As superintendent at a mid-tier community golf course with limited resources, Mike Johnson was keen to make his water budget stretch further. So, in what has been labelled a first, Nara Native Zoysia has been trialled on a Queensland golf course Sandra Godwin explains.

A former lawn and landscape business owner, Mike Johnson started looking for a more drought tolerant turf – one that would give him the flexibility to use water in areas other than on the Pine Rivers Golf Club greens and tees at Kurwongbah, in Brisbane’s northern suburbs of Queensland.

About three years ago, the club received a grant which it used to demolish an old house and build a practice area using several different grass varieties.

Mick Cutts, who owns I Love Turf at Coochin Creek and is a club sponsor, donated a quantity of Winter Green and Nara Native Zoysia to the project which also made use of some pre-existing Kikuyu.

“The idea was that anybody who had any questions about the turf could come to us,” Mike said.

“Everybody looks at a golf course and wonders how we do it. We put the Nara Native in a high wear area around the practice bunker, and around some of the fringes on the bottom side where it would get most use; mainly because its root structure was a far better option.”

Since then, the Nara Native Zoysia has impressed Mike with its durability and low water consumption, especially during 2019 which was a very dry year.

The Nara Native is not automatically irrigated, relying on natural rain and is manually watered only when it “looks sad”.

“It’s not the fastest at coming back but with the amount of traffic that was over it, within half an hour it had bounced back,” Mike explained.

“Generally, all year it came back faster on average than anything else, and it looked better.”

After becoming course superintendent last year, Mike decided it was time to test Nara Native Zoysia on another high traffic area, the course’s tee blocks.

With turf provided by I Love Turf and products and advice from LawnPride consultant Dallas “Rusty” Garton,  the 300 square metre double tee block that services both the 12th and 15th holes was converted from Couch in February.

Mike said the turf took within three days, which he attributes to “exceptional prep work”.

Gypsum was added to the profile before laying the turf and once suitable levels were achieved LawnPride’s Under Turf Fertiliser containing water crystals was applied. It was lightly raked into the top layer of the profile to aid turf establishment and increase water retention.

Rootmaxx which was applied after installation provided exceptional results with the turf pegging down in a matter of days.

The Nara Native Zoysia was watered once, straight after laying, and mowed four times in the first fortnight before being top-dressed with sand as part of its preparation for the club championships this May.

Mick said Nara Native Zoysia was well-suited to the hard, rocky ground and once established its thick growth habit would resist infestation by weeds.

As an all-purpose native variety, Nara Native Zoysia also complements the mostly Australian native vegetation on the Pine Rivers course.

Interestingly, this appears to be the first time an Australian golf course has tried Zoysia Nara, which is traditionally used in the residential market.

“The only places I can find Nara Native Zoysia used outside the residential market has been in easements, erosion control banks,” Dallas said.

“There is no literature I can find that Nara Native Zoysia has been used on a golf course. I’m calling it the first of its kind. I’m quite happy to correct it, if we get proved different, but if it’s been kept quiet, why? That’s what I’d be more interested in. I can see this working for the Club. We were laying the last slabs and members were walking past saying it looks sensational, so it was catching people’s eyes straightaway.”

Dallas said the trial would attract a lot of interest from managers of other golf courses and he expected some to follow suit given the advantages.

“Nara Native’s a lot easier to look after than say, a standard Couch tee block,” Dallas explained. “There’s less mowing, it needs less nutrition and it’s drought tolerant. I can see a lot of areas where there has been Couch grass or Kikuyu being swapped over to Nara Native Zoysia in the future.”

Mick agreed, adding there was a potential market for Nara Native Zoysia at golf courses like Pine Rivers, particularly those located in areas with limited access to irrigation water.

“There’s potentially a spot for Nara Native on tee blocks and in areas that are prone to erosion where it can do its thing,” he said.

Pine Rivers Golf Club opened in April 1975 as a nine-hole course, expanding to 18 holes in 1984. With a slope rating of 129, it has some of the toughest holes and truest greens in south east Queensland.