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Ian_L

  • Karma: +0/-0
Best Links Soil?
« on: March 30, 2011, 10:57:24 PM »
Forgive me if this question has been brought up before, I could not find anything like it using the search function. Which places in the world do you think offer the best soil conditions for fast and firm play?  Please keep in mind that this is not the same as the best linksland, as the terrain can be rather dull, even with great links soil.

I have played links golf in Ireland and Bandon Dunes only and was under the impression that the ball bounced and rolled a bit more on the fairways of Bandon. However, I am sure factors such as season and recent weather made a difference there.

Thanks,
Ian

Tom_Doak

  • Karma: +1/-1
Re: Best Links Soil?
« Reply #1 on: March 31, 2011, 01:23:46 AM »
Ian:

I have dug in the dirt in a lot of great places.  I don't know how you could say that the best loamy sand is better in one place than another.  Bandon, Scotland, Tasmania, it's all been good to me.
« Last Edit: March 31, 2011, 11:12:06 AM by Tom_Doak »

Ben Sims

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Best Links Soil?
« Reply #2 on: March 31, 2011, 07:44:40 AM »
Ian,

I've read somewhere--can't remember where--that Sand Hills was built on a vein of sand that was rare even for the sand hills area of Nebraska.  It has just the right amount of variation in size and a near round shape with perfect organic properties that made it damn near a spec USGA green's mix.  

Tom,

There's plenty of ways to differentiate a sandy loam.  It's not just about the size or consistency or uniformity.  It's also about shape.  Is it more angular or round?  Is it a calcerous sand?  What type of organic properties does it possess?  Perc rate?  The list goes on and on.

I suspect that within a few minutes of posting, my mentor Don will be here to scold me for getting misty over a soil in Nebraska that has "USGA-like" qualities.  And then Anthony Nysse and Brauer will be along to talk poetically about USGA spec green's mix.   I have gained just enough information in my edaphology class this semester to be dangerous.  

Randy Thompson

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Best Links Soil?
« Reply #3 on: March 31, 2011, 08:37:51 AM »
I have done two courses that also had a native soil that was very close to USGA spec. I think almost any coastal course with a very high sand content is what to look for when searching for an above average soil for golf. Bens correct also, BUT what it comes down to is; how you manage the grasses after planting. You will need a deep root system to water infrequently to obtain the firm conditions that so many on this site love! Sands can be overwater just like others soil, it not as easy but many supers still find a way.

Tom_Doak

  • Karma: +1/-1
Re: Best Links Soil?
« Reply #4 on: March 31, 2011, 11:17:18 AM »
Ian,

I've read somewhere--can't remember where--that Sand Hills was built on a vein of sand that was rare even for the sand hills area of Nebraska.  It has just the right amount of variation in size and a near round shape with perfect organic properties that made it damn near a spec USGA green's mix.  

Tom,

There's plenty of ways to differentiate a sandy loam.  It's not just about the size or consistency or uniformity.  It's also about shape.  Is it more angular or round?  Is it a calcerous sand?  What type of organic properties does it possess?  Perc rate?  The list goes on and on.

I suspect that within a few minutes of posting, my mentor Don will be here to scold me for getting misty over a soil in Nebraska that has "USGA-like" qualities.  And then Anthony Nysse and Brauer will be along to talk poetically about USGA spec green's mix.   I have gained just enough information in my edaphology class this semester to be dangerous.  

Ben,

I am not saying all sand is equally good, but I've worked in sand on six or seven different sites that was so good it didn't matter if there was something "better".

I've had Dick Youngscap lecture me mutliple times about the soils in the Sand Hills, but I think that story about Sand Hills is a bit of myth in the making.  I've looked at four other sites in the Sand Hills over the years, and the soil at all of them was excellent, but it wasn't (to me) any better than the soil at Barnbougle or Bandon.  Personally, I have found the soils around Melbourne to be the most intriguing ... it's the only sand I've seen that will hold a bunker lip like it does there.  It is VERY fine and a bit darker and more fertile than any links soil I've seen, and way darker than the sand hills.  Everything else breaks down before it gets that high and vertical.

Don_Mahaffey

Re: Best Links Soil?
« Reply #5 on: March 31, 2011, 11:23:34 AM »
I suspect that within a few minutes of posting, my mentor Don will be here to scold me for getting misty over a soil in Nebraska that has "USGA-like" qualities.  And then Anthony Nysse and Brauer will be along to talk poetically about USGA spec green's mix.   I have gained just enough information in my edaphology class this semester to be dangerous.  

Ahhh grasshopper, clearly you have been doing your reading.
A few days back I was fortunate to play some golf here at WP with one of the key members of the group that built Sand Hills. He said it became his job to tour around those who came out for a look, and I guess many of the local ranchers did just that. I guess it also took some convincing to get the locals to believe that you actually could grow grass on that good for nothing sand.  
Here in my neighborhood, sandy ground is considered poor soil and "black dirt" ag land commands the highest price.

Corky, if you want to start an interesting discussion in your soils class, tell the instructor and classmates that much of the worldís best golf turf is grown  on what is considered to be very poor soil. Dr. Mac addresses this subject in his book, The Spirit of St. Andrews, and what he wrote many years ago still holds true today, at least as far as Iím concerned. The academics donít quite see it the same way.
One manís trash is anotherís treasure.

Lou_Duran

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Best Links Soil?
« Reply #6 on: March 31, 2011, 11:38:06 AM »
Professor Mahaffey,

I spent quite a bit of time toiling in rich Ohio soybean and corn soil.  So, it has been hard for me to understand the conventional wisdom among the golf cognescenti that sand is the best medium.

Could it be that golf gurus place a much greater value on the superior drainage capacity of sand than the fertility of heavier loam soils?   I know first hand that following a trencher laying tile is hard work and probably expensive, but over the long-run, isn't this a superior approach than having to constantly add nutrients to a neutral or weak medium?

Does sand eventually lose its drainage capabilities?  At Bandon I noticed that the turf was not nearly as firm and some of the bunkers, even at Pacific Dunes, were holding several inches of water.  Do the organics build up and clog things?   

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Best Links Soil?
« Reply #7 on: March 31, 2011, 01:00:02 PM »
Sweet Lou

Thats the first time I have ever heard (I read your post out loud mimicing your accent) someone doubt the qualities of sand as a base for a golf course. 

Was the water still in the Pac Dunes bunkers several hours after the rain stopped? 

It seems strange, but some links have quite a high water table and that explains slower draining bunkers and fairways.  I wouldn't expect Pac Dunes to have this issue though as its on a cliff.  Maybe Doak put a bunker in a screwy place - he does love his sand - tee hee.

Ciao
New plays planned for 2024: Fraserburgh, Ashridge, Kennemer, de Pan, Eindhoven, Hilversumche, Royal Ostend, Alnmouth & Cruden Bay St Olaf

Don_Mahaffey

Re: Best Links Soil?
« Reply #8 on: March 31, 2011, 01:41:40 PM »
Lou,
Heavier soils will typically have greater water and nutrient holding capacity. Heavy soils tend to have a greater buffering capacity, they have fewer swings from wilt to lush and from dry to wet. They hold more water and stay wetter, but if allowed to dry out it can become very difficult to get them wet again. Biggest headache on a golf course with heavy soils is compaction. Heavy soils stay wetter longer, wet soils compact more readily, once they compact you can't get them wet or get air to roots, you lose roots, plant dies. Therefore, once you get a little behind with your aerification you enter the death spiral that is hard to get out of without significant work. Best thing to do on heavy soils is manage where getting air into the rootzone the number one priority.
Now, to your question about managing golf turf on sand vs. loam. Yes, sand is a better medium to grow golf turf on because it drains. Sand drains well because it is very course and has large pore spaces that move water and equally important allow air exchange. Your question is grounded in an ag approach, as in isnít it better to grow plants on a richer soil? In most cases, yes. In the case of growing good golf turf the answer is, it depends on what you like. If you like lush, thick turf (and we know this is what most like) then more nutrient and water holding capacity is better so loam is a good choice. But just because you may use less water or fert, donít think there are fewer inputs as like with almost all preferences,  your just exchanging one set of inputs for another. For me, sand is superior for its porous properties, but also because it does not grow ďgoodĒ grass. I like growing grass on poverty soils and Iím not going to give the grass everything it needs to be happy because I donít want it happy. I strongly feel that a thinner stand of grass provides a better golfing surface.  That may not be true with all grasses but I know it is with Bermuda.
Here in south Texas weíre basically on heavy soils. We did sand cap a lot of the course but that cap has already started to take on the characteristics of the parent material. Sand plating will always  eventually take on the characteristics of the parent material which is one reason why USGA greens needs to be rebuilt and why I believe they shouldnít be the first option in most cases.  Take a five gallon bucket, fill it half full with a clay loam and then spread a 2mm layer of sand on top. Put it out in the weather and check back in a month to see what the top layer looks like. Its going to eventually take on the characteristics of the clay. My fertility plan here is to give the plant what it needs in a manner in which it can take it up. I do not rely on complicated soil chemical reactions to free up nutrients for the plant. I donít spend tens of thousands of dollars trying to change the pH of the soil or amend the parent material. I canít do it, at least not without spending huge sums every year. So I give the plant the minimum of what it needs and try to keep air in the rootzone. I believe that approach, in general, can work just about anywhere.

As far as standing water in the bunkers at Pac Dunes, sand can compact and lose some drainage capacity, but usually not enough for standing water to be around for very long. I walked TOC after a rain and never saw a puddle, but that was in the summer.  You can definitely fill the pores in sand with water faster than it can drain so if it had been a lengthy wet period, which is very possible in coastal OR this time of year, then the sand was probably saturated. Just a guess on my part.

Niall C

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Best Links Soil?
« Reply #9 on: March 31, 2011, 01:45:10 PM »
Ian

For what its worth I generally have found the soil on the east coast of Scotland to be lighter in colour than the west coast where the soil tends to be darker perhaps due to the difference in rainfall (there is more in the west) or perhaps because there is a bit more organic material in it than in the east. Not sure about that, suggest you need an agronomists input there, but for what its worth I prefer east coast as it tends to play better over the winter. I'm largely basing that comment on Gullane, other east coast links might be different.

Niall  

Ben Sims

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Best Links Soil?
« Reply #10 on: March 31, 2011, 02:10:33 PM »
Ian and Lou,

The reason I try to learn from the school of Mahaffey?

He just condensed my entire semester and $2100 of tuition into one paragraph.  That post is some good poop to hold in your hand, as we say in the flying world. 

Ben Sims

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Best Links Soil?
« Reply #11 on: March 31, 2011, 02:25:54 PM »
Ian,

I've read somewhere--can't remember where--that Sand Hills was built on a vein of sand that was rare even for the sand hills area of Nebraska.  It has just the right amount of variation in size and a near round shape with perfect organic properties that made it damn near a spec USGA green's mix.  

Tom,

There's plenty of ways to differentiate a sandy loam.  It's not just about the size or consistency or uniformity.  It's also about shape.  Is it more angular or round?  Is it a calcerous sand?  What type of organic properties does it possess?  Perc rate?  The list goes on and on.

I suspect that within a few minutes of posting, my mentor Don will be here to scold me for getting misty over a soil in Nebraska that has "USGA-like" qualities.  And then Anthony Nysse and Brauer will be along to talk poetically about USGA spec green's mix.   I have gained just enough information in my edaphology class this semester to be dangerous.  

Ben,

I am not saying all sand is equally good, but I've worked in sand on six or seven different sites that was so good it didn't matter if there was something "better".

I've had Dick Youngscap lecture me mutliple times about the soils in the Sand Hills, but I think that story about Sand Hills is a bit of myth in the making.  I've looked at four other sites in the Sand Hills over the years, and the soil at all of them was excellent, but it wasn't (to me) any better than the soil at Barnbougle or Bandon.  Personally, I have found the soils around Melbourne to be the most intriguing ... it's the only sand I've seen that will hold a bunker lip like it does there.  It is VERY fine and a bit darker and more fertile than any links soil I've seen, and way darker than the sand hills.  Everything else breaks down before it gets that high and vertical.

Tom,

I see where you're coming from.  Once you get to a certain level of soil, it's all relative.  And IMO, no one is going to improve on mother nature's ability to provide a growing medium.  That USGA spec for green's mix is a moving target if there ever was one.  I can see the SH story being a somewhat of a myth.  But I found where I read it--their website!

The biggest component to a recent project was defending being near the edge of spec or even outside of it.  Content varies by load, soil moves in and out of spec, yadda yadda.  I found myself defending a round yet coarse sand that was outside of spec, contending that I could amend it to be finer if needed.  Once you go fine, you don't go back to coarse without huge amounts of work and time.  Don makes some great points about a medium or cap taking the characteristics of the parent material. 

I'd be interested to see some numbers on that Melbourne sand vs. the soil in Mullen or Bandon.

Carl Rogers

Re: Best Links Soil?
« Reply #12 on: March 31, 2011, 08:31:40 PM »
So let's say you are in the Southeastern US with fairly heavy soils (because you know they are great for cotton and soybeans), that

means it is necessary to aerify the fairways perhaps at least once a year??

Kyle Harris

Re: Best Links Soil?
« Reply #13 on: April 01, 2011, 04:48:47 AM »
A sand matching USGA-spec already available on site is only worthwhile if the greens are constructed using the method as the presence of the hanging water table with one foot of growing medium is the key.

Ben, think of it like a thrust to weight ratio. Would you throw vectored thrust on a Cessna? The specifications of the sand exist so the hanging water table will perform as expected.

Don_Mahaffey

Re: Best Links Soil?
« Reply #14 on: April 01, 2011, 07:30:24 AM »
Kyle,
I don't think your right. A perched water table is the result of a fine material over the top of a course material, sand over gravel in the case of the USGA system. USGA sand specs are about perc rates, longevity, and compaction resistance. I promise you great golf turf could be grown on a foot, or 100 feet of just the sand with no underlying gravel layer. Most of the specs in the USGA system that deal with the perched water have to do with the bridging of the sand/gravel layer, D15-85 and all that math, but even there its about longevity, not creating a perched water table as you create a perched table anytime you lay a finer material over a course medium. Creating a perched water table is as simple as it gets, making it work like you want for a few decades is the challenge.

Neil_Crafter

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Best Links Soil?
« Reply #15 on: April 01, 2011, 07:42:19 AM »
Ben
A sand that has spherical shaped particles, or "near round" as you stated, is less suitable for greens than a sand with angular particles as the spherical sand is very difficult to compact and keep stable. It is a nightmare to try and shape as it will not hold its form. Like trying to stack marbles.

BCrosby

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Best Links Soil?
« Reply #16 on: April 01, 2011, 09:03:49 AM »
Don - Great stuff. Thanks.

On sand compaction in bunkers - many courses in the SE have bunkers with a thin (half an inch) layer of dry sand with a chronically wet, compacted layer underneath. It's something I see often. Well struck sand shots can come out like bottle rockets.

Assume these are USGA spec bunkers no more than 15 years old. Is the problem more likely to be a gummed up drainage system in the bunker basements or a maintenance failure where sand was not regularly turned? Or am I missing something obvious?

Bob

Don_Mahaffey

Re: Best Links Soil?
« Reply #17 on: April 01, 2011, 10:46:17 AM »
Bob,
it goes back to a thin top layer of an added material eventually taking on the characteristics of the massive underlying parent material. Dig a hole in clay and fill it with sand and eventually the sand is going to act like clay. Drainage helps to slow the process but there are going to be times where the rain falls faster than the drains can handle and materials are going to mix. The fines  start to screw up the drains and before long the problem gets worse from even smaller rains or daily irrigation.
Liners help a lot, but they need to be installed correctly and sand depths need to be monitored or eventually the liner will get hung on something and pulled to the top, and I think we've all seen how nice that looks and plays.

Bunkers built in clay are going to need to be managed to last and that includes more than raking and edging.

Lou_Duran

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Best Links Soil?
« Reply #18 on: April 01, 2011, 11:44:54 AM »
Thanks, Don.  Would capping with 2' of sand (if I am not mistaken, that's about the amount used at Carlton Woods in its playing areas other than the greens) solve the problem of conversion of the "parent material" over time?  At Riveside in Grand Prairie, TX, a course built in the Trinity River flood plain, operated as a high-end private club for a short time after it was built, they arerated the fairways with very large tynes and followed it with heavy sanding which they brushed into the holes (after gathering or grinding the plugs).  I suspect this was costly, but is it effective?

Last question: would you be growing corn in sand if you had cheap access to good water, or would you prefer a Midwest loamy soil?

Sean,

You mean I have an accent?  Perhaps I'll acquire a new one when I join you in the expatriate community.

As a Michigander, didn't you notice the beautiful fields of vigorous crops grown on the fertile heavy soils and wonder the same thing?  And can you imagine what would happen to The Old Course- where in the winter one is forced to place a rug under his ball so as not to damage the delicate turf- if it had to double as the parking grounds for 100,000+ football fans?

Regarding Pac Dunes, we did not get heavy showers during the day (I was too tired to hear if it rained hard at night), but I noticed standing water in the bunkers, primarily, on Sunday morning and Monday afternoon.  The water level did not appear to have receded.  We also saw some areas of Bandon Trails holding water (but not the bunkers, that I recall), and the roll on the fairways wasn't as much as I remembered (prior visits in '03 and '05).   The greens, however, remained firm. 

Will MacEwen

Re: Best Links Soil?
« Reply #19 on: April 01, 2011, 11:56:57 AM »
Lou, I have done about 6 Bandon trips in Feb or March, and this was by far the wettest I have ever seen it.  I think it has been a cold, wet winter by Bandon standards. 

BCrosby

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Best Links Soil?
« Reply #20 on: April 01, 2011, 12:02:25 PM »
Thanks Don. Very helpful.

Don_Mahaffey

Re: Best Links Soil?
« Reply #21 on: April 01, 2011, 12:13:23 PM »
Lou,
I think we're starting to get into geology or some other ology and I'm not one of those guys, but it stands to reason that the thicker the material the longer it will stay "pure" provided issues like drainage and erosion are well thought out. In addition, maybe more than any other influence, the farther the layer between the two materials is from the surface, 2' in your example, the more insulated it is from disturbance. That's going to give longer life more than anything...I think :-\

I'd much rather grow corn on loam because I want to use nutrients and water to produce more yield. Loam will give me more food and water at a lower cost. With corn, yield = +$$$
With golf turf, yield = -$$$.

Mike Nuzzo

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Best Links Soil?
« Reply #22 on: April 01, 2011, 02:23:52 PM »
Lou!
Yankee season has started!!

The cap was more than 2".
And Carlton Woods has a very large program recently managing their turf - it didn't look like sand when coming out.
There are some videos out there on their work.

Cheers
Thinking of Bob, Rihc, Bill, George, Neil, Dr. Childs, & Tiger.

Lou_Duran

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Best Links Soil?
« Reply #23 on: April 01, 2011, 02:44:31 PM »
Lou!
Yankee season has started!!

The cap was more than 2".
And Carlton Woods has a very large program recently managing their turf - it didn't look like sand when coming out.
There are some videos out there on their work.

Cheers

Go Rangers!

You, of all people, who preaches the sermon of sustainability so religiously, how can you support a team which pays just one player nearly as much as the whole KC Royals squad earns?   ???

Thanks for the tip on Carlton Woods.  Per the attached, the information I heard that CW capped the course with 2' of sand appears wrong- 8" is what the article cites.  

http://www.golfcourseindustry.com/gci-1010-organic-solution.aspx

Seems like a lot of trouble to provide firm conditions, but Houston is wet and has a high water table.  Apparently CW's membership sees the value and is able to pay for the additional maintenance.

Kyle Harris

Re: Best Links Soil?
« Reply #24 on: April 01, 2011, 04:44:08 PM »
Kyle,
I don't think your right. A perched water table is the result of a fine material over the top of a course material, sand over gravel in the case of the USGA system. USGA sand specs are about perc rates, longevity, and compaction resistance. I promise you great golf turf could be grown on a foot, or 100 feet of just the sand with no underlying gravel layer. Most of the specs in the USGA system that deal with the perched water have to do with the bridging of the sand/gravel layer, D15-85 and all that math, but even there its about longevity, not creating a perched water table as you create a perched table anytime you lay a finer material over a course medium. Creating a perched water table is as simple as it gets, making it work like you want for a few decades is the challenge.

Don:

My point is that USGA spec sand is designed to perform to the USGA constructed green. You MUST use USGA spec sand to get a USGA construction to perform to USGA specifications.

Having USGA spec sand on-site is great and will drain well, but it really doesn't mean other types of sand won't - as you are saying. I'm not saying that you have to build a USGA green to use USGA spec sand. When I said it's not worthwhile, I meant to say that it really doesn't mean anything as the USGA spec is for their construction specifications.
« Last Edit: April 01, 2011, 04:45:52 PM by Kyle Harris »

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