Early Pushups vs. 1950’s Pushup Greens

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I wanted to comment on a common theme among pushup greens I have noticed over the years and has been highlighted recently on several of our installations recently: the fact that most pushup greens built from the 1890’s to the 1950’s eras were generally pushed up and into place with the single yard horse early scrapers, while modified pushup greens from the 1950’s on were built with the more modern bulldozer.

One might think with the advent of more modern construction options the final result decades later would be more positive. I am not seeing this, rather I am seeing the opposite to be true. When we begin an XGD install with the first few greens at a classic old club, it is almost always the first few greens that were not original from the early era of 1890 -1950ish, rather the most problematic greens to manage are the ones that were rebuilt from the 1950’s to the 1970’s, before the era of the sand green. My theory on this is that the greens built/pushed up with a bulldozer have had the predominantly topsoil material compacted so much during construction that the soil structure has been destroyed, while the greens built with the single yard horse scraper have a uniform soil structure throughout the soil profile, allowing for an optimum soil water/oxygen exchange. This problem was rectified with the introduction of the early USGA green construction methods eliminating the high topsoil medium content and replacing with the high sand content which allows the growing medium to be compacted with a modern bulldozer without destroying the soil structure.

When I first began building tees with our parent firm TDIGolf 20 years ago, topsoil tees were also in vogue. Shape the subgrade, and push around (with the dozer) 4″ of native dirt topsoil or a screened topsoil, then a small tractor with a boxblade or viking unit. Boy, we built some firm teeing surfaces, too firm. They were hard to finish as the combo of the dozer and the tractor, turned the tee mix in to concrete, which in turn exhibited several flaws after a rain event, as water would not move through the soil profile at all.  Now pushup greens and tees can still be built, as evidenced by the restoration completed by TDI/XGD at Toronto Golf Club ,you just need a lot of time to allow natural settling through rain events, irrigation, and keep the bulldozer off of it. Yes, and a lot of hand work with pitchforks and rakes, and coupled with an XGD install, a modern putting surface can be achieved using techniques from a century ago.

So, if you are wondering why your more modern putting surfaces are giving you more grief than the original era golf greens at your club I suggest it is the invention of the bulldozer that has compacted your greens subsoil to the point that water and oxygen will not pass through it.

Later, Poor Old Dirt & Grass Farmer

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