COURSE CARE
Spring, Summer, Fall And It’s Only July July 7, 2010 By R.A. (Bob) Brame

Although summer officially just started on June the 21st, for some superintendents in the lower North Central Region, the turf weakening/loss over the last half of June has made it feel like mid-to-late summer.  Specifically, the combination of high temperatures and saturated soils has brought on some turf decline.  And yet, the cool-down coming into July is more reflective of fall than summer.  What’s next?  Time will tell, but clearly the weather to come will directly impact both golf turf maintenance and playability.  Golfers who want the same day after day should consider bowling because golf will never go there. 

It is very important to remember that water holds heat more efficiently than air.  As a result, saturated soils will register a higher temperature, which can bring on physiological decline of cool-season grasses.  If the higher temperature alone is not enough, consider oxygen.  When the soil structure holds moisture, commonly there will be inadequate oxygen to sustain healthy turfgrass growth.  Add daily traffic and mix in high disease pressure, and you’ve got a recipe for decline.  Ultimately, the mowing height, microenvironment (sunlight and air movement), fertilization, aeration and irrigation are vitally important components; however, the decline observed in June pointed to inadequate aeration as the pivotal issue.  That is…the lack of aeration pore space in the regionalUpdateContent zone to properly accommodate the free movement of oxygen, water and regionalUpdateContents. 

The process of core aeration to physically modify a portion of the upper profile, which is commonly done over the fall and/or spring, is ultimately the anchor in the aeration program.  Inadequate core aeration (upper profile modification) will set the stage for decline, especially when weather conditions are harsh (hot and wet).  Since core aeration, plug removal and channel filling is not doable during the heat of summer, small diameter solid tines can be used to reintroduce oxygen and assist water movement.  Any time the upper profile is saturated (moisture can be squeezed out) and the temperature is elevated, opening and venting should be pursued.  There is some stress to summer opening and venting with small diameter solid tines, but inadequate oxygen, wet wilt, physiological decline and more pronounced disease pressure are far greater concerns.    

In addition to the U.S. Open Championship at Pebble Beach, The Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship was held in South Bend, Indiana at The Notre Dame Warren Golf Course ( http://www.usga.org/ChampEventSite.aspx?id=17179869344). Despite regular rainfall that totaled nearly three-inches for the Championship, Matt Cielen and his staff did a superb job. If you’re ever in South Bend be sure to allow time for a round. 

Call any time to discuss specific concerns at your operation or to schedule an on-site visit – we’re always available.    

Source:  Bob Brame, bobbrame@usga.org or 859.356.3272

More from the USGA