I wasn’t quite sure if Darden Nicks, Wildhorse Golf Club director of agronomy, was giving me an Astronomy lesson or discussing his dormant Bermuda grass fairways greening up. Whatever the case, the gist was that using turf colorant not only helps make courses look better during dormant months, but the practice also expedites the transition of the Bermuda to natural green as the weather warms.
He is seeing it at Wildhorse due to the use of “Dormant Green Pine and Timber” colorant, and expects other superintendents around Las Vegas who use the process will see similar results.
As more Las Vegas golf courses choose to not overseed due to water conservation and other reasons, more superintendents are also choosing to use turf colorant ie paint. Due to “thermodynamics”, the colorant helps warm up the Bermuda as the weather improves.
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Nicks admits that 2023 hasn’t been the greatest environment to test this philosophy, but even with ongoing colder temperatures, he is seeing green Bermuda pop on the historic Wildhorse fairways.
“It is difficult to quantify, but I see it and the the fairways are naturally greener now, so they should start growing and regenerate the carbohydrate partitioning as it wakes up to create its own color,” says Nicks, the 2021 Southern Nevada Golf Course Superintendents Association Superintendent of the Year. “It is all based on thermodynamics because anything the sun hits that has a darker color, is automatically going to draw in heat, It is similar to when you are outside and you have a black shirt on instead of a light color, you will be warmer. That is exactly what happens with the grass that has a canopy of colorant. There isn’t much of a difference in the early mornings–it can prevent frost sometimes–but in the afternoon I have seen a difference of 4-5 degrees from grass without colorant to grass with it. That can make a difference.”
Now for that aforementioned Astronomy lesson.
“Warmer temperatures aren’t the only thing that makes a difference because the grass also needs certain light angles during the Spring equinox because it needs red, blue, and white sunlight for so many hours a day and that is the main factor,” Nicks says. “The secondary factor are the temperatures. When the nighttime lows are in the 50s and the daytime highs are in the low-to-mid 70s, that is when the warm-season grass really starts to jump in coordination with the sunlight angle due to the tilt of the Earth Spring Equinox. As the days get longer, the grass is getting more of that sunlight.”
Class dismissed. All we know is we look forward to plush green fairways around Las Vegas that are caused by the Equinox, the colorant, or whatever the case may be.
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