COURSE CARE
Special Notice July 27, 2010 By Stanley J. Zontek

(L) The hot and dry June has now been followed by a hot, humid and wet period that is stressing golf course turfgrass throughout the region.  (R) Take steps to raise mowing heights, mow less(roll to replace mowing), etc.  This course is taking the added step of using lattice work to protect collars from the turning of mowers, which can be quite abrasive when the grass is under heat stress.  It is the little things that can make a difference.

The summer of 2010 is on a pace to break all temperature records in most of the Mid-Atlantic region.  As of today, the month of June was the warmest in history for Philadelphia.  The Washington, D.C. area has had forty days of 90+ degree temperatures and we are still in July.   

The agronomists of the Mid-Atlantic Region believe it is necessary and appropriate to send special letters to USGA member courses on “defensive maintenance and management programs” as long as these weather extremes continue.  Obviously, extra care must be taken to pamper the grass through this difficult weather.  Equally, extra understanding from golfers can help achieve that goal.  It is a common problem for everyone.  If we all work together and do what is best for the grass, the summer of 2010 will one day be nothing more than just a bad memory.   

This letter also will be sent to golf associations and regional golf course superintendent organizations. In this way, information can be made available to all golf courses, whether or not they are USGA members (and we hope most are).   

The letter follows: 

WEATHER ALERT & TURF LOSS ADVISORY

Periodically, the agronomists of the Mid-Atlantic region send letters to USGA member courses pertaining to extraordinary weather conditions and turf-loss-related matters.  The weather experienced during the summer of 2010 has prompted this letter.   

Our goal is to alert golfers and turf managers alike that this extended period of heat and drought -- followed by heat, humidity and thunderstorms -- has caused and probably will continue to cause turf stress and turf loss problems throughout the region.  No two golf courses are alike, having different grasses, soils, course features and golfer expectations.  It is important that golf course superintendents use “defensive golf course maintenance and management programs.”  That is, be conservative.  Pamper the grass.  The turfgrass is under intense weather stress, which is compounded by an increase in disease pressure.  Be more concerned about plant health than green speed!!!  There is an old adage in our industry -- “slow grass is better than no grass.”  This is not a joke.  It needs to be taken seriously. 

Suggested “defensive” management programs include: 

  • Compress spray programs.  With heat, humidity and thunderstorms, fungicides do not last as long and disease pressure is greater.  There is no better money spent than to protect the grass from disease.
  • Raise mowing heights and use sharp mowers.  This can help the grass survive.
  • Mow less…roll more.  The goal is to reduce mechanical stress to the grass plant.
  • Switch from grooved rollers to solid rollers, and protect collars from the turning of mowers.
  • Spoonfeed the grass.  Spray weekly with light rates of nutrients, iron (to keep the grass green), and growth regulators.  Excessive grass growth depletes carbohydrates (plant food).
  • Air drainage.  On shaded or pocketed greens, prune limbs, use fans and generally keep the air moving.  When you are hot, you stand in front of a fan to cool yourself.  When the grass is stressed, it needs good air movement as well.  Drier turf is also less prone to disease.
  • DO NOT OVER-WATER.  Hand water if possible.  Lightly syringe the turf with the nozzle -- never going past horizontal.  Any mid-day watering should be focused on cooling the canopy.  If you are wetting the soil, it’s too much! Remember, you can always add more water, but wet, saturated soil can damage regionalUpdateContents, increase disease and contribute to turf loss via the Wet Wilt Syndrome.  If corrective watering needs to be done for dry spots, the extra water should be applied in the early morning or late in the evening.  Do not over-water the grass in mid-day heat. 
  • Surface aerate the greens.  This allows the soil to breath, excess moisture to escape, and regionalUpdateContents to regrow, thereby helping the grass to survive. 

 

In summary, be careful.  This may be one of our hottest summers in decades.  We all share the responsibility of keeping the turf on our golf courses as healthy as possible during this period of extreme weather.  Again, be careful and have realistic expectations for golf course playability

The Mid-Atlantic Region agronomists are part of your agronomic support team.  If you have a question or concern, give us a call or send an e-mail. 

Glen Mills office:  Stan Zontek (szontek@usga.org) and Darin Bevard (dbevard@usga.org) at (610) 558-9066. 

Pittsburgh office:   Keith Happ (khapp@usga.org) at (412) 341-5922.