The Science of Green Speed (Part 2)

Last updated: February 17, 2023

In the last issue we discussed how mowing and rolling were the two main visible parts of the equation for developing greens that have a smooth and fast ball roll. In this issue we will discuss what goes on behind the scene to ensure a quality putting green. This part of the equation is far more diverse and scientifally related.

TURF HEALTH + SOIL PHYSICS + SOIL BIOLOGY + CULTIVATION + IRRIGATION make up the foundation of the science of green speed.

TURF HEALTH Our number one focus, above all else, is turf health. The plant needs to be healthy in order to withstand daily cutting and rolling and 300 rounds of golf per day. Only the best “food”, fertilizer products, are used to grow the plant, including kelp and other seaweed extracts, amino acids, a balance of essential macro and micro nutrients are sprayed onto the plant. Spray application of fertilizer is up 95% efficient vs. 50-60% efficiency of granular fertilizers. Applying seaweed extracts and amino acids save the plant energy allowing it to put more “resources” into growth.

SOIL PHYSICS The initial construction of the greens is critical to be able to roll or cut every day. Without the 1960 USGA standard specification of sand-soil/organic matter components and gravel drainage systems, a natural or native soil green would not withstand the constant use of mowers and rollers or even foot traffic from golfers. The USGA specification green ensures sufficient water infiltration, eliminates compaction, increases oxygen in the Rootzone yet can still maintain greens firmness for constant cutting and rolling.

SOIL BIOLOGY The Rootzone contains fungi, bacteria, protozoa, nematodes, and other microbiology to maintaining a healthy soil. The Rootzone biology and plants combine to replenish the air, regulate temperatures, and most importantly recycle and sequester carbon. The biology also eliminates nutrient leaching and improves nutrient cycling for healthier turfgrass growth. Addition of compost teas is the most cost effective way we “load” the Rootzone to create a healthy balanced micro ecosystem that fights off putting green diseases and feeds the plant.

CULTIVATION Although one of the most detested practices by golfers, core aeration is critical for putting greens to be able to withstand the constant pressure of foot, mower and roller traffic. Unfortunately this practice only gives relief to the turfgrass for 6-8 weeks. Other less disruptive methods of cultivation such as slicing, solid tinning, verti-cutting, deep tinning, and venting applied every two weeks throughout the golfing season. This ensures the health of the turfgrass plant, the rootzone, and the soil biology. The main benefit from cultivation is Air(oxygen) exchange and water movement, which keeps the “foundation” of the putting green healthy. Although not directly considered cultivation, topdressing sand after each of these practices occurs to keep a smooth well aerified mixed soil Rootzone.

IRRIGATION All living organisms require water and putting greens are no exception. Our computer controlled underground irrigation system delivers water directly to the putting surface reducing runoff and eliminating erosion through controlled cycle times. The addition of wetting agents improves water infiltration and reduces the development of hydrophobic soil. Long but infrequent irrigation cycles also promote deeper rooting and drier putting green surfaces. The dry soils underneath putting greens are strong soils and resist compaction which again allow for daily mowing and/or rolling.

All of the above practices are done to the putting greens behind the scenes each morning before golfers even set foot on the golf course. These practices are the foundation for greater green speeds and smoother ball roll via mowing and rolling and make the game better for you!