Thursday, February 07, 2013

Talking tan turf

At the Golf Industry Show in San Diego, Frank Rossi, Ph.D., turf extension specialist at Cornell University, discussed the color of turf. He started the presentation by referencing David Fay, the former executive director of the U.S. Golf Association, who has been outspoken about embracing a turfgrass color other than green. Rossi had been critical of Fay for embracing brown, which has been a persistent message from the USGA. However, that's not what golfers, especially in the larger U.S. markets, want or expect. Furthermore, superintendents can get themselves into trouble with members if they go down the brown road.


Rossi was surprised to hear seasoned golf course superintendents being critical of the brown look and their focus on the visual aspect of turfgrass.


"Are we part of the problem?" he asks. "Do we have egos? We like the green, don't we. I became part of the problem when I criticized Fay. It behooves us to think about the balance of the visual aspects of turf with how it plays. When we make decisions to improve the way turf looks – irrigation is a good example – are we lessening its playability?


"Can we live with tan?" Rossi adds. "Can we have less of a bias toward visibility and more of a bias toward playability."


Rossi cites the R&A, which he says is bold about promoting sustainability and as part of that is encouraging a wider use of fescues.


There are many moving parts to consider to strike a balance between the visual and playability aspects of turf. As such, superintendents need to be able to recognize their clientele and discuss with them taking a more sustainable approach to managing turfgrass.


"Maybe breeders will work on a grass that holds color longer while we dry it," Rossi says.

- John Walsh

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