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Dr. Frank Rossi: Frankly Speaking


From Australia: You Get Less for Murder

  Posted in Uncategorized, On the Road 01 June 2012 · 1,542 views

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Im in Australia speaking at the 2012 Australian Turfgrass Conference.I was collected at the Sydney Airport after 22 hours of flight time from Syracuse, NY by Mark Couchman, past president of the Australian Golf Course Superintendents Association. Immediately we began our jaunt around Sydney and our first visit to New South Wales Golf Club (ranked #35 best golf course in the world by Golf Magazine)  and Superintendent Gary Dempsey.

 

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Like a kid in a candy store I bounced out of the car, grabbed my knife and camera and wandered the shop floor. I came across a cool spray hawk innovation using golf buggy wheels and extended boom, and a sod cutter adapted to take very thin slices of Mackenzie bentgrass sod from his nurseries for his new creeping bentgrass greens. Garys office was lined with pictures of US courses, including his tournament volunteering pics. My favorite was a signed certificate and picture of Gary shaking hands with President Bill Clinton. Gary is certainly an Australian treasure and quite a character.

 

On the drive into the course I noted the National Park signs as we headed up to the clubhouse. This golf course is nestled within the Botany Bay National Park in an area called La Perouse (named for a French Navigator who landed here) and likely where Captain James Cook, the explorer credited with discovering Australia, made first land. In fact, there is a fresh-watering hole on the course known to be where he collected his fresh drinking water.

 

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I could ramble on about the history  in fact, the club has a book but suffice is to say it felt like a combination of St. Andrews, Cypress Point, and Bandon Dunes all in one course. The famous par three sixth hole requires a shot over the bay to a tiered sloping green. This is a shot-makers course and if the wind blows heck, even the pros whined and walked off a few years ago during the Australian Open.

 

From a turf perspective they are Bermudagrass (coochgrass) fairways, tees, and rough, and converted to MacKenzie creeping bentgrass greens in August of 2011. All but two were seeded. The two sodded greens were by the sea, making seed establishment tricky. Less than one year later they are pure and firm and by all measures an enormous success.

it felt like a combination of St. Andrews, Cypress Point, and Bandon Dunes all in one course.

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Gary is a no bullshit kind of guy,straight-forward, thoughtful, not afraid to ruffle feathers. When I asked him how long hed been at NSW, he said simply, 23 yrs, Frank. You get less than that for murder.

 

Ah the paradox of life in the golf turf business love and hate at the same time. I cant wait to return here someday with my clubs and from here meet the next Aussie.




The Sound

  Posted in Frank Talk 22 May 2012 · 969 views

Posted ImageAfter thirty years of walking on putting surfaces all around the world my feet can tell a firm green. I wear very soft soled Muck Boots that put my feet in close contact with the putting surface so as to assess the feel. A firm putting surface is truly a thing of beauty but what makes it so is that hollow sound.

 

I often use a stimpmeter to get a sense of ball roll distance on surfaces. For ease of measurement I simply flip the stimpmeter, roughly three feet in length to determine distance. It also serves the function of assessing putting green firmness. Sort of a poor mans USGA Tru-firm-sorry Matt.

 

That hollow sound is obviously from the air filled pores resonating from the surface vibration. In practical terms it adds a level of challenge to the game that our American golfers so desperately need. What separates the World golfer from an American golfer is the former is comfortable playing a ground game while the latter is accustomed to lobbing or stinging line drives into soft, spongy surfaces. Surfaces we all know are covered in annual bluegrass simply waiting to die from anthracnose!

superintendents walk that fine line where a little too firm or a little too dry and the green will fail.

The dry weather across the country has provided an excellent opportunity to offer firm putting surfaces. Obviously moisture is a key factor yet many are seeking sand specifications that result in extremely firm surfaces. In both cases golf superintendents walk that fine line where a little too firm or a little too dry and the green will fail.

 

In that case all you'll hear is the sound of silence.




What Is Your Number?

  Posted in By the Numbers 10 May 2012 · 1,074 views

I know no subject more disparate around the country than water management, especially of golf putting greens. In the desert southwest every drop is accounted for when water can consume up to $1 million annually. While in northern states water is applied gratuitously measured in minutes (not inches) with little regard for cost or precision.

With the simple poke of the meter into the ground golf course superintendents now have a number.

Recently the use of moisture meters such as Spectrums Field  Scout 300, provide an easy to use method for determining soil moisture and a defacto increase in precision. With the simple poke of the meter into the ground golf course superintendents now have a number. The meter actually provides percent soil moisture measurements that will vary for every soil or sand rootzone. Hence the question, whats your number?, i.e., what is the level of soil moisture you feel will get you the best turf without stress, or if you start the day at 14 percent can you make it without chasing wilt?

 

Posted ImageThere is an old saying in education that what gets measured gets done. It seems odd that both numbers we manage putting greens for come from the end of a metal stick! Nevertheless, developing a number for your greens will add precision to the single most important management factor during the stressful seasons, water management.

The new water withdrawal legislation is a harbinger of things to come.

There are few regular management decisions made on a putting surface that influence performance as much as water. Hot is okay, hot and wet is the kiss of death. If you are not paying for water now, the writing is on the wall for Great Lake States and much of the northeast. The new water withdrawal legislation is a harbinger of things to come. It is best to become more precise now. At some point just like golfers ask about stimpmeter readings, when they start getting the water bill they will start asking, hey-whats your number?




Be True

  Posted in Frank Talk 25 April 2012 · 734 views

Not only has the season progressed rapidly in the Northern climate but the golfer expectations are ramped up as well. Often the pressure for peak performance is the greatest around US Open time. Now it seems with the weather a month ahead, the pressure is also ahead of schedule. DONT GIVE IN TO IT. Be True.

 

When Im talking about pressure to peak it is code for fast greens. You start pushing the greens now you are going to pay later. Do not push for speed now when you are pounding them with PGRs for seedhead suppression, drying them down for conditioning, when they are barely growing. Be true.

Spring greens can often be bumpy from seedheads, differential growth, PGR use, dryspots, etc.

Convince your golfers the greens need to be TRUE at this time of year not necessarily fast. Spring greens can often be bumpy from seedheads, differential growth, PGR use, dryspots, etc. Keep up your topdressing (dusting) and maintain a reasonable height. Do some grooming to pull the seedheads out that make the green roll inconsistent. And lest I forget, ROLL ROLL ROLL.

Peaking now often means pain later. The truth is a bitch.

When the conversation about speed comes up with your golfers turn it to trueness of roll that is less stressful to achieve. When the pressure starts to rise early remind them that preparing for the Masters or US Open requires planning and working back from when you want the greens to peak, like in June and July. Peaking now often means pain later. The truth is a bitch.




Imagine There is No Poa

  Posted in Frank Talk 11 April 2012 · 777 views

I am finishing a conference call with some key superintendents from the NY Metro area when I ask a simple question about early season annual bluegrass seedhead suppression. At least three of the seven superintendents chime in saying, I wouldnt know Im bentgrass. Immediately my mind began racing, what if everyone was bentgrass, what if there was no annual bluegrass. It is hard to imagine the differences, but as John Lennon said, its easy if you try.

Immediately my mind began racing, what if everyone was bentgrass, what if there was no annual bluegrass.

We would spray fewer pesticides with no annual bluegrass. This is not to say creeping bentgrass has no disease issues. There will still be dollar spot and brown patch, take-all patch and snow mold. But one of our major problems basal rot anthracnose would be a minor if not extinct issue due to the adaptation of creeping bentgrass to northern climates especially summer conditions.

 

Beyond the reduction in pesticide use, I would argue there would be reductions in fertilizer use for nitrogen as well as most other nutrients. Research with the bentgrasses consistently indicates a more substantial root system and increased nutrient use efficiency when compared to annual bluegrass.

one of our major problems basal rot anthracnose would be a minor if not extinct issue due to the adaptation of creeping bentgrass to northern climates especially summer conditions.

Water use would be reduced. This is where science meets behavior. The shallow root system of annual bluegrass and the general idea that even the perennial types of annual bluegrass are imposters. When push comes to shove annual bluegrass allowed to dry down too far will find a reason to become an annual again. As a result of this we have a generation of impulsive managers growing a plant that in their mind is not resilient, not reliable and consequently we live in constant fear of catastrophic failure. I haven;t even brought up the whole concern for winter injury that goes away with bentgrass in most northern areas.

 

To be sure creeping bentgrass is not a free-ride. early season growth is as slow as Sergio Garcias pace of play, i.e., painfully slow. It is not very traffic tolerant and often succumbs to mechanical damage from mowers. It can get thatchy in a way that annual bluegrass does not and will not be forgiving of improper organic management that skimps on sand topdressing.

 

I know this is a dream not simply because of the biological challenges, but like shifting to renewable forms of energy there will be resistance from every corner of the industry that will feel threatened. We will need new infrastructure that helps overcome bentgrass weaknesses, we will need some different stuff and we will likely need much less of it.

To be sure creeping bentgrass is not a free-ride. early season growth is as slow as Sergio Garcias pace of play, i.e., painfully slow.

Finally, in my travels bentgrass requires discipline. Discipline to be willing to withhold inputs to allow the plants to adapt and become more stress tolerant. With a true perennial like bentgrass, not a poser such as annual bluegrass, you can stress it and not worry you are walking the razors edge next to death.

 

I know it is hard to imagine but with pending chemical legislation, rising fuel costs, water withdrawal permits, nutrient management restrictions,we need plants that are partners in aiding our quest for efficiency, plants like creeping bentgrass. If we dont begin to imagine the world without annual bluegrass and begin to work toward that goal, this will be the beginning of a nightmare with no end in sight. Dont take my word for it-ask the guys who are bentgrass.








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