Banyan Golf Club is located at Hua Hin in Prachuap Khiri Khan province, about 200 km south of Bangkok, Thailand. The club opened for limited play in late 2008, with the full opening taking place in early 2009; the same year in which the club received the ‘Best New Course’ in Asia Pacific Award by Asian Golf Monthly.
Drought leads choice of grass
The Club’s irrigation water supply is composed of harvested surface water which is collected and stored in a reservoir at the lowest part of the property. At Hua Hin, there is a pronounced dry season throughout the months of December to April; during which, on average, there is as little as 113 mm of rainfall and a mean temperature of 27 degrees Centigrade. Since the Club’s water supply is limited and, moreover, wholly dependent on natural rainfall, it was essential to select species of turfgrass which could tolerate drought.
Since the Club's water supply is limited and, moreover, wholly dependent on natural rainfall, it was essential to select species of turfgrass which could tolerate drought.
The decision was taken to plant a native manila grass (Zoysia matrella) on the 39 hectares of fairway and semi-rough. This species provides an excellent playing surface, coupled with a naturally high tolerance to drought, meaning it would be well suited to surviving extended periods of restricted irrigation throughout the dry season.
Seashore paspalum (Paspalum vaginatum) was not chosen for these areas because empirical research in the Thai climate has demonstrated that when irrigation water is supplied to most varieties at less than 50% of evapotranspiration for an entire dry season, the grass does not provide an acceptable playing surface and, furthermore, may die.
Although hybrid bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon x C. transvaalensis) has excellent drought tolerance, it was also not chosen for the fairways and semi-rough because it requires higher inputs of fertiliser and more frequent mowing than zoysia in order to produce good playing surfaces.
The decision to manage for native zoysia was further supported by the competitive nature of the species against invasive weeds compared with bermudagrass, and the resistance of the species to insect and disease infestations compared with seashore paspalum.
Better economic, playing and environmental performance
During the long dry season in late 2009 and 2010, even less rain fell than normal and the irrigation water reservoir at Banyan ran dangerously low. Irrigation water application was reduced by more than 50% on the fairways and semi-rough; the little water available was saved for the tees and greens and was applied only as needed. Even though the fairways and roughs became dormant during this drought, the native zoysia recovered well, quickly returning to excellent playing conditions as soon as soil moisture content was raised through fresh rainfall. The return of rainfall to the area also replenished water levels in the reservoir.
The planting of grasses that require more irrigation and other inputs to tees and greens, which comprise less than 3 hectares in total, while planting the native zoysia to the 39 hectares of fairway and semi-rough, makes it much easier to consistently produce the desired playing conditions at Banyan Golf Club without incurring excessive costs.
The native Zoysia is resistant to weed invasion, fungal diseases, and many turfgrass insects; it is therefore possible to develop and maintain the desired playing conditions for the fairways and semi-rough without the application of fungicide or insecticide.
The few undesirable weeds that may occasionally invade the fairways and semi-rough are removed by hand-weeding or spot-treatment with herbicides.
In the climate of Hua Hin, the native zoysia has a slightly slower vertical growth rate than does bermudagrass or seashore paspalum. Mowing frequency has a direct correlation with total course management expenditures. The fairways are mown, on average, three times per week throughout the year to maintain the desired playing conditions. The semi-rough, which comprises more than half the property, is mown once per week during the rainy season and once fortnightly during the dry season. This infrequent mowing, which keeps management costs low while still providing an excellent playing surface, would not be possible with either hybrid bermudagrass or seashore paspalum.Summary
The use of native zoysia through the green at Banyan Golf Club has allowed the club to produce excellent playing surfaces with minimal use of water. The zoysia delivers a high quality playing surface with less weed infestation, diseases, or insect damage than could be achieved with other grasses. This native grass was able to withstand drought conditions at a time when no water was available for supplemental irrigation; had imported grasses been used on the fairways and semi-rough, they would have failed to recover or would have become infested with weeds. The use of a slower-growing grass such as native zoysia not only provides excellent playing conditions but also allows for less mowing and less water use.