Our program was started out of a desire to promote bent grass vs. annual bluegrass on our golf courses. Bentgrass is a grass that requires less inputs from fertilizer, water and pesticides and is hardier in times of weather related stresses. It also provides a firmer more consistent playing surface than annual bluegrass.
The bent grasses originated in the sandy seaside of Scotland where golf began. The grasses grew and thrived in this sterile sandy environment where crops would not thrive. This fact is a big part of the changing paradigm of growing a crop versus creating a surface to play on.
Our program does not go to the extent of starvation programs that are common in Scotland where both climate and golfer’s expectations and perception allow for brown golf courses. We strive to reach a happy medium where we can still provide a green golf course, but one that is lean and promotes bentgrass over annual bluegrass.
We accomplish this primarily through the use of iron sulfate to provide green color. This in combination with judicial use of fertilizer and pesticides coupled with growth regulators helps us accomplish our goal of growing the grass very slowly. As we grow the grass more slowly we have less issues with thatch and organic matter development which translates into less inputs from pesticides and cultural practices such as mowing, core aerification, pesticide and water usage. A very important aspect of this program requires us to reduce compaction through the monthly use of “solid tining” and “venting” which can be accomplished with minimal disruption to the playing surface.
So far we have seen a dramatic increase in bentgrass populations on our East and West course greens where we went from 30-70% annual bluegrass to almost 90% bent grass. The Classic being newer was seeded to bentgrass and had much less annual bluegrass to deal with but we were starting to see encroachment. We have been able to stem the tide and are keeping it at around 5-10% of the population.
Allowing natural fescues to grow on our golf courses reduces inputs like mowing and fertilizing
Our fertilizer and pesticide budget has been reduced by about 25%, but more importantly we are growing a healthier turf with far less inputs that provides a superior surface to play on.
This year we have also initiated a program on our Pine Beach East golf course to bring back some of the fescues on mounds and out of play rough areas that is more in keeping with the original golf course built back in the 1920’s. Although a bit controversial to the crowd that like to see everything manicured on a golf course the majority of players have loved the “look” of the wispy fescues and have commented that they provide a nice contrast and definition to the golf course. It has allowed us to take about 6 acres out of our regular maintenance of mowing, fertilizing and watering.
Scott, Director of Golf at Madden’s