On the Course
August 4, 2017
There are a number of grass species here on the golf course that we call turf. The most common of which is Common Bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon). It goes by a number of monikers, such as, couch grass, wire grass and devil's grass. Depending upon the application, common bermuda is used as a drought-resistant turfgrass, a forage crop for grazing animals or a voracious weed in your garden. It is a warm-season perennial that tolerates extreme heat and a wide variety of soil textures. It doesn't like shade and will also turn brown after the first hard frost.
Like unwanted body hair, bermudagrass will keep showing up where you least want it. We spend a lot of time and effort to keep this grass out of the sand traps. We also spend a lot of time promoting its growth in the fairways. There are bermuda runners creeping into the putting greens from the outside edges, proving that it can tolerate a very low cutting height as well.
Modern "hybrid" bermudagrasses are the turf of choice in the South and desert areas. These are the improved varieties that have a much finer texture and are also used in putting greens. Could we switch to a hybrid bermuda or a cool season turf like perennial ryegrass? Sure, anything's possible. But for now, friend or foe, we are blessed with common bermuda as our primary turf.
The novice meteorologist may not have picked up on the subtle changes, but fall is coming. The shadows are getting a little longer now. The plastics in my garage don't melt before noon anymore, and there's a scent of pigskin in the air. It's still going to be hot for a while, but it doesn't last as long throughout the day.
Since it is getting cooler, we have some chores to do before turfgrass growth starts slowing down. The grub-thinned areas have received extra fertilizer and water and seem to be filling in nicely. One thing that you may or may not have noticed is our semi-regular use of "The Back Scratcher." The Back Scratcher is actually a spring tooth tine harrow. It fits behind the tractor and has a series of 100 L-shaped tines. These tines drag through the turf and give it a good scratching. It roughs up the grass like a stiff metal rake would. If the bermudagrass is not well rooted, the tines will lift the stolons so that they stand straight up in the air, ready to be removed with the mower.
When we first started back scratching four years ago, the grass would be lifted up so much that it looked like Don King's haircut. Now our grass looks more like a flat top, which is what we want. We're trying to get rid of all the unrooted runners that serve no purpose as a turf. The scratching of the grass brings up some thatch and stimulates new growth. Overall, it is a very healthy procedure to get out the old decaying turf and generate new cells. Like an exfoliation, the grass will take on a new, youthful luster.
William F Hamilton, CGCS
Director of Agronomy
Lake Wildwood Association