About Stono Ferry’s New Greens Champion Bermudagrass
Champion Bermudagrass Characteristics
CHAMPION has twice the density of Tifdwarf, and has better density than most bentgrasses at
mowing heights of 1/8" or less.
CHAMPION has exceptional tolerance of close mowing, does not thin-out to expose the ground
even when mowed at 1/10 of an inch. Even other ultradwarf bermudas cannot handle low heights
CHAMPION maintains very high density even in partial shade, outperforming Tifdwarf and other
Ultradwarfs on shaded greens.
CHAMPION maintains very high density at the lowest mowing heights which gives it
exceptional wear tolerance.
CHAMPION makes a profusion of lateral stems which provides very rapid recovery from injury,
even at the lowest mowing heights. This is a critically important characteristic which
distinguishes CHAMPION from other Ultradwarf bermudas. It is this characteristic which allows
CHAMPION to outperform other bermudas in transition from overseeding and to thrive in colder
climates where other ultradwarfs have failed.
SLOW VERTICAL GROWTH
CHAMPION's growth habit is primarily horizontal with very slow vertical growth which gives a
more consistent putting surface.
BETTER SPRING TRANSITION
CHAMPION transitions more readily from overseeding compared to Tifdwarf and other
Ultradwarfs. Poor transition from overseeding has been almost unheard of on CHAMPION
greens even after several years, yet it is a common occurrence for other Ultradwarf bermudas
which lack the aggressive growth habit that is inherent in CHAMPION.
BETTER COLD STRESS RESISTANCE
CHAMPION survives and recovers from sub-freezing temperatures better than Tifdwarf,
Tifgreen, and other Ultradwarfs at greens height. CHAMPION greens have thrived in the upper
transition zone for years even as other Ultradwarf varieties have failed.
CHAMPION has very dense and aggressive lateral growth which allows it to dominate other
grasses at greens heights.
Champion Bermudagrass Findings
Champion has substantially greater root mass than Tifeagle or Floradwarf
All ultradwarfs are statistically similar in rhizome production compared to Tifdwarf
The shoot density of Champion is superior to Tifeagle and other ultradwarfs.
Champion forms a quality overseeded surface relative to other ultradwarfs.
While all ultradwarfs produce more thatch when compared to Tifdwarf, Champion and
Tifeagle are statistically similar in thatch production.
Champion is capable of producing a higher-quality putting surface than Tifeagle and
One of the keys to successful ultradwarf management is the use of less nitrogen fertility.
Champion has a lower nitrogen requirement than other ultradwarfs.
While no bermudagrass, (Champion included) thrives in shade, Champion maintained a
relatively higher shoot density in heavy shade compared with Tifdwarf and Tifgreen.
Champion can produce very high-quality overseeded turf with a variety of seed types and
Champion No-Till™ Renovation Process
What Is It?
No-Till™ Renovation is the process of changing the grass variety on a putting green without
tearing-out the existing surface. The end result of the process is that the green contours are
exactly as they were before, but with a uniform, 100% stand of Champion. The resulting putting
surface is dramatically improved by the inherent characteristics of Champion.
How Does It Work?
How can the grass on the greens be changed-out without removal of the existing turf? The answer
lies in the inherent characteristics of Champion: very-high shoot density, aggressive growth habit
(with high nitrogen), and superior tolerance to low heights of cut. The procedure involves a
process of mowing, verticutting, coring and topdressing, all of which can be done in-house using
equipment found in most maintenance facilities.
How Long Does It Take?
With coordination and advanced planning, some of the preparations can take place prior to
closing and even during the grow-in. Of the courses which have used this technique in the past,
the average time from closing to reopening has been 7 weeks. The longest took 9 weeks, the
fastest reopened in 4-1/2 weeks.
How Much Does It Cost?
The average cost to do 18 greens is between $40,000 and $50,000.
How Was This Technique Developed?
This technique was developed in the early 90’s when we were looking for ways to renovate
greens without fumigating once methyl bromide became unavailable. Early attempts using
Tifdwarf failed because Tifdwarf lacked the inherent density and vigor to dominate the existing
grasses. It was only with the advent of CHAMPION that this technique became possible. Other
grasses do not possess the characteristics necessary to make this technique work.
How Can I Be Sure It Works?
Forty-eight courses have had their greens converted to Champion using the no-till technique in
the last 7 years, with 100% success. There has been no re-emergence of the old grasses or off-
types in any of these greens, even when the old grass was not killed completely.
All greens planted with Champion are planted by the breeders themselves using material from the
original foundation nursery, and therefore a successful outcome is guaranteed.
No-Till™ Renovations using CHAMPION Frequently Asked Questions
Q: There is no way to have a 100% kill of the existing turf, so what keeps the green from
becoming contaminated with the old grass?
A: This is precisely why this technique can only be used with CHAMPION. Only CHAMPION
has the necessary characteristics to displace all other grasses on the putting surface:
Highest shoot density of any bermudagrass cultivar
Aggressive lateral growth habit
Early greenup in Spring and late dormancy in Fall
Superior tolerance to the lowest mowing heights due to vertically-dwarfed growth
Q: Most older, push-up greens with a slow percolation rate. Don’t they need to be rebuilt?
A: In most cases, probably not. Consider these facts:
Infiltration: The shoot density of CHAMPION is such that your infiltration rate will never be
very high. So rebuilding your greens to create a rootzone with a higher percolation rate will
actually make water management more difficult. Even if your greens become inundated when
heavy rains occur, they won’t be once covered with such a dense turf.
Topdressing: Because of the high shoot density of CHAMPION, effective topdressing requires
using smaller particle-size sands. Typically a sand which passes through a #50 mesh or smaller
works best. If the rootzone does not have internal drainage and is composed of soil, sand, and
organic material from years of age, then you should have no concerns about using a smaller sand
Soil Chemistry: This is the most important factor in managing CHAMPION or any other
ultradwarf. Since low nitrogen fertility is a key aspect of correctly managing an ultradwarf, the
superintendent is faced with the task of maintaining good turf health and appearance without high
nitrogen rates. If the superintendent has an active, living soil for a growth medium, he will find
this much easier to accomplish. Higher CEC, greater base saturation, more readily available plant
nutrients and minerals, -these are characteristics of a mature, organic seedbed. Experience has
demonstrated that superintendents who have such greens have had the greatest success with
To illustrate, suppose that you currently have a lower-density cultivar such as 328 or Tifdwarf.
You might not realize it, but you are easily able to mask soil chemical deficiencies with nitrogen
applications. This is because you are not overly concerned with accumulating too much thatch as
a consequence. Now if you switch to an ultradwarf cultivar, there are negative consequences if
you use too much nitrogen. So even if you didn’t pay too much attention to it before, you will
need to become very aware of the chemical properties of your soil if you are going to be using a
low-nitrogen regime such as an ultradwarf requires. To this end, your older, richly organic greens
will be of great benefit. On the other hand, if your growth medium is a sterile, highly porous
sand, you will find managing a high-density cultivar which requires low nitrogen to be quite
difficult. So not only is it usually not necessary to do-away with your old seedbed-it is actually
preferable to keep it. Change the grass-not the soil.
No-Till™ Renovations using CHAMPION Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Courses which have converted their greens with this technique have gotten back in play in
as little as 5 weeks? How can you get back on the greens so quickly?
A: There are several factors which make it possible to get back onto your greens so quickly.
Unlike cool-season grasses, where an individual plant gains strength as it matures, with
bermudagrass, there is really no such thing as mature or immature plants. Each node of
bermudagrass is a new plant, and therefore it is always regenerating. The real issue for
bermudagrass is density and root development. The time you must allow for your greens
to be ready to ‘handle’ traffic is not for the individual plants to gain enough age but rather
for there to be enough of them to support traffic. With CHAMPION you have the highest
shoot density of any bermudagrass cultivar, and therefore achieving sufficient shoot
density to support traffic does not take as much time as with other grasses (when given
With a conventional planting on newly-constructed greens, you must grow the grass until
you have formed a new turf surface before you can allow any traffic onto the greens. In
contrast, with a no-till renovation, you have a putting surface from day one because you
never lost it. You are not relying on the new grass to form the turf needed, because you
never completely destroyed the old surface.
In a conventional planting into a freshly-tilled seedbed, you typically press-in the stolons
vertically at a 2” spacing. These stolons must ‘crawl’ across this 2” opening and knit
together to form a turf surface. In a no-till renovation, we lay the stolons horizontally,
which is how they will ultimately grow. We are in effect ‘creating sod’ by laying down a
couple of layers of stolons. This is made possible by the harvesting technique we use
which individually separates the stolons. All that is required to be back in play is for the
stolons to root and create a few new nodes.
Q: So you just leave the old grass there? Doesn’t that cause problems down the road?
A: No, because we are not really leaving the old grass there, we are just removing it in a series
of steps so that in the end, it has been fully removed. Unlike in reconstruction where you remove
all of the old plant material at once, with No-Till renovation you remove the majority of the
material during the preparation, and then the rest of the material is removed via coring while the
new turf is vigorously growing to take its place. Conducting these processes simultaneously
rather than sequentially allows you to minimize your downtime. The net result is that when your
greens are fully converted, there is little if any of the old grass visible in the profile. An
additional benefit is that you did not throw-away much of your desirable old seedbed, but only
the excess organic material in the top 4 inches.