You are probably aware of The R&A's "Working for Golf" campaign and their active support for golf development around the world. Maybe you've been to the R&A-supported Sustainable Turfgrass Management in Asia conferences, held over the past few years at Thailand, Philippines, and Malaysia. The R&A's Golf Course committee have just this month unveiled a new web site, appropriately titled The Golf Course, that will be of interest to anyone involved in golf course management and development.
What do you find on the site? Relevant content, updated regularly, in the categories of playing performance, golfer expectations, turf management, economic performance, environmental stewardship, water resources, social responsibility, energy efficiency — the list goes on, all good topics.
Has anyone asked you about the fairy rings visible on the greens at Royal St. Georges during the Open Championship? I've been asked many times, and the best explanation I've seen is this article on The Golf Course site: "Provided the greens are mown frequently, as they are during The Open Championship, the growth stimulated by the extra nitrogen ‘fertiliser’ does not affect the smoothness of the putting surface and, therefore, has no adverse impact on play." The article goes on to explain how a team from the Sports Turf Research Institute conducted daily soil moisture measurements and other tests to assess playing surface performance, and it notes that "The R&A is far more concerned about the quality of how a surface plays than its aesthetics."
I've worked with Banyan GC in Thailand (pictured above) to prepare a case study about the use of drought tolerant (among many other beneficial attributes) zoysiagrass, and with Wack Wack Golf and CC in the Philippines (pictured below) to develop a case study on innovative renovation techniques and the use of native grasses. Wack Wack just hosted the Philippine Open on its shade-tolerant carpetgrass and zoysiagrass surfaces. Both case studies are now featured on The Golf Course.
Why is it so important to choose the right grasses, and why are these courses so notable for choosing the carpetgrass and zoysiagrass, native grasses that perform especially well in Asia? Have a look at the chart below.
We can choose Miami as a typical city for North American warm-season areas, and Kuala Lumpur as a city with typical conditions for Southeast Asia. You can duplicate this chart by going to the animated bubble chart and selecting just Miami and Kuala Lumpur, deselecting the other cities, and ensuring "trails" are on, and then clicking the "play" button. On the horizontal axis we have the average temperature, and on the vertical axis we have the average sunshine hours per month. These "trails" trace the temperature-sunshine combination throughout the year for each of these cities. One thing really stands out to me — these cities never overlap. There is not a month in the year, on average, when the temperature-sunlight combination at Kuala Lumpur is within the range of combinations seen at Miami. And vice versa.
On average, there is always less sunshine at Kuala Lumpur than there is at Miami. And the temperature almost never changes at Kuala Lumpur, while there is quite a bit of change at Miami. Even when it is the same temperature at Miami and Kuala Lumpur, there will be, on average, considerably less sunshine at Kuala Lumpur: just 50% to 75% of the sunshine hours we would have at Miami. These are, in short, completely different growing environments.
And I would argue, and the success at Banyan GC and Wack Wack Golf and CC and other clubs throughout the region would support this, that the native grasses produce superb surfaces, are tolerant of low light from the massive tropical trees and the cloudy weather so typical of Asia, and that native grasses outperform imported hybrid bermudagrasses and seashore paspalum in many situations.