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May 2013

Manilagrass is the best choice for links-style golfing surfaces in East and Southeast Asia

Golf course architects or developers may sometimes want to produce links-style courses with links-style playing surfaces. In East and Southeast Asia, the grass that should be used, if one wants to produce such surfaces, is manilagrass (Zoysia matrella). This fact sheet from the Asian Turfgrass Center explains why and includes links to photo galleries, case studies, and videos about this grass. 

Download here: Why manilagrass (Zoysia matrella) is the best choice for links-style golfing surfaces in East and Southeast Asia (PDF, 1.6 MB)

The Best Golfing Destination in Asia

Golf course architect Paul Jansen recently wrote about the great golfing destination of Vietnam, especially Danang, where he was lead architect for Faldo Design at the spectacular Laguna Lang Co:

And while I agree with Paul that Vietnam is a great destination for tourism and for golf, my choice is Hokkaido for the best golfing destination in Asia. My recommendation comes with a caveat - the golfing season in Hokkaido is short. But what a season it is!

  1. Brooks_ccThere are well over 150 golf courses to choose from in Hokkaido, across every price range. Many of the courses are great designs by famous designers for a very reasonable price.
  2. In a country renowned for excellent food, Hokkaido stands out for having some of the best seafood, meat, fruit, and produce. The golfing experience in Japan usually includes a lunch at the clubhouse. At Brooks CC in Hokkaido, I had this amazing seafood ramen. In fact, it was the only ramen I've ever found worthy of a video.
  3. Hokkaido_classicDid I mention the weather? In other parts of East, South, and Southeast Asia, the months of May through October are generally hot and humid and in many places rainy. How about Hokkaido? Well, one can see snow on the distant mountains, in the spring there are cherry blossoms and other flowers, in the autumn there is beautiful color on the deciduous trees, and in mid-summer the average temperature is 20°C, which is almost 10 degrees cooler than other parts of Asia. In a word, I'd call it salubrious. The golfing season at Hokkaido is played in the most clement weather to be found in all of Asia.
  4. Hokkaido_classic_gkThis salubrious weather means cool-season grasses such as creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera) and kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis) and fine fescue (Festuca rubra) thrive in Hokkaido, and its courses are generally maintained at a high level. These grasses are usually considered to be the finest for high quality golfing surfaces the world over, but in many places the climate is too hot for these grasses. At Hokkaido, however, these high-quality grasses thrive. Many professional tournaments are held at the courses in Hokkaido, and in data I have collected from courses around the world, the green speed of courses in Hokkaido has been the highest. The excellent weather for creeping bentgrass means the greens can be kept fast during most of the playing season. 
  5. There is fine dining and a vibrant nightlife in the cities of Hokkaido, while on the courses one will regularly see deer, foxes, a plethora of birds, and even, perhaps, bears. The combination of so many excellent golf courses, nature, great food, and cool weather makes Hokkaido the best golfing destination in Asia - at least from May to October. But at the other times of the year, I'm going to Thailand!


The Fun and Function of Testing Things

Habu_exp 2
Overseeding grass variety and fertilizer test area at Habu CC

I was looking through some photos of Habu CC, where I was the superintendent before going to graduate school at Cornell University, and I was reminded of the many tests and trials we conducted to determine the best way to produce the desired grass conditions. This was fun, it was useful in helping us to develop the most effective maintenance program for the course, and it didn't take a lot of time.

Habu_exp 1
Nursery green at Habu CC with a test of potassium nitrate fertilizer on Penncross at left and test plots of creeping bentgrass and velvet bentgrass cultivars at right

In my time at Habu CC, I remember that we did tests, at various times, of:

  • fertilizers and microbial products
  • earthworm control products
  • creeping and velvet bentgrass performance tests
  • winter overseeding grass variety and seed rate tests
  • herbicides


Onsite testing at Habu CC helped the course maintenance team to produce the desired playing conditions

These tests did not take much time, but we learned a lot. I encourage all turfgrass managers to test products and practices to discover the most effective way to do things at a particular site. 

TestingToday there are many measuring tools that can be used to assist in evaluating the effect of products on turfgrass performance. Last week I spoke about this in a seminar entitled Understanding Data Use for Turf Management.

PACE Turf have published this excellent guide to testing products and practices. It describes the hows and whys of doing onsite testing and is full of practical advice on how to do so most efficiently.

Understanding Data Use for Turf Management: presentation slides (with video) from Thailand

This week I spoke to a full room of turfgrass managers at Bangkok's Thana City Golf and Sport Club about an important topic: understanding data for use in turfgrass management. I've recorded this video of the presentation slides in which I discuss the two classes of data that can be collected – data about playing surface performance, or data about plant growth – and then I go into some detail about soil moisture and photosynthetically active radiation (PAR), with a brief mention of salinity and soil pH at the end.

There were many questions and an active discussion in this seminar and in fact lunch time arrived before I could speak about salinity and soil pH, so this video provides the narration of what I would have talked about had there been more time.

Micah-woods-with-david-lau-spectrum-technologiesDavid Lau from Spectrum Technologies, pictured with me at right, gave an interesting presentation in which he talked about a broad range of meters and software that can be used to collect and analyze information for improving turfgrass performance. This is part of what PACE Turf call Precision Turfgrass Management (PTM), which is a systematic effort to provide optimum turf performance using minimum resources. As David mentioned, we cannot manage something if we do not measure it.

For more information about the data I discussed, you may be interested to read this report about putting green performance, including extensive sections and data on soil moisture and temperature, and this report about photosynthetic irradiance.

The Difference in Leaf Temperature Between Wilting and Transpiring Grass

leaf temperature on a sunny day in May

Today was an especially hot day at Bangkok. I went out for lunch, and when I was driving home I noticed that the thermometer on my dashboard was indicating an outside temperature of 42°C. Upon arriving home, I checked the official temperature, found it to be 38°C, and I promptly went outside with my infrared thermometer to measure the surface temperature of concrete and of grass. See the above image at full size here.

These measurements were made at 14:00. The concrete measured 53.6°C, about 15°C above the air temperature. Manilagrass (Zoysia matrella) wilting in the sun had a similar temperature, 48.8°C, more than 10°C above the air temperature. Meanwhile, manilagrass and carpetgrass (Axonopus compressus) in the same lawn, in areas with adequate water so the grass could transpire, had leaf temperatures ranging from 1.8°C below to 1.2°C above the ambient air temperature.

As part of a putting green performance data research project, I've collected leaf temperature data from hundreds of greens across multiple grass species in many countries. As of today, I've measured the surface temperature 802 times. If you are interested in reading more, these data are summarized beginning on page 21 of this report. It has been my observation that in conditions of full sun, minimal wind, and adequate plant water status, meaning the grass leaves are not wilting, no matter how hight the ambient air temperature, the leaf temperature will generally be within 1°C or 2°C of the air temperature. Have you ever measured anything different?

For those more familiar with °F than °C:

38°C = 100.4°F

53.6°C = 128.5°F