What Everyone Ought to Know About Bermudagrass

Spending Time with Old Friends …

In the past 7 years I’ve spent a lot of time researching the Ultradwarf bermudagrasses as a possible surface for golf greens.  In that time I’ve met a lot of experts and a lot of ‘self-proclaimed’ experts and generally speaking I’ve made a lot of friends.  Nevertheless, I was surprised and flattered when Morris Brown – the actual breeder and discoverer of Champion Ultradwarf Bermudagrass – showed up in person to give his technical assistance to Old Chatham when our planting date arrived.  Morris started 46 years ago in the business of growing and breeding grasses.

Morris Brown visits Old Chatham, July 11th.
Accompanying Morris from the gulf coast of Texas was a truck load of Champion Bermudagrasssprigs.  It had been a little over a year since I last saw the same plants growing when I inspected the farm in Bay City where they were developing.  Every golf green in the world planted with Champion Ultradwarf Bermudagrass received its initial plant material from Bay City, Texas.
The Star of the Show  Champion Bermuda Sprigs.
Also arriving with Morris Brown was the top installation crew from Champion Turf Farms.  This crew has planted about every marquee golf course that has Champion you can name – including last year’s host of the PGA Championship –The Atlanta Athletic Club.  Supplementing their crew was the golf course maintenance staff at Old Chatham.  Roughly 40+ people were working solely on the greens during the planting process that lasted over two days July 11-12.  An additional 20 people were working on preparation for the new bunker complexes.
With an accurate measurement of each green in hand, the installation crew “stages” the bags of sprigs on the green and begins the process of shaking the sprigs.
Staging Sprigs on the Putting Green.
First Roll of Sprigs on Putting Green.
Topdressing Sprigs on 15th Green.
Second Roll of Sprigs shown on 15th green.
… And then we water, water, water some more, and for good measure water a bit extra.  Since the sprigs have no root system when they arrive, we must provide near constant watering in the initial part of the grow-in as they are very perishable otherwise.  The separate irrigation “starts” are so numerous we turn the task over to a computer, which initiates 566 separate starts per day for all the golf greens.
Irrigation running on Sprigs on 18th green.
Other work continues…

We continue to work on growing-in the new Tifgrand collars, green surrounds, and new homogenous grasses on the 2nd and 7th fairways.  The majority of this effort is spent smoothing, topdressing, adding fertility inputs, and mowing these areas.  Also removal of broken concrete is well underway.  As of this writing about 80% of the concrete to be repaired has been removed prior to preparations to re-install it.
Concrete Removal from Cart Paths.

We have also finished re-shaping the chipping green complex and adding a tilt to the green surface.  This new feature will allow the path of the ball to be visually seen longer, resulting in more helpful training feedback.  The formerly lower side of the green received a tilt bringing it up nearly two feet to accomplish this.  Additionally, two subtle features were added to better replicate what a player would encounter on the golf course.

Chipping Green Renovation.
A few more statistics…

15,000 – Number of gallons of water each green requires daily during the initial grow-in of sprigs
21 – Number of greens being grown at one time (including the nursery green)
2 – Number of equivalent years of wear to the irrigation system (greens only) during the initial grow-in
25 – Number of emergency bags of sprigs left by Champion for use at Old Chatham if needed
0 – Number of emergency bags of sprigs needed at Old Chatham
1,000 + – Number of Golf Greens planted with Champion, discovered and bred by Morris Brown
0 – Number of other installers Champion allows to install their grasses for greens
Best wishes,
Brian Powell, CGCS