Turf grass-maintenance programs vary greatly from region to region, depending on soil types and turf grass species.
The following maintenance program is based on native clay soil fairways/tee boxes and sand-based greens with TifGreen 328 Bermudagrass species at the Mesquite Golf Club in Mesquite, Texas. The golf club received the 2010 Texas Turfgrass Association Golf Course Renovation Award for its maintenance program.
This program is designed to produce an aesthetically pleasing course that is safe for all participants.
The first step to any good maintenance program is to take soil samples from the course. These samples should be from various locations, and each portion of the course, such as tees, greens, and fairways, should have its own sample since soil types and nutrient levels vary greatly.
Once the results are in, you will have a starting point for the program. Make sure to run additional tests one or two more times throughout the growing season to ensure a fertility program is producing the desired results.
Fertilization is an important key to any turf grass program, but can cause problems if applications are not properly calculated according to soil-test results. Mesquite’s golf club applies a 21-21-0 with Boron in June and July, and a 20-5-10 in April and October on tee boxes and fairways at a rate of 1.25 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. The nitrogen is in a 50-percent Sulfur-Coated-Urea, slow-release form.
A 16-16-16 mixture is applied on all greens once a month at a rate of .75 to 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. The nitrogen is in a 75-percent Nutralene form. In addition, a monthly application of 12-0-0 liquid iron provides an attractive dark-green color without the excess growth.
Mowing frequencies and heights are dictated by the turf grass type of the facility and the portion of the course being maintained. Mesquite’s mowing program is based on the turf grass, and the mowing height is 5/8 inches on the fairways, 3/8 inches on the tees, and 5/32 inches on the greens.
Tee boxes are mowed three times per week, while fairways and greens are mowed daily. Mowing patterns are alternated each mowing cycle to eliminate the development of grain and to provide a nice striping pattern throughout the course.
Sharpness of blades is critical, regardless of mowing equipment, such as reels, flails, or rotary.
One of the most critical pieces of equipment is the vibratory roller (for the greens), which allows maintenance workers to skip mowing in stressful conditions, and provides a smooth and fast ball-roll on the greens. The golf club’s greens average around 10 on the stimp meter, which is very fast for TifGreen 328.
As an industry, all maintenance programs tend to apply more water than is actually needed to produce a healthy stand of turf grass. This golf course is currently on a central control system, which allows for monitoring flow, controlling watering from a central office, and receiving daily run reports on the systems.
This system will actually shut water off if something is operating improperly and then send a report to the office for repair.
The entire course should be monitored daily for watering as most sites have dramatic soil changes across the course that require different watering frequencies and amounts. The biggest error today is to assume that a 30-minute schedule is needed for all stations.
Performing an irrigation audit will highlight inefficiencies in a system. The Mesquite Golf Course waters fairways and tee boxes three times a week with a deep watering cycle. Sometimes, two cycles are done in one night to allow water to soak in to reduce runoff.
Water conservation should be the highest priority in the industry; water conservation and an award-winning course can co-exist.
Aeration is the most important step in a maintenance program, as soil compaction results in a thin and weakened turf, which provides unhealthy growing conditions for the turf grass.
Mesquite’s fairways and tee boxes are aerated three times per year and the greens twice per year. This is accomplished with a slicer aerator with sports tines on fairways and a core-type aerator with 3/8-inch hollow tines on tee boxes and greens.
The surface can be aerated and used the same day with little disruption.
Topdressing is conducted four times per year with USGA sand on greens to increase water infiltration rates and increase ball-roll.
An IPM Program (Integrated Pest Management) is used for all herbicides and insecticides. If you properly maintain turf grass using all of the steps listed above, there will be minimal weed and insect issues.
The best IPM cultural practice to weed prevention is a dense and healthy turf grass.
Spraying should be performed with a backpack sprayer, so the herbicide is only applied where it is needed. Boom-spraying or large broadcast-spraying should only be performed when applying pre-emergents, or spraying greens to obtain complete coverage.
The key to a good turf-maintenance program is ongoing commitment. Continually educate and train staff so the program can be successful. Take small steps to determine what is best for your individual circumstances.
This program was devised through years of trials, products, and equipment testing.
The best sources of information are through networking, industry associations, and inquiries. The Texas Turfgrass Association is dedicated to research, development, and education in the turf grass field, and continues to be a tremendous resource as new methods are discovered.
It generally costs much less to operate a well-maintained field year after year versus repeatedly starting over on a course that is not maintained properly.
Travis E. Sales is the Manager of Park Services as well as the Municipal Arborist and Golf Course Superintendent for Mesquite Parks and Recreation. He can be reached at email@example.com.