating fan were discussed to improve air movement around pocketed green sites.”
Moeller noted putting green fertility and plant growth regulation programs were also of particular interest.
“These programs dictate the plant’s ability to grow and recover from traffic during the season. In general, nitrogen fertility applied weekly at 0.1-0.125 pounds of AN per 1,000 square feet, combined with Primo (various rates), has been a very effective program to produce healthy, dense turf that has controlled growth to produce excellent playability.
“A well-fertilized stand of turf is more tolerant of traffic and mechanical stress, so programs like regular rolling, double mowing, etc. can be used to produce desired pace and smoothness.
“In the past, malnourished turf has been common, and the smooth, fast-paced greens were easy to produce because the turf was thin and not growing. Unfortunately, these ultra-low nitrogen fertility programs are the primary source of anthracnose disease outbreaks on annual bluegrass greens.
“Thankfully, many superintendents have shifted their programs to apply more nitrogen to produce a denser, healthier stand of turf, but growth can be manipulated with Primo. The end result is healthy turf with adequate pace and smoothness. Also, the use of Primo applications are more effective when applied on a weekly interval vs. bi-weekly due to the frequency of material breakdown during hot weather, so this was another common theme throughout the week.”
Moeller added collar decline, especially on bentgrass turf, was a common issue because of mechanical stress from rollers and greens mower turning.
“Protecting the collars with carpet, lattice or a similar device has been very helpful to limit mechanical stress from greens mower turning. Improving collar density via a mowing height of 0.225-0.300 inches is also beneficial in limiting mechanical stress. Additional nitrogen fertility at 0.3-0.5 pounds of AN per 1,000 square feet via a slow-release material applied prior to the summer stress period is an excellent program as well since a slow feed will improve turf health and vigour.”
Field said plans are to bring Moeller back again next year, with the London area figuring into the rotation of golf courses scheduled for visitation.
Host superintendents for the 2011 turf academy visits were:
• Rhod Trainor (Hamilton Golf &â€ˆCountry Club
• Steve Muys (Twenty Valley Golf Club)
• Brian Beemer (King Valley Golf Club)
• Jim Flett (Muskoka Lakes Golf Club)
• Chris Vollett (Equinelle Golf Club)