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Golf Courses Repair Damaged Greens After A Wet Year

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Alexandra Olgin
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Greenskeepers are on their hands and knees carefully placing 5 inch hexagonal patches of bermudagrass on the Ralston Creek golf course at Daniel Island.

 

“You have to be exact about your level on these so when the mower goes across it doesn’t scalp it,” Assistant Superintendent Jonathan Turner said.   

 

He has spent months planting more than 500 of these small sections of grass around the course. Nearly a third of the greens on the 7,400 yard Daniel Island golf course have suffered from a disease. Director of Grounds and Golf Maintenance Michael Fabrizio said he believes the culprit is a fungus called Pythium root rot.

“By the time you see visible symptoms it has already gotten to a point where it may do more damage before you can slow it down,” he said.

The sections of infected grass on the greens almost look like bald spots. Fabrizio said cloudy, wet climates make the grass ripe for infection. The National Weather Service reported, 2015 was the wettest year in Charleston with more than 73 inches of rain. Close to a third of that rain drenched the Lowcountry in early October.

“We deal with mother nature on a daily basis,” Fabrizio said. “There is a certain amount of luck in this business.”

 

Fabrizio manages two private 18 hole courses on Daniel Island and he said the fungus only impacted the first six holes of one of the courses.

  

“This is the crazy thing dealing with living breathing object like we do,” he said.

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Credit Alexandra Olgin
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Patches of bermudagrass are removed from the nursery and planted on damaged greens.

Another hole just 200 yards away from the one the greenskeepers are repairing is the luscious shamrock green color you expect at perfectly manicured golf course.

Fabrizio was able to repair the greens without taking a membership hit. Several public courses in the Charleston area experienced similar problems with their greens, but many rely on daily fees from the general public. Some have had to reduce the cost to play while at the same time spending money to repair the greens. The wet winter and spring which United States Golf Association Agronomist Patrick O’Brien attributes to weather pattern known as El Nino, impacted courses across the Southeast.

“This was the most devastation I’ve seen and I’ve been doing this for 38 years.”

He consults for more than 200 courses in the Southeast. O’Brien said courses in the west and central parts of Florida were among the hardest hit because of the lack of sunlight.   

“These grasses are very high light intensity. The leaves on them are like little solar panels,” O’Brien said. “If those leaves aren’t provided with the energy they need, the plant health can suffer.”  

Fabrizio suspects that is just what happened on the green of third hole of the Daniel Island golf course.With groundskeepers replacing the diseased grass with healthy sections, he said the greens should look as good as new in a few weeks.  

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Daniel Island Club Director of Grounds and Golf Maintenance Michael Fabrizio explains how he repairs greens damaged by a fungus.