Mount Hermon golf course setting trend with new green

If the grass is greener elsewhere, sometimes it helps to just bring it over to your side.

That’s what Tuscarora Country Club has undertaken at its golf course in Mount Hermon.

The club has removed the long-time, commonly used bentgrass from its course and installed an ultradwarf mini verde Bermuda grass. The type has never been tried in central Virginia and Tuscarora is one of only a handful of clubs in the state to have it, said Zane Breeding, golf course superintendent at Tuscarora.

Breeding and the club decided it was time to make the switch to the ultradwarf mini verde Bermuda because of the region’s increasing heat and humidity, which is detrimental to bentgrass, Breeding said.

“Whether you believe in global warming or not, it’s getting warmer, it’s getting hotter,” Breeding said during an interview at the country club Friday afternoon.

About 90 percent of bentgrass loss is caused by humidity, too much moisture, but the Bermuda at Tuscarora thrives in wetter conditions, Breeding said. The club purchased the Bermuda grass from Modern Turf in South Carolina.

The past couple of summers were tough at Tuscarora, with Breeding and his crew having to skip mowing and dry out the bentgrass to help it transpirate, or process water, he said. It created an inconvenience for club members by shutting parts of the course, he said.

Too much moisture can smother or drown bentgrass, causing “wet wilt,” a condition similar to heat stroke or sun stroke in humans, Breeding said. For the golfer, the conditions add up to soggy greens with ball marks.

“We needed to make a decision,” Breeding said. “We were just holding too much moisture.”

But, “Bermuda loves the moisture, heat and humidity,” he added.

Stan Cocke, club president, said members had inquired about other options.

“Members have asked if we could find an alternative that would be better,” Cocke said. Tuscarora Country Club, built in 1957, has a little more than 300 members.

The course is closed for the next four to six weeks until the Bermuda is ready. For the club’s golfers, it will be worth the wait when it reopens in late September or early October, Breeding said. At least one member agrees.

“We’re expecting great things from it,” said Robert Agee, a member at Tuscarora for 24 years.

What sets the Bermuda apart from bentgrass is its root structure, which is horizontal and vertical, making a heartier grass that will stand up to disease, moisture and heat, as well as cold weather, Breeding said. It holds excess wetness better and avoids sogginess, he said.

Golfers will experience a rich green, plush texture and a smoother, speedier roll, Breeding said.

“You’ve really got to putt on it to believe it,” Breeding said.

Bentgrass is “immaculate” for about in two weeks each in spring and fall but is at its worst in the summer, he said. But the course needed “what provides the best putting service for the most days of the year.”

Agee, who has been golfing at other clubs in the area, said he likes “a faster green” and the Bermuda will need less maintenance.

The new green will be a money saver for the club, requiring just 15 percent of fungicide needed for bentgrass, adding up to about $35,000 in savings, Breeding said. It also requires very little water, he said.

“It makes a whole lot of sense to us for a multitude of reasons,” Breeding said.


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