Friday, March 26, 2010

To Stripe or Not: Fairway Mowing Patterns

There have been a couple of recently published articles concerning mowing procedures for golf courses. A USGA Green Section Record article highlighted the costs associated with mowing patterns and there was a nice article in the January issue of Golf Course Industry Magazine about alternative mowing patterns.

The true function of mowing is to prepare the golf course for play although mowing patterns are often used to highlight the different features of a golf course. The mowing pattern can have a big impact on the appearance of the golf course and the health of the turf while affecting your labor and fuel consumption line items. The most common fairway mowing methods are striping, contour mowing, the classic cut, and pushing and pulling.

Striping – This is the method practiced by most golf courses. Stripes are often mowed in at least two directions to create a checkerboard pattern. This method creates a striking aesthetic appearance. However, the frequent turning of the mower in the intermediate and primary rough can lead to excessive wear on the turf.

Contour mowing – This method also creates stripes but differs slightly from contemporary striping. Rather than creating a checkerboard, contour mowing creates curved stripes that follow the contour of the fairway.

Classic cut – This style was very prevalent before lightweight fairway mowers. Larger gang-unit fairway mowers of the past which were harder to maneuver mowed in the circular pattern creating light and dark halves of the fairway. The classic cut reduces mower traffic in the rough and often takes less time compared to striping helping to reduce labor and fuel costs.

Pushing and Pulling – This method creates a fairway that is void of stripes. Pushing the fairway is when the turf is mowed from tee to green and pulling is mowing the turf from green to tee. A large number of mowers are necessary in order for this method to be efficient. Fairways are often mowed this way for championship events.

The most appropriate method for your course will depend on the desired appearance, your turf species and budget and labor considerations. If you prefer striping your fairways and have the resources to do so, by all means continue. However, some golf courses are using the classic cut because it is more efficient and a better use of their fuel and labor resources. Also, the overall health of the intermediate and primary rough will benefit from the reduced mower traffic. Courses with the slow growing Kentucky bluegrass planted in their intermediates might especially benefit from the classic cut and the reduced wear.

If you have experimented with any of the alternative mowing styles let us know how they are working and what you think of them. Until next time, Happy Mowing!

Marcus Jones
Graduate Research Assistant

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Importance of Understanding Product Labels: Reviewing Labels Improves Product Performance

The golf season will soon be getting underway as most golf courses in the state are preparing to open. The start of another season signifies the beginning of pest and disease pressure. Areas affected by gray snow mold should begin to recover as the grass begins to grow. Pressure from other mild weather diseases such as pink snow mold and cool-season brown patch will persist longer into the spring. As you prepare your plant protectants, be sure to revisit the product label as this information can change over time.

Editor’s note: The remainder of this article was submitted by Todd Burkdoll, BASF Professional Turf & Ornamentals Technical Specialist.

Product labels aren’t the type of reading material that you can snuggle up with—but they’re also not the kind you can ignore or just skim through before filing away.

Labels deserve routine attention beyond the one-time, quick read after purchase. However, it can be common practice to follow use recommendations from colleagues and distributors without analyzing the important details explained on the product’s label. But doing so can save money, prevent injury and help grow better turfgrass by ensuring product performance.

Most people using fungicides, herbicides and insecticides only ask themselves, “What product do I need to control the weed, insect or disease and what rate do I apply?” Rate information is essential, but labels provide a technical breakdown and need-to-know information prior to application. Here are five key areas to read on a label:

1. Mix Mindfully
The tank mixing section of a label lays out exactly how to combine a product with other additives. Glazing over these guidelines can create an un-usable compound, clog application equipment and reduce efficacy.

The basic rule of thumb—mix dry materials first, then add liquids—may not ring true for all products. One must be mindful of variances between generic and patented formulas and know that even though an active ingredient may be the same, its formula could require different a mixing order. So don’t rely on old standards—get up to speed on the label’s specifics before adding each product to the tank.

2. Follow Special Statements
Special statements on a label clearly communicate how to use a product for particular conditions. In uncontrolled climates, weather is an important variable to consider.

Be sure to make note of the rainfast or drying times mentioned in a special statement or you may lose your valuable pest control efforts to precipitation. Retain product effectiveness by making sure spray technicians are also in-the-know about circumstances included in the special statements section.

3. Get to Know Group Numbers
Group numbers help avoid the risk of disease resistance by identifying which fungicides, herbicides and insecticide products operate under the same mode of action. Usually included on the first page of a label, group numbers make it easy to organize products with different modes of action into a rotation program. For example, if you notice signs of resistance after using a fungicide in Group 1, try using a product with a different group number in the next application.

4. Acknowledge Agricultural Use Require
Agricultural and non-agricultural use requirements on product labels are important and vary depending on product use. A greenhouse or nursery employee, for instance, may use the same product as a turf professional, but has to abide by a completely different set of rules with regard to protective equipment and re-entry interval. Failing to read this section of a label could harm employees, turf or plants and the environment.

5. Follow restrictions and limitations
Carefully read the “general restrictions and limitations” section on your product labels. Knowing the “do not” statements list can mean the difference between having healthy turf and plants—or damaging an entire fairway or landscape bed with poor application practices. Brushing up on labels you haven’t read since last year can make all the difference.

General suggestions
Making a 10-15 minute investment in reading a label can save a lot of time and hassle compared with the fallout of misusing a product. Schedule a label date once a year where you can carefully re-familiarize yourself with old labels and dissect the details of new updated labels. The best place to obtain current labels is

Todd Burkdoll is a Technical Specialist in the Western U.S. for BASF Professional Turf & Ornamentals. Todd can be reached at

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Come see horticulture on display March 19-20 at the 2010 All-Iowa Horticulture Exposition

The Iowa State Horticultural Society will again host the All-Iowa Horticulture Exposition this coming Friday and Saturday (March 19-20) at the new Bridge View Conference Center in Ottumwa, Iowa. You may receive 0.5 GCSAA CEU’s for Friday’s sessions and 0.4 GCSAA CEU’s for Saturday’s sessions. If you need points to keep your classification or certification this would be a great time to pick up additional education relevant to your profession. No pre-registration is needed. On-site registration starts at 9:00 A.M. on Friday and 8:30 A.M. on Saturday. Live radio and television coverage will be part of this event with many other demonstrations on the trade floor. More information may be attained by going to the website or by calling 641-683-6260.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

It’s the Start of Another Season...Almost

Winter has eased its grip on the Midwest the last 10 days or so and we have experienced significant snow melt throughout much of Iowa. Grass is even starting to peek through the snow in spots. Could this be a sign spring is right around the corner? Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s recap the Iowa winter thus far.

Snowfall for the three mid-winter months of December, January, and February averaged 45.1 inches or 23.3 inches greater than normal. This is the greatest snow total of record for these three months (old record of 44.7 inches Dec. 1961-Feb. 1962). The snow total for the overall snow season (fall through spring) ranks 8th highest among 123 years of record with another two months of the season remaining (keep in mind that Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow for what it’s worth). This has been the third consecutive colder than normal winter and fourth consecutive snowier than usual winter.

But, with the recent snowmelt, I was able to escape from the office for a little scouting on the golf course. With the prolonged snow cover and soil temperatures right around the freezing mark I was anticipating decent snow mold activity. The location I was scouting had been treated with a snow mold preventative but I was still able to find small breakthroughs of both gray and pink snow mold.

Most of the gray snow mold appeared in the rough areas and the damage is likely only superficial. Gray snow mold initially appears as circular patches ranging in color from light yellow to white soon after the snow melts. As the disease progresses the patches can grow and coalesce together with the leaves often becoming matted together. A reliable way to identify gray snow mold is to look for sclerotia embedded in the leaves of infected tissue. The sclerotia appear yellow to light brown soon following snow melt and eventually turn dark brown.

Pink snow mold, as its name implies, is often identified by white to pinkish mycelium that forms at the margins of the patches. The pink color is brief and often only visible during early daylight hours. I only saw two patches of pink snow mold during my outing. However, the window for pink snow mold development extends further in the spring as snow cover is not a requirement for this disease.

I also was treated to some vole damage. Voles are small rodents (4 to 6 inches) long and are mainly vegetarians. The main damage to turf is caused by their runways through the turf canopy. Vole damage is common under snow cover as they search for seeds and other vegetation.

Hopefully you’ll be greeted with healthy turf as the snow continues to melt. Let’s hope spring is just around the corner.

Marcus Jones
Graduate Research Assistant

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Have You Heard of the Trans?

The Trans-Mississippi Golf Association is one of the oldest and most prestigious amateur golf associations in the United States. While the reach of the Trans extends across the nation, its beginnings are deeply rooted in the Midwest.

The Trans started in 1901 when St. Joseph Country Club of Missouri hosted Omaha Country Club for a match between friends. Later that same year, 15 inaugural member clubs came together to initiate the start of the Trans-Mississippi Match Play Tournament. Three of the original clubs are from the state of Iowa and include Cedar Rapids Country Club, Des Moines Golf & Country Club, and Dubuque Golf Club. In addition, the Trans-Mississippi Championship has been hosted by three Iowa golf courses including Des Moines Golf & Country Club (1909), Wakonda Club (1928, 1935, 1955, 2008), and Waveland (1903)

The Trans is comprised of member clubs from across the nation and the association has three main goals:

Tradition – Promote and advance the spirit of amateur golf by cultivating fellowship, harmony, friendly competition, and cooperation among members of the association.

Competition – The Trans-Mississippi Championship and a Four-Ball tournament are two annual events hosted by the Trans.

Education – Provide educational assistance to aspiring turf students through scholarships. The Trans Turf Scholarship fund grants $90,000 annually in the form of turf scholarships.

Revenue generated from the two annual tournaments along with club dues and charitable donations provide the funding for the Turf Scholarship Fund. The scholarship program was started in 1953 and has provided nearly 1,500 students the opportunity to pursue a career in turfgrass management. The Trans is committed to helping students and is currently in the process of increasing their annual scholarship amount to $150,000.

To find out more about the Tran-Mississippi Golf Association and information on how to join or donate to the turf scholarship fund, view the video below or visit

Marcus Jones
Graduate Research Assistant

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Des Moines Golf Modification

Here are a couple easy modifications we use at Des Moines Golf and Country Club. We bought our own branding iron with the club logo. We now make our own tee markers and chain posts. With 36 holes and 4 sets of tees that is a lot of tee markers to buy. We just purchase cedar 4 x 4's and cut them, brand them and paint them the appropriate color for each set of tees. Branding iron cost about $600 upfront but you can use it for the life of the logo.

During the summer we run a lot of hoses. We make these hose reel carts to aid us in carrying around 100' of 1" hose to syringe or water sod. Not really a modification but a easy way to do a hard job. We just buy the hose reel and make the trailer ourselves.

Rick Tegtmeier, CGCS
Director of Grounds
Des Moines Golf and Country Club

Monday, March 1, 2010

Wakonda Modification

Here are a couple of items our chief fabricator, John Phillips, has made for our operation at Wakonda Club.

1. Spray- hawk caddie for the front of our Toro 300 gallon sprayer.

2. Stands for our 200 gallon workman sprayer.

3. He's now working on a steel jig for a router so we can route our logo into our hand- made tee markers.

The sprayer stands are a great improvement. We use the workman with the high- flow hydraulics for our top dresser and for a Vicon fertilizer spreader so we are constantly switching attachments. Before this we had to hoist the sprayer off of the workman using our bobcat and some log chains. Not very safe or secure. Now we just raise it up using the four jack stands he purchased at Northern Tool and modified to fit existing slots in the sprayer. The top dresser is a TyCrop which came with its own, similar system. Cost: $400 for the stands and some scrap steel he had laying around.

John Temme, Jim Sedrel, and Taylor Eischen

Wakonda Club