Velvet bents transforming UK course

By AML

A switch from poa annua to velvet bent is proving successful for Ashton on Mersey Golf Club in the UK.

The 115 year-old nine hole course winds around the River Mersey, and has push-up greens built on heavy clay and silt, with consequent drainage issues. Shade issues around the first green made it worst of all, according to head greenkeeper John Stepney, who said that the predominance of annual meadowgrass (poa annua) created a spongy feel that did nothing for playability.

The club decided to invest in a regrassing trial on the first green, as part of a programme of course improvements. “We have decided to invest in what we believe is the golfer’s priority, the quality of the course, to help us retain and increase membership,” said Stepney. “I’ve been working with Paul Moreton at British Seed Houses for four years, and have gradually introduced Aberroyal to combat the poa. But last year we drained the first green and removed some trees, and seeded with Avalon and Vesper velvet bent.”

The result, he says is a green with a dense, healthy sward and bent grasses which have established well in the improved conditions. After scarifying and verticutting, the seed was placed just below the surface and a light topdressing applied. Germination took less than a week, and, previusly more than 50 per cent poa, the green is now 60-70 per cent bent. 

“The green dips down to the front right hand corner and could be expected to be wetter with more poa, but is absolutely fine, with plenty of bentgrass,” Stepney said. 

The changes have seen green speeds increase considerably with cut heights at 4mm, although Stepney says his aim is for consistency rather than for especially fast greens. “It has really opened our eyes to what can be achieved for a relatively small investment,” he said. “We are now looking to expand the programme to our other greens – the first green has gone from being the worst on the course to the best.”

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