By John Hoyle, CGCS, Corning Country Club
When comparing the nutrient, pesticide and water use inputs between various suitable fairway turgrass species and varieties, bentgrass is, in northern climates, head and shoulders above the rest. This concept is impactful from an environmental perspective, but how does it impact other important factors i.e. budget, golfer satisfaction, etc.? Significantly! For example, reductions in irrigation and fertilizer requirements of creeping bentgrass (Jacobs & Gross, 2019; Dobie, 2020) as well as fairway fungicide use (Bekken et al., 2021) suggest that the ROI of installing creeping bentgrass can be as little as 1.3 years (Jacobs & Gross, 2019). As for golfer satisfaction, the joy of hitting a shot off a pure stand of bentgrass is self-explanatory.
Admittedly, there are many variables to consider but, for most facilities, converting to bentgrass fairways makes sense. Factors such as creating a uniform playing surface, reduced budget expenditures and improved drought tolerance are compelling reasons for converting your fairways to bentgrass. However, these reasons alone will not assure your success in convincing your facility to undertake a project of this size and scope. The key throughout the process will be good communication.
Before communicating your detailed plan to key decision makers at your facility, you must become knowledgeable about the entire process. There are plenty of examples of clubs who have gone through the conversion process. Reach out to those superintendents with experience to learn more about what they did right and wrong. You can also find a plethora of written material on the subject, including the recently published NYGCF document Converting Fairways to Bentgrass by Carl S. Schimenti and Frank S. Rossi on the NYGCF website. By devoting time to learn more about the process you will be better equipped to guide your facility through the entire process by providing accurate cost and time estimates.
Once armed with the pertinent information, a superintendent will be in position to provide excellent and accurate communication for the entirety of the project. Customer buy-in is a crucial component of any successful project. After getting underway with the project, continually and convincingly conveying to golfers/customers that the short-term inconvenience will pay off in long term success will be important. A popular method of communicating to golfers is by writing a weekly blog update. A thoughtful superintendent will create a blog post in the members portal of his/her club’s web page and provide weekly updates. These updates don’t have to be lengthy, time-consuming posts, just a quick note updating the status of the process from the week prior. Another important element in the communication chain is keeping the Head Golf Professional and General Manager informed on all aspects of the project throughout the process. The golf professional and general manager are in daily contact with golfers and are your greatest ally in front-line communications. In a successful communication chain, the pro and gm will serve as a conduit between the superintendent and golfers. Finally, don’t forget to inform your staff about how to handle questions they’ll inevitably get from golfers. By not arming your co-workers with proper information about the status of the project, they may unintentionally convey inaccurate information which could result in a PR issue.
By developing a comprehensive communication plan, the superintendent will be in position to realize a successful project.
Before photo of 13th Hole at Corning CC Courtesy John Hoyle
After photo of 13th hole at Corning CC Courtesy John Hoyle
For additional information about converting fairways to bentgrass check out these resources:
Bauer, S., Horgan, B. P., Watkins, E., Hathaway, A., Calhoun, R., Frank, K. (2012). Establishment of Creeping Bentgrass in Annual Bluegrass Fairways Using Glyphosate and Interseeding. Applied Turfgrass Science, 9(1), 1-10. https://doi.org/10.1094/ATS-2012-0127-01-RS
Brede, D. (2006). Four Tips to Interseed Bentgrass into Poa annua. Turfgrass Trends, November 2006(1), 41-42.
Cattani, D. J., Nowak, J. N. (2001, August). Interseeding in creeping bentgrass: A viable option or wishful thinking?. Golf Course Management, 69(8), 49-54.
Dobie, F. (2020, April). Goodbye Poa annua, hello bentgrass. Golf Course Management, 88(4), 50-56.
Reicher, Z. J., Hardebeck, G. A. (2002). Overseeding Strategies for Converting Golf Course Fairways to Creeping Bentgrass. HortScience, 37(3), 508-510. https://doi.org/10.21273/HORTSCI.37.3.508
USGA Green Section. (2018). Bentgrass Fairway Conversion Improves Playability And Reduces Inputs. https://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/course-care/water-resource-center/bmp-case-studies/2018/bentgrass-fairway-conversion-improves-playability-and-reduces-in.html