Though bentgrass and zoysia have traditionally been the leading choices for golf greens in Japan one course is blazing a new trail, regrassing with MiniVerde ultradwarf bermuda, supplied by Atlas Turf International.
Unusually, Japanese courses often have two greens for each hole, one with a cool season turf such as creeping bent, and the other with warm season grass. Koga Golf Club in Fukuoka has become the first in the country to plant a full 18 holes with MiniVerde, and observers reckon the results could lead to many others following suit.
“The MiniVerde holds up better in the summer and gives the bentgrass greens a break during the summer months,” said Dr Noriaki Aoki, Koga's assistant general manager and director of maintenance. “Some people worried about the MiniVerde greens being too fast in the winter, but they don’t get as fast as zoysia in the winter. The grass blades are more upright than zoysia and can control the putt better.”
Contractor Inaji Landscape and Construction converted Koga to MiniVerde in May 2011, planting at a rate of 33 bushels per 100 square metres. Grow-in took just less than 12 weeks, with the greens opening in early August.
“To be the first golf course in Japan to use a new variety of turf could be a very risky decision,” said Andrew McDaniel of Inaji Landscape and Construction. “However, through proper testing with a nursery green the first year and the planting of one sub green the second year to see how it performed under play, Dr Aoki and Koga could make a clear decision on the conversion.”
The greens are cut at 2.7mm during the growing season at 3mm for the remainder of the year. While the MiniVerde is dormant from December-February, covering the greens has not been necessary. To enhance aesthetics, Aoki paints the greens in the winter.
“You always have a sense of nervousness about how smooth the grow-in will actually go since you have 18 greens with their own different climates and possible shade issues,” said McDaniel. “I could not have been more impressed with how smooth the grown-in went. Dr Aoki has a very disciplined maintenance programme and sticks with the basics. I think this not only played a large role in the grow-in but carried over to their daily maintenance of the MiniVerde and is why they continuously receive positive feedback from the conversion.”