Rye Golf Club’s Greens Turn Brown

Rye Golf Club is in the midst of a crisis — again. All of the putting greens are closed, so golfers play on temporary greens mowed in the fairways.

Published June 25, 2015 10:39 PM
3 min read


golf-thRye Golf Club is in the midst of a crisis — again. All of the putting greens are closed, so golfers play on temporary greens mowed in the fairways.

By Melanie Cane

golf-pg5Rye Golf Club is in the midst of a crisis — again. All of the putting greens are closed, so golfers play on temporary greens mowed in the fairways.


Discovering the cause of the greens’ deterioration played out like a detective novel, with RGC Superintendent Chip Lafferty, who is responsible for the maintenance of the golf course, playing the chief investigator.

In early May, when the spring seeding started to germinate, Lafferty noticed that the sprouts “looked odd.” The course had been sprayed with a fungicide, which is routine practice, on May 7. Two days later, Lafferty noticed the odd sprouts and immediately sent a sample to Turf Diagnostics Lab, who told him there was nothing to worry about. After the next spraying, the greens looked worse and Lafferty sent more samples for diagnosis. Once again, he was told not to worry.

By Memorial Day, the greens had deteriorated further and Lafferty was “so shocked at the degree of turf loss in ten days,” that he asked Dr. Nathanial Metkowski of the University of Rhode Island, who has worked with the club previously, to come examine the greens. Metkowski advised the club to stop spraying and to close the course to foot traffic for a week.

Subsequent to Metkowski’s evaluation, the club hired two more agronomy consultants: Steve McDonald, MS of Turf Disease Solutions, and Dr. John Inguagiato of UConn. Their final reports are pending review of some lab studies that are ongoing.

Jim Buonaiuto, RGC’s general manager, said, “The preliminary information points to the club having healthy turf prior to the issues that we began to experience in May, and that the issues could not have been naturally occurring and should not have been caused by the products that the club was using on the greens.”

In early June, United Turf Alliance, LLC stopped selling ALT 70, the fungicide that RGC and many others clubs use, following reports of compromised turfgrass after the product was applied on as many as eight courses, from Connecticut to Kentucky. On June 18, the company recalled the lot numbers sold to RGC, as well as several other golf clubs due to an internal investigation that revealed contamination with sulfometuron methyl, an herbicide.

RGC is awaiting a visit from the USGA consultant on July 7 in order to arrive at and implement the best solution for recovery. The course is currently open to members and their guests, with temporary greens. Buonaiuto reports, “We are observing significant recovery of the putting greens thanks to our aeration and overseeding efforts and allowing the putting greens to rest from foot traffic.The collars around the greens and the approaches up to the greens have not shown signs of recovery, because rye grass seems to be the most affected by the herbicide. So we are planning on removing the dead sod layer and replacing it with new sod.”

Leon Sculti, Chair of the Rye Golf Club Commission, urged members to be patient. He said, “We will sort out the financial issues, including member reimbursement, at the end of the season.” Golf pro Mike Rapisarda said the tournament schedule is up in the air and posting of scores has been suspended indefinitely.

To help ease some of the golfers’ frustrations, the club is allowing weekday members to play on weekends, reducing the price of carts, and allowing golfers some use of the pool and reducing guest fees. These incentives offer little solace to many of the members. At a recent RGC Commission meeting, members expressed outrage over the situation, as well as what they called the overdue nature of needed repairs to the course such as irrigation and drainage.


Commission member Pat Geoghegan replied to the members’ complaints saying, “Maybe good will come out of this bad situation… perhaps the problems with the course that preceded the current situation will be rectified during the remediation process.” 



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