From the Golf Course
Fairway Topdressing at DMGCC to start this year.
Fairway topdressing programs have been popular and successful on golf courses for many years across the country. The goal of these programs has been to firm up and dry up fairways because of their heavy soils and unique climates. At Des Moines Golf and Country Club we are implementing a fairway topdressing program on the Front 9 holes of the North Course. Our goal is to topdress these fairways, applying 60 tons of sand per acre per growing season. Your first reaction is going to be wow that sounds like a significant amount of sand being applied. It is but there are some very important reasons for it and I would like to educate you as to why we are going to do it.
Firmer fairways. As topdressing sand accumulates throughout the years, soft and sometimes puffy bentgrass (and Poa Annua) fairways will become firmer. This makes for better ball roll and overall better fairway playability. Increased turf density also occurs, along with nice tight lies. Also when these fairways were constructed many clays soils were left as a growing media. By adding sand to these profiles we can help to make a healthier growing environment and one more conducive to good golf.
Drier fairways. Due to a combination of factors, such as less thatch and better rooting, fairways need less water, and water that is applied soaks in better. With topdressing, sand intermixes with thatch, as opposed to there being a mat of organic matter that can hold water like a sponge. Topdressed fairways hold less water near the surface and are drier underfoot compared to non-topdressed fairways. Water percolates better through thatch that is diluted with sand.
Fewer traffic restrictions. Golf carts and turf equipment can return to fairways sooner after heavy rainfall events. One of the major benefits that has been noticed at other golf courses that fairways have been firmer and drier fairways during those extended periods of soggy weather.
Improved drainage. In conjunction with a good fairway aeration program, sand-diluted thatch, and sand accumulation over heavy topsoil, water percolates through the soil profile better and faster. Again, less water also is held in the thatch layer.
Less disease. The primary disease of bentgrass and Poa Annua fairways is dollar spot. Classically, dollar spot is made worse by thatch. Also, other diseases of bentgrass and combination bentgrass/Poa Annua fairways are Pythium and brown patch. Both of these diseases have been associated with high levels of soil moisture. Therefore, diluted organic matter, which holds less water and is less thick, has the potential for less disease.
As I mentioned, at DMGCC our goal is to apply 60 tons/acre/growing season. This number was recommended by the USGA Turf Advisory Service Agronomist. As with any new program turf managers are worried about the impact on golfers and on turf equipment. Since the winter weather has been so mild we are implementing our program at this time rather than waiting until next growing season. We feel it may be possible to get 20 tons/acre applied before the start of next year’s golf season. We have made our first application of 10 tons/acre. Applying the sand now helps to insulate the crown of the grass plant during the open winter; it also allows us to let winter’s rains and snow wash the sand into the turf profile rather than us dragging it in. We are also not subjecting our mowing equipment to the mowing of topdressing sand; and the biggest advantage to doing it now is that we are not inconveniencing you the members. This will be an ongoing program for years to come; it will take a couple of growing seasons to really appreciate the benefits of the fairway topdressing program.
Rick Tegtmeier, CGCS