In 2010 Hazeltine was renovated, mostly as a means to convert all playing surfaces to bentgrass. While no one at this club needs convincing of the merits of bentgrass, it is always good to have a reminded of just why bentgrass surfaces are favored. In the coming season, one of the top priorities will the transition of fairways from the current bentgrass/Poa annua mix, to the bentgrass/chewings fescue mix seeded in 2010. I will be writing much more on this subject in the coming months, but for now a little refresher on "Why bentgrass?" From a visual standpoint, the photo on the left is a great reminder. This is a predominantly Poa green after an icy winter. The green is bentgrass, the death is Poa.
The following is a post I originally made on the Northland Turfgrass Blog. During my time at Northland, the management and promotion of bentgrass and fine fescue was a big part of our golf course maintenance program. This post was written in September of 2010, just as the new bentgrass surfaces at Hazeltine were beginning to emerge.
Northland Country Club Turfgrass Blog, September 2010:
I have spent a lot of time on this blog writing about the advantages of bentgrass vs. Poa and the fact that we are working to transition the golf course to mostly bentgrass playing surfaces. There are a couple items I feel are important in this discussion and need to be highlighted.
First, I think its important for everyone to know why we want to have playing surfaces made up of predominantly bentgrass. Another question I have heard is; "why all the effort and trouble to have bentgrass? Lots of courses have Poa and it seems just fine?" So why should our membership care about having bentgrass playing surfaces? Here is a list.
Reasons for Having Bentgrass:
- Bentgrass drastically limits the potential for catastrophic winter damage due to its ability to survive difficult winter conditions. Poa annua is very susceptible to winter injury and thus puts us at great risk for major winter injury.
- A person might say, "well that's great but we haven't had a tough winter for awhile and the course has seemed pretty good."
- Answer: Last winter was about as bad as it can get from a winter standpoint. Lots of ice in lots of places and it stuck around for a long time. Despite this we saw minimal damage to the golf course. This was in no small part due to having a lot of bentgrass.
- Reduces the amount of money spent on inputs such as fertilizer and pesticides allowing us to provide conditions far above that of our budget.
- Poa annua, for lack of a better term, is a needy grass. It needs more fertility, more water and more pesticides.
- We sprayed fungicides only two times on the entire golf course all summer long. Once on greens, twice on tees and none on fairways and approaches. The cultural and nutritional practices that help us reduce our need to spray are also conducive to bentgrass. If we maintained our surfaces such that Poa annua was managed for or allowed to thrive then our number of fungicide applications would have been double, triple or maybe even quadruple what they were this season.
- All of these inputs are expensive. By eliminating or reducing those expenses we can put that money into other areas. More labor to walk mow greens and approaches, hand rake bunkers, topdress approaches, not to mention paying wages which allow us to hire and keep quality staff members year after year.
One common misconception and I will fully admit that I have probably not been clear on this point; we will never be able to, nor is it our goal to eliminate 100% of the Poa annua from this golf course. This would be an impossible task. However, by doing what we are doing; promoting the stronger grasses, if there is any Poa out there it will be there because it has adapted to our practices and is able to survive. It is completely attainable to say that most if not all areas of this course can and will be 80-95% bentgrass in the coming years. Many of our playing surfaces have already reached this level of bentgrass. Approaches, tees and many of our fairways have levels of bentgrass, which are in the 80-90% range. While eliminating Poa might be impossible, reducing its impact is easily attainable.