The ultradwarf bermudagrass putting green golf model is solid in the southern USA (Part2)

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A common question we are asked is, “How much money can we save by switching from bentgrass to an ultradwarf?” It is easy to see the potential savings in fewer fungicides, no fan use, and the elimination of wilt watching, etc., but specifi cs are hard to detail for a couple of reasons. First, the person asking the question is unable, most of the time, to answer this question: “How much are you currently spending on your bentgrass putting greens?” They do not know because golf course budgets are organized in a line-item fashion, not by playing area. Secondly, the course needs to know to what standard they will maintain the ultradwarf. The resources needed to manage an ultradwarf green to a speed of 10 feet are much different from a course that wants a 12-foot-plus green speed every day.

In conversations with Dr. Mike Goatley (Virginia Tech), and Jeff Whitmire, CGCS (Williamsburg Country Club, Va.), we agreed that a survey of people who have converted from bentgrass putting greens to an ultradwarf could help resolve the question about how much money can be saved. The authors helped Dr. Goatley create the survey, and it was answered subsequently by a total of 36 superintendents. No exact cost amounts are provided, but the implications are clear.

  • 96% said overall labor costs are lower on ultradwarfs compared to bentgrass greens.
  • 100% of the respondents stated that labor hours are much easier to schedule for ultradwarfs compared to bentgrass putting greens.
  • 98% spend less on fungicides on an ultradwarf green compared to a bentgrass green.
  • 92% spend less on insecticides on an ultradwarf green compared to a bentgrass green.
  • 96% spend overall less on total pesticides on an ultradwarf green compared to a bentgrass green.
  • 82% say their members now want faster green speeds with an ultradwarf compared to a bentgrass green.
  • 100% spend more on equipment repair and maintenance on an ultradwarf green compared to a bentgrass green.
  • 100% require more equipment overall for ultradwarf putting greens compared to a bentgrass green.
  • 83% perform less core aeration on an ultradwarf green compared to a bentgrass green.
  • 96% topdress more often on an ultradwarf putting green compared to a bentgrass green.
  • 100% decreased hand irrigation with an ultradwarf putting green compared to a bentgrass green.
  • 96% responded that “push-up” or less costly methods of green construction are employed and provide highquality green surfaces for ultradwarfs.
  • 80% said that ultradwarf greens provided more playable days for golfers without adverse conditions due to aeration holes, topdressing on greens, covers, etc.
  • 93% say that overall golf course conditions and playability have improved after conversion to an ultradwarf.
  • 100% said that annual rounds of golf increased along with member satisfaction after conversion to an ultradwarf bermudagrass.

From the observations of the authors and travels to numerous golf courses that have made the conversion to an ultradwarf bermudagrass, these survey results indicate what we have heard from Turfgrass Advisory Service customers. First and most important, golfers like these new ultradwarf putting surfaces, and the survey indicates golfers play even more golf. Secondly, this scientific survey indicates that operational savings result from a conversion from bentgrass to an ultradwarf putting green.

Ultradwarf establishment occurs with sprigs and most often using the no-till planting method. This economical planting method has provided excellent success over the past 15 years.

In addition to operational budget savings each year, there is the question of how much conversions cost and how much revenue is lost. Putting green conversion costs generally range from $50,000 to $200,000. Lost revenue varies based upon the type of club — private or daily fee. When operational savings, conversion costs, and lost revenue are estimated, a golf course can calculate the amount of time it takes to recoup these costs.

There are several intangibles that can have a positive fi nancial impact on a facility, and these are outlined below. Any course considering a conversion from bentgrass to an ultradwarf is encouraged to study each of these items and consider how it may impact your facility.

  • More days of the year with putting greens that meet standards because the staff does not have to back off in the summer to preserve turf health.
  • Fewer days of disruption from core aeration with an ultradwarf. An ultradwarf in the transition zone generally receives one core aeration per year during midsummer, compared with two or three per year on bentgrass putting greens. Less disruption from core aeration equals more revenue.
  • There is less catastrophic risk of turf loss in the summer.
  • Increased revenue opportunities during summer because the turf is more durable. Outings are discouraged on bentgrass greens in July and August. Outings are encouraged during the summer with an ultradwarf.
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