The picture below was taken one year ago yesterday, April 18th.
This was our first mowing of the season and the Bermuda had just broken dormancy from the winter. Fast forward to now, and the picture below shows that the Bermuda has yet to green-up at all.
Why is part of the tee growing green turf and the other half is not? When we sodded the tee two years ago, half was delivered with over-seeded ryegrass. This was done to open the tee in time for member usage in 2012. What is interesting to the numerous agronomists and consultants that have viewed the tee over the last two plus months is how long ryegrass seed is viable in the ground.
We have just experienced the coldest and snowiest winter for the our area in the last two decades. We are still experiencing very cold temperatures at night affecting not only the Bermuda grass on the tee, but also the bentgrass on the greens. What are we to do with our tee? Above, we are experimenting with different methods of warming up the canopy with window panes and black plastic trash bags.
In addition, we have decided to seed the back half of the practice tee with ryegrass. Above, Raynor Paulsen (Spray Technician) is dragging the tee surface to “scuff” the dormant turf in preparation for seeding. The decision to seed was made with recommendations by Darin Bevard of the USGA, Andrew Green – our course architect, and Jim McHenry of Oakwood Sod Farm. Oakwood provided the sod to us in 2012. It is our hope that over the next two weeks we begin to see green-up. If this is the case, we will know that the Bermuda did survive the brutal winter.
Why is the tee slower than other courses with Bermuda in the Philadelphia region to break dormancy?
Could it have been the decision to remove the snow in February? At the time, we had an ice layer (an example of poor drainage) on the tee. We know the effects of ice on Poa annua, but we still are not sure of the effects of ice on Bermuda.
Could it have been low mowing heights going into the winter season? We were at the same mowing heights in the fall of 2012 as we were in the fall of 2013 – but the winters were drastically different.
We mentioned above regarding drainage. The hard copy report above details the need for installing drainage on the practice tee, and in addition, the first fairway.
Warm Season Grasses (Bermuda, Zoysia) do not perform well with wet conditions in COLD weather. Inversely, Cold Season Grasses (Bentgrass, Poa, Fescues) do not perform well with wet conditions in WARM weather.
This was illustrated last summer in the first fairway below.
What is the Plan?
As stated, we have seeded the back half of the tee with ryegrass. We will monitor the front half for green-up. (A) If it breaks dormancy over the next two weeks, we begin regular maintenance of the tee. (B) If the front half does not break dormancy, open the tee on dormant side (front half) while back half has time to mature with ryegrass. We will sod out the front half with Latitude 36 Bermuda grass on May 19th and sod out back half in the middle of June.
Why sod again with Bermuda?
Over the last two years we have had one of the finest hitting surfaces over the length of an entire golf season. If we revert back to a cool-season turf tee (bentgrass or ryegrass) as we had in 2011 and earlier, we will undoubtedly fight the same conditions of no grass but crabgrass and goosegrass.