SOIL HORIZONS INC.
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It's That Time of Year

Over the past several weeks I've had opportunities to meet with several golf course superintendents and the one topic of discussion that was continually discussed was green speed. What is an ideal green speed and what are golf course superintendents doing to provide the "ideal" green speed?

Soil stimping

What is an "ideal" green speed? There is no correct answer for this question. It is entirely up to the Club or superintendent to determine what green speed they desire. Based on my discussions the green speeds ranged from 9 to 12 as measured by a stimpmeter.

A stimpmeter is an aluminum bar, 36" long with a v-shape extending throughout the length of the bar. There is a hole at the end where the ball is placed. Locate a flat area of the green and then position the ball in the slot. The starting point is marked with a tee. Then raise the bar and then measure the distance from the tee to where the ball stopped rolling. Do this 3 times. All of the balls should not be more than 8 inches apart. Then place 2nd tee at the average distance and then do in the opposite direction. Measure and take the averages.

In the spring when temperatures are cooler and growth limited, greens are generally quicker. But when temperatures warm and growth becomes aggressive, greens will slow down. The same thing happens in the fall when temperatures lower, the greens will pick up speed.

Of course this also depends upon how the superintendent is managing the greens. Excess nitrogen fertility and overwatering will cause excessive growth and lessen the speed. Nitrogen and watering must be monitored very closely to maintain the adequate green speed.

Height of cut is a big factor affecting green speed. Generally the lower the height the faster the green speeds. But this doesn't come without repercussions. The health of the turf is very weak at these heights and stress will be induced. The plant must be able to carry out photosynthesis and the lower the height the less amount of food the plant will manufacture and the outcome could potentially be starvation or disease invasion. Low mowing heights in the summer are not recommended. There was a large amount of turf loss in 2010 in the East because of the amount of stress placed on the plant during excessive hot and humid conditions.

Other factors affecting green speed include; hollow tine aeration to remove vegetative material and increase soil oxygen levels, verticutting and topdressing every 10 to 14 days to reduce grain and smooth the putting surfaces, spiking every 2 to 3 weeks to vent the greens and brushing the greens prior to mowing to remove the grain.

Another practice that has gained huge popularity is rolling the greens. This is being done from 2 to 6 times/week in conjunction with mowing. Research has shown that rolling does less damage than mowing.

Health of the turf is critical in determining the "ideal" green speed for your golf course.

Soil Testing

Newly sliced soil sample

What is the importance of soil testing? It provides information necessary for selection of the correct fertilizers and soil amendments. It eliminates all of the guesswork and allows the Superintendent in getting the most efficient use of the products being applied, which will also save money. Why apply a nutrient or nutrients that are not deficient? With budgets being stagnant it is vital to stretch dollars are far as possible!

The soil test also provides the cation exchange capacity (CEC) of a soil, which refers to the soil's ability to retain nutrients. Soil textures (sand, silt & clay) can be determined from the CEC.

Do not underestimate the value of a soil test!

Soil Sampling Procedures

  • Samples can be taken when the soil is not frozen.
  • Use a soil probe and sample bag to collect the samples.
  • After fertilizing or applying any soil amendments, wait a minimum of 2 weeks before sampling.
  • Sample approximately the same time each year to minimize the affect of climatic variations.
  • Random sample the area to be sampled, taking 8 to 10 plugs/sample.
  • Depth should be 4 to 6 inches.
  • Remove the green vegetative layer, but include the thatch.
  • Label the bag, including the name of the course and where the sample was taken.
  • Then complete the necessary worksheets and include with the samples and mail to the lab.

Intro Article

I've worked in the golf business over 30 years, from being a Golf Course Superintendent, selling fertilizers and control products with The Scott Company to independent consulting with Soil Horizons. This has provided me with a wealth of knowledge in fertilizers, control products, soil amendments, soil and water interpretations and what a Superintendent deals with on a day to day basis.

Superintendent's responsibilities have changed from the past. Their title is more associated with that of a Project Superintendent. Meetings are more abundant than in the past and more time is spent away from the course. Soil Horizons helps to assist the superintendent to lessen the workload by taking the soil samples, sending them to the lab, interpreting the results, providing unbiased recommendations and a written report on the results. Follow up service is conducted throughout the year at no additional costs. There is no product affiliation with any manufacturer or distributor. We want to make sure the proper fertilizer and soil amending products are applied to not only enhance the health of the soil and plant but to maximize dollars spent. We want to achieve and maintain the proper balance of the soil. It's a holistic approach in providing the optimal health to the plant and soil.

Soil Horizons not only reviews the soil and water tests (chemical), but the physical and biological characteristics of the soil as well. This helps in determining the extent of cultural practices (aeration, slicing, spiking, verticutting, topdressing etc.) and how to implement these practices to enhance water infiltration and percolation, reduce compaction, stimulate microbial activity, increase soil oxygen levels and improve the playing conditions. Without the proper cultural practices, it limits the effectiveness of nutritional programs.

So if you have any questions or would like a quote for services rendered don't hesitate calling or emailing. (937) 642-5501.

I look forward in hearing from you.

Rusty Oetker

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Golf Course Superintendent
Eagle Springs Golf Club
Wolcott, CO
Groomed Golf Course Giant green soil silo