Why Is Internal Greens Drainage So Unglamorous? It’s Like Making Sausage

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As I was sitting through another round of talks at GIS 2011, once again the old common, boring, unglamorous theme reused over and over again: install subsurface drainage.
Let me also preface this by saying I am not whining, but just wanted to point out a few facts why clubs choose other alternatives:

1) purchasing fungicides must be cooler, we all want to use the cool new formulations to battle bacterial wilt, anthracnose or turfgrass rapid blight
2) installing internal greens or fairway drainage is even less cool than an installing a new irrigation system, while an irrigation system has visible irrigation heads/sprinklers/valve boxes visible at the surface an internal subsurface greens drainage system only has  few tiny valve boxes at the turf surface and thus members rarely know they even have XGD as it is completely hidden for the most part
3)they don’t want to see the XGD racing stripes

If you look very closely at this pic from Westmoor Country Club near Milwaukee, WI , focus your eyes on the right quarter of the pic through to just left of the flagstick a horrific racing stripe is visible, and if you look 6′ to the right or left of the drainage lateral you may see another few of them. This picture is taken 1.5 years after the restoration occurred. These laterals will be more visible for the Oakmont’s and Merion’s of the golf world, but what clubs beyond the handful mentioned have US Open conditions on a daily basis?
4) in a much earlier blog from a few years back I compared XGD to “making sausage”, in that no one really wants to see it being made, they just want to enjoy the benefits after the grilling, or after the installation, many golf course superintendents watch our operation initially, but never return until the green is complete as they can’t stand the thought of someone trenching in their greens(18 babies)
5) Cost: many clubs will try and compare it to a few fungicide applications when really it needs to be compared to rebuilding the green entirely, and the cost is usually about a quarter of what a new green would be, and further XGD is not a short term solution as our oldest installs are approaching 20 years of age and performing admirably, so just consider how much you spend on fungicides over a 20 year period, and there will be considerable saving realized

In conclusion, our drainage restoration process will not eliminate the use of these pricey fungicides, but several of our clients have reported a reduced use of them. As I listen to Eric Clapton singing “How Long Blues”, how long will the golf industry be allowed to spray these fungicide apps in the near future? Already, in my home and native land Canada, these fungicide restrictions are already taking hold and forcing clubs there to choose and implement cultural practices like internal drainage to provide better disease resistance. And lastly the summer of 2010 proved that without proper infrastructure underground, your clubs greens and fairways will remain  behind the eight ball.

Poor Old Dirt & Grass Farmer

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