© Dean Graves

Mother Nature may want to keep Bermudagrass growing in the fairways and roughs of a certain suburban Washington, D.C. golf course, but Dean Graves, wants it out. Lately, he’s been winning the battle.

“Our course is almost 125 years old, so we have a lot of stuff growing on it,” says Graves, CGCS of the Maryland course for the past 16 years. “We are quite close to the city and it gets very hot and humid in the summers. Years ago, course management promoted Bermudagrass in the summertime, followed by overseeded ryegrass in the fall, winter and spring.”

When the course was rebuilt in 1998, greens, tees and fairways were replanted with Crenshaw, L-93 and Southshore creeping bentgrass. Roughs were planted in tall fescue, ryegrass and Kentucky bluegrass. Graves joined during grow-in, soon after the renovation was completed.

“All of that Bermudagrass was still in the ground and began growing through the desirable cool-season grasses,” Graves says. “I’ve been fighting it since the beginning. We’ve used a variety of products with very little success. Sometimes they hurt the cool-season grasses just as much – if not more – than the Bermudagrass.”

Four years ago, Graves tried a new product to control Bermudagrass on an experimental basis at the suggestion of his BASF field representative. He sprayed Pylex herbicide mixed with Turflon Ester as a spot treatment on 2,000 square feet of his rough. “It did an exceptionally good job and gave us the confidence we could use it as a wider, broadcast application,” he adds.

© Dean Graves

In the three years he’s been using the BASF selective postemergent herbicide, Graves has reduced Bermudagrass population in his 50 acres of roughs by 80 percent. “Pylex has made a huge difference for our golf course,” he says. “Nothing has even come close to the results we’ve had with it. Pylex has turned our program around – not only is it highly effective but it’s relatively low cost as well. I call that a win-win.”

Through experimentation and comparing results with other area superintendents, Graves has devised the following program for Pylex use:

Roughs. Once Bermudagrass starts to green-up, Graves applies Pylex at the rate of one ounce per acre. He makes two applications 14 to 21 days apart, stretching it to three treatments if weather remains cool in June. He stops applying it during the heat of the summer, resuming again in late August. He continues with three applications at the same rate and timing through late fall.

Fairways. Graves reduces the Pylex application rate to .25 ounces per acre and makes one broadcast treatment at the beginning of May. “The application will turn Bermudagrass white against the green bentgrass,” he explains. “So I can determine where the Bermudagrass is and go back to spot spray it.” He then applies Pylex at a rate of 0.10 ounces per acre on a 14-day interval for two more applications. In late August or early September, he returns with two more treatments at .25 ounces per acre.

“If you walk the golf course today, you can see a line where we sprayed Pylex in the roughs – it’s like night and day,” Graves adds. “It can be a little sensitive in the fairways because there will be some bleaching, but as long as the golfers know what’s going on, they don’t mind. I send an e-mail out ahead of time letting them know when the applications will occur. Communication is the key.”

© Dean Graves

In the past, when sections of the fairways turned brown from Bermudagrass going dormant, Graves sprayed Roundup to kill it. He then used sod cutters to surgically remove the dead areas and re-sod them. “We always called it the Patchwork Quilt Effect,” he says. “It used to cost us thousands of dollars each year in sod and labor, not to mention disruption to the golfers – you can’t put a price on that.”

Graves’ ultimate goal is to eliminate Bermudagrass on his golf course. But realistically, he just wants to keep it at a manageable level. “If I can reduce it by 90 percent in our roughs, I’ll be happy,” he adds. Pylex has slowed the encroachment of Bermudagrass in the fairways a great deal, too. “I’d say we’ve been able to hold the population to the same level for the past three years in fairways,” he says. “I haven’t had the reduction I’ve gotten with roughs, of course, because of the difference in grass types.”

Pylex also controls goosegrass and crabgrass. Graves only cautions against using the product during high-temperature periods. “When it gets up around 85 degrees, you have to be careful with bentgrass,” he says.

Maryland rests at Ground Zero for controlling Bermudagrass in cool-season grasses. Further south, it is considered a desirable grass. Further north, most golf courses don’t worry about Bermudagrass.

“I know several other golf course managers using the Pylex program in this region,” Graves adds. “It’s great to be able to compare notes and help each other come up with a solution. After all, Bermudagrass has been an issue on this golf course for 100 years.”