Monday, September 28, 2015

What's Up With the White Sand??

"More sand, laddie" is a quote accredited to Old Tom Morris, the first greenskeeper at The Old Course at St. Andrews.  Topdressing greens and other areas on golf courses has been as common as mowing the greens since the beginning of the game of golf.  So why is there such an uproar when greens, and other areas of the golf course, are topdressed now. 

For many years we have been using dyed green sand to topdress our greens in an effort to appease golfers and lessen the amount of grumbling and complaints heard by the agronomy team and the proshop but this has been to the detriment of our greens. This picture shows the layering of fine green sand that had occurred over the many years of continuous use of green sand.

The problem with layering of sand in greens, especially green dyed sand is that it restricts the movement of water, air , and nutrients within the soil profile. The biggest problem is that the roots can not thrive in this environment and as you can see in this photo break off at this layer.

This is an electron microscope image of a sand particle. As you can see it is far from round and smooth as one might think. Each one of those pores or holes in the surface of the sand particle has the potential to act as a cation exchange site or an area in which nutrients and water can attach to later be used by the root system.

Now image you fill up or eliminate 70-80% of these valuable cation exchange sites with paint. Is it feasible to believe that the soil structure and the root system could function properly and provide us with the high quality putting surfaces that we are all demanding? 

For a better visualization with something we are all more familiar with, a golf ball. Imagine removing 3/4 of the dimples on a golf ball. The golf ball would not function properly and would not generate the lift that golfers demand.

I agree that green sand is more appealing to the eye but it is harmful to the health of the green and that is why we have discontinued the use of it at Harrison Bay. We are working to improve our course, not simply out to upset anyone. If you still have an issue with the white sand, see me. Don't take it out on the proshop or the outside operations staff. 

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