Not too long ago, anyone building a golf course in a warm season grass climate had a pretty limited choice as to what turf to use. But due to the strong growth of the game in many such hot regions, combined with a desire to become more environmentally sustainable, turfgrass producers have invested heavily in identifying new cultivars with better performance characteristics.
One of the key trends in warm season turf over the last decade or so has been the use of different strains of seashore paspalum. Paspalum vaginatum grows naturally in tropical and coastal environments worldwide. The newer varieties of paspalum sold in the market today can tolerate being irrigated with water of a poorer quality than is typically the case for warm season turf. Nonetheless, as golf has spread to newer areas around the world that are hot, dry, and tropical the ability to deal with poor quality water, heavy rains and continuous cloud cover much of the time has made paspalum strains highly desirable. Where irrigation water is derived from either desalination of seawater or treated effluent, paspalum strains are especially popular. Paspalum also tolerates low levels of sunlight better than other warm season grasses; in the tropics, where cloudy conditions are frequent, this can produce quality playing surfaces even in the toughest weather conditions. Since 1995, over 400 golf courses around the world have been planted with improved varieties of paspalum, perhaps the highest profile of which is the Ocean course at Kiawah Island, which was regrassed with paspalum a few years ago – the 2012 USPGA championship at Kiawah was the first Major to be played on a paspalum course. Kyle Phillips’ acclaimed Yas Links course in Abu Dhabi is another highly rated course that uses paspalum, and illustrates another of the grass’s characteristics, its ability to provide different textures and colours in particular areas of the course where it is subjected to different maintenance regimes.
Like many other warm season grasses, it spreads naturally via stolons, rather than by setting seed, and thus most of the varieties available up to now have been distributed as sprigs. For a product that has become popular in some of golf’s further-flung reaches, this can be a disadvantage, and thus one objective for breeders is to produce strains that can be distributed as seed.
The early varieties of vegetative paspalum that hit the market were naturally occurring strains selected by turf producers for their desirable performance characteristics. But now, the turf breeders are getting to work and looking to produce new, hybridised varieties, both vegetative and seeded, that will offer still better performance. American breeder Pure Seed Testing, and its global distributor Atlas Turf International, have just released what they believe to be the best seeded paspalum variety to date. Pure Dynasty has been bred from a number of different strains, including the vegetative variety Platinum TE, which Atlas Turf has been selling into golf around the world for a number of years now.
“Pure Dynasty takes the best attributes from its parents and combines into a more diversified product,” says plant breeder Crystal Rose-Fricker of Pure Seed. “The advantages of the Pure Dynasty blend allow for broader application to varying climates and soil types.” Rose-Fricker says the new blend offers rapid establishment, a very high density playing surface and quick green-up in the spring as the grass emerges from dormancy. The seed uses Pure Seed Testing’s patented PureCoat coating, which improves its ability to absorb water, helping to produce more efficient germination and generally protect the seed against harmful elements.
Pure Dynasty is also being used at the new Bukit Pandawa club in Bali, designed by Bob Moore of JMP Golf Design
The architects and course builders who have been trialling the new product over the last year report excellent results. Notably, a number of Pure Dynasty’s trial locations are away from ‘mainstream’ golf markets, and the users say the seeded nature of the product has been a major help in getting it to some of these remoter spots. Architect Tim Lobb of Thomson Perrett & Lobb, along with contractor Bouman Golf, is using Pure Dynasty at the new Summit Hills course in Calabar, Nigeria. Lobb says the practicalities of a seeded variety represented a big advantage. “I have used Platinum paspalum – which is one of the parent varieties of Pure Dynasty – on a number of previous projects and been extremely happy with the results, but this is our first project in Nigeria, and we suspected that trying to import large quantities of vegetative material could lead to delays at customs,” he says.
Another remote location where Pure Dynasty has produced excellent results is at the Velaa Golf Academy in the Maldives, which has been designed by Jose Maria Olazabal’s practice. The course comprises six green complexes; all surrounded by bunkering and water features. Pure Dynasty has been planted wall-to-wall at Velaa.
“We faced import regulations on traditional stolons so Pure Dynasty was the perfect fit,” says Olazabal architect Toni Ortner.
Elsewhere, Pure Dynasty is being planted at the Cynthia Dye McGarey-designed Golf de Deva resort in New Caledonia, and the new Bukit Pandawa club in Bali, where the architect is Bob Moore of JMP Golf Design. Grow in at Bukit Pandawa is well advanced, and project manager Don Ellsworth says: “Importing live sprig causes several different government agencies to get involved. This can cause many delays in the release of the sprig: if even one thing isn’t properly dotted or crossed the sprig is impounded in quarantine for up to ten days. And now, in Indonesia this impound is automatically implemented regardless of paperwork. But getting sprig into the ground as fast as possible is crucial to the life of the turf, so this is obviously an issue. With seed, you have none of these issues. The second benefit of seed is ease of planting. You don’t need to mobilise 20 people to get it planted. You and a helper have it covered, which naturally saves cost. My irrigation water is pure sea water. We are surrounded by ocean – the Indian Ocean is below my fifteenth green and the Bali sea is just 10km away on the other side.”
“With over ten years of turfgrass exporting experience in dozens of countries, I’ve encountered multiple locations where restrictions on vegetative turfgrass – particularly paspalum – limited the selection available to golf course and sports field projects,” says John Holmes of Atlas Turf. “Having a seeded paspalum product that offers the superior quality of Pure Dynasty finally allows us to overcome those barriers. We have had the product out in the market for testing for over a year now, and our customers have reported excellent results. Because the Pure Dynasty seed is fresh, we get excellent germination – it hasn’t been sitting around for years waiting to be sold. We’re now building up our inventory so we can supply more projects, and we believe that the easier access that a seeded product provides, combined with the quality playing surface that Pure Dynasty generates, will make it a big success. It has already been specified for five projects that are due to start in 2015, in locations including Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Sri Lanka.”
This article first appeared in Golf Course Architecture Issue 38.