The International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC), named 2016 Florida Sports Venue of the Year by the Florida Sports Foundation, has started major renovations and upgrades to polo fields 1, 3, 4, 5 and Outback, ahead of the 2018 polo season.
Each of the fields have been sprigged with TifTuf Bermuda grass, a one-of-a-kind strain of durable Bermuda grass, which will lengthen the longevity and durability of the fields at IPC.
Raymond Mooney, head agronomist at IPC, brings more than two decades of grass and field management experience. He has overseen the entirety of the planting and sprigging process and is impressed with the rapid development of the TifTuf grass.
“TifTuf has been the most impressive Bermuda grass I have seen to date,” Mooney said. “I expect this to be a very good grass for us and a big improvement over Tifway 419. In South Florida, common Bermuda grass will eventually overtake Tifway 419, and I believe that this TifTuf grass will out-compete any of the common Bermuda grasses.”
An extensive amount of research and testing was conducted before the planting and sprigging of the TifTuf Bermuda grass on the IPC fields. Mooney said the new grass clearly outperformed the other strains of grass formerly used at the venue.
“TifTuf has the playability and look of Tifway 419, but significantly outperforms Tifway 419 in drought tolerance, winter growth, and color and nematode tolerance,” he said. “We play the bulk of our polo in the winter months when Tifway 419 is not growing. Switching to TifTuf will help insure we have the best turf quality during the most difficult time of year for Bermuda grass growth.”
The longevity and durability of field grass is crucial when hosting high-goal polo for a prolonged season, and the IPC management team is confident that the conversion from Tifway 419 to TifTuf will be beneficial for both players and the venue looking ahead to the approaching 2018 season.
“The fields did not play to our standards this past season,” said Mark Bellissimo, managing partner of Wellington Equestrian Partners. “The challenge is that over the years, the fields were overrun with common Bermuda grass. After two years of working with this grass, we decided to make a significant investment in ensuring that these are the best polo fields in the world by replanting five of our primary fields with the best grass technology in the world.”
Bellissimo said his company has successfully used TifTuf at other North American venues.
“This strain of grass has a much more significant drought tolerance and uses less water, fertilizer and pesticide maintenance than other formulas of grass we’ve used in the past,” he said. “The footing and playability for players will greatly increase with the addition of this new grass. We’re very eager to see the final results and are pleased with the progress we’ve experienced so far.”
In evaluations conducted by the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program, TifTuf Bermuda grass ranked above popular strains of grass in the following categories: turf grass quality, turf grass quality under drought stress, leaf texture ratings, winter color ratings and spring color ratings. Mooney noted that the performance of TifTuf in each of these categories will improve the overall field quality at IPC.
“I have never seen sprigs green up and root down as quickly as the TifTuf has on our fields,” he said. “I expect the grown-in of the fields to go very quickly and be ready for polo way before polo season. I’m always slow to jump on the bandwagon of new grasses, but the research behind TifTuf is very convincing.”
The 2018 IPC season will begin on Sunday, Dec. 31 and continue through Sunday, April 22, featuring three months of the world’s best high-goal polo. For more information about IPC, visit www.internationalpoloclub.com.
ABOVE: Raymond Mooney shows off the deep roots of the growing TifTuf.