The ultradwarf bermudagrass putting green golf model is solid in the southern USA (P4)

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The Highlands Course at the Atlanta Athletic Club will host the top golfers in world at the 2011 PGA Championship. This will mark the fi rst time a major championship has been played on an ultradwarf bermudagrass putting green. Ken Mangum, director of golf course  and grounds at the Atlanta Athletic Club, remembers Jerry Pate, winner of the 1976 U.S. Open at this facility, looking at a bentgrass green with Sub-Air and two fans on the Highlands Course prior to the conversion and saying, “Maybe bentgrass is the wrong grass for this location.” Keeping bentgrass on life support for 90 to 100 days costs signifi cant dollars in the Atlanta area. By changing to Champion ultradwarf at Highlands, Mangum reduced the cost of fan power by $15,000, fungicides by $15,000, and wilt watch overtime labor by another $15,000. The conversion cost was recovered in two years. Intangible benefi ts that most golfers have overlooked include not having fans running during play anymore and the elimination of workers riding around the course on wilt watch during the daytime in the summer to hand irrigate putting greens. Also, ball marks, typically a major golfer complaint and irritant for superintendents, are eliminated due to the fi rmness of ultradwarfs. The major reason for the conversion, however, was not operational cost savings, although annual operational budgets have been reduced by 12% since this project.

Surface management programs, including the use of brushes on the mowers, have been developed to optimize putting qualityưa

The majority of play occurs from April through October, when bentgrass greens didn’t provide optimum quality, especially in the summertime and considering green speed and fi rmness. Regardless of the turfgrass type, the membership wanted fi rmer and faster greens when they played the most golf. These requirements just weren’t possible with bentgrass, especially during July and August when most competitions were held. Another positive result was that golf outings, previously never held from June 15 to Labor Day with bentgrass, are now possible during the summer months for added extra revenue, a big plus The PGA Championship will be held August 8-14, 2011, at Highlands, and an ultradwarf provides the best opportunity for a successful major championship. In 2001, the PGA was played at the Atlanta Athletic Club, too, but the greens were creeping bentgrass. Expect to see fi rmer and faster greens with minimal risk of turf loss prior to and during the 2011 PGA Championship.

Another unexpected advantage of ultradwarf greens occurs during the winter. In addition to winter injury protection, Mangum decided to use covers to keep frost off the putting greens in late fall to early winter. This reduced the amount of time the course was closed for frost delays compared to the Club’s other course, the Riverside Course, which has bentgrass greens. Covers on the Highlands are removed in the morning when temperatures are above 32 degrees, usually at 9:30 or 10 AM. Play begins immediately. The soil temperatures are 12-14 degrees warmer under the covers. Riverside greens usually open one to two hours later due to frost. Additional labor hours are required for covering, but when the covers will be used the staff changes work hours from 7 AM – 3 PM to 9 AM – 5 PM. The workers install the covers following the last group of the day. This prevents overtime on ultradwarfs, unlike the high overtime required in the past for the wilt watch on the bentgrass.

To provide contrast and winter color, the ultradwarf greens are painted in the winter. Ball roll and putting quality are just as good on greens painted with turf colorants during the winter as they are in the summer. The lowest quality on the Highlands greens occurs during the last two to three weeks prior to green up. Once the greens break dormancy in early to mid March, the greens just get better and better each day.

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