Switching over results in maintenance savings

PHOTOS COURTESY OF JIM COX.

Arlington Association in Richmond, Ky., is a private club established in 1969 on the site bequeathed to Eastern Kentucky University by W.A. Hangar. Richmond is located in Kentucky’s rolling hills and abounds with historical sites, including 102 National Historic Register listings. Hangar’s estate home, Arlington House, is an antebellum-style design with massive, stately columns that houses a formal restaurant. Arlington Association serves students, alumni, faculty and friends of EKU through various club amenities that include an 18-hole golf course hosting approximately 30 rounds annually.

The Arlington golf course was built in two segments, with the front nine completed in 1969, followed by the back nine in 1971. Superintendent Jim Cox maintains approximately 140 acres of turf with about 21 acres of fairways. Arlington  participated as a site in a 2003 seeded zoysiagrass field trial; following that successful field trial, all Arlington fairways were renovated to Zenith zoysiagrass. While initial establishment of the zoysiagrass was challenging, Cox is reaping benefits in substantial savings on maintenance.

“We are able to use our savings in maintenance costs for other renovations,” Cox said. “In these tighter economic times, that’s really important. Fungicide costs have been reduced, and fewer mowings and less water are required.”

A hole 16 zoysiagrass field trial in2003 convinced the board of directorsto undergo a renovation. Mowing patterns add interest to fairways.

Successful field trial spurs renovation

Arlington fairways were bluegrass/ryegrass/Poa annua. The fairways were initially seeded to bluegrass with ryegrass overseeding. Cox noted that bluegrass was lost to drought each summer and Poa annua increased. “Our irrigation system had not been adequate for many years,” Cox said. A Rain Bird Nimbus II irrigation system with Rain Bird heads throughout the course was installed between 1999 and 2000, which helped to maintain bluegrass, but a substantial amount of Poa annua had established itself on the fairways.

“We were asked to host a field trial for the seeded zoysiagrass project conducted by the University of Kentucky and Purdue University,” Cox said. Three turfgrass researchers—Dr. David Williams of the University of Kentucky, Dr. Zac Reicher of Purdue and Aaron Patton, then-graduate research associate, also from Purdue—were conducting studies at several sites as part of a research project to evaluate various aspects of establishing zoysiagrass on transition zone fairways. About one-third of an acre of fairway turfgrass was converted to zoysiagrass in the 2003 field trial.

After the successful field trial, Cox and the Arlington Golf Commission recommended renovating the fairways to zoysiagrass, and the board of directors agreed to proceed with renovating approximately 21 acres of fairway turfgrass. The renovation plan was to renovate one fairway each year between 2004 and 2006. Zenith zoysiagrass seed by Patten Seeds was obtained from Bunton Seed Co. in Louisville, Ky. Following the successful renovation of 7 acres of fairway turfgrass in 2004, the renovation timeframe was advanced, with the remaining 14 acres renovated in 2005.

Challenges to establishment

Williams noted that while zoysiagrass is easier, both physically and financially, to maintain, establishment is difficult. He noted that golf course fairway renovations to zoysiagrass have been somewhat slow to take off, primarily because of high renovation costs and difficult establishment. “Some cultivars are more difficult than others to establish, and we really don’t know why,” he said.

Roundup was used on the fairways prior to seeding. “We double verticut with a Jacobsen 548.” Cox said. “We dragged in the fertilizer starter, and that helped break up the cores. We broadcast seeded and kept it moist.” Fairways under renovation were roped off from play during the grow-in.

Cox noted two primary challenges during the Arlington renovation: “At first, we thought we had excellent germination,” he said, “but then we realized what we were seeing was Poa annua. We used Revolver over the established zoysiagrass to take out Poa annua.”

Mowing on renovated fairways begins. Jim Cox inspects 2003 field trial progress.

Crabgrass and goosegrass were problematic on the fairways during grow-in period. “We couldn’t use [a] preemergent with the newly seeded zoysiagrass,” Cox said. He noted that both 2004 and 2005 spring seasons were particularly cool and wet, encouraging the crabgrass and goosegrass growth. PBI Gordon’s MSMA Herbicide was able to combat crabgrass and goosegrass.

The labeling of preemergent products prohibits use with new seeding. Williams noted that the 2003 field trial and a number of other research projects around the country continue to indicate that preemergent products can safely be used while establishing seeded zoysiagrass. He said, “I’m hopeful that the manufacturers will put a number of these studies together and label their products so that they can be used when establishing seeded zoysiagrass.”

Zoysiagrass reduces maintenance

While Kentucky receives extensive rainfall throughout the year, summers can be hot and dry. Summer droughts are not unusual. Cox said, “We had to cut off water to our fairways during a drought last summer. We had a large amount of dormancy, but it’s coming back.” Fertilizer is applied between early and late April, depending on rain, and again in June. Revolver is applied in April to control goosegrass and any other cool-season grass. Once the initial problems with crabgrass and goosegrass were solved, annual applications of Revolver have kept cool-season grasses from invading the zoysiagrass.

Cox noted that mowing has been reduced tremendously following the changeover to zoysiagrass. Fairways are mowed at .75 inch with a Jacobsen 3800, with height increased to 7/8 inch during drought. Greens are mowed at 1/8 inch and tees at 7/16 inch. Both greens and tees are mowed with a John Deere 2500 riding mower. Roughs are mowed at 2.5 inches with a Progressive Turf Equipment 15-foot mower and a Kubota F-3060 front-mount mower. Striping around greens and tees is done with a John Deere 2653 utility mower. Primo growth regulator is used.

“There’s just less to worry about with the zoysiagrass,” Cox said. “It’s less disease-prone. We have some zoysia patch that we control with Heritage spot spraying.”

Bunkers and tree plantings upgraded

“With our reduced fungicide budget, we’ve been able to renovate all our 21 bunkers,” Cox said. “Our main purpose was to get them back to their original design.” All bunkers were rebuilt, and a few relocated. New drains were installed and Sandtrapper fabric layers were used on the bunker floors and faces. “We wanted to prevent any contamination from coming up,” Cox said. All new sand was added, obtained from Schrader Sand in Ohio.

More than 1,000 trees are located on the course, providing spring and fall color and extensive summer shade. While some of the trees were native to the site, most have been planted. Arlington acquired about 100 trees this spring from a nursery that was closing. Cox and his staff replanted the trees throughout the course. “Several of our crabapples were planted when the course was established and have run their life,” Cox said. “Several of the trees are replacement crabapples including Centurion and Prairie Fire.”

Play resumes on renovated fairways. Maintenance savings allowed rebuilding all 21 bunkers on the course.

Arlington has a full-time staff of five including Cox and Kent Cooke, assistant superintendent. Two seasonal staff members are added each summer. “We’ve tried different ways to fill the summer positions, but have found the college students work out best for us,” Cox said. EKU offers turf management through its agronomy department, and professional golf management was added two years ago.

Arlington is pursuing Audubon Sanctuary Certification and has completed all but one of the steps in the process. The course hosts various outings including university, alumni, athletic boosters and chamber of commerce-sponsored. Cox is a certified golf course superintendent, past president of the Bluegrass Golf Course Superintendents Association and past president of the Kentucky Turfgrass Council.

Nancy Riggs is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to Turf. She resides in Mt. Zion, Ill.