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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Course Teaches Turf Management Beyond the Classroom

November 21, 2006

Editor's note: Photographs of the trip to New York are available. Contact Ken Chamberlain at (330) 263-3779 or

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A group of Ohio State University turfgrass science students are learning about the delicate balance that exists between managing high-value turfgrass and environmental stewardship through a class that took them on a recent visit to several of the world's most exclusive golf courses, Yankee Stadium and Central Park.

Mike Boehm, an Ohio State University plant pathology professor, incorporated a trip to Long Island and New York City in his plant pathology course, "Integrated Turfgrass Health Management." The course, which uses a problem-based approach to learning, teaches techniques of proper turfgrass management to aspiring professional turfgrass managers. The visit took the students to Sebonack Golf Club, National Golf Links of America, Yankee Stadium and Central Park.

Over the past 10 years, Boehm and his students have worked with golf course superintendents and sports field managers throughout Ohio to develop environmentally sound integrated turfgrass health management programs. This is the first time golf clubs outside of the state have become part of the course.

"Golf course visits are used as the centerpiece for the class for students to learn about potential environmental problems associated with golf courses and what those clubs are doing to make them more sustainable when it comes to chemical inputs and pest management," said Boehm, who holds appointments with Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. "The trip to New York was to explore IPM techniques in an environmentally sensitive part of the country."

Students taking the course work with golf course superintendents and professional sports field managers to explore the many complexities of intensively managed turfgrass. The students listen to concerns, make on-site visits, take soil and tissue samples and analyze the results of such tests.

"We were extremely fortunate to be able to make this trip and visit the locations that we did," said Boehm. "All provided excellent learning opportunities for how to manage turfgrass by using environmentally sound management practices."

Boehm said that integrated turfgrass health management follows the same concept as preventive health in humans or animals, focusing on design concepts and management techniques that improve health and enhance long-term sustainability while at the same time provide outstanding turfgrass quality and performance. The use of an integrated turfgrass health management strategy is most commonly applied to golf courses, athletic fields and parks and recreational areas where environmental or health concerns are perceived or actually exist.

"You design a golf course that makes the most environmental sense based on your situation. That design dictates what you have to do to properly manage the course and the energy needed to devote to system inputs," said Boehm. "If you build an environmentally sustainable course, you are not going to completely eliminate pests and diseases, but you are likely to have fewer problems. And from there all other inputs to the system will be minimal."

The final outcome of the golf course visits is the development of an integrated turfgrass health management plan, which the students are required to present to the ownership of the clubs.

Boehm said that problem-based learning is meant to free students from the confines of a classroom and allow them to apply what they have learned in their formal coursework and internship/work experiences. "It's like the Chinese Proverb: ‘Tell me and I'll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I'll understand,'" he said.


Candace Pollock
Mike Boehm