Bring back brushing

By Brian Whitlark, USGA Southwest Green Section agronomist

Turf managers are always looking for a way to improve the quality of their putting surfaces. This article focuses on a simple strategy that will yield better greens. Brushing greens before mowing offers surfaces that are smoother and contain less grain. In Dr. Beard’s book Turfgrass Management for Golf Courses, brushing is defined as “. . . the practice of moving a brush against the surface of a turf to lift non-vertical stolons and/or leaves before mowing to produce a uniform surface of erect leaves.”

In the 1970s, brushing was referred to as “switching” greens and was employed primarily for dew removal. The popularity of brushing greens progressed from there, but has hit a plateau in recent years. That plateau is due in part to a lack of progression in brush technology. Brushes that most turf managers are familiar with have failed to yield results that meet expectations, but what should turf managers expect from brushing? They should expect to see an improvement where it matters most — in putting quality. Furthermore, turf managers should expect to see benefits such as:

Grain reduction.

Raising stolons and shoots, which produces a better cut.
A less injurious technique than vertical mowing or grooming, and therefore can be used more frequently and during periods when growth is not aggressively active.

A method for Poa annua seedhead reduction.

Unfortunately, the brushes that most turf managers use or have used are not aggressive enough to consistently improve putting quality. Such brushes can be divided into two categories — gear-driven or front-mounted. The gear-driven brushes failed to meet the mark as a result of their architecture. They are either constructed in a spiral orientation, which pulls the mower to the right, or they simply lack enough bristles to be effective.

The popularity of the front-mounted brushes grew as a result of the ineffectiveness of the mechanically driven alternatives. However, even the most widely used front-mounted brushes are unstable, are not durable, and are not substantially more aggressive than their gear-driven counterparts. Moreover, these units do not offer the ability to adjust the brush contact angle. In search of a more aggressive option, turf managers have modified the front-mounted brushes by adding weights and/or trimming down the bristles. Such modifications may result in more forceful contact with the turf surface, but the brushes often don’t last or are unbalanced and bounce across the turf.

The style of brush turf managers are accustomed to fails in comparison to new brush technology. The remainder of this article will introduce readers to three new brushes to try for course operations. The following list is not all inclusive, and as such, there may be additional brushes that are equally effective and available for turf managers.

1. The first brush is a gear-driven unit that fits the John Deere walking and riding mowers and fairway units ( It is equipped with 12 rows of bristles, which is substantially more than current brushes on the market. The brush is offered in several stiffness options and is mounted in the same location as the groomer. The brush height can be adjusted with the use of a Groomer-Gage to achieve a desired level of aggressiveness. When mounted on the John Deere greens mower, the brush counter-rotates and casts sand and clippings forward into the basket, rather than back into the cutting reel.

2. The second brush is offered from Turfscience, Inc., of Phoenix, Ariz. This is a front-mounted brush that can be mounted on either John Deere or Toro walking greens mowers. The brush is offered in three stiffness options, and the turf manager has the ability to modify the angle of contact with the turf. The brush is 2.5 times the width of current brushes on the market. One of the best attributes of this brush is the robust frame, which yields a very sturdy and durable unit.

3. The third brush is made specifically for riding greens mowers and can be mounted on Jacobsen, John Deere, or Toro models. The brush head is adjustable and the frame is constructed from steel and is powder coated to extend its useful life. This brush is offered by TC Group, LLC, and additional information can be found at

A word of caution: When one of these brushes is used for the first time, turf quality will likely decrease before it improves. Depending on the turf variety, growth rate, thatch, and grain in the surface, putting quality may not improve until the turf adapts to its new upright environment. Be patient, and as long as the turf is healthy, keep brushing.

Brushing before mowing is not a new technology, but this practice should see widespread renewed interest, given recent developments in brush design. When brushing is employed as a regular tool in a sound greens management program, this practice will improve putting surfaces.


Help us support our troops!

This may sound crazy, and you may think we’re nuts, but WE NEED YOU to play 100 holes of golf with us on May 16 at the TPC Champions Course.

We all share a significant interest…namely the brave men and women of the United States Armed Forces. With nominal participation from 100 volunteers, we can raise $250,000 or more in the next few weeks to honor and support these brave men and women of our military. This one day event is a terrific way to raise some significant dollars for a remarkable group of people who ask nothing of us, but give 100% of themselves… for us.

We need 100 passionate champions wanting to help support the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces. We have made a commitment, and now WE NEED YOU! Right now we are putting together our Champions Team and we want you on it! WE NEED YOU to participate in a KEY volunteer position. Each volunteer has very limited, yet well defined, responsibility. We promise you, this will not take a lot of your time! We need volunteers who will commit to following the instructions of this proven program, raising significant dollars for our troops.

You can be “A Champion”
Here is what we are asking each “Champion” to commit to accomplish:

Show up on Monday, May 16 from 7:00 AM – 2:00 PM [breakfast and lunch included] at TPC Champions Course in Scottsdale to play your 100 holes of golf! (Not as hard as it may seem, as we throw away the rule book and have some unique fun on the course.)

Sponsor yourself for at least $1/hole.
Raise a minimum of $24 more per hole from your spheres of influence. This is easy, as people will want to support you in your commitment to the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces.

You can be “A Champion Team Captain”
We need 25 Team Captains to accomplish the above 1 – 2 – 3 and put together a team of 4 (including yourself) Champions.

We have created a website for this campaign and it is the key to our success, where you enter your sponsor’s pledge information (you do not have to collect any monies, just get pledges from those you know: your friends, family, associates) and the site will send them a big thank you, tax deductible letter, and where they can send their sponsorship of you. People give to people and all you have to do is ASK for help in this all-out endeavor in support of our brave men and women.

Let us know that you want to be a “Champion” or a “Champion Team Captain” and we’ll handle the rest. Just call 602-944-3035 and we’ll get all the details to you.

Proceeds from your fundraising will benefit: Champions 100 / Arizona Golf Foundation is acting as the umbrella for the groups listed below, and is a 501(c)(3) charitable foundation (Tax ID 86-0761350) for your records. Fifty percent will go to Birdies for the Brave, 20 percent to both the Wounded Warrior Project and the Navy Seal Foundation and 10 percent to Folds of Honor.

Here is a brief description of the military home-front groups that will benefit from your commitment:

Birdies for the Brave
Birdies for the Brave is a military outreach initiative that supports individuals in the U.S. Armed Forces and their families, through military homefront groups directly serving military men and women lost or injured in the line of duty.

Wounded Warrior Project
Wounded Warrior Project, raising awareness and enlisting help from the public for the needs of injured service members, as well as provide unique, direct programs and services to meet the specific needs of individuals in their recovery efforts.

Folds of Honor Foundation
Folds of Honor Foundation provides post-secondary educational scholarships to the spouses and children of service members disabled or killed as a result of their military service.

Navy Seal Foundation
Navy Seal Foundation provides tragedy assistance for families who have lost a loved one in training or combat, as well as scholarships and educational assistance to active duty personnel, their spouses, and children. Additionally, the Navy Seal Foundation ensures the contributions of these elite warriors are always remembered, recognized, and documented for future generations, by preserving the rich history and heritage of the Naval Special Warfare community.


Bold debt retirement plan keeps Rio Verde Country Club \‘in bounds\’

The likelihood of a near-global economic collapse was the furthest thing from their minds in 2006 when Rio Verde Country Club’s membership voted to retain Tom Lehman and his golf course design team to renovate its two 18-hole championship courses. Cost estimates for revitalizing the club’s 36 parkland-style fairways and greens over the three-year life of the project was a hefty $6 million. With a loan agreement negotiated with Wisconsin-based Johnson Bank, the project was launched amid enthusiastic expectations of the active adult golfing community’s nearly 500 golfing couples and singles.

Although Rio Verde, like the majority of Arizona’s private country clubs, had been experiencing a decline in new memberships since the beginning of the new millennium, the club’s board of directors believed it could eliminate its bank debt with new member initiation fees. For the first year or so that notion, while somewhat tenuous, worked. But by the summer of 2008, with the housing market collapsing, new memberships had all but evaporated and servicing the bank debt necessitated drawing down the club’s reserve funds. Depleting that resource without any relief in sight was disquieting to the board and club membership but, in the absence of new memberships, few options were available.

By the summer of 2010 the board, realizing the club was nearing a financial precipice, diligently evaluated every reasonable option – along with a few radical ones – to resolve its debt obligations. Among options considered and promptly dismissed was what the board determined would constitute a full-scale membership assessment. But with mounting interest and principal bank payments nearing $1 million, hemorrhaging club reserves, and no imminent resurgence of new memberships, time was not on the board’s side.

The most pressing question for the club’s leadership was: Could the board possibly come up with a timely, workable plan to honor its fiduciary commitment, not just to its golfing members but to the Rio Verde community at large? That was a tall order. Any failure of the golf club, while catastrophic unto itself, would send shock waves throughout the entire community demoralizing residents and further depressing property and personal net worth values.

During the summer of 2010, board president Arillus Holcomb, armed with an innovative – and to some a bold – plan, judiciously solicited the opinions of numerous influential Rio Verde residents whose support would be essential to the plan’s acceptance and success. He called the plan the Patron Program. If the distinctive campaign earned the endorsement of those whose opinions he respected the debt load might conceivably be eliminated. If, on the other hand, the program failed to gain traction with the membership, the probability of defaulting on the bank loan was extremely high and the survival of Rio Verde Country Club at serious risk.

There was never any doubt among the membership that the bank loan should eventually be repaid in full. These are folks who migrated to Arizona from the cultural crossroads of the Midwest where a handshake remains a time-honored custom. To them, collectively, the club’s loan agreement represented a moral obligation, one to be honored come hell or high water. While other financially challenged golf clubs were walking away from debt obligations, Rio Verde Country Club absolutely would not. It would remain true to its moral compass.

But what most envisioned as a marathon turned into a sprint as details of the Patron Program were disclosed. For openers the fund-raising campaign would be totally voluntary and, to the surprise of many, conducted within a 90-day time frame with a December 31, 2010 deadline.

Once the program was launched, Holcomb and his solicitation team created a full-blown communications campaign with military precision and all the earmarks of a multi-level marketing enterprise. In the process early Patrons were converted to willing solicitors while neighbor-to-neighbor discussions propelled the initiative.

The Patron Program sought voluntary member contributions of $100,000 (Platinum), $50,000 (Gold), or Silver ($25,000). In return, Patrons were extended prepaid club credits for golf shop purchases, cart fees, dining room charges, catered events, entry fees for major invitational tournaments and other club amenities. At each contribution level, $15,000 represented an outright member gift to the club with the balance available as club credits.

In the final days of the fund-raising effort a companion initiative, the Tee-to-Green campaign, generated an additional $860,000 in gifts from current and former members and non-golfing Rio Verde residents. It was the blending of both resources that satisfied the debt obligation.

The success of the Patron and Tee-to-Green campaigns not only eliminated the $5.6-million bank debt, sidestepped a crippling member assessment, and protected home values; it also saved the club a minimum of $5-million in interest. The program succeeded because Rio Verde is remarkably blessed with abundant human talent and resources. It is a community with an uncommon blend of sophistication and small-town intimacy that attracts residents like Arillus Holcomb who choose to live and play there and to step up and work hard to solve problems.

Today, Rio Verde boasts two exceptional championship golf courses totally renovated and absolutely free of long-term debt. It remains one of Arizona’s premier destinations for active adults whose passion for life, fellowship, golf and the love of the area’s natural resources is first and foremost. While its scenic location remains its engine, it is the game of golf that drives it.

Upon completion of the three-year project, Tom Lehman put the makeover in perspective, saying: "Rio Verde is a friendly place where the clubhouse and amenities are ideal, the social activities are varied and the golf is fun or as challenging as you want it to be." He also noted that those who live and play there are pretty remarkable people as well.


Sports Hall of Fame week nearing

The Arizona Sports Hall of Fame Week is right around the corner March 29th-31st! Come celebrate the induction of Curt Schilling, Ty Murray, Kerri Strug, Randall McDaniel, and the 1997 Arizona Wildcat National Championship team. For ticket and event information visit Use the special Arizona Golf Association discount code K1JE65D8JJ to get $25 off of a general admission ticket!


Thanks for joining us!

Thank you everyone who attended our ACCESS AZgolf member night at Troon North March 10. We had a great time and hope you did too!

Didn’t join us this time around? Well you missed free chair massages provided by Arizona Sports and Rehabilitation Center and a whiskey tasting by Alliance Beverage. The night was topped off with delicious food, free cigars and lots of raffle prizes. One lucky person even won a golf vacation for two to the beautiful Mayan Palace in Puerto Penasco.

As you might guess, everyone went home happy.