UW Turf Day with grass court tennis and golf course techniques

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Turf Day shows you can be environmentally friendly, yet have a great-looking playing surface and lawn.
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Posted at 2:17 PM, Sep 11, 2023

"We're at greatest show on grass here today at UW," Paul Koch says.

UW-Madison hosts a turf day.

"The thing that we're doing here with 20 acres is we're looking at all the different ways that you can manage grass to meet your goals," UW-Madison Professor Doug Soldat says. "And there's a million different ways to do it."

For Doug Soldat and Paul Koch, they bring in golf course superintendents to the OJ Noer Research Center, showing that this is a labor of love.

"The amount of work that goes into any golf course, maintaining any golf course is immense," Koch says. "And most golfers don't see it because the golf course maintenance starts between 4:30 and 5 a.m. on most golf courses and they're off the course by the time that most golfers play. So every golf course maintenance team puts in a tremendous amount of work. Most of it not seen."

OJ Noer, nicknamed Mister Turf, is instrumental in one of Milwaukee's great products that helps sustainability and responsibility of proper environmental grass care: Milorganite.

Lance Allan asks, "So is Milorganite Miracle in a bag?"

"Well, Milorganite is great!" Koch says. "I actually, this is not an endorsement but I use Milorganite in my own yard, here in Madison. And it's a nice slow-release source of nitrogen. Impossible to burn the turf like you can with other, like you can with other fertilizer sources. And you're supporting a Wisconsin company. So it's a win-win."

So part of the training? Dealing with Wisconsin's winters.

"They can be brutal," Koch says. "And we actually have a federally funded study looking at the impacts of winter injury on turf grasses and golf courses in particular. And trying to get a better handle on the conditions that lead to it."

And the Noer facility boasts a hidden gem. One of the only grass tennis courts, in the Badger state.

Lance Allan asks, "That tennis court right behind you, I would imagine that takes a fine level to tune that thing in?"

"Yeah exactly, they have grasses here that we mow at a 1/8th of an inch, which is about the thickness of two credit cards stacked together," Soldat says. "We mow them five or six days a week. It's super super intense. But that grass is for like golf course putting greens or like a grass court tennis."

"John Powless, he was the former UW tennis coach for decades. Former UW basketball coach in the 70's," Koch says. "He said this was the best grass that he ever played tennis on. And he played at Wimbledon."

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Turf Day shows you can be environmentally friendly, yet have a great-looking playing surface and lawn. And I'm all about that life.

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