TifGrand is “off the charts in terms of texture, density, color and traffic wear,” according to Tony Mancuso, CGCS, superintendent at Cherokee Towne and Country Club in Atlanta. After replacing Tifway 419 with TifGrand in shady spots on his course, he was so pleased with TifGrand’s performance, he then introduced it on collar, collection areas and approaches. He told the full story to Through the Green magazine in its July/August 2013 issue (for the full text of the article, see below).
As published in Through the Green, July/August 2013
TifGrand Making Its Way Out of the Shade
Written by Trent Bouts
A lesser-known cousin of the ultradwarfs shows signs that it may one day make a sweeping march of its own across the Southeast. No one is beating the drum louder during the early steps down that road than Tony Mancuso, CGCS at Cherokee Towne and Country Club in Atlanta. “This grass is off the charts in terms of texture, density, color, traffic wear,” Mancuso says. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
This grass is TifGrand bermudagrass, developed by Dr. Wayne
Hanna at the University of Georgia beginning back in the mid-‘90s. Released onto the market only a few years ago, TifGrand was touted primarily for superior shade hardiness. But Mancuso tried it in shady rough areas and was so enthused by the results that he then introduced it on collars, collection areas and approaches.
Now he’s talking about taking it onto fairways.
“We’re going to do a section of fairway somewhere to test divot recovery and see how it handles golf cart traffic,” he says. “It’s never been marketed in low-cut situations, but I can absolutely see this grass on fairways. Of course it will take some evaluation in that setting but I really think it’s a revolutionary grass.”
Sweeping change sometimes has its genesis in small events. Ben Franklin flew a kite in a storm, for example. Rosa Parks sat in the front of a bus. Dr. Hanna grew some TifGrand in his daughter’s backyard north of Atlanta. That anecdote is the kind of tale that can become legend over time as versions of the story are told and re-told with occasional embellishment, deliberate or otherwise. But of course it’s only a cute side note to the story.
The fact is, TifGrand’s emergence followed a path similar to any turfgrass developed out of the UGA’s world-renowned Tifton facility. All research and evaluations were performed observing the same rigorous protocols as always. Still, the grass’s performance under shade cloth in a controlled environment was one thing. Hanna wanted a sense of how it would handle a truer landscape environment where light was filtered intermittently throughout the day. That backyard pilot patch did well.
Mancuso, though, sees benefits in the grass that go far beyond its ability to do well in limited light conditions, which he confirms is “absolutely” greater than 419 bermudagrass. He cites a long list of attributes that, in addition to those already mentioned, include minimal encroachment and increased disease tolerance, as well as quicker green up in spring and longer-lasting color into fall.
It was 2009 when Mancuso first dabbled with TifGrand after securing some foundation sod from Merett Alexander at NG Turf and Bruce Allison of Pike Creek Turf. He’d heard the talk about its performance under shade and so gave it his own trial in some rough areas. Greatly encouraged by the early results, he “just kind of rolled the dice with it” on Cherokee’s north course in 2010 and switched out the green surrounds at the same time he converted the putting surfaces to Champion bermudagrass.
“I’d heard that someone in Florida had gotten hold of some foundation sod and was cutting it lower and lower and it was doing well,” Mancuso says. “Knowing I had some shade challenges where the 419 was not doing well, I thought it couldn’t be worse than 419, so I installed it (over 120,000 sq. ft. of collection areas) and started cutting it low.”
Mancuso, a former Georgia GCSA director, is an upbeat personality who smiles readily. Not long ago he ran a half-marathon with his daughter, Mary Rose, dressed as King Triton, from The Little Mermaid. He acknowledges a tendency to look on the bright side. “I do like what I do and I do tend to get excited, I suppose,” he says. “But I wonder if the folks at UGA had any idea of what they have here.”
As a result of Mancuso’s experience, he believes “what they have” is “an amazing grass.” He says the grass has a finer texture than 419 but with a greater biomass thanks to a denser mat of stolons beneath the leaves. That translates into golfers feeling like they have more grass beneath them than when the TifGrand is cut to the same height as 419, he says.
“The TifGrand still has a nap to it when you cut it low,” he says. “That’s what we gave them for the Georgia State Amateur Championship in 2011, and the players loved it. Some members feel it’s too short for chipping, but to me, it’s much more member friendly if they can have the option of putting it or bouncing it in from off the green.”
Mancuso uses a Triplex to mow his TifGrand approaches and collection areas at 0.200 of an inch. “You can mow 419 at that height; I’ve tried it, and it’ll do okay, but it doesn’t ever get really thick at that height.” Unlike the TifGrand, whose density also helps resist wear and tear from traffic. “This grass is almost a little like an ultradwarf,” Mancuso says. “We don’t use turning mats or anything around the greens, even coming out of winter. Whereas by the end of winter, 419 is falling apart, and on fairways dormant 419 suffers from the cart traffic of 15,000 to 20,000 rounds.”
He maintains his low-mown TifGrand areas with the same nutritional program that he uses on his greens. He adds that the grass is “very tolerant of Primo and in fact it almost seems to thrive on it.” Moreover, “I haven’t seen any diseases hit this grass hard,” Mancuso says. “I’m not saying it’s disease resistant, but it does appear to be more disease tolerant. I would say it greens up four to six weeks sooner than 419. If you’re on a winter painting program, even better. And it stays greener longer. Quite a bit longer than 419.
“I can’t say enough about this grass. It doesn’t seem to want to encroach aggressively into Champion greens, whereas the 419 does a lot more aggressively. What contamination I have now on my Champion greens is from 419, not TifGrand. It is so significantly better than anything else we’ve had as a warm-season bermudagrass.
UGA’s Dr. Clint Waltz suggests TifGrand may provide an economic benefit to some facilities purely because of its genetically stronger coloring. “If you’re not having to use as much nitrogen to provide the color you’re looking for, then you’re saving money,” he says. “It’s a darker green than most other grasses out there. Maybe there’s a 25 or 30 percent saving there because you’re not having to fertilize for color, it’s already built in.”
Waltz confirms the grass’s ability to do well in shade but is careful to phrase that as “shade persistence” rather than “shade tolerance.” He says TifGrand still needs about six hours of intermittent or filtered sunlight a day. “It’s definitely picking up in popularity, and I do think we’ll see it used more and more.”
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