Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Why We Don't, What Is That, and The Virlina Cup!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Wednesday, October 1st and I want to share a few things with you.  I was asked recently why we don't overseed the practice tee for winter use.  The answer might be more than you expected, but I believe in order to fully understand this decision you need to know all the facts.  

Carolina Golf Club is located in Charlotte, North Carolina.  This is a region of the U.S. commonly referred to agronomically as the Transition Zone (TZ).  The TZ is a unique and challenging environment because there simply is no single grass type (cool-season or warm-season) best adapted for use in this region.  Unlike golf courses in the deeper south where bermudagrass (warm-season grass) is commonly found growing "wall-to-wall" or further north where golf courses are commonly grassed with a variety of cool-season turfs, the TZ contains many courses like ours where both cool-season and warm-season grasses exist (our greens are cool-season and our tees, fairways, and primary rough is warm-season).

Our tees, fairways and primary rough are bermudagrass.  Bermudagrass is a warm-season grass that thrives in warm, sub-tropical to tropical climates.  It provides the absolute best conditions possible in June, July, and August when it grows most aggressively, but also provides superior conditions in the spring and fall despite a slower rate of growth.  Bermudagrass is commonly selected for fairway turf in the TZ for excellent traffic and drought tolerance, but in the winter months the bermudagrass enters a state of hibernation called dormancy.  It is during this time the turf completely loses all green color and all growth above the soil surface ceases until the following spring when the plant resumes growth with the return of warmer temperatures.  It is during this period of winter dormancy when bermudagrass in our region is most vulnerable.

Years ago the overseeding of bermudagrass with cool-season grasses was a common practice for golf courses in the TZ.  It was done primarily with various types of ryegrasses (annual, intermediate, and perennial) to provide green color during the winter months.  In fact, the overseeding of bermudagrass was the basis of my research conducted for my Master's thesis.  If you are really bored or suffering from the most severe insomnia CLICK HERE  to read Overseeded Bermudagrass Fairway Performance and Post Dormancy Transition as Influenced by Winter Overseeding Practices and Trinexapac-ethyl. (Try saying that really fast)

Typical problems associated with overseeded bermudagrass turf in the TZ are higher rates of winter injury, higher rates of winter kill, delayed spring green-up, and thinning of the base bermudagrass canopy.  This is because overseeding is essentially asking two grass types, with two completely different growing requirements to occupy the exact same space simultaneously.  In order to achieve the desired results with winter overseeding you need to establish the overseeded turf in early fall (late September or early October) and the grass will not be completely eradicated until the following late spring (May or June).  This is why I equate the entire process to having your in-laws move in with you and live under the same roof for 9 consecutive months every year. (Sounds like fun)

The practice of winter overseeding still exists today in certain areas where the climate is better suited for bermudagrass winter survival, but the practice has fallen out of vogue in the TZ.  Research clearly shows the practice has lasting, harmful effects on the base bermudagrass in the TZ.  At Carolina Golf Club we have chosen not to overseed the golf course in order to provide our bermudagrass turf the best possible environment for growth and survival.  When you stop to consider no portion of the golf course is overseeded, it becomes impractical to overseed a practice tee (considering the risks mentioned above) when doing so does not replicate actual golf course conditions.

In other words, there are limitations to what our selected grass types can provide us in a year-round situation, and in order to allow our bermudagrass turf to provide superior playing and practicing surfaces the majority of the year, we make a small sacrifice during the "off-season" for its benefit.  The range tee will close for daily use when the bermudagrass goes dormant (typically mid-November) at which time all range use will move to the artificial teeing surfaces.

When you realize we have already received over 42 inches rain this year, with nearly 6 inches coming last month, it is easy to understand why the golf course is so green.  That being the case it really kinds of make this area along the edge of the 6th fairway stand out.

Test Plots
Close Up View



















These are test plots.  Over the past several years the original common bermudagrass has reemerged vigorously on certain fairways, and the Greens Committee and I decided we would take a look at several herbicide options to examine their effectiveness at eliminating the common bermudagrass.  Of course these products are non-selective, meaning it is impossible to remove common bermudagrass from our desirable hybrid bermudagrass without injuring the desirable turf.  Certain treatments require follow-up applications and the entire area will be removed with a sod cutter next spring.  We will install new turf and observe the areas for any potential reemergence of common bermudagrass.  What does all this mean?  It means right now we are experimenting and examining options.   

If you are one of my nearly 600 followers on Twitter then you probably figured out I am passionate about the Ryder Cup.

Did you know there is a competition held annually between neighboring golf course superintendent associations competing in Ryder Cup style?  The Virlina Cup is an annual team style golf match between the Virginia GCSA and the Carolinas GCSA.  Eight players representing each association compete in fourball, foursome, and singles matches over two days of spirited competition.
  

The event originated in 2010 with the purpose of bringing together superintendents with common grass types and climates to foster collaborative working relationships via the spirit of competition and camaraderie.  I was lucky enough to be a part of the inaugural team representing the Carolinas GCSA, and although we lost that year it was an experience unlike anything else I have ever been associated with in the game of golf.  Next week (October 6-7) the 5th Virlina Cup will be contested at Primland Resort in Meadows of Dan, Virginia.  By virtue of winning the Carolinas GCSA Golf Championship last year at our annual conference, I automatically qualified to once again join my fellow superintendents from North and South Carolina and represent Carolina Golf Club in this magnificent event.

This year's event will be an emotional one as yesterday morning all competitors learned of the sudden and tragic passing of Virginia team member, JD Dickinson of the Kanawha Club outside Richmond.  Although I did not know JD, he worked under Paul Van Buren, and Paul and I were classmates at Virginia Tech.  The golf course industry and the superintendent profession is an extremely tight-knit brotherhood.  When we gather next week it will be with heavy hearts, and I only hope we can all somehow honor JD and his memory with our spirited play.

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS


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