It’s something out of a turf manager’s or landscaper’s worst nightmare. A recent accidental misapplication of fertilizer and herbicide on already heat-stressed bent grass greens at Ross Bridge golf course in Hoover, AL has temporarily closed the popular location. The unfortunate mistake on holes 4-18 “has resulted in the rapid deterioration of turf health and playability of the affected surfaces” according to the course’s web site.
Part of the Robert Trent Jones (RTJ) Golf Trail, Ross Bridge was named one of the top golf resorts in North America by GOLF Magazine in 2019 and has been a favorite of Golf Digest editors for the past four years. It’s also the fifth-longest course in the world. “The RTJ agronomic team, in consultation with industry experts, is working tirelessly every day to find a solution to this problem,” reports the Web site.
According to an article by AL.com, John Cannon, chairman of Sunbelt Golf Corporation, which operates the RTJ Trail, said a 1,000-pound bag of a herbicide-fertilizer mixture was wrongly placed alongside other bags containing a green sand mixture is used as a top dressing. That led to a mix-up two weeks ago that resulted in the herbicide-fertilizer being applied instead of the green sand.
Cannon said the herbicide-fertilizer mixture should have been in a locked building with restricted access and was meant for the bermuda fairways and not for the bentgrass greens, reported AL.com.
Sunbelt tried a dry injection of charcoal in an attempt to absorb some of the chemicals and limit damage. The company was already planning to replace the bentgrass greens with ultra-dwarf bermudagrass in 2024. Now, Cannon reported, the conversion will be moved up. “We know we can create a much more consistent playable surface as the new bermuda grasses are just spectacular,” Cannon told AL.com.
As to the human error, Cannon commented to AL.com, “If you’ve been in the business long enough, you’ve heard about it happening somewhere. First time it’s ever happened on the Trail. And it’s devastating. It really is.”