Some of My Thoughts on a New, High-End Ultradwarf
By Hank Kerfoot, President of Modern Turf, Inc.
Ultradwarf bermudagrasses have come a long way in the last 20 years. These grasses have changed the entire industry in the regions they are planted and managed. We have new equipment for topdressing, mowing, brushing, rolling, verticutting, and grooming – all as a result of these grasses and the demands for higher quality putting surfaces. We have almost removed the process of overseeding in favor of painting or pigments because of their ability to withstand winter traffic. It has been an ultradwarf revolution in every sense! If these grasses had been discovered or introduced 40 years ago, they likely would have failed as the technology wasn’t ready for them. As it is, these new grasses forced the hand of the modern golf turf management industry and as a result, the ultradwarf bermudagrasses are far better maintained today than when they first came to market 20 years ago.
Many golf course superintendents have now managed two or even three of the major players in the ultradwarf market. Whether or not they have managed each of them, they surely have seen, played on, and discussed the pros and cons of each of these grass varieties ad nauseam. Champion, TifEagle™, and MiniVerde® cornered the market for years and recently Sunday™ has entered the market as a viable contender as well. It is a good grass and has been well received just for showing up. What evidence is there? With many superintendents having such a vast knowledge of the main three players, they know everything they like (strengths) of each variety. Along with that they certainly know everything they don’t like (weaknesses) about these grasses as well.
Enter Sunday™; a grass with no knocks and little real research of note. People are sometimes just looking for something new. With regards to the popular three contenders, if you know you are going to replace your warm season greens, do you go with the/a devil you know or take a chance on something new? Fortunately for Sunday™, it was planted on a few test greens and ultimately on a few courses and people liked it. No real university or NTEP testing was performed, just some golf course superintendents willing to take a risk on something new and an opportunity to be a trendsetter! And they have all been very successful.
Enter Mach 1™. Renowned golf course superintendent and inventor of the Greens Perfection greens mower brushes system, CGCS Rodney Lingle, managed some of the finest ultradwarf greens on the planet at Memphis Country Club for years. During this time he was one of the industry leaders in understanding and developing many of the highest level best management practices for ultradwarf bermudagrass. So much so that he was compelled to invent a brush to better manage his greens for high-end putting. A natural tinkerer and engineer, with a turf management education, Rod has spent years looking at other grasses on his courses and elsewhere. He saw something one day nearly 20 years ago and was sharp enough to collect a sample and grow it out. He grew it in pots and observed it for six years before planting it on a test green. He then maintained it for seven more years at the highest levels possible. All the whistles and bells, coupled with the best agronomics, tools, and intellectual turf management knowledge held by a select few in our industry, went into the management of this grass.
Interestingly, Rodney is one of the guys who physically grew each of the big three ultradwarf varieties. Not necessarily entire sets of greens, but enough to have great first-hand knowledge of each grass and its strengths and weaknesses. After managing his Mach 1™ green for nearly seven years, Rod had discovered something – something special. He discovered a new grass that he believes surpasses all the others in putting quality. This grass responded to all the rigor of daily maintenance while providing a putting surface he regards as the finest available for quality and speed. He found that Mach 1™ is very receptive to growth regulators, cold hardy, easily mowed at the lowest heights, aesthetically consistent and appealing, and has excellent genetic stability.
Currently, Mach 1™ is planted on a few test greens while the plant stock can be found exclusively at Modern Turf sod farms in South Carolina. If you are curious about this grass and contemplating a greens renovation in the next few years, what will you do? Go with the devil you know, or take a chance at becoming a trendsetter? The choice is yours.