Roots, growth potential, and fertilizer

Last month Bhupendra Singh shared this photo of roots on a Tifdwarf putting green in New Delhi.


Growing roots! Tifdwarf at Peacock Course Greens, Delhi Golf Club.

A photo posted by Bhupendra Singh ( on

I wondered how the grass had been managed for the past six months.

Here's the high and low temperatures in New Delhi from November 1 until April 9. Delhi_temperatures
Those temperatures, converted to a C4 growth potential (GP), show that the GP was low in winter and approached a maximum as the temperatures warmed in the spring. Delhi_gp
So was there anything extraordinary done to develop roots like this?

Bhupendra informs me (and sent along those photos to confirm the results) that the N sources have been ammonium sulfate, urea, and potassium nitrate. The P source is single super phosphate, and the K has come from potassium nitrate and potassium sulfate.

The application rates have roughly tracked the GP.

In the winter, N was applied at an average of 0.5 g N m-2 mo-1. In February and March, as the grass came out of dormancy and the GP approached 1, the N rate has been 3 to 4 g N m-2 mo-1. The P and K are applied in proportion to the amount of N applied, in the approximate ratios used by the grass.

The mower bench setting was 4.25 mm in early April when the photo was taken, with a 3 mm prism reading on the ground.

These are new greens, planted in autumn 2015.

Even for new greens, those are still pretty impressive results. Sure, one doesn't putt on the roots -- what really matters is the surface. But these photos demonstrate that supplying the grass with the nutrients it can use, at the time when net photosynthesis is at its highest, and given water and air in the soil, roots are going to grow.

'Tis the season

Autumn is when one can find one of my favorite turf diseases -- elephant's footprint. Or at least this is my favorite name for a turf disease. It is found most often on unmown Zoysia japonica.

Al Bancroft shared a photo last week of what looks like early development of elephant's footprint.

 This is what the classic symptoms look like, further into autumn:


I was also reminded this week that real elephant footprints can be a turf problem too:

That's in Tamil Nadu, where one must beware of elephants.



For more about real elephant footprints on turf, see this turfgrass mystery.

Five steps to improved ball roll

I spoke about this topic at Oxford Golf and Country Club during the 2014 India Golf Expo. By implementing some or all of these things, the roll of the ball is sure to improve.

Figure 1. Ensuring there is consistent grass cover across the entire green surface, as shown at Oxford Golf and CC, is the first step in producing good ball roll.

First, make sure the green has consistent grass cover. One needs to grow grass before worrying about improving the ball roll. A green with consistent grass cover (Figure 1) can be managed to produce a good ball roll, but a green with inconsistent grass cover (Figure 2) cannot be managed to produce the desired surface.

Figure 2. Inconsistent bermudagrass on this green in Vietnam cannot be managed to produce a high quality putting surface.

For the basic requirements to get good grass cover, see this article.

Figure 3. Soft surfaces, as on this green in Kolkata, will be scalped when mown short because the mower sinks into the turf.

Second, keep the green surface as firm as possible. When the surface is soft, there will be footprints that make the green bumpy, and mowers will sink into the green surface (Figure 3). The only way to get a smooth surface that can be mown at a low cutting height is to create a firm surface.

Figure 4. High quality greens at Sentosa GC have consistent grass cover and a firm enough to support the mower with no scalping.

At Sentosa Golf Club in Singapore (Figure 4), the greens are managed with consistent grass cover and to be firm, so that the smooth ball roll can be achieved. Note that the soil moisture must be managed carefully. Greens should be kept as dry as possible. The firmness of putting greens tends to decrease as the soil moisture content increases (Figure 5).

Figure 5. Measurements of green firmness with the Clegg Hammer show that the firmer greens (higher Clegg Hammer Reading) are associated with lower soil moisture.

Third, mow the grass as short as possible. This is only possible after one has achieved the consistent grass cover and the firm surface as outlined in steps one and two.

Figure 6. Rolling improves the smoothness and increases the green speed.

Fourth, roll the greens. The use of a greens roller (Figure 6) will lead to smoother and faster greens.

Fifth, let the grass grow as slow as possible. This involves reducing nitrogen supply, and reducing the amount of water supplied to the grass. Slow-growing grass, when there is consistent grass cover, and a firm surface, mown short, and rolled, is what will give the best possible putting surface.

I wrote this as part of a series for the Indian Golf Industry Association (IGIA) newsletter. For more about turfgrass information specific to India, see the ATC site

A course like no other

The distinctive crest of the Club

I love hill stations. And the best hill stations all have golf courses. One of my favorites is Kodaikanal Golf Club (founded 1895). At an elevation of 2,100 m in the Palni Hills, and just 10° north of the equator, the clubhouse sits at the edge of a cliff, high above the plains.

Kodaikanal is 2,100 m above sea level and receives the most rainfall in southern Tamil Nadu

One of the great attractions of Kodaikanal (Kodai) is the temperate weather. This was my third visit. Each time I've taken the winding road up the mountain, I've watched the roadside grasses change with each kilometer. One sees the tropical grasses of the plains on the lower reaches of the mountains, with kikuyugrass (Pennistetum clandestinum) starting to appear as one gets closer to Kodai.

The uphill approach to the wide-open first

Ecologically, the golf club sits on a sky island. That is, it is at such an elevation, and surrounded on all sides by lowlands of a completely different environment, so one finds many endemic species here – along with introduced plants such as kikuyugrass.

Memani2Club Secretary G.S. Mani (pictured with me at right) takes special care to employ organic practices on this property.

I've been impressed with the fine conditions produced at this hill station course with a minimum of inputs, no pesticides,and only the smallest amounts of organic fertilizer. There is a real focus on improving the environment by providing wildlife habitat, removing invasive Acacia tress, planting of native species, and developing natural wetlands.

You may have noticed the fence and gate to enter to course, and on the approach to the first, there was a net around the green.

At the fourth, one can see the net that encircles the green – and the fine turf around the green.


Nets are placed around the greens every night to keep Indian gaur from walking and grazing on the green surfaces

Every night, Indian gaur come out of the forest and onto the course, starting from the 16th hole. This is the world's largest species of wild cattle, larger than the American bison, and the nets around the greens help to keep the gaur off the carefully maintained putting surfaces.

There are a lot more wildlife here than Indian gaur. Especially around the clubhouse, practice green, first tee, and 9th and 18th greens, one finds troops of bonnet macaques. This one is running across the kikuyugrass on the first tee.

In the fairways one finds kikuyugrass and common carpetgrass (Axonopus affinis) and many other species that are managed to produce a good playing surface.

On the greens, which are rolled multiple times each week to improve the smoothness, the primary species is blue couch (Digitaria didactyla), with some patches of invading kikuyugrass.

Clouds blowing in just before sunset at Kodaikanal Golf Club

Another great hill station is Ootacamund (Ooty), about 6 or 7 hours drive, on a separate Sky Island. One finds imported gorse on the golf course at Ooty, but I don't think there is any gorse at Kodai.

If you like reading about hill station golf courses, you may be intrigued with the fairway maintenance at the Ootacamund Gymkhana Club. That Club was founded in 1896, but no mechanical mowers have been used on the fairways. Photos and videos here of the fairway mowing at Ooty.

Kodai has more conventional fairway mowing, with a farm tractor pulling a well-maintained 3-gang reel mower. But with native grasses, cold mountain temperatures, no fairway irrigation, and no chemical fertilizers, there isn't a lot of mowing to do.

For photos and information about this fascinating place, this video from the 2012 IGU greenkeeping programme shows more.

Handout, Downloads, and Photos from the IGU Greenkeeping Program


The presentation slides from the IGU greenkeeping seminars held at Eagleton Golf Resort are available for download at the program website, along with the 56 page handout for this year's weeklong course. The website also contains materials from the 2011, 2012, and 2013 seminars.

This photo gallery has photos from the 2014 course which was put on by the IGU and included educational sessions provided by Micah Woods from the Asian Turfgrass Center, by technical specialists from IGIA member companies, and by Jim Prusa of James Graham Prusa Associates.

Putting green construction and topdressing sand

Figure 1. A putting green being built using the USGA Recommendations for a Method of Putting Green Construction at Krabi, Thailand (January 2006)

When I teach about turfgrass maintenance, much of the discussion involves putting greens or other highly trafficked turf areas, because that is where most of the shots are played. And I am invariably asked questions about the type of sand to use, whether river sand can be used, or what type of amendments should be mixed with sand, and so on.

 These are important questions, and I have six things that I usually talk about when these questions are raised.

 1. Sand is a terrible medium for plant growth because sand has a low water holding capacity and low nutrient content. Plants, including turfgrasses, will generally grow better in soils containing some silt and clay than they will in sand. Of course, with regular maintenance, turfgrass managers are able to produce excellent turf in sand rootzones through the provision of water and nutrients to meet the plant requirements.

 2. However, a sand can be chosen that has two especially useful characteristics for high traffic turf areas. With the right particle size distribution, sands can be used that have a) a rapid infiltration rate, so that the surface is usable soon after a heavy rain, and b) resistance to compaction, even though there is a lot of traffic on the area. Infiltration rate and resistance to compaction — those are the reasons sands are used for high traffic areas.

 3. There are very specific recommendations for putting green construction provided by the USGA. This document, USGA Recommendations for a Method of Putting Green Construction, is freely available ( These are sometimes called the “USGA specifications” and they outline everything from the depth of sand to the type of drainage to the sand particle size and various physical properties that the sand must have if the green is to meet the specifications set out in the USGA Recommendations document. Make variations from these Recommendations, and the green may still perform well, but please don’t call it a “USGA” green if the Recommendations are not followed.

 4. For topdressing sands, a good starting point is to look for sands that have physical properties that meet USGA Recommendations.

Figure 2. The same green, 8 years later, still performing well, which is what one expects when a green is built following the USGA Recommendations (May 2014)

 5. I don’t think the Method outlined in the USGA Recommendations is necessarily the best way to build a green, but it is one that works, and it is a way to build a green that many people understand and know how to manage. Figure 1 shows the construction of a USGA green in Krabi, Thailand in 2006, and Figure 2 shows the same green still performing well in 2014. That type of predictable result is what we expect when building a green to USGA Recommendations.

 6. If I were building a putting green for myself, and if I knew that I would be the one to manage it, I would probably build a green with some soil in it, with lots of surface drainage, with a slower infiltration rate than in the USGA Recommendations. But if I were building a green for someone else, and I knew that I would not be responsible for maintaining it, I would choose the USGA Recommendations. That way, the risk of unexpected problems is much reduced. 

 I encourage everyone to download a copy of the USGA Recommendations and to be familiar with the document. Many problems and confusions could be avoided by a broader understanding of this Method.

 I wrote this as part of a series for the Indian Golf Industry Association (IGIA) newsletter. For more about turfgrass information specific to India, see the ATC site

IGU East Zone Greenkeeper Education Programme at Jamshedpur


The Indian Golf Union held their East Zone greenkeeper education programme at Jamshedpur from 9 to 13 December. The delegates, who came from East India and from four golf clubs in Bangladesh, were hosted by the Beldih Club.


Classroom seminars focused on golf course grasses and how they grow, along with how we modify the growth rate and the grass to make a good playing surface for golf.

East2These classroom sessions were supplemented by on-course sessions where we looked at grass and soil conditions, observed the amount of organic matter, and measured the soil moisture, green speed, green reliability, and green firmness.

In a visit to the Golmuri Golf Course, we also identified hydrophobic conditions and discussed how to prevent and manage those. We also discussed weed management, fertilizer application techniques, and golf course construction methods.


One of the interesting measurements we looked at this week was The R&A's Holing Out Test. In this test, we measure the reliability of the putting green surface from a range of distances, with the ball set at just the right pace and line to go in the hole. Any miss, then, can be attributed to imperfections in the green surface. This gives us an indication of the reliability of the putting surface.

East5Throughout the week, we discussed the practical aspects of greenkeeping along with the technical ones. One of the main points discussed was how the growth rate of the grass can be modified by adjusting the amount of nitrogen and water that are applied to the grass.

By adjusting the growth rate, one can change the playing surface and one also can control the rate of organic matter accumulation. Many of the maintenance practices such as sand topdressing, verticutting, and core aerification are conducted in order to manage the organic matter. We disucssed how these practices can be adjusted at each golf course to produce good playing surfaces in this part of the world.

IGU North Zone Greenkeeper Education Programme at Delhi

The Indian Golf Union held their North Zone greenkeeping seminar at Army Golf Club in Delhi during the first week of December. Delegates from Army Zone golf courses and from clubs in Delhi, Hyderabad, and Bangladesh attended this weeklong course. 


We covered a range of topics during the week, with a full day devoted to soil moisture and irrigation management, along with a look at preventative maintenance and aftercut appearance.

On the 4th day of the course, we visited Delhi GC where we took a hands-on look at many of the topics we had discussed in the classroom session.


One of these topics was the important issue of organic matter management, especially for turf grown on sand rootzones such as golf course putting greens or sandcapped fairways. We were able to demonstrate that roots grow only when there is enough air in the soil.

Delhi_dropThe amount of organic matter has an effect on how much moisture will be retained in the soil, and those two factors together influence how hard the surface will be. Using a TDR-300 soil moisture meter from Spectrum Technologies and a firmness meter from Precision, we saw a relationship between the amount of moisture in the soil and the firmness of the putting surface.

Then we discussed greenkeeping techniques that can be used to make a surface harder or softer.

On the practice green, we identified an apparently dry area, confirmed that it was dry with a moisture meter and then by a visual inspection, and I demonstrated that water would easily infiltrate in the normal area, but that the dry area was in fact hydrophobic and water was running off.


 Other topics discussed this week included nutrient application, salinity and leaching requirement, sustainable golf course management, seashore paspalum, insect and disease management, additional information resources, and much more. Check the program website,, for updated information and additional reading on these topics.


The South Zone programme was held at Mysore on 18 to 22 November, followed by the West Zone at Ahmedabad. The East Zone programme is forthcoming at Jamshedpur. This IGU programme is supported by The R&A. The aim of this programme is to provide information to greenkeepers and golf clubs that will lead to improved playing conditions on golf courses in India.