Expert say on everyday issues

Although I certainly don’t remember everything from my college days 20 or so years ago, I do remember the answer to one particular question: What is the definition of a weed?

A weed is simply an unwanted plant. For some reason I always thought this was fascinating. Anything could be a weed, as long as it fit that simple criterion of being unwanted.

Who gets to make the decision on a golf course about the plant in question is another matter altogether. Is it a golfer, the spray tech, the club owner, the superintendent? Is it possible the answers may vary from course to course?

What’s that saying: “One man’s oyster is another man’s pearl?” What may be a weed to one of these folks may be a very desirable plant to another.

I bring this up because spring is nearly upon us, and I’ll soon venture out with some pre-emergent herbicide to attack some “weeds” on the golf course. And I’m having that inner discussion with myself that I usually have this time of year. Am I truly spraying weeds? At least in my mind’s eye are they weeds?

What I’m getting at here is tolerance. Or, more to the point, tolerance levels. I’m not really debating if I believe dandelions or chickweeds are weeds. Of course they’re weeds. But what level of dandelions is acceptable in a fairway? Is it the same level of acceptance given to the primary rough or the green surrounds? What is the tolerance level? Can it be higher than zero?

The owner at the club I work for is also the person I work directly for and answer to. Although our management philosophies tend to mirror each other’s in most respects, we do view weed tolerance levels slightly differently. A former golf pro, the owner knows his business, and knows it well, both from a golfing perspective and from a maintenance point of view. Although he’s on page in most respects with the future of golf being less “green” than we American superintendents have made it in the 30 years or so (or perhaps have been forced to make it), weeds are just something he can’t quite get himself to tolerate.

I used to be there with him. Any unwanted plant had to go. But somewhere along the line my personal tolerance of weeds has significantly increased. Although I still don’t like the little buggers anywhere near a tee top or approach, or a green or tee surround, I don’t mind certain weeds in the fairways or rough.

As far as fairways, smaller weeds like common chickweed and even clover can, if they’re not actually taking over a stand of healthy turf, be allowed to survive.

In the rough my tolerance expands even more. Larger weeds like dandelions or English daisy, as long as they’re in the rough, don’t bother me like they used to. They flower for only a short time, and when they’re not flowering you pretty much don’t see them unless you’re standing right on top of one. And if your ball is nestled into or on top of one, is that really such a bad thing? Isn’t it the rough after all? Shouldn’t there be a certain hit-or-miss chance of a penalty?

Restrictions and bans of certain herbicides are coming, and in some cases are already in effect. Alternative methods of controlling weeds will have to be found – that along with new tolerance levels of those weeds.

Acceptance levels. This is the real root of the issue here (no pun intended).

I certainly understand the owner’s desire for a weed-free stand of turf. And I’m sure he understands to some extent my newfound desire to not spray every single unwanted plant on the golf course. Those days, for better or worse, are gone for most of us.

For now I think we’ve found a happy medium. I still treat more weeds than I would if it were my golf course, and the owner allows more weeds than he probably wants to.