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Dr. Frank Rossi: Frankly Speaking


The Roar

  Posted 16 September 2012 · 1,534 views

Many courses in Northern areas have begun their annual rite of late Summer, early Fall-the roar of the hollow tine cultivation unit followed by burying the putting surface, tee or fairway in sand topdressing. Is this a hold-over from a time when we aerified twice per year or is it something we need to keep doing?

Is this a hold-over from a time when we aerified twice per year or is it something we need to keep doing?

In simple terms if you have a sand-based root-zone, i.e., greater than 85% sand, you have a few options. First, if you want to minimize any coring-solid, hollow or needle, then you better be prepared to apply between 17 and 22 cubic yards of sand per year, of once very five days.

 

If you are willing to cultivate regularly during the season with a less invasive method and avoid “the roar” in Spring and Fall then be sure to apply the same amount of topdressing but you can apply it less frequently at 7-10 days. If you want to keep roaring the aerifier and are also willing to make a monthly hole then you can topdress every 10-14 days.

If you want to keep roaring the aerifier and are also willing to make a monthly hole then you can topdress every 10-14 days.

If you have a good sand-base then as we have said before that a “hole is a hole” and you can save lots of labor by simply solid tining and topdressing behind it. The key to effective surface organic matter management is dilution of the OM with sand. The coring or solid tining or needle tining is nothing more than making room for the sand. Hardly anything to roar about.




The Set-up

  Posted in On the Road 28 August 2012 · 1,446 views

Posted ImageI had the pleasure of working as a volunteer at The Barclays held on the Black Course at the Bethpage State Park. Getting up at 3:30am to assist set-up man" extraordinaire, Rich Roble, now with two US Opens and a FedEx Playoff under his belt.

 

Set-up at this level is a lesson in precision. Cut a level cup to the exact depth and replace the plug so that when passed over by a mower set at 0.085 it is neither high nor low. Any misstep and or inconsistency and you have provided the professional tour player with an excuse why they might perform less than perfect at a game that can NEVER be perfected - it's a set-up.

Any misstep and you have provided the professional tour player with an excuse why they might perform less than perfect

Anyone who paid attention to the tournament this week saw the progression of commentary by golfers. It began with a course record -7  set on Thursday with gentle mutterings of how "soft" the course played to be followed by another -6 on Friday morning. Leaders went into the weekend at -8 and the talk was that a  dozen or more players would be double digit under par. Conditions were perfect for scoring for two days with little wind, friendly pins, 12 foot greens with mid 0.3s on the USGA Firmmeter, by any standard a firm and fast track.

 

With no rain in the forecast for the weekend, moisture meter in hand the course was brought to similar moisture and firmness. Instead of clouds we had a high dry sky, and contrary to Sir Nick Faldo's ridiculous commentary, firmness on some greens made it into the high 0.2s and most greens were in the 13 foot range, hardly beyond what most have played on an average tour course.

 

Sir Nick makes comments like "must be 17-18 feet on the Stimp", "this is reminding me of Shinnecock in '04, "Tiger this and Tiger that" and then I just want to run in the booth and take a three-wood to his head. I don't mind informed criticism but Sir Dufus in his snooty British accent never once spoke to anyone with the Tour or on the Grounds Crew. He was so bad, and I can't believe I am saying this, I was praying for some Johnny Miller "grain-talk".

I don't mind informed criticism but Sir Dufus in his snooty British accent never once spoke to anyone with the Tour or on the Grounds Crew.

Posted ImageBeyond Sir Nick  the whining golfers like Ian Poulter decrying, also in a British accent, the inconsistency from day to day led me to conclude that we are victims of our own success. We set ourselves up for this by delivering conditions in a game played outdoors as if it were played in a dome. It's our fault. The whining that our golfers do at our own courses is because we have given them too much — it's one big set-up!

 

It is a great analogy that I have been part of the "set-up" crew in the golf turf industry for most of my adult life. As a part of a team that delivered tournament quality conditions for a weekend at the end of August in the New York City area I felt the sting of what many of you feel every weekend at your course. I am here to tell you it doesn't sound any better with an English accent. Whining is whining.




Unintended Consequences

  Posted in Frank Talk 03 August 2012 · 1,167 views

The pressure to produce flawlessly consistent playing conditions is stressful on biological organisms, i.e., plants and people. We seek any solution to enhance plant health when backed into a corner with weak turf, poor growing environments, stress from close mowing, etc. Sometimes these solutions help, other times they have unintended consequences.

 

All the rage this year about Bacterial Wilt/ Decline has me wondering about these unintended consequences when it comes to our obsession with plant health. You dont understand, a competent golf turf manager said to me about 10 years ago, I use these biostimulants because I grow grass on the edge.

there is growing suspicion that many of these plant health products might be enhancing the plant all the way to Bacterial Decline.

Today we have all types of bio-stimulants some with good solid research to support use like seaweed and some amino acids, others not so much. Many are concoctions of carbon based compounds, with unproven amino acids, vitamins, and my favorite — Organic Photosynthesis Synergizer! We use these in the name of enhancing plant health but now there is growing suspicion that many of these plant health products might be enhancing the plant all the way to Bacterial Decline.

 

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Here is my logic. The plant has many endophytic associations with bacteria, just like we do in our gut. We are applying cocktails of compounds most of which we barely understand whats in them. Next we put the plants under stress or on the edge if you will and the concoctions we are using are stimulating the bacteria INSIDE the plant and sometimes there are bacteria such as Acidovorax that can lead to decline.

 

Now some panic and run for the Mycoshield because a diagnostic technician said they have bacterial wilt. Now raise your hand if you think our society needs MORE anti-biotics introduced into the environment.

 

You think the current palette of  plant health products is causing unintended consequences, stick around for the antibiotic resistant organisms we might create by spraying tetracycline every seven days!




I Was Wrong

  Posted in Frank Talk 18 July 2012 · 1,027 views

If there were ever a year to appreciate golf on a brown surface, this is it. In fact, the three USGA Championships I watched this year set the tone. From Olympic to Blackwolf Run and finally to Indianwood reminded me of something I was wrong about and also reminded that those of us in the golf turf industry might be part of the problem.

 

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A few years ago I was interviewed after giving a presentation at the GIS in Orlando. During the interview I made a glib and dismissive comment about David Fayes editorial during the US Open at Pebble Beach. Mr. Faye essentially was saying  golf had gone too far, water is a precious resource and courses needed to be more brown.

 

Not long after the interview went live on the web I received an email from Jim Moore, longtime USGA Green Section Staffer and current Director of Education. Jim called me out on my comment in just the way youd think a Texan would give it to a NYer. He was right. I was wrong. I was flippant and worse, disrespectful.

 

But the story here is not my Mea culpa, rather it is the constant hum of golf turf managers I hear criticizing the USGA for the quality and playability of the courses in this years Championships.

 

"Why do they have to let it get so brown?"

"They need to put some water out those places are cooking."

"They look awful." etc.

Jim was right. I was wrong. I was flippant and worse, disrespectful.

Not everyone I speak to has this opinion. Many are actively embracing the dry, firm and fast conditions done much better with modern bentgrasses not so much with old annual bluegrass turf. This is a direction we need to be moving toward, but we need to do so smartly. Not all brown is good. Sometimes it is dead.

 

In this year of historic dry conditions across the country, the pressure to make golf more sustainable, and our constant longing to have some help with making golfer expectations more reasonable, the USGA seems to be trying.

 

Rather than being part of the problem, this is the year for the golf turf industry to be part of the solution.




No time for panic

  Posted in Frank Talk 06 July 2012 · 1,032 views

Its that time of year again when panic sets it. Day after day of high heat stress brings many closer to the tipping point for areas that have marginal growing environments. Low light and poor air movement for warm and cool season grasses, even the utlra-dwarfs dont like shade, and the ubiquitous surface organic matter that holds even the slightest amount of water all add up to increased stress and panic.

 

Panic is defined as a sudden sensation of fear which is so strong as to dominate or prevent reason and logical thinking. Yup this is it, the end of reason and logical thinking, Ive seen it a thousand times. I understand it from a golf course superintendent perspective as golfer expectations for putting surfaces is high, we have equally high expectations, and we know especially if we are growing annual bluegrass, the cliff is sharp and steep.

Panic is defined as a sudden sensation of fear which is so strong as to dominate or prevent reason and logical thinking.

We also know that at this point there is not much that can be done. The best thing to do sometimes is nothing. The discipline required to slip on solid rollers, increase cooling with fans or misting, and even move the cup twice a day to reduce traffic stress is the wise choice over spraying something-anything. Problem is when we panic we dont think straight and often instead of working the problem, we create new ones.

 

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Superintendents need to be that calm presence in the maintenance area, on the course, in the pro-shop that reminds everyone that surface temperatures in excess of 120 F is not conducive to growing healthy annual bluegrass, never mind walking on it! In contrast many of the new creeping bentgrasses are holding up well, even thriving in the heat. The clear difference between a sometimes annual and true perennial.

 

Theres about 50 days left of potentially stressful weather, is your glass half empty or half full? If it is empty you have some stress ahead and the chance for panic is high, if you are half full, you have the discipline required to make the subtle adjustments to remain calm. Nows not the time to prevent reason and logical thinking.

 








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