Sea Turtles and Turfgrass, Natural Golf and National Parks

16th green and 17th hole at Tublamu Navy Golf Course

If you didn't know it was there, you would miss the right turn off Thailand's National Highway 4. There's no sign for the golf course on the main road. 10 hours drive and 775 km south of Bangkok, one comes to the town of Tublamu. Just south of the Khao Lak beaches and the jungle of Khao Lak - Lam Ru National Park, Tublamu is home to the Phang-Nga Naval Base and the office of (as well as departure point for boats to) Similan Islands National Park. Following the signs to the navy base, and passing through the security checkpoint at the base entrance, one finds an amazing golf course.

For a country with so much coastline, Thailand doesn't have many oceanside golf holes. The Tublamu Navy Golf Course has 5 holes where the ocean comes into play, and one can see the Andaman Sea, usually a deep and shimmering blue, from nearly every hole.


Damage to the former 1st green after the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami

There used to be more trees and undergrowth, but the 2004 tsunami washed much of that away. 

This GOLF Magazine article tells the story of what happened at the course that morning when the tsunami tore across it. The course was rebuilt in 2005. Walking the course today, or looking out from the clubhouse, one doesn't see any sign of the tsunami.

But just beyond the first nine holes, at the southern end of the navy base, one comes to a tsunami memorial. There is a large navy patrol boat, on its side, hundreds of meters from the ocean. This boat was washed ashore during the tsunami and is left in place as a memorial, along with various explanatory plaques, maps, and name lists. 



Turtle_rightThe Sea Turtle Conservation Center has a hatchery and nursery to raise and release 10,000 sea turtles each year into the Andaman Sea. These are primarily green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas).

At the golf course, they take special care to minimize inputs. There is infrequent irrigation, use of native grasses to minimize mowing, and insect pests on the putting greens are dealt with not by using pesticides, but by applying a soapy rinse to the green surface and then collecting the insects from the surface. 

High budget resorts sometimes get the environmental accolades in the golf industry. This type of low-input and natural golf course is worthy of accolades too.


Here's a video of the young turtles at feeding time.

And here's a video of the older sea turtles at the conservation center.

If you are traveling to the resort areas of Phuket or Phang Nga and are interested in golf and the environment, the Phang Nga Naval Base, the small town of Tublamu, and the golf course and sea turtle center are something you will want to see.

Approach to the par 5 16th at Tublamu Navy Golf Course with the Andaman Sea just over the green

An update: manilagrass tees and divot problems, or not

Hole 12 at Keya GC, par 3

Last year in March I wrote this post about perceived divot problems on manilagrass (Zoysia matrella) tees. To summarize, I've heard many objections (in theory) to the use of manilagrass on tees in Southeast Asia, the thought being that manilagrass grows slowly and divot recovery may be too slow for this grass to be suitable on tees.

On this topic, it is relevant to consider the approximately 1,800 golf courses in Japan with manilagrass tees. Those tees are played for almost half the year when the grass is dormant. The grass cannot recover from divots at all during that dormant period, yet it still produces an excellent tee surface. If this grass can be used to produce excellent tees when it grows for only half the year, one expects that manilagrass will do just fine on tees in Southeast Asia where it never goes dormant.

Tee at Keya GC Hole 12 in mid-March 2014 after more than 19,000 rounds on dormant manilagrass, photo courtesy of Andrew McDaniel

Manilagrass tees, even on a heavily used par 3, as shown above, still have a lot of grass after an autumn, winter, and spring of play on the dormant turf. Soon after the grass starts growing in April, the tee will be almost 100% grass, with nary a divot to be found.

Muang Kaew GC in Bangkok has about 72,000 rounds every year. During the peak season, 220 golfers play every day. The manilagrass tees never go dormant, nor do they suffer from severe divoting problems.

Manilagrass tee on Par 3 #17 at Muang Kaew GC in Bangkok

There are still divots, of course, but for a course with more than 70,000 rounds a year, to have this type of condition on the most heavily-divotted section of a par 3 tee, tells me that manilagrass grows plenty fast enough to recover from divot damage. Plus, manilagrass is more resistant to divot injury than bermudagrass (Cynodon spp.), and divot recovery times can be just as fast as bermudagrass.

The most-heavily divotted area of the par 3 17th at Muang Kaew GC in Bangkok

 With any grass on tees, especially on busy golf courses, it is important to control the traffic. On seashore paspalum (Paspalum vaginatum) tees at Siam CC near Pattaya, the divots are concentrated on one section of the tee to allow other areas to recover. By starting at the left front of the tee and moving the tee markers back about 50 cm every day, the golfers can always tee off from divot-free grass, and an entire tee of this size can be apportioned into about 42 sections, giving 6 weeks recovery time before returning to a previously-used location. 

Divots on a par 3 tee of seashore paspalum at Siam CC near Pattaya; careful movement of the tee markers gives about 6 weeks recovery time before the same area of the tee will be used again

35 Photos from Sustainable Turfgrass Management in Asia 2014 Conference

This year's conference saw 278 people from 20 countries gather in Thailand from 10 to 12 March to learn and share information about turfgrass management. This photo gallery shows a few of the activities at the conference, field day, and turfgrass management exposition.

The 2015 conference will be held on 9 to 11 March 2015. As in previous years, the conference program and venue details will be announced in September. 

The Sustainable Turfgrass Management in Asia 2014 conference was organized by the Thai GCSA and Asian Turfgrass Center for the Thailand Golf Association, with support from The R&A, in conjunction with the AGIF Turfgrass Management Exposition.

Counting Down, Top 5 Posts of 2011

Various interesting posts hide in the back pages of blogs, and I've enjoyed seeing which of the posts from the early years of this blog were most popular, as measured by the number of pageviews.

Continuing with the lists of top posts by year since the inception of this blog in 2009, here are the 5 posts with the highest pageviews from 2011:

  1. An Interesting Technique to Modify Fairway Conditions in Thailand
  2. Sandcapping or topdressing: which is better?
  3. A Report From the 2011 Golf Course Maintenance Management Conference
  4. Research on Weed Populations in Malaysia
  5. How Much Potassium Does Turfgrass Need?

I previously listed the 5 top posts from 2009 and the top 5 from 2010.

More data on just what happens -- or doesn't -- when turf is syringed

Measure_equipToday was sunny at Bangkok, and I decided to do an experiment on the lawn at the apartment complex where I live. For more on this topic, see this post on why I would not try to cool grass by syringing. That post drew a mixed and sometimes heated response.

It was was of the most viewed posts on my blog, ever, and some people wrote to say they agreed with me, and others wrote to say that I was wrong. With that mixed reaction in mind, I wanted to make some measurements myself. Here's what I did today:

  • the air temperature was 35°C, wind was negligible, there were no clouds in the sky, and the photosynthetic irradiance was 1970 micromoles m-2 s-1
  • this area of the lawn was in full sun and is primarily manilagrass (Zoysia matrella) with a bit of purple nutsedge (Cyperus rotundus)
  • the height of the turf was 5 cm
  • I marked 4 points on the lawn with a golf tee
  • I measured the surface temperature on both sides of each marked point using an infrared thermometer
  • Starting at 13:18, water was applied as a fine mist (a syringe) to one side of each marked point, with the water coming from a spray bottle calibrated to apply 40 mL m-2 to an area of 0.159 m2
  • Immediately after the water application, and again at 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30 minutes after application, the surface temperature was measured on a location within the syringed area and on a location outside the syringed area
  • The temperature of the water applied to the grass was 31.2°C

Here are the temperature measurements. Time is in minutes, with time 0 immediately before water was applied, and all other times in minutes after the syringe application.

##    Time Syringe No Syringe
## 1     0    33.2       36.2
## 2     0    36.6       34.6
## 3     0    34.4       37.2
## 4     0    35.0       34.4
## 5     1    33.4       32.8
## 6     1    30.4       36.6
## 7     1    31.0       37.2
## 8     1    32.8       34.2
## 9     5    33.2       34.6
## 10    5    38.4       35.4
## 11    5    33.4       37.0
## 12    5    37.2       36.2
## 13   10    34.6       30.2
## 14   10    35.6       33.6
## 15   10    34.6       35.8
## 16   10    33.2       33.0
## 17   15    33.4       31.2
## 18   15    33.8       33.4
## 19   15    32.0       37.6
## 20   15    33.4       33.4
## 21   20    30.4       29.6
## 22   20    33.6       34.4
## 23   20    33.2       34.8
## 24   20    32.4       31.2
## 25   25    31.8       33.8
## 26   25    35.6       34.0
## 27   25    34.0       37.4
## 28   25    36.8       32.8
## 29   30    31.4       29.0
## 30   30    34.6       32.8
## 31   30    31.2       36.4
## 32   30    31.8       32.4

In summary what happened was this:

  1. The surface temperature before application of water was about 35°C, the same as air temperature.
  2. 1 minute after water application, the surface temperature had dropped to 31.9°C, which was close to the actual temperature of the water. There was a 3°C reduction in temperature immediately after applying water, but keep in mind that the water temperature was 31.2°C.
  3. Using a t-test to compare the mean value of syringed vs. non-syringed turf at 1 minute after water application, the probability that such a difference in temperature was due to chance was 0.04. Clearly, the water application reduced temperature for about a minute, maybe a little more.
  4. At 5 minutes after application the surface temperature was back up to more than 35°C, a higher temperature than before water was applied. And then at 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30 minutes after application, the surface temperatures ranged from about 32 to 35°C, but there was never a significant difference in surface temperature between the syringed and non-syringed turf.

These results are remarkably similar to those I described in the controversial blog post. Today's data were collected on a lawn, and the higher mowing height increased (I think) the variability in the measurements. If the weather stays like this, I will try to collect data from a putting green to see what type of syringing effect I can measure.

Program Announced for Sustainable Turfgrass Management in Asia 2014

The conference program is now set for Sustainable Turfgrass Management in Asia 2014, to be held from 10 to 12 March at Pattaya, Thailand. Download the conference brochure here (371 kB, PDF).

The Thai GCSA have been working hard to plan an extraordinary conference, and based on delegate feedback from previous years, we have made some exciting improvements. Some of the highlights of the 2014 conference include:

  • a new and larger venue, and a wider range of hotel room options 
  • superintendent speakers from Indonesia, Malaysia, and Myanmar
  • more intensive seminars, of 3 hour duration, on zoysiagrass management from Dr. Milt Engelke and on management of putting green speed from Dr. John Sorochan
  • educational seminars on a range of topics sure to be of practical use to all delegates
  • an expanded AGIF Turfgrass Management Exposition with equipment and product demonstration and education organized by the Asian Golf Industry Federation (AGIF) in partnership with the Thai GCSA
  • much more, including a chance to meet and share information with hundreds of friends and colleagues from 20 countries around the region

The conference is organized by the Thai GCSA and Asian Turfgrass Center on behalf of the Thailand Golf Association, with support from The R&A.

Making use of nutrients in the soil

Roots_soilIf the amount of an essential mineral element such as potassium or calcium is adequate in the soil, the grass can obtain all that it requires from the soil, and fertilizer applications of that element will not be required. Soil nutrient analyses (soil tests) are conducted to determine if an element is required as fertilizer, or not, and if it is required, in what amounts. The MLSN guidelines provide the newest recommendations for what can be considered adequate.

But there is more to look at than just the amount in the soil at any one time. The nutrient content in the soil is dynamic. Waterfall charts are a quick way of looking at the inputs (starting amount in the soil, fertilizer applied, amount in irrigation water) and losses (plant uptake and harvest through clippings, leaching) to give an idea of the magnitude of each of these amounts.

I previously made waterfall charts for two essential elements, potassium and calcium, and one for an element we wish to manage below a certain level in the soil, sodium. Those charts all used units of parts per million (ppm), which is what soil tests and irrigation water are reported as, but usually not what one thinks of when applying a fertilizer or harvesting grass clippings.

I have made a new series of charts, with potassium and calcium both shown in three different units of measure: ppm, grams per square meter, and pounds per 1000 square feet.

First, let's look at calcium. The horizontal blue line represents the MLSN guideline for that element. When the element is present in the soil above the MLSN guideline, the grass can obtain enough of that element from the soil, without supplemental fertilizer applications.


This is based on estimates for Bangkok, where a bermudagrass green may produce about 900 grams of dried clippings per square meter each year, containing on average 0.45% calcium, and where 600 mm of irrigation may be applied each year, with a calcium content of 20 ppm. For this situation, the amount in the soil is above the MLSN guideline, and no calcium is required as fertilizer, because all of the plant requirements can be met by the large reservoir of available calcium in the soil.

For potassium, it is a bit different. There is less in the soil, and the grass uses more, and these charts show that the plant uptake is more than the starting amount in the soil. Fertilizer, in this case, is required to keep potassium above the MLSN guideline. These charts for potassium are based on 900 grams of dried clippings per square meter per year, with a 2% potassium content, and 600 mm of irrigation with a potassium content of 5 ppm.


These types of charts can be modified to show the mass balance for any element, because the starting amount and the annual inputs and losses of an element will be different for every location.

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

Video Describing Manilagrass Production at Thailand

This video shows how manilagrass (Zoysia matrella) is planted, grown, and harvested on Thailand's sod farms. Manilagrass is used throughout East and Southeast Asia on lawns, parks, golf courses, sports fields, roadsides, and cemeteries. What is especially remarkable about this method of production is the time it takes from planting to harvest. During the summer when the temperatures are at a maximum and the grass can grow quickly, harvestable manilagrass sod is ready 30 days after planting. During winter, when the temperatures are cooler, it takes about 40 days from planting to harvest.

I spoke on this topic at a recent meeting of the Midsouth Turfgrass Council in Memphis.