By Mike Jiggens
FOLLOWINGâ€ˆa damaging winter in 2005, the superintendent at Caledon,
Ont.’s Devil’s Pulpit Golf Association was convinced the greens at the
Devil’s Paintbrush were in need of a major overhaul.
The putting surfaces at the Hurdzan/Fry-designed golf course had enjoyed immaculate conditioning and playability since the Paintbrush and neighbouring Devil’s Pulpit were originally opened in 1990. But the winter of 2005 took its toll on the Paintbrush’s greens and, by 2007, superintendent Ken Wright figured they were due for resurfacing.
“I approached the owners with a proposal to resurface the greens,” he told close to 300 fellow golf superintendents and their assistants in December at the 21st annual Professional Turfgrass Seminar in Waterloo, sponsored by Ontario Seed Company and Nutrite.
His proposal included three objectives: not to disturb the integrity of the existing putting surfaces, ridding the greens mix of any contaminants (namely annual bluegrass), and regrassing the putting surfaces with a state-of-the-art bentgrass.
“With these objectives in mind, we thought we had to do an experiment.”
In August 2008, one of the 12th hole’s two greens was used as a trial plot. Its right side was scalped, aerified, treated with the fumigant Basamid, watered and seed bed-prepared. It was discovered, however, this side of the green had far too much annual bluegrass and was deemed unacceptable for plans to close the golf course.
The left side of the green, which had been stripped of sod to serve for repair patching, housed little annual bluegrass. The experiment convinced Wright and assistant Jayson Griffiths that all of the course’s greens and aprons—a total of 5.5 acres— would need to be stripped of their sod.
Wright’s research into how best to tackle such an extensive resurfacing project led him to a recent Penn State University-conducted study in which Basamid was used, with and without plastic covers.
“The results were so strong that we felt we had to cover all the greens with plastic,” he said. “From our experimental green, we knew we had to remove the sod. Penn State University research encouraged us to cover the greens with plastic. We wanted to open the golf course on May 1 (2010). To ensure the timeline was met, we had to start this project no later than the first of August.”
Griffiths, who provided the details of the project to his audience, said the Paintbrush team needed to commit to a Basamid fumigation inside a 13-day period.
“To minimize our risk, we made a detailed plan,” Griffiths said. “We had three things in our favour: we had time, we had experience with Basamid, and we had a very talented and motivated golf course crew.”
Seven acres of white polyplastic sheets were purchased, arriving in 50-by-100-foot and 40-by-100-foot rolls which were then carefully seamed together with an industrial-strength adhesive.
Griffiths said the plastic covers were prepared well in advance of undertaking the resurfacing project. A trial run was made prior to closing the golf course to allow the maintenance crew the opportunity to experience a feel for the covers, to determine how many people would be needed to properly place them, and to see if the cemented seams would hold. He said the practice run also served to instill confidence in the work crew and to minimize their level of stress.
“The secret behind this operation is to minimize human error,” he said.
Other preparation work was undertaken to ensure the resurfacing project would proceed as efficiently as possible. Basamid, which is the only registered soil fumigant available in Canada for turf use, comes in 20-kilogram plastic bags, but Griffiths divided the product equally into two marked 10-kilogram pails for easier measurability, handling and safety.
Two Gandy drop spreaders were prepared to deliver the Basamid. Each was meticulously calibrated, checked for possible imperfections and inspected to ensure all hole openings were equal on both machines.
Griffiths said the plan was to apply Basamid at a rate of eight pounds per 1,000 square feet. Because the spreading was to be done in split applications, the spreaders were calibrated to deliver the product at four pounds per 1,000 square feet.
“This is a high-risk, quality control operation and you need to find the right individual to apply this product,” he said. “The main variable when applying the Basamid is your walking speed.”
Griffiths decided he would apply the Basamid himself, not wishing to burden anyone else with the risk.
A total of 32 plastic covers were fabricated in advance of the project, ranging in size between 8,000 and 12,000 square feet. With all the pieces in place, the work crew was ready to begin with the resurfacing project.
On Day One, sod was stripped from the first of the greens to a depth of 1.5 inches. The process of cutting and removing the sod rolls proved to be labour intensive, Griffiths said. Once the sod was removed, a containment dyke was formed around the green.
The next step of the project was to aerify the soil.
“You need a well-aerated root zone to receive the Basamid.”
A Toro Pro-Core machine with five-eighths-inch tines was used, set at two-inch spacings and about 21/2 inches in depth. Because the sod had been stripped to a depth of 1.5 inches, an effective working depth of four inches in total was realized.
“We believe the majority of the annual bluegrass and the annual bluegrass seed was in the top inch or two of the profile,” Griffiths said.
He added the four-inch depth allowed the Basamid a better chance to drive downward and permit gas exchange to occur.
Basamid must be applied when it’s dry and without wind. Still on the first day of the project, the product was activated. Its label recommends a minimum water application rate of a half-inch. On the sand-based greens, four and five cycles of about 10 to 15 minutes each were employed. The effective precipitation rate used in the project ranged from .6 to .65 inches.
Griffiths said it was important to ensure the course’s sprinkler system was working at peak efficiency, adding if the precipitation rate exceeded the infiltration rate, significant runoff would occur.
“You need to get the covers on as soon as you can within an hour or hour-and-a-half (following the activitation process). Keep in mind that the Basamid has been driven down below four inches and has now converted into a gaseous form. This is very toxic to bacteria, fungi, weed seeds and insects.”
The same individuals entrusted to fabricate the covers were given the responsibility of covering the greens.
“They rolled out the covers which took approximately eight people.”
The covers were pulled tight, and the previously removed sod rolls were placed in the containment dyke to seal the greens. Additional weight was placed on top to secure the covers.
“With 250,000 square feet of plastic, we couldn’t afford to have the poly blow off the greens,” Griffiths said. “After the last cover was on, we went through a four-day period of rainfall to the tune of three inches.”
By the fifth day of the project, Griffiths and Wright pumped away the excess water which had accumulated on the covered apron catch basins.
On the seventh day, the covers were removed.
“As expected, we got a very controlled kill,” Griffiths said.
The same crew which placed the covers removed them.
“They did a very precise job on removing the covers,” Griffiths said. “The covers were inverted when we pulled them off. These were allowed to off gas in the fescue or on our fairways for two days, and then were disposed of.”
On the project’s eighth day, collars and aprons were stripped.
“We needed a nice, smooth transition from our sand-based putting surfaces through our soil aprons or fairway surrounds.”
Great lengths were taken to prevent cross contamination of the sand and soil growing mediums during the seed bed preparation phase. After a combination of aerifying, raking and floating, the greens and aprons were left firm and smooth.
Between the eighth and 12th days of the project, any additional topdressing was applied.
“The beauty of this process is you have a five-day window to work the seed bed.”
In spite of the period of rain, work crews had otherwise warm and pleasant weather in which to work.
On the 13th and final day of the procedure, following a starter application, the prepared surfaces were seeded with T-1 bentgrass at a rate of one pound per 1,000 square feet done in two directions for a total seed rate of two pounds per 1,000 square feet.
The seed bed was rolled and immediately watered.
About 1.75 acres of day were achieved, enabling all greens and aprons to be fumigated in just three days. About 2,500 man hours were spent altogether on the project.
“All our greens consistently germinated after five days, right across the board,” Griffiths said.
Twenty-two days after seeding, the greens were undergoing their fifth mowing with the first cut coming at about the 11-day mark.
At a cost of $13,486 per acre, Wright said he considered the total $71,481 price tag for the project to be “pretty cheap.” The cost included the fumigant, bentgrass seed, plastic covers, personal protective equipment, sand topdressing and labour.