Top Dressing our Greens.  Why we do it, and why it helps!

Published on 5th December 2019 in Course News, Golf News, Local and Member News, Local News, Members News, Social News

For most, there are three primary characteristics that constitute a quality putting surface:

(1) a smooth surface
(2) a firm surface 
(3) healthy turf

There is no question that adequate sunlight, water and nutrients are essential to provide healthy turf, but what contributes to the more subjective aspects of smoothness and firmness?

These two critical components are tied together by one common link – high quality topdressing sand.

Since the time of Old Tom Morris, sand topdressing has been the great equalizer, helping to dilute organic material and create smooth, firm surfaces.

Similar to our twice annual green renovation, the application of sand to the putting greens is often a source of frustration for some players, but a quick look at how putting greens would perform without sand topdressing reveals its importance.

The benefits are discussed in detail in the article, Managing Organic Matter in Putting Greens and the USGA Collection, “Managing Soil Organic Matter.”(Click on the links to learn more.)

Putting greens, the world over are comprised of different types of grasses but they all have one common trait – they must be healthy and consistently growing to recover from the heavy traffic associated with the game of golf.

Needless to say, balancing turf recovery with playability requires careful management.

As grass grows it produces organic material such as roots, shoots and lateral stems. If this organic material is not diluted by sand topdressing it can accumulate and act like a sponge, holding excess water near the surface.

If excessive organic material accumulates, putting green health and playability will decline. Walking across a soft, saturated putting green can leave footprints that impact surface smoothness, and golf balls landing on soft putting greens will create deep ball marks.

Unless it is addressed, this sponge effect will continue to worsen over time. The solution to these problems is regular applications of topdressing sand.

Ultimately, the appropriate application rate and interval of sand topdressing depends on the rate of turf growth and the overall putting green management program. Here at Flinders, of late, we have been top dressing our greens every month, depending on several factors.

One of the things that makes our course unique is that we have 9 push up greens, some of which are more than 100 years old!  Back in those days, the irrigation practices were not what they are today – these days sand is a vital element of any new green construction, along with drainage, as opposed to the clay that was used all those years ago.   

The ultimate goal is to rebuild those greens with a sand profile, as well as drainage, which comes at a significant cost, and interruption to golfers. 

In the meantime, stemming from our continued top dressing and greens management program, we have identified several greens that are in more urgent need of improvement, and ongoign maintenance that others. To that end, from early December we will be coring the 16th, 17th and 3rd greens utilising our staff and equipment.
 

Ultimately, despite some initial, minimal disruption, these green surfaces will be improved, and the true benefit of these works will be seen in the cooler months towards the middle of next year.  Given the time of year the greens will recover very quickly. 

Moving forward, our regular top dressing and our twice annual coring program will assist in maintaining the conditions that we have come to expect.

The goal of light and frequent topdressing is the same at every golf course, regardless of budget – is to minimise the negative impacts of excessive organic material and traffic by creating a homogenous mixture of sand and organic material just below the putting surface which  will improve turf health and playing conditions by helping to maintain a better balance of water and air.

So, the next time you tee it up, remember that sand is applied to putting greens to create the smooth, firm surfaces that everyone enjoys.

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