Adjust And Adapt July 7, 2010 By Keith Happ

Managing golf course turf is about managing soil moisture.  It is far better to be dry and have total control over the amount of water applied to maintain turf health.  Conversely, if it is wet, it is about soil drainage or just trying to dry the profile so the turf can survive the other elements that occur during the summer.  In the Mid-Atlantic Region we have experienced conditions ranging from too much rain to a full- blown drought.

For example, this is advance week for the USGA Women’s Open Championship at Oakmont CC.  Over a seven-week period prior to the event, 10.5 inches of rain has fallen.  Although Oakmont has had an abundance of rain, just east of Pittsburgh, down to and including most of the eastern half of this region, it has been very, very dry.  In the central and eastern portions of the States of Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, dry conditions required intense water application to maintain turf growth.  To maintain turf health, it is important to use water only where needed, and this often requires hand- held irrigation rather than indiscriminant application that affects playability and wastes water.    

There are several strategies to dry moist soil profiles in greens.  For the most part, it is about air and evaporation.  At Oakmont this week, the greens were aerated six days before the first practice round.  This decision was made by golf course superintendent John Zimmers and supported by the Green Section staff.  Small diameter (3 mm) solid tines were used, and the machine was adjusted to achieve a 3-inch depth.  A tight spacing pattern was used to create as many holes as possible.  The goal was to vent the soil to stimulate evaporation of excess soil moisture.  Research has demonstrated that as little as a 3 mph breeze passing over the surface of the turf will produce an evaporative effect.  Stimulating this effect and reducing soil moisture could mean the difference between minor turf stress and turf loss!  This is a fine line, and at times there is little margin for error during harsh environmental conditions.   (Note: Who said putting greens are never aerated prior to a tournament/championship?)

That’s our final message.  As the near record-breaking temperatures return next week, BE CAREFUL with water, close mowing, double cutting, heavy maintenance, and topdressings.  Don’t stress the turf mechanically when it is already under environmental stress.

Finally, be sure to watch the 2010 USGA Women’s Open Championship from beautiful and challenging Oakmont CC.

Always remember that the agronomists of the Mid-Atlantic Region are part of your agronomic support team.  If you have a question or concern, especially now, give us a call or send an e-mail.  Stan Zontek, ( or Darin Bevard ( at 610-558-9066 or Keith Happ at ( at 412-341-5922.