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July 2012

Turfgrass Mystery: why are there tee markers in the middle of the fairway?

There are four interesting things I would like to point out in this short video from a par 5 hole on a golf course in Central Japan. Three of these things, all potential mysteries on their own, I explain here, but for the fourth I asked for your assistance in solving the mystery.

  1. The cart has no driver. This is a remote-controlled five-passenger cart, commonly found on golf courses in Japan and Korea. The cart takes the clubs around, allowing golfers to walk as much as they want to. I've always been concerned, being involved with course maintenance, about these quiet carts that can sneak up on you. One must be careful of what I have termed "ghost carts!" Note the concrete rails upon which the cart drives. This eliminates traffic damage from wear or compaction that would occur if the cart drove onto the turf.
  2. The grass on the fairways is manilagrass (Zoysia matrella). The grass in the rough is japanese lawngrass (Zoysia japonica). At this course, as is common in Japan, there is no irrigation system in the fairway or the rough. Both species of zoysiagrass survive in this climate without supplemental irrigation. In this type of climate, without irrigation (or with judicious application of water), zoysia can provide a firm, bouncy playing surface with plenty of roll.
  3. There are two greens on this hole! This course uses the two green system. Most courses with the two green system have the main green as creeping bentgrass with the subgreen being used less often. The subgreen is usually still creeping bentgrass but sometimes will be Z. matrella or bermudagrass. It is interesting at this course that the main green is Z. matrella and the subgreen is creeping bentgrass.
  4. And now for the mystery. Why are there tee markers in the fairway? We can see that the golfers are not using them. Do you know what the markers are for?

Answer: These tees are called "playing 4 markers" or tokusetsu tees. Why "playing 4"? Because the purpose of those tees, commonly found on mountainous courses or on courses where the carts travel in a fixed (and pretty much unidirectional) route, is for one to hit from after a ball has been discovered to have gone out of bounds, or has been lost. Thus, when one hits from that point, one is "playing 4" or hitting one's fourth shot on the hole. 

Thanks to everyone who sent their answers to this mystery. I didn't realize it would be such a difficult one to guess. I, unfortunately, am too familiar with "playing 4" markers, having made use of them many times after errant drives. In addition to "playing 4" markers, some courses also place a flag or wind sock as an aiming point in the fairway. 


Why is there cool-season grass in Philadelphia and warm-season grass in Seoul?

We can look at temperature data for Seoul and Philadelphia and we find that the average temperatures throughout the year have almost complete overlap. So we might expect that with such similar temperatures on a month by month basis, the grasses used in those cities would be similar. But while the courses at Philadelphia are mostly cool-season grasses, what we find at Seoul are primarily courses planted to Zoysia japonica. Here is a dormant zoysia fairway near Seoul in early spring.


Why such a different choice of grass when the temperatures are the same? I suggest that it has to do with summer precipitation. 


From June through September, Seoul has a higher monthly average rainfall than does Philadelphia, and during the two hottest months of the year, July and August, Seoul has more than three times the rainfall, on average, than does Philadelphia. This combination of high temperature with high precipitation can be deadly for cool season grasses.

Customize the chart yourself to see data for other cities.

Data: korea • Chart ID: ATC_climate_chart_Korea

R version 2.15.0 (2012-03-30) • googleVis-0.2.16
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For Wimbledon's Grass Courts, why the Expertise of Scientists and Agronomists is so Important

There has been a lot of excellent media coverage about maintenance of the grass courts at Wimbledon, including this video from CNN explaining some of the work that is done and the role of STRI in advising on the maintenance of the courts. An associated article from CNN, "Wimbledon grass faces Olympic race against time and nature," provides more information.

Watch the video and read the article to learn why "the expertise of scientists and agronomists is so important." It is fascinating to learn about the use of pre-germinated seed, the 8 mm mowing height of the perennial ryegrass on the courts, the use of a soil moisture profile probe from Delta-T Devices, a CM-1000 chlorophyll meter from Spectrum Technolgies, a Clegg Hammer for measuring surface firmness, and some of the work that is done to evaluate grass performance at STRI headquartes in Bingley.

For even more information, read "Wimbledon's Guardians of Grass Face Olympics, Too" from the NY Times.

Dr. Frank Rossi on Potassium Fertilizer

Dr. Frank Rossi spoke about potassium and nitrogen fertilizer in this short video from the 2012 Golf Industry Show, made available by GCSAA TV as part of their Back to School series. 

He explains that most soils already contain enough potassium to supply the needs of turfgrass. When this is the case, then simply applying the optimum amount of nitrogen will result in the grass obtaining all the potassium it needs from the soil. Dr. Rossi suggests that potassium fertilizer applications can be reduced (or eliminated) with no effect on turfgrass performance.

How can you tell if your soil has enough potassium? As a general rule, turfgrass soils with more than 50 ppm potassium as measured by the Mehlich 3 extractant do not require supplemental potassium fertilizer.

Webcast from the Australian Turfgrass Conference: Micah Woods on grass selection in Asia

The Australian Golf Course Superintendents' Association provide a great service by making so many of the presentations from their annual conference available for online viewing

At the 27th Australian Turfgrass Conference in Adelaide, I gave presentations about turfgrass nutrient requirements, about grass selection, and about managing turf in microclimates.

In this presentation about grass selection, I spoke primarily about manilagrass (Zoysia matrella), bermudagrass or green couch (Cynodon), and seashore paspalum (Paspalum vaginatum). You'll see in this video representative photos of the different grasses and will learn how manilagrass persists and provides a fine turf even with minimal maintenance. In Southeast Asia, seashore paspalum tends to be overtaken by bermudagrass, you will see, and bermudagrass tends to be overtaken by manilagrass. This short video makes a case for using more manilagrass and less bermudagrass and seashore paspalum.

Webcast from the Australian Turfgrass Conference: Micah Woods on turfgrass nutrient requirements

The Australian Golf Course Superintendents' Association provide a great service by making so many of the presentations from their annual conference available for online viewing

At the 27th Australian Turfgrass Conference in Adelaide, I gave presentations about turfgrass nutrient requirements, about grass selection, and about managing turf in microclimates.

The presentation on nutrient requirements highlighted the importance of nitrogen in comparison to the other mineral elements and explained why, when we think about fertilizer, the most important thing for a turfgrass manager to consider is how much nitrogen is being supplied to the plant. The topics discussed in this presentation are related to the MLSN guidelines developed with PACE Turf and are similar to those explained in the seven page handout Understanding Turfgrass Nutrient Requirements.

Article About ATC in July GCM

Gcm_201207An article in this month's Golf Course Management magazine focuses on my work with the Asian Turfgrass Center

As a longtime reader of this magazine and an 18 year member of GCSAA, it was fun to read this article about the work that I do. 

Read the article online here to learn about, among other things, why I decided to be a turfgrass scientist, how I came to work in Asia, what I'm working on now, how many miles I flew in the first half of 2012, what professional tour my dad played, at which university I am an adjunct professor, and what Dr. Frank Rossi, Nicer Landas, CGCS, Vu Minh Son, and Jin Hai Bo have to say about me and my work.