Previous month:
June 2010
Next month:
August 2010

July 2010

Turfgrass Performance Data at the Open Championship


The machine I'm operating in the photo above, on the 1st green of the Old Course, is the STRI Trueness Meter. This measuring device, which I mentioned in a previous post, is designed to measure the amount of vertical and horizontal deviation a ball will experience as it rolls across a putting green. In essence, this device measures how smooth the greens are, whereas the stimpmeter measures how fast greens are. Are green speed and surface smoothness positively correlated? Our measurements this week have shown that factors other than smoothness have an effect on speed, at times, so in some cases the smoothness readings are better when the stimpmeter readings have been lower. I discussed the relationship between surface trueness, or smoothness, and the green speed with Dr. Christian Spring of STRI. He says that there is a positive relationship between the two, but that it is not necessarily a causal relationship.

One maintenance technique that improves the smoothness of greens and improves the consistency of smoothness between greens is lightweight rolling. If you haven't been to St. Andrews and the Old Course, you will enjoy the video of the 13th green being rolled this week as the STRI tournament agronomy team approaches to begin collecting performance data on the green. Seeing the roller go across the green gives some indication of the vast size of this putting surface (over 3500 m2).

Richard Windows from STRI and championship agronomist for this Open Championship uses a stimpmeter to measure the green speed of the practice green near the 1st tee (see below). We measure the soil moisture, the green speed, the trueness, and the firmness of the greens, and it is quite useful to have these data. I think, and I will write more about this when I have time, that we should be less concerned about what color the grass is, and should simply focus on the playability/performance data. I often hear phrases about golf course maintenance such as "brown is the new green" or "green is soft" or "lean and mean" or "firm and fast" etc.. But that is irrelevant and is mostly visually descriptive. By some simple collection of data about the playability of the course, it is possible to better describe the playing conditions of the course, and that is more relevant to the game of golf.


Mowing and Rolling at the Old Course

Open Championship websiteI'm at St. Andrews this week, working with the greenkeeping staff here to prepare the Old Course for the 150th Open Championship.

In the afternoons I am working with Richard Windows and Dr. Christian Spring from the Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI). I am helping them to measure green speed, surface firmness, soil moisture, and trueness of the greens. STRI have developed a trueness meter that measures the deviation to a ball's roll across the green — how much up-and-down and side-to-side movement there is in the ball's roll. The results are expressed in units of millimeters per meter of roll, showing how many millimeters of deviation there were compared with a perfectly smooth surface. And how are the greens? At optimum speed, firmness, and quite true as well, but obviously that can change with the weather.

There will be all types of weather this week. The last two Opens at the Old Course (in 2000 and 2005) did not see much wind, but there will be more wind this week if the forecast holds. When it is windy, it is important that the greens are not too fast, or the ball may not stay on the green. The 11th hole has a particularly severe slope from back to front. See the video below as Dr. Christian Spring tests to see if the balls rolling from the back of the green can stop before rolling off the front of the green.

These balls stop, but just barely. The R&A and Gordon Moir (Links Manager) and Gordon McKie (Course Manager of the Old Course) use the data we collect to make decisions about the mowing and rolling to be done on the greens.


In the mornings, fairways are mowed with fourteen triplex mowers. I'm part of that team, and it is easy to spot me as the lone volunteer. All the regular employees have a navy blue jacket. Above you see the 14th fairway being mowed, coming up to the Beardies in the foreground. We mow, as at the Masters and at the US Open, all in one direction, so there will be no mower stripes. The fairways here are cut shorter than at the Masters or the US Open though, at just over 7 mm. This creates a fast and running surface that is ideal for links golf. And with the pronounced natural contours of the fairways at the Old Course, triplex mowers are a necessity. We gathered this morning for a photograph between the 1st tee and 18th green. In less than a week, a new Open Champion will be holding the Claret Jug at this very spot.


Oregon State Turfgrass at the US Open

Micah woods at pebble beachI was at Pebble Beach in June to work with course superintendent Chris Dalhamer and the Pebble Beach course maintenance staff along with scores of volunteers for the US Open. Chris Dalhamer, who studied business at Corvallis for two years, could be an honorary alumnus of the Oregon State University turfgrass program.

Pebble Beach is one of the more salubrious places in the world, especially when the weather is clement, so I was not surprised that the US Open came off so well. But what really surprised me was how many of the volunteers at Pebble Beach have a turfgrass degree from Oregon State University. I think there were ten of us working at sunny Pebble Beach that week, including Tom Huesgen, previously superintendent at Pebble Beach, and Eric Johnson from Bandon Dunes Golf Resort

osu at pebble beach 2010

This year I have been involved with course preparation for the Masters, the US Open, and the Open Championship. In fact, I write this from the Jubilee Greenkeeping Center at St. Andrews. All of these tournaments are great fun to work at, and all of the people involved are exceptionally competent and professional, but it was especially fun to work at the US Open with so many Beavers, the most diligent worker in the animal kingdom.


Managing Grass at Tiger Woods Dubai

Temperature_dubai I recently made my third visit to the Tiger Woods Dubai (update in July 2018 about this project) with its golf course superintendent Cameron Thompson. In 2008 I saw the site when shaping was just beginning, last year saw it with three holes grassed, and now was able to look at six holes grassed and other holes shaped and with irrigation installed and ready for grassing.

One thing that is notable is the summer heat at Dubai. The thermometer in the morning at the site read 44° C in the shade. With those types of temperatures, the evapotranspiration is high; the average annual evapotranspiration at Dubai is more than 2,000 mm. Careful management of the irrigation is essential to have high quality grass.

I did some irrigation water analyses for Tiger Woods Dubai and one thing that stood out in the samples was the relatively high amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus. The water being used is treated sewage effluent from the city of Dubai. Thompson said he looks at irrigating with this water as "free fertigation" and he has not applied fertilizer to the fairways or greens for more than six months. The nutrients in the water are sufficient for the grass. And the grass looks great! There are no photographs allowed of this exclusive course, so I can't post anything here, but I would describe the course as spectacular.

At Dubai, it is essential to know what is in the irrigation water, and at courses in Asia it is also essential to know what is in the water. Have you done an irrigation water test recently? I usually recommend doing an irrigation water analysis about one month prior to the onset of the busiest irrigation season or summer or dry season, whatever it may be in a certain area.

And what grass is used at Tiger Woods Dubai? Tifeagle bermudagrass is on the tees and greens, Tifdwarf is used on some low-cut approach areas, and Tifway 419 is used on the fairways and roughs. And Thompson has been practicing his short game on those closely mown green surrounds as he checks the response of the golf ball to the turfgrass conditions. That practice at Tiger Woods Dubai is paying off for him, as he handed me a rare defeat in a match we played at the Emirates Golf Club under the lights. Thompson didn't hit all the greens in regulation, but he had no problem getting the ball up and down from some precarious spots around the greens.


At Hainan Island, a Great Conference With a Long Name

Micah_kevin_lobbyI've just attended an excellent conference at Sanya on the southern tip of Hainan Island, where I gave three presentations about turfgrass science. The full name of the conference is 2010 Summer Conference of Course Committee of Hainan Golf Association and China & US Turf Seminar, or 海南省高尔夫球协会场地管理委员会2010夏季会议暨中美高尔夫草坪交流研讨会.

There are about thirty golf courses at Hainan Island now, with another fifteen or so under construction and scores more in planning. I had a chance to visit a few of the golf courses where I saw lots of seashore paspalum and hybrid bermudagrass, the two main species of turfgrass used on the courses at Hainan. Around the clubhouses and on hotel lawns one may find a fine-textured zoysia -- manilagrass. Many of the courses are using grass grown on the Sino-Green Turf Company's certified nurseries which are located near Haikou, and it was Sino-Green's General Manager, Kevin Feng, along with the Hainan Golf Association's Course Committee, who invited me to speak at the Summer Conference.


The 2010 Summer Conference had 300 registrants and although most of the delegates were from Hainan Island, we also had delegates from Hong Kong, the United States, Indonesia (via Korea), and obviously from all parts of China —Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, and more.

Seminar_sitting I spoke about choosing the type of grass that will work well for your project, how to develop a maintenance plan for grass at Hainan Island, gave an overview of some recent turfgrass research results in Asia, discussed the maintenance of the turf at Pebble Beach Golf Links for the US Open Championship, and answered lots of questions from a very involved audience. Parson Yao from Nanjing handled the translation for my three presentations and did a tremendous job. At these type of seminars, the translator is more valuable than the keynote speaker, actually.

More speakers included Professor Hu Lin from China Agricultural University who spoke about golf development in China and land resources, Lee Sellars from Premierturf Services who gave a talk on successful management of Tifeagle greens, and Dr. Rocky Shi from Syngenta who spoke about diseases of golf course turf at Hainan. The venue was superb. We held the seminars and the dinner at China's largest beachfront five star hotel, the Howard Johnson Resort Sanya Bay. If you ever have a chance to attend this conference in the future, I am sure it will be well worth your time. I was very impressed with the organization, the venue, and especially the great delegates, and I look forward to participating in future seminars at Hainan.