A fascinating tour of courses you might not otherwise see

Golf architect Paul Jansen is in the midst of what he calls the "Sustainable by Design" tour. He is making an intensive tour around South and Southeast Asia, visiting and studying some of the most interesting places and golf courses. And he is documenting this as he goes along, with photos, writing, and videos.

What kind of places is he visiting? Do you recall Nuwara Eliya? C.V. Piper wrote about the club in Turf for Golf Courses. When Piper visited, the course was already 22 years old! And that was 116 years ago. How good is the turf at Nuwara Eliya today? Pretty impressive. The fairways are primarily narrowleaf carpetgrass (Axonopus affinis) and kikuyugrass (Pennisetum clandestinum), and Paul has shared some stunning images of the fairways at this club that was founded in 1889.

I find it especially interesting to follow this tour. Some of the reasons include:

  • reading (and seeing) a golf course architect's perspective on a wide range of courses
  • seeing a sampling of the variety in courses in South and Southeast Asia
  • seeing the different grass types and the playing surfaces that are produced
  • learning what works, and what is unique, at so many different courses

To follow the tour, see:

A very welcome visitor. Nature in the city at Royal Colombo. What a wonderful golf experience.

A post shared by Paul Jansen (@pauljansengolf) on

The eloquent Edwin Roald on Bogey Nights

This is a conversation I really enjoyed, and I think you will too. Edwin has some great ideas about matching the time window of a round of golf to the way we live today. And the implications of this are many -- time, cost, resources, quality, and land use are all naturally influenced by what he has to say.


This fascinating conversation is less than 15 minutes. Have a listen here: Edwin Roald on Bogey Nights, or visit for more information.

Another note of interest is this. Jason McKenzie, one of the hosts of the Bogey Nights show, worked in golf course maintenance during high school before going on to play golf at Mississippi State University. There is a lot of talent and knowledge on this radio show, and I'm glad I had a chance to listen.

Turfgrass Notes from Iceland

IcelandI was at Iceland last week to speak with the Icelandic Green- and Groundskeepers Association about turfgrass nutrient requirements. This is a quick summary report of interesting things I noted on this trip, along with a gallery of annotated photos I've posted to Flickr. You can read more about the seminar and download the presentation slides and handout here.

  • The association were most hospitable, allowing me to visit 11 golf courses on this trip, along with other botanical expeditions to geysers, waterfalls, ocean cliffs, volcanic craters, and lawns.
  • There are 70 golf courses in Iceland. The population is 320,000. Many people are surprised that there are so many courses. 
  • The courses here are at 63 to 66° N. The temperature, however, is moderated by the Gulf Stream. It is relatively cool, but not exceedingly cold, and fine fescue (Festuca rubra) thrives here.


Lots of fine fescue and other grasses growing at majestic Gullfoss
  • For a look at how temperatures in Reykjavik may influence turf growth and nitrogen requirement, see this document which includes figures and charts about growth potential of Reykjavik in comparison to other world cities. In summary, Reykjavik has a short growing season.
  • In mown, irrigated, and fertilized turf, Poa annua can grow well also. Turfgrass managers in Iceland are trying to encourage the growth of Festuca and discourage the growth of Poa.
  • Because most of the courses are near the ocean, salt spray can be a problem in discoloring and reducing the growth rate of the grass. Geysir GC, 63 km from the sea, is the most inland course in the country.
  • Keilir GC golf course manager and Green- and Groundskeeper Association board member Bjarni Þór Hannesson is a member of the critically acclaimed band Worm is Green. They've toured in China, Eastern Europe, and the United States, and I recommend going to a show if they are ever in your area. 
  • Iceland and its grasses and golf courses are fascinating. Do visit if you ever have a chance. It is a convenient stop when traveling between the United States and Europe. 

Turfgrass Reports from Spain

In my two week trip to Spain, I visited the Canary Islands to see warm-season grasses, Madrid to speak at the Spanish Greenkeepers Congress, and Barcelona and Girona to see the grasses of Catalonia. I've written various updates about the interesting things I saw related to turfgrass management. Here is a list of these posts:

Golf Courses and Turfgrass on the "Miniature Continent" of Gran Canaria

Turfgrass at Gran Canaria: high season traffic, growth potential, salinity, and radio interview

A Report from Madrid: the 34th Spanish Greenkeepers Congress

Turfgrass in Catalonia: 1

Turfgrass in Catalonia: 2

Turfgrass in Catalonia: 3

Turfgrass Mystery: how was this bunker revetted?

Turfgrass in Catalonia: 3

Costa_bravaAfter seeing so many grasses at the PGA Catalunya Resort, and then even more at Barcelona, I must say I was surprised again to continue seeing such a variety of grasses as David Bataller and I went botanizing at the Costa Brava and the Semillas Fitó turfgrass experimental station.

In addition to the ten turfgrass species I already listed from the Resort, a look at the grass around the revetted bunker reveals an eleventh - fine fescue


To those eleven species, I can add Stenotaphrum secundatum (above)which we saw thriving as a lawn grass in some parts of Catalonia, and also Zoysia matrella, which we saw on a few traffic circles.


At the Semillas Fitó turfgrass experimental station we saw seeded kikuyugrass and seeded Cynodon dactylon along with a variety of cool-season turfgrass varieties. I was especially interested in the Playa seed mixture which looked great on the research plots and contains seed from four different species: Cynodon dactylon, Festuca arundinacea, Poa pratensis, and Lolium perenne


And at Golf Platja de Pals, the first course on the Costa Brava, designed by Fred Hawtree, and site of the 1972 Spanish Open, the turf is almost all Poa annua, and one can even find pink snow mold (Michrodochium nivale) in the shaded areas there.


I think it is pretty amazing to see thirteen turfgrass species, all performing pretty well, and even in early December to see green Stenotaphrum secundatum and green Zoysia matrella and green Cynodon dactylon alongside Poa trivialis and Poa annua. If I had a lawn in Catalonia, I think I would plant the Playa mixture from Semillas Fitó myself, just for the novelty of having a mixture of warm- and cool-season grasses in the same lawn, and because the other types of Festuca arundinacea that I saw were performing very well. 

In Southeast Asia, there are just a few species of grass that work well as a lawn or as a sports turf. In northern Europe, there are just a few species that work. At Catalonia, I saw thirteen species, all growing, to some extent, very well. In Sydney, or in Brisbane, or in San Diego, or in Atlanta, we can have a wide range of species, but I don't think I've ever been anywhere where such a wide range of grasses were growing.

Turfgrass in Catalonia: 2


After studying the grasses and growing conditions at PGA Catalunya, we went to Barcelona to study the grasses there.

SagradaAt the Sagrada Família, we found perennial ryegrass growing on a shaded lawn in front of this impressive building.

Then it was off to the largest stadium in Europe, Camp Nou, home of FC Barcelona. The turf here is primarily a blend of Poa pratensis varieties, and overseeding is done with Lolium perenne.

As at many stadia, especially in Europe, supplemental lighting is used to improve the turf conditions. Shade from the stadium structure itself, combined with the low global irradiance in the winter months, leaves the turf relatively weak. Supplemental lighting, such as this system from Stadium Grow Lighting (SGL), can produce a substantial improvement in turfgrass conditions.


Just how much extra light is provided by such a system? By my calculations, this lighting system will provide, over 24 hours of continuous operation, about 14 moles of photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) per square meter. Is this a lot of light, or is it a little? 

It depends on the context. During the summer months, or at any time of year in the tropics, 14 moles per square meter is roughly equivalent to 2 hours of unobstructed sunshine at midday. But 14 moles is also about the same as a full day of average sunshine at Barcelona during the month of December. And 14 moles is more than 4 times the light turf would normally receive at Edinburgh on a December day. 

Compared to the amount of light warm-season turf requires (and typically receives) either in the summer or near the equator, the amount of light provided by such a system is negligible. Running the lighting system for 48 consecutive hours would be the same as about 4 hours of midday sun. But for cool-season turf in the winter, running the lights for one day could be equivalent to almost a week of natural light. That is pretty substantial!


Barcelona is full of interesting places without any grass, and for the rest of the day I saw many of them. But I couldn't help but notice that even under the tram, one finds a fine turf between the rails. At first glance I thought it was artificial turf. Upon closer inspection, I saw that it was grass, with the leaves angled in the direction of the passing tram.


Turfgrass in Catalonia: 1

Occasionally I get to travel to places that have a tremendous variety of grasses. One of these is Hawaii – a wonderland of grasses. But at Hawaii it is a panoply of warm-season grasses. Recently I visited Catalonia, at the invitation of David Bataller, Golf Courses and Grounds Manager of the PGA Catalunya Resort. What I saw was really amazing! Almost every warm-season and cool-season turfgrass was growing in this region.

It is always interesting and a great learning experience to see so many types of grass. One thing that remains consistent about places where a lot of grasses, both cool- and warm-season species can grow, is this: these are among the most difficult places in the world to produce good year-round playing surfaces.


At this 36-hole facility, David manages primarily cool-season grasses, but there are also warm-season grasses – in fact, I counted ten different species of turfgrass, in total, being used on the property, plus lovegrass (Eragrostis) put to good use in many landscaping and out-of-play areas. In no particular order, they are:

  • Lolium perenne (C3)
  • Zoysia japonica (C4)
  • Pennisetum clandestinum (C4)
  • Poa annua (C3)
  • Poa trivialis (C3)
  • Poa pratensis (C3)
  • Agrostis stolonifera (C3)
  • Cynodon dactylon (and Cynodon hybrids) (C4)
  • Paspalum vaginatum (C4)
  • Festuca arundinacea (C3)

Why are there such a wide variety of grasses used for turf in Catalonia? If we look at a chart of growth potential through the year (Figure 1), it would seem that cool-season grasses would be a clear choice for this area. 

temperature-based turfgrass growth potential at Girona/Costa Brava, Spain

Figure 1. Temperature-based growth potential of C3 and C4 grasses based on climatological normals data for Girona, Spain.

The chart shows that the cool-season growth potential is higher than warm-season growth potential throughout the year. But what we find growing are both cool- and warm-season grasses. This is similar to a place like San Diego, California, where we can find seashore paspalum and bermudagrass and kikuyugrass growing alongside perennial ryegrass, Poa annua, and creeping bentgrass. 

The reason warm-season grasses perform well in this type of climate is because of water. Warm-season grasses have better water use efficiency than do cool-season grasses, and warm-season grasses generally have better salinity tolerance than do cool-season grasses. So in a climate where the evapotranspiration is higher than the precipitation, and where the irrigation water has some salt in it, warm-season grasses will compete well with and may even outperform cool-season grasses.


During the winter season, the warm-season grasses go dormant, as we can see with the Zoysia japonica on the bunker slope, but it is not cold enough for there to be any winterkill. 

PaspalumThere was even a local type of seashore paspalum (seedhead at right) that grows well in this area, and in fact some of the older golf courses near the sea in Catalonia have this native grass.

After the vist to PGA Catalunya Resort, my head was spinning. We had seen so many types of grasses, seen sunrises over the frost-covered courses, had discussed the soil and water salinity challenges, and tried to predict how certain grasses would grow at different times of the year. Maintaining fine turfgrass in a transitional climate, especially one without much precipitation, is really a challenge. 


Turfgrass at Gran Canaria: high season traffic, growth potential, salinity, and radio interview

Rcglp_sun_dayDuring my visit to Gran Canaria, I visited all seven golf facilities on the island. It is interesting to consider how the different grasses are performing. Although Gran Canaria has an exceptionally salubrious climate for people, it actually can be a difficult place to manage turfgrass.

The main turfgrasses being grown on the golf courses are:

  • kikuyugrass (Pennisetum clandestinum)
  • seashore paspalum (Paspalum vaginatum)
  • bermudagrass (Cynodon spp.)
  • creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera)

The first three of these are warm-season grasses, meaning they grow most rapidly with an average temperature of more than 27°C. Creeping bentgrass is a cool-season grass, and it grows best at a temperature of around 20°C.

There are three interesting things that we can note related to the grasses and the temperature here. 

1. When we plot the temperature-based growth potential of cool-season and warm-season grasses based on climatological normals weather data at Las Palmas, we see that the growth potential for cool-season grass is higher than that for warm-season grass for each month of the year. For more about growth potential, see this article by Dr. Wendy Gelernter and Dr. Larry Stowell of PACE Turf.

temperature-based turfgrass growth potential at Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain

Figure 1. The temperature-based growth potential for C3 and C4 grasses based on climatological normal temperatures from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. 

2. The grasses on the golf courses of Gran Canaria are almost all warm-season, but the growth potential model predicts that the temperatures are ideal for cool-season grasses. Why is it that we find the warm-season grasses predominating?

It is because of water. The eastern and southern parts of the island, where the golf courses are located, receive very little precipitation. Supplemental irrigation is required to keep functional golfing surfaces, and that irrigation is both limited in supply and rather high in salinity. Some irrigation supplies on the island have an electrical conductivity of almost 4 dS/m. 

Warm-season grasses such as bermudagrass and seashore paspalum have lower water use rates than do cool-season grasses, and these warm-season grasses are also more tolerant of salinity. This allows the golf course turf to be maintained with a minimum of water. This benefit is enhanced by the rather cool temperatures during the winter months, and in fact, for seven months of the year at Gran Canaria, the warm-season grasses grow at less than 50% of their potential, which means they use less water. The relatively low growth potential for warm-season grasses mean they will use less fertilizer also.

3. The resort courses at the southern part of the island see high traffic during the months of October to April. This creates a challenge for greenkeepers because the very season at which traffic is highest is also the season at which the primary turf of bermudagrass or seashore paspalum has its slowest growth. 


Micah Woods, Alejandro Nagy, and Fernando Suarez on a seashore paspalum tee at Maspalomas Golf


As I spoke with greenkeepers around the island, and as I mentioned in my radio interview with Chicho Morales on Bajo Par Canarias, the most important thing in managing good turf on Gran Canaria is water. Applying the right amount of water to the turf, and managing the salts that are applied in the irrigation water, by leaching, will lead to the best possible turfgrass conditions. 

Listen to the radio show here, with extended comments from me starting at about the 10:00 mark, some good questions from host Chicho Morales, and translation and additional remarks on my visit by Alejandro Nagy and Daniel Carretero.

For more information, I wrote about the golf courses and grasses of Gran Canaria in this post, and you can see photos of the different grasses and golf courses at Gran Canaria here.

Científico Jefe: a note on cool job titles, translation, and some upcoming seminars

I used to call myself the Research Director of the Asian Turfgrass Center. Then I decided that Chief Scientist would be a fun (or a more rakish?) job title, and I am glad that I did, because Científico Jefe has a nice ring to it. At the invitation of La Asociación Española de Greenkeepers, I'll be speaking at the 34 Congreso Anual de Greenkeepers (Spanish Greenkeepers Congress) in Madrid at the end of this month on the topic of Nutrición y Requerimientos reales para greenes en España (Nutrient Requirements for Putting Greens in Spain).

I'm also giving a seminar for the Thai GCSA on 13 November. The topic on that day is putting green performance and will go into some detail about soil moisture, surface hardness, and how the organic matter in sand rootzones can be managed to optimize surface conditions. That seminar will be translated into Thai.

Ueno-micahIn February, I'll be giving seminars at Tokyo and Japan about ultradwarf bermudagrass management and in India about techniques that can be used to improve course conditions. Then in March at Thailand I will be teaching about turfgrass nutrient requirements, and I'll also be providing an online seminar (webcast) about seashore paspalum for GCSAA.

That is a lot to prepare for, on various topics, and we will see materials translated into Spanish, Japanese, and Thai. I'll share these slides and handouts as much as possible once they are available. 

For a list of upcoming seminars and conferences that may be of interest to those who work in the turf industry in Asia, see the ATC Calendar. I keep that calendar updated with relevant industry and educational events and although I'm not speaking at all of these events, I will be at some of them.


Productivity 2: my turfgrass information workflow

In a previous post, I wrote that because of the various writing, speaking, and research projects I do, combined with a continuous schedule of international travel, I have a particular workflow that helps me to get things done, ensures I am continually updated with the information I need, and ensures I am working on the right projects at the right time. That, in turn, maximizes my free time, and enables me to be highly productive with very little stress. 

Here is what I do. I've followed this system of workflow management since I read Getting Things Done as a graduate student.


1 list: On my computer, I keep a master list of all the projects I am working on. I use OmniFocus for this. For all the projects, I include the specifc next actions that must be taken to move the project along to completion.

Notebook_hilo2 notebooks: I use two notebooks to write down ideas, make calculations, and record notes. Why two? When I'm at my desk, I like to use the larger one as there is more space to write what I need to write. When I'm at a golf course, or a conference, or on a plane, I like to keep the small notebook with me – and it fits in my pocket!

My phones: I have Evernote on my phones. No matter what country I'm in, I'll have a phone with me, and I can record any ideas or notes using that software. Generally I prefer to put these into my notebooks, or directly into my master list (OmniFocus), but sometimes I'll be in a situation when it is easier to make a quick note on my phone. 

1 weekly review: Once a week, on Friday mornings if I can, otherwise at the next available opportunity, I review my notebooks, and my phones, transferring any new tasks or projects that I've added that week into my master list on OmniFocus. Emails that I don't respond to immediately are sent from my inbox to OmniFocus. During the weekly review, I'll assign those e-mails to a project, review all my projects, and all my next actions, dropping items that have been completed during the week, making sure the new items from my notebooks are assigned to the right projects, and making sure that all the things that I need to do are accounted for. 

Twitter: I make judicious use of Twitter. I'm able to share information about the articles I've written, or new information that I've made available for download, and I also find interesting articles and information from the people I follow. I don't read everything that comes through on the Twitter stream. There is no time for that. But what I often do, if I see a tweet with a link to an article that I want to read (as in the above), I'll send the tweet to Evernote, and when I do the weekly review, I'll see it again and make a decision on what to do with that information. 

Google Reader: I use this for RSS feeds to make sure I don't miss anything from websites or blogs that I follow. Rather than going to the sites to check if anything is new, the RSS feeds update the content at Google Reader, all in one place, so I don't waste time going to multiple websites looking for new information, and I don't have my e-mail inbox clogged up with a lot of these types of updates. What do I subscribe to through the RSS reader? Crop Science, Soil Science Society of America Journal, Agronomy Journal, blogs about R, blogs about LaTeX, and various turf industry and university RSS feeds. The advantage of using an RSS reader is that all this information is collected for me automatically. I can read it at my leisure. And I don't have to worry about missing anything. And this stuff doesn't come to my e-mail inbox, where it could be distracting. 

In summary: Everything I need to do is in one system, on my computer. It is not on multiple pieces of paper, and in my mind, with a note on my phone, and 27 e-mails that need to be responded to. I capture every idea, in my notebooks, and will add those to the system during the weekly review. All my projects and their associated tasks get reviewed weekly. And I know that I don't need to browse the internet to find information, for the important information I need to be aware of comes to me through Google Reader, with some in-the-moment stuff coming from Twitter. This reduces work-related stress, because I know that I've not forgotten anything, and it allows my mind to be free, focusing on what I want to focus on at the moment, rather than trying to keep track of everything I need to do.

It's not all work: I love my work, and learning new things, and writing, and data visualization, and turfgrass nutrition. Using this system, based on David Allen's Getting Things Done, allows me to be creative and productive, accomplishing a lot a work every year. And because this system works so well, I also have time to do a lot of other fun things. In 2011, in addition to all the work, I went skiing in the epic powder of Hokkaido, did some late spring skiing at Mt. Tremblant, ran a number of races at Thailand, including a half-marathon, spent a week at The Masters Tournament, spent a three week sabbatical in Phuket, went wine tasting in South Australia, went to England for The Open Championship, and watched a lunar eclipse while at Koh Phangan's famous Full Moon Party.

My workflow is about getting things done, and about having lots of time to learn new things, so I can keep doing better work. With that comes more creativity, energy, clear thinking, and time.