Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Golf Spikes...

Sole searching: Turfgrass researchers seek least damaging golf shoes

Study conducted by the University of Arkansas and Michigan State finds flatter soles and fewer cleats cause most damage to greens.
July 4, 2018
Mary Hightower
After hours of patient mowing, fertilizing and irrigating, there are few things golf course superintendents hate more than seeing their pool-table-smooth greens shredded by spike-shod players.

“Back in the 1990s, there was a period when metal spikes – which had been customary on golf shoes – began to be banned,” said Doug Karcher, professor-horticulture for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “Not only because of the damage to the turf, but also because of the damage they’d do to the course infrastructures like wooden bridges and floors in the clubhouse. By 1997, most of the courses banned metal spikes.”

While today’s golf shoes are light years from those metal spikes, they must still serve the same purpose; be comfortable and offer the player enough traction in the grass to anchor an effective swing. That same traction also means the shoe carries the potential to tear the turf.

It may seem a bit esoteric, but with U.S. golf courses averaging more than $900,000 a year in maintenance (See: http://www.golfcourseindustry.com/article/state-of-golf-industry-reinvestment/), knowing what types of soles are best for the turf is no small thing.

“The quality of the putting surface is how supers are judged and make a living,” Karcher said. “If the shoes cause damage to the greens, it can negatively impact their career.”

In spring 2016, Karcher and Thomas Nikolai, PhD, a.k.a, “The Doctor of Green Speed” from Michigan State from the department of plant, soil and microbial sciences, set out to look at the issue with support from the U.S. Golf Association.

The idea for the research began a year earlier.

“In 2015, we saw on social media and on superintendents’ bulletin boards complaints about new shoe models,” Karcher said. “Some claims were being made that the newer shoes were doing as much damage as some of the worst alternative spikes of the 90s.”

With that in mind, Karcher and Nikolai formulated two major objectives:

1.To look at a variety of different golf shoes to see if they were as bad as the metal spiked shoes. Their research including those with very aggressive treads and cleats and those that are more like a teaching shoe a club pro would wear all day long.

2. Secondly, “to see if there are management practices that course superintendents use that could cause more or less damage by a given golf shoe,” Karcher said. The two looked at sand topdressing, irrigation, grooming and fertilizer rates on four different greens in Michigan State and Arkansas and on Bermuda and bentgrass and annual bluegrass.

For objective one, the two simulated foot traffic on turf plots with different putting green heights at more than a dozen sites a across Arkansas, Michigan, Naples, Florida, and Carnoustie and St. Andrews, Scotland, home of the world’s oldest professional golf tournament, The Open.

The findings
“Our data is basically showing there are differences among the grasses and there are differences among the shoes,” Nikolai said. “The big meat and potatoes is how the putting surfaces are maintained.”

“We’re doing research on how to best take care of the putting surface so it minimizes the impact of any shoe,” he added.

Karcher said “Today’s shoes do not do as much damage as the metal spikes. It’s just a perception.”

Karcher said that “today’s superintendents do such a good job, the grasses are so improved, better groomed and close to perfect that any imperfection caused by a shoe is more noticeable today. It’s as if the supers are victims of their own success.”

Nikolai added, “Ironically, golf course superintendents have created such smooth putting surfaces that some golf cleat/sole designs have become too aggressive. Case in point, almost no one complained about spike marks prior to the 1990s.”

Another finding is that the shoes many golfers and superintendents complained about the most had flatter soles and fewer cleats.

“They only had seven versus nine or 11 for other shoe models,” Karcher said. “With fewer cleats, there were more pounds per square inch per cleat – making them more aggressive on the turf.”

The researchers looked at wear on the turf, simulating 30 rounds of golf on a putting green.
“We had golfers grade the surfaces, A, B, C, D or F. An ‘A’ would show no sign of being walked on. ‘B’ has some signs, but won’t affect the putt,” Karcher said.

In Arkansas, ultradwarf Bermudagrass can survive with much more aggressive shoes without having too much damage. Arkansas has many golf courses that are ultradwarf because the Bermudagrass is heat tolerant.

There was also no key difference between annual bluegrass and bentgrass. Both showed a fair amount of damage, but bentgrass showed slightly more damage perhaps because of its stolons – sideway stems, which annual bluegrass lacks.

Irrigation and drainage also had a role in damage. More moisture meant more damage.
Where play is heavy, the turf may need more irrigation for general wear tolerance and recovery, but the turf must also be dry enough to play.

“It’s a fine balance,” Karcher said. “Most superintendents are using portable meters to use just the right amount of water.”

The process
So, how exactly do you simulate 30 rounds of golf on 128 turfgrass plots? With grad students.

“Backbreaking work,” Karcher said. “We bought all of our research techs a pair of shoes with a sole that was fairly aggressive.”

The testers were sent out to the plots in the morning striding and squatting in imitation of golfers walking and picking up their balls; a ritual that at times looked something like a conga line with rainbow feet.

“The golf shoes we wore to implement the treatments were rather ‘flamboyant’,” said grad student Dan Sandor. “The shoes were predominantly a royal blue color, accented with bright orange toes and heels coupled with lime-green shoe laces. Way too colorful for probably anyone of our group, or even just for regular golf play in general.”

Karcher said: “People were slowing down from the road to watch.”

“I know for some, repeatedly bending down -- i.e., essentially doing squats / working out --at that hour in the morning was not ideal and the effects of the ‘exercise’ were felt and expressed later on in the afternoon, and sometimes even the next day,” Sandor said. “However, it seemed to be a fun group exercise and clearly a ‘non-scientific’ method to determine who was the more fit or in-shape of our team.”

The tests were something of a flashback for grad student Michelle Wisdom, who is currently working on research about pollinators.

“It was like we'd been dropped into a ballet class,” she said. “I remember floating from one plot to the next, practicing my demi-pliĆ© although after several minutes I think ‘PLODDING’ and ‘TRIPPING’ and ‘COLLAPSING’ might be better terms for what was going on,” she said. “We had fun, though, because that group of people always had fun together.”    

Ron Forse Visit

The last 2 days, golf course architect, Ron Forse met with members of the golf architecture committee.  The green committee is looking to appoint a consulting architect in the future.

Monday, July 16, 2018


Along with 1/4" venting tines, the greens and approaches are receiving a light sand topdressing, an 0-0-12 potassium fertilizer application and an application of calcitic lime.   

It's safe to officially say that boxwood blight is running rampant through Highlands.  Above, look at the stems on this shrub...the black lines (or lesions), are the dead give away that it is Boxwood Blight, and not some other pathogen. 

Forecast and Rain Data...

Yesterday, we received a total of 0.7" of rain, raising the annual total (YTD) to 78.25"

Sunday, July 15, 2018

#18 Bridge Spider Population

If you walk the golf course in the morning, maybe you’ve admired the work of the many spiders living on or around the bridge on #18.  Each night, these spiders are extremely productive, spinning hundreds of webs along the rope handles of the structure.  Periodically we clean the bridge which includes removing the spider webs. There is almost this feeling of guilt when we do because of the work these spiders put into their webs- then seeing it swept away by the head of a broom!  Regardless, if we knock them down, they are back in place 24 hours later! 

Monday- Greens Venting

Tomorrow morning we will be venting greens with 1/4" tines and a light sand topdressing later in the day.  I try to go as long as possible without doing any kind of disruptive maintenance to the greens, but after this season's intense rainfall (77" YTD) and traffic, we need to open up some holes to allow oxygen to reach the root zone.  Several of our greens are starting to show excess wear caused by golfer foot traffic that is exacerbated by poor growing environments where they simply can't recover (poor air circulation and lack of sunlight) from the abuse.   

When we are dealt with this kind of weather, it makes us play defense.  Therefore, it makes planning difficult.  I apologize for the lack of advance notice but we need to keep the long term health of the greens our priority.  These holes will heal within a matter of days and you'll be back to the conditions you've come to expect at Highlands CC.  Finally, the Club's aggressive golf calendar makes it very difficult to accomplish these tasks without impacting an event.

Again, thank you for your patience and understanding!  Lets hope for some dry, sunny weather for a change!  

Saturday, July 14, 2018


Above: Here is text book looking summer patch working on some Kentucky Bluegrass.  The symmetric circles created by the fungus is pretty fascinating!

This StrikeGuard device pictured above is the actual equipment that detects lightning.  It is located on the roof of the clubhouse on a tripod that stands about 36" tall.  This equipment measures cloud to ground lightning strikes within a 20 mile radius of it.  When lightning is detected within a 5 mile radius of the Club, the horns will sound alerting golfers to seek shelter.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Practice Facility/ Employee Safety

Brad and Sam have the practice facility setup looking first class and Harold Davis has the condition of the practice facility in incredibly great shape.  This group does a fantastic job and I am grateful for all of their contributions to our team.  The amount of ownership they take in the facility is what makes them so special.  They are passionate about the facility and continue to tweak the operation to better suit the membership.  If you have any observations, never hesitate to call me (787-2778) or simply talk to Brad or Harold. 
We are here to provide you with the best experience possible!

The short game chipping greens have been getting a tremendous amount of use.  On busy days with a dozen golfers hitting at these two greens at any given time, golf balls accumulate quickly.  Staff tries to clear these two greens of golf balls as much as possible.  This has been a request by several members recently- to keep the greens cleared.  However, when staff makes this attempt during a busy day, many golfers continue to hit at the greens.  This creates a safety hazard for staff and leads to them waiting until the tee is clear to pick up golf balls.  If you are at the practice facility, I ask that you support our team and allow them to safely remove the balls from the chipping greens. 

Again, the overall use of the facility has increased tremendously.  I feel the recent renovation project was very well received by the membership which has led to the increased use.  We can quantify the increased use based on the amount of divot mix we are buying as well as the quantity of bottled water we are going through.  These are all great "problems" to have!