“Now I can concentrate on the beautification of the course”
Course Rot is one of the two golf courses of Golf Club St. Leon-Rot near Heidelberg and Speyer. The plan for the course started in 1995, and it was opened in 1997. The greens are built with a USGA rootzone and made up of Agrostis and Poa annua. A Toro irrigation system, John Deere mowers for greens and Toro machines for Fairways and Rough are used by 7 Greenkeepers working on this course. The standard of the greenkeeper facilities and the course maintenance is one of the highest in Germany. It was consistently rated the “Most popular Golf Course” by Golf Journal from 2001-2016 and is kept at a remarkable quality even during summer 2022 with record temperatures up to 40 °C and almost no rain for many weeks during the summer months.
There is a tournament played on the course every other day, alternating with course St. Leon. On the tournament-free days, there is a tee time every 15 minutes, from 6:30 to 20:50, about 80 rounds every day.
David Cox started to work in St. Leon-Rot in 2017 first as a seasonal Greenkeeper then as assistant and since 2019 as the Head Greenkeeper for Course Rot. He finished his Bachelor in Turfgrass Science, a two-year course, at Penn State University. Since he started to work as a greenkeeper, he wanted to find ways to reduce fungicide usage, since it was foreseeable that environmental policy in Europe and Germany would limit the use drastically. At that time, he met Carsten Marker at a greenkeeper meeting, and they started to discuss programs and strategies to reduce the use of fungicides.
How is it possible to keep the course at this high level and even improve its quality despite the challenges? What are the specific challenges?
Silver moss (Bryum argenteum)
Extreme temperatures with need for regular irrigation, low cutting height and traffic can lead to more silver moss in the turf sward. David drastically thinned out silver moss this year. He verticutted twice this spring, tries to topdress very light every week and uses a program of TourTurf® TSC Turf Surface Conditioner and TourTurf® TCA Turf Conditioner Adjuvant every autumn, to make the grass more compatible. He has also seen big improvements by regularly using TourTurf ® PTC ProActive Turf Concept to increase the density of the sward, making it more difficult for moss to invade and helping grass to grow into moss patches in every opening created by verticutting.
Cutworms (moth larvae)
Cutworms are caterpillars that feed on the stems and leaves of young turf plants. They are widespread on the greens, and they must be hand-picked every morning. Damage grows back quickly within 2-3 days if the grass is vital.
Tipula larvae are very active on two Greens throughout the year at different stages of its lifecycle. David Cox is combining a variety of different methods to strengthen the grass and reducing the damage. He applies parasitic nematodes every May / June to control them in an environmentally friendly way. During the times when larvae are very active, the most affected greens are covered with tarps during the night, they are slowly uncovered in the morning and larvae are collected and relocated. A TourTurf® STA Sports Turf Acidifier program including TourTurf® EPT Respond Extreme Penetrator is used in spring and autumn to reduce the effect on turf plants. The program is mixed in and applied with the regular liquid fertilizer applications, reducing application costs.
Six years ago, the sward on the greens was only about 10 % Agrostis and 90 % Poa annua. This resulted in high disease pressure, and it was difficult to produce a high-quality putting surface.
To reduce disease pressure, David overseed the greens three times a year with Agrostis stolonifera and Agrostis capillaris. Primo Maxx is used in the booth stage of Poa annua when the seedheads are just showing to improve the visual aspect and putting quality of the greens, as well as improving lateral growth. The nitrogen input was reduced to around 13 g / m² per year. A program with TourTurf® FTE Fine Turf Enhancer is used every 14 days during growing season to shift the composition of grass species toward Agrostis and reduce Poa annua. A program of TourTurf® Thatch-Less® ETD Enzyme Thatch Degrader and TourTurf® Thatch-Less® FTD Fungi Thatch Degrader in combination with regular use of small solid tines and regular light topdressing is employed too.
Less thatch reduces the danger of soil borne diseases. The shift to more Agrostis in the mix has let to much less disease pressure. The composition of grass in the sward has completely changed to about 80% Agrostis and 20% Poa annua. Additionally, the greens are extremely reliable even right after coring with small solid tines. David can keep the greens consistently at a ball roll distance of 3 meter.
Reduced fungicide-use against Fusarium in autumn and Dollar Spot in Summer
Lawn Sand is a simple product used by David to keep the Greens dry during Autumn and Winter. If there is additional disease pressure in autumn, he uses TourTurf® FDC Foliar Defence Concept every month to make the plants stronger and less susceptible to pathogen attacks. But since he is reducing thatch and the composition of grasses was changed toward Agrostis, Fusarium is not a big threat in autumn anymore.
During summer months, especially when night temperatures fall, David is monitoring the greens very closely for any signs of Dollar Spot infection. He uses a preventative program including all the micronutrients the plant needs, seaweed and TourTurf® IDC Infill Defence Concept to strengthen the plant further.
David is using a wide variety of TourTurf® products he has on stock. He uses them according to the fertilizer plan he develops together with TourTurf® representative Ole Fynsk tailored to his needs. But he is always watching his greens very closely and adapting fertilizer applications to the situation on the course and needs of the plant. For example: application of products containing sugars and seaweed will be postponed when there are cool evening temperatures, making ideal conditions for disease outbreak. This flexibility and adaptability make a big difference in the effectiveness of applications.
The last two years David had to make only one fungicide application each year and this season he didn’t have to make any fungicide application yet. This tool is not a part of the regular maintenance program for now.
If you get the chance to visit St. Leon-Rot and see the course Rot you will see that stress for the Greenkeepers has reduced. The reason is the reduction of thatch, modification of dominant grass species and reduced disease pressure. This has given David Cox and his team the chance to concentrate on the beautification of the course and paying attention to much detail. During last winter, they concentrated on the drainage system for the greens and tees. Recently, they reconstructed hole 9 around the green, the lake and the bunkers and much attention is given every day to improving the contours and quality of cut. The results are just astonishing.