Thailand putting green performance in July: a summary


While Eric Reasor was collecting the data on ball roll dispersion in Thailand -- read yesterday's post for more about that -- I collected data on the the same greens. The data summary shown here are the data I collected from 19 greens on 19 different courses. The grasses on these greens included various bermudagrass varieties, seashore paspalum, and manilagrass.

I took 3 stimpmeter readings per green, measured 9 locations per green with a 500 g Clegg soil impact tester, and used a TDR-300 with 7.5 cm rods to measure soil water content at those same 9 locations. I also made some measurements of soil temperature, surface temperature, and air temperature.

I showed the distribution of air temperature (median was 31.8°C) and heat index (median was 38.9°C) in a previous post.

Here's the summary of soil and surface temperature from these greens.



Putting greens in Thailand tend to be relatively soft, and the measurements in July were consistent with previous measurements.


This is the distribution of soil water content.


This is the distribution of green speed.


I measured the speed on each green in 3 different locations. With that, I get some idea not only of the green speed, but also about the variation in green speed. I express the variation in green speed within a green as the coefficient of variation (cv), which is the standard deviation of the measurements on a green divided by the mean of the measurements on a green.

Then I compared the distribution of cv for the 19 greens measured in Thailand with the cv for 26 greens measured during the recent KBC Augusta tournament in Japan. Under tournament conditions, there was slightly less variation in green speed. But many of the greens in Thailand had variation the same as measured during a tournament.


For more summaries of putting green measurements, and of measurements from greens in Thailand, see this post on playing with numbers. There are links to handouts and other data sources there. Or look at the charts in these slides:

Bangkok is a long way from Knoxville


When Eric Reasor came to Thailand in July, he brought along measuring tools to assess how golf balls roll across putting greens.


He visited 22 golf courses in 5 days. Here's a map with the locations visited marked as an orange .


The primary measurement he made was rolling balls using a customized Perfect Putter, so that all balls were launched on their roll at the same line and with the same pace.

Each ball was marked where it stopped.


Then the width and length of the dispersion area was recorded. Sometimes the balls dispersed a lot before they stopped.


On other rolls, or other greens, the dispersion was relatively small.


The purpose of the project is to study what factors influence the dispersion of the ball as it rolls across the green. Is it the grass species? Is it the mowing height? Do off-type grasses affect the dispersion? Is it something else? This is all part of his research about bermudagrass off-types. For an overview of this problem, see Reasor et al. on the genetic and phenotypic variability of interspecific hybrid bermudagrasses (Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers. × C. transvaalensis Burtt-Davy) used on golf course putting greens.

As we traveled around central Thailand, we got to see all the major species used as turfgrass in this region. For more about that, see What grasses are growing on golf courses in Thailand? Here's a few notes about what we saw in July.

Seashore paspalum must be maintained with a relatively rapid growth rate in this climate. If paspalum is not kept growing, it will be overtaken by other grasses. Therefore, a lot of work is required to keep paspalum surfaces in a playable condition, and we saw verticutting on paspalum fairways to manage the organic matter.


There are lots of birds on Thailand golf courses. These are Asian openbill and a little egret.


I haven't identified this bird yet.


Bermuda greens and seashore paspalum fairways are pretty common around Bangkok.


Manilagrass (Zoysia matrella) is even more common. Let's call it ubiquitous. You can find it at the airport, along the expressways, in lawns, on golf courses, and on football fields and tennis courts.


This is bermuda on greens with the nuwan noi variety of manilagrass on fairways. The fairway would have been planted to bermudagrass, but over time the nuwan noi comes to dominate the sward.


In parks, palace lawns, and temples, one tends to find tropical carpetgrass (Axonopus compressus) under the trees and nuwan noi manilagrass in full sun. For more about the grasses on lawns, see this post about climate and this one about botanizing in Bangkok.


We were lucky with the weather for that time of year. With 22 golf courses visited, we got rained out zero times. Normal weather in July at Bangkok will have 155 mm of rain and 13 rainy days.

We saw a bit of rain, but not enough to interfere with our work.


It was plenty warm. These are temperatures and heat indices at the time I collected data at 19 of the courses. It was only less than 30°C twice. What a great place for a tropical holiday! Or in this case, for 5 days of intensive data collection.



Optimum playing conditions, minimum inputs

"Mekong River diverted into Thailand's waterways, worrying drought-stricken neighbours like Vietnam," says a recent headline. "Drought exacts toll on crops in region," says another. And "China has embarked on an unprecedented 'water diplomacy' mission to alleviate the drought in Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam by discharging massive quantities of fresh water downstream from one of its dams," says a third article.


The recent R&A Seminars on Sustainable Golf Course Design, Renovation and Maintenance in Asia, held in early March in Beijing and then in mid-March near Bangkok, were timely in addressing the use of water (and other resources) on golf courses.

Selection_037At these seminars, I spoke about how one can optimize the playing conditions of the golf course while minimizing inputs of resources such as water.

This 12 page handout has details of what I discussed, and includes links to articles and all my presentations.

One of the easiest ways to reduce the amount of water required is to minimize the area of maintained turf.

Another way to reduce the water requirement is to use drought tolerant species. In particular, one can produce the best surfaces with the fewest inputs by using native species.

I also explained how to calculate the irrigation water requirement for any area of turf. First, estimate the water use by evapotranspiration, then subtract the quantity of effective rainfall and adjust for the surface area to be irrigated. Then, make further adjustments for the distribution uniformity of the irrigation system and the salinity of the water, and one is left with the quantity of water required as irrigation.

It is quite useful to have this number, and especially to make that calculation for a drought year. In that way, the necessary amount of water storage can be built, or one can adjust the turfgrass area or turfgrass species to make sure the golf course will be sustainable in terms of water.


If there isn't enough water for irrigation, then some grasses will die. Seashore paspalum is the grass that requires the most water to survive in Southeast Asia, and it dies when irrigation water is not supplied. Calculating the irrigation water requirement and planning to have that much water available can be quite useful. As this article states, regarding the current drought, and planning for water availability in such conditions:

Such long-term planning is unfortunately uncommon, say agriculture experts. Dr Leocadio Sebastian, a Vietnam-based regional programme leader for the Consultative Group On International Agricultural Research, says governments tend to be reactive. "They tend to favour relief intervention."

For golf course turf, one can't expect relief intervention, so it is better to plan ahead by choosing grasses that require fewer inputs.

Delegate maps, presentations, and photos from Sustainable Turfgrass Management in Asia 2016

It was another fun conference in Thailand, as the TGCSA welcomed 283 delegates from 24 countries to Pattaya for the Sustainable Turfgrass Management in Asia 2016 conference. This conference is organized by the TGCSA and ATC for the TGA, with support from the R&A.

Thailand sent the most delegates, with 153; next was Vietnam, with 23, and then Singapore with 18. These maps show the delegate counts by country.

Data: forPlot • Chart ID: GeoMapID4c09296ac8a7googleVis-0.5.10
R version 3.2.4 (2016-03-10) • Google Terms of UseDocumentation and Data Policy

Data: forPlot • Chart ID: GeoMapID4c096e53e2b9googleVis-0.5.10
R version 3.2.4 (2016-03-10) • Google Terms of UseDocumentation and Data Policy

Presentation slides from this year's conference (and previous years) are available for download.

Boy Yothin took hundreds of photos from the conference, field day, and AGIF turfgrass management exhibition and made them available in this Facebook album. A few of his photos from the conference are shown below.







Animated charts showing photosynthetically active radiation for a year

I spoke at the Sustainable Turfgrass Management in Asia 2016 conference about light at different locations. The presentations slides can be viewed here, or embedded below. For more about the conference, which saw 278 delegates from 24 countries and 5 continents travel to Pattaya this year, see this post at the Asian Turf Seminar site.

Light is important. Without enough light, grass won't grow well. I suggested that "no-problem" daily light integral (DLI) values for putting greens of bermudagrass, seashore paspalum, and zoysiagrass, may be about 40, 30, and 20 respectively. And I showed what PAR is, and how PAR is measured in one second as the photosynthetic photon flux density (PPFD), and then how all the PPFD over the course of a day are added together to make up the DLI.

I showed charts for one day, and also animated charts that show PPFD and DLI for every day of the year. This chart shows the maximum expected PPFD by time of day, and maximum possible DLI by day of the year, at Tokyo and Bangkok if there were no clouds. You may need to click the browser's "refresh" button to play these animations.


I wanted to visualize how these maximum possible values, on days when the sky is clear and about 75% of the extraterrestrial radiation reaches the earth's surface. To do that, I looked up the global solar radiation for Tokyo for every hour of 2015, converted those values to PAR units, and plotted them together with the maximum possible values assuming 75% transmittance of extraterrestrial radiation. That is plotted here.


I also explained that the global solar radiation has a large influence on the evapotranspiration (ET). I demonstrated this ET calculator that uses the Hargreaves equation to estimate the ET based on global solar radiation.

Optimum playing conditions with minimum inputs: handout and slides from seminars in Beijing and Bangkok

The R&A Seminar on Sustainable Golf Course Design, Renovation, and Maintenance in Asia was held March 3 and 4 in Beijing and will be March 10 in Thailand.

This is my handout for the five presentations I made at this seminar. Links to all my presentations are in the handout, and I've embedded a couple of the presentations below, or you can find them all on Speaker Deck.



The R&A Seminar on Sustainable Golf Course Design, Renovation and Maintenance in Asia

There are a lot of seminars happening in Asia in early March. Two new events are available this year, one in China and another in Thailand. These are The R&A Seminar on Sustainable Golf Course Design, Renovation and Maintenance in Asia.

The first is on March 3 and 4 in Beijing:

The R&A is to host a free to attend seminar in China that promotes responsible and practical approaches to golf course design, renovation and maintenance - highlighting the ongoing work of the industry in raising the expectations for golf.  This seminar will provide the most comprehensive sustainable education event in Asia across golf developments, renovations and course management.

The R&A Seminar on Sustainable Golf Course Design, Renovation and Maintenance in Asia will be held in Beijing on 3 and 4 March, as part of the China Golf Show at the National Convention Centre.


The second is on March 10 in Thailand, focusing on "golf developments, renovations and course management."

The R&A Seminar on Sustainable Golf Course Design, Renovation and Maintenance in Asia will be held at the Amata Spring Country Club on 10 March.

Both seminars are free to attend.

More information and registration for the China seminar is here: registration closes on February 26.

Details and registration for the Thailand seminar are here: registration closes on March 4.

Botanizing in Bangkok

One of the best places to study tropical grasses in Southeast Asia is at the Suanluang Rama IX Public Park in Bangkok's Prawet District.


The two primary species on lawns at Suanluang Rama IX are tropical carpetgrass (Axonopus compressus) in shaded areas and manilagrass (Zoysia matrella) in open areas.


If you visit the park you will notice that the carpetgrass forms a monostand under the trees, and at the edge of landscaped areas, but moving outside the drip lines of trees into areas that get more sun, the sward transitions to one dominated by manilagrass. In the photo below, one can see, just after sunrise, the manilagrass in the center of the photo holds more dew than does the carpetgrass.


This year in April, a new medicinal plants garden was established in the northern part of the park.


Medicinal plants are interesting, but what I found really exciting when I had a chance to explore this new garden is that there are much more than just medicinal plants there. In fact, there is an extensive grass collection, the largest I have seen in Southeast Asia.


For mown turfgrasses in zone 14 of the medicinal plants garden, one can see:

  • 2 types of Zoysia
  • 3 types of Cynodon
  • Paspalum vaginatum
  • Axonopus compressus
  • Stenotaphrum secundatum 'Variegatum'


There are more ornamental and forage grasses and grains than turfgrasses -- rice, sudan grass, maize, sugar cane, and scores of others.


One can find common ornamental grasses such as Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum', along with a lot that I saw for the first time.


In the new medicinal plants garden one can also find herbs and vegetables, and in other sections of the park there are also vegetable and herb gardens for educational purposes.

A highlight of the year is the Suanluang Rama IX Flower Festival, held from December 1 to 10 each year. I've been to this festival a few times, and the 2015 version seems the best one yet. There are even grass elephants!


These displays of horticultural art during the flower festival are reminiscent of the Girona Temps de Flors. If you can't make it for the flower festival in early December, there are still plenty of other plant collections that remain open year round. The fern and orchid houses are in a deeply shaded section of the park.


But back to the grass. As I mentioned, if you see the lawns at the park, they are primarily composed of tropical carpetgrass, as seen above in front of the fern and orchid houses, and below under the trees.


In some less shaded areas, the primary species is manilagrass. The species composition at Suanluang Rama IX park in Bangkok is the same as I've described for the lawns at the Marukatayawan Palace. One can also find Java grass (Polytrias indica) growing in patches around the park. It is usually, as shown below, found within patches of manilagrass. Polytrias indica has an inflorescence that is russet in color and this species forms a distinctive component of the sward because of this coloration.


One can also find Chrysopogon aciculatus and Paspalum conjugatum mixed in with the Axonopus compressus in some places. The leaf characteristics of those three species are similar, and it is only obvious that all three species are present when the plants are flowering. These grasses on the lawns at Suanluang Rama IX park and in the grass collection of the new Medicinal Plants Garden are typical of the grasses that grow and are used in South and Southeast Asia. Well worth some study if you care about these things.

Even if you don't care much for botany or agrostology or grass elephants, I would still recommend a visit. This is the freshest air in the city and the park is popular for running, walking, cycling, boating, birding, tai chi, yoga, and aerobics.


Surprises, conservatism, and what one can learn from soil testing: part 2

I wrote about three things one can learn from soil testing in this post. Here, in part 2, I discuss four more things related to this subject.

The seashore paspalum plots on the driving range tee at Siam CC Waterside Course.

4. Grass can grow well and produce a high quality surface across a range of soil chemical conditions. Don't forget the importance of light, water, soil air, and mowing. By comparison, soil nutrients are simple, and there is more leeway for variation in soil chemical properties. These plots were very low in calcium and magnesium by any interpretation, had potassium above the MLSN guideline but lower than conventional guidelines, and the pH of the plots was from 4.9 to 5.5. Even with these conditions, the grass is good.

5. Sand is a horrid growing medium for plants. The CEC is really low, the micronutrients are low, the accumulation of organic matter that is so beneficial in a normal soil actually causes problems with a sand, the pH is usually not well-buffered -- there are a lot of things not to like about sand as a nutrient supplying medium for turf. The soil tests on these test plots show this.

6. Available nitrogen (nitrate + ammonium) was pretty much the same for each plot, no matter the N source supplied (or not). There was 8.7 ppm N in the control plot that received no N, 8.3 ppm in the urea plot, 7.2 ppm in the 19-0-19 plot, and 6.3 ppm in the 15-0-26 plot. It is interesting that the control plot actually had more N than the plots that received N fertilizer. One would need to run a lot more samples to determine if this was just by chance, or if there is some cause for this -- a difference of 2 ppm in real terms is tiny. What we saw at the field day was grass that looked pretty much the same, no matter the fertilizer. When the conditions are right for mineralization, and when there is enough organic matter in the soil, N fertilizer may not be required. The control plot here looks just as good as the plots that received N, and the soil N was pretty much the same in all the plots.

The plots at the field day all had similar color, indicating that the nitrogen supply to the grass was similar in each plot.

7. For many nutrient experiments, it is difficult to see treatment effects when they are not done under controlled conditions. There were visual differences between the plots a month before the field day, after the first application of fertilizer treatments. But management of the turf, especially the irrigation applied to make sure everything looked at its best for the field day, seems to have increased N mineralization in the control plot and thus all the grass was supplied with enough N and K no matter the treatment. Doing experiments under controlled conditions is an easier way to detect small differences in treatment effects, if those treatments have only a small effect.

These demonstration plots were set up to use as a discussion point for the experiment about N:K ratios conducted under controlled conditions, described in this poster, this handout, and in these slides.

What good are contours if grabby grass grounds gravity?

Ground contours on the Old Course, St. Andrews

It's a grim outlook for ground contours on golf courses if the playing surface doesn't allow the ball to bounce and roll. On Sunday, I'll be talking about this as it relates to tropical Southeast Asia -- if one wants to have surfaces on which a golf ball is going to bounce and roll, what grasses are preferable, and what type of soil conditions do we need?

This is part of the Design, Build, and Maintain: a different way? seminar with Paul Jansen and Pirapon Namatra.

For a preview of my main points, see these two articles:

I'll be sharing some recent data, observations, and calculations, but those two articles give a good preview of the case I will make, and if you are attending the seminar, I hope you will read those articles in advance. If you are not attending the seminar, you'll probably like the articles anyway.

Yes, a running sward is quite possible in the tropics -- Plutalaung Royal Thai Navy Golf Course

And this too: