Summer Lessons Learned In 2010 November 3, 2010 By Adam Moeller

July was the hottest month of the summer for the majority of the Northeast Region, and many courses experienced problems as a result of the stressful weather, and damage severity often was related directly to certain infrastructure problems that exist on the golf course.  Correcting these issues will pay off the next time the course experiences stressful weather.  Data source: 

As golf courses in the Northeast transition into late fall, many golfers, course officials, and golf course superintendents continue to reflect on the summer of 2010.  The simple description of the summer conditions can be summed up with two words…extremely hot.  The summer weather wreaked havoc for many golf courses, especially if certain infrastructure problems existed.  For instance, putting greens growing in microclimates with shade and/or airflow problems were often the first to decline.  Greens with poor drainage characteristics, combined with an ill-timed heavy rainfall and hot weather, likely had problems.  Now that the dust has settled, it is important to identify where improvements can be made to prevent similar problems from arising during the next tough summer.  Below are some common infrastructure problems. 

  1. Poor microclimates:  Turf needs ample sunlight and airflow to grow.  These basic physiological requirements transcend trees and vegetation.  Large oscillating fans are excellent tools to supplement airflow and may be necessary on pocketed greens.
  2. Drainage:  Putting greens with poor drainage characteristics are prone to problems when heavy rain and hot weather combine.  Poorly drained greens also tend to have poor soil oxygen, which is crucial for regionalUpdateContent health.  Drainage can be improved by intensive core cultivation, topdressing, deep regionalUpdateContentzone modification, internal drainage installation, and/or reconstruction. 
  3. Irrigation Capabilities:  Complete reliance on automatic overhead irrigation often leads to overwatering in low swales or where coverage overlaps, increasing the likelihood of turf decline.  Indeed, having the ability to provide supplemental hand watering and syringing is highly valuable and recommended.  Budget constraints often are the primary reason for complete reliance on automatic overhead irrigation.
  4. Surface Preparation:  Mowing is a necessary cultural practice, but also it is a form of mechanical stress on turf.  Ultra-low mowing heights, often in response to golfer expectations for fast greens, predispose putting green turf to numerous maladies during the summer.  A sustainable mowing height and green speed range should be established based on the play volume, skill levels, and undulations that exist. 
  5. Concentrated Traffic:  Many putting greens have bunkers, trees/vegetation and/or mounds located adjacent to the primary entry/exit location for golfers playing the hole.  Adjusting traffic patterns can be accomplished by altering these features or through proper cart path design.


If more than one of the infrastructure problems listed above are present at your course, the potential for turf problems to arise is elevated, especially during tough weather.  In many cases this summer, infrastructure problems were not severe and the weather alone was still too much for the turf to handle.  However, golf courses with severe infrastructure problems were hit hardest, highlighting the need for corrective measures  in the future. 

Current Golf Course Activities 

Golf course maintenance over the past few weeks has scaled back at most facilities.  Turf growth has slowed significantly since the recent hard frosts.  Mowing of putting greens, tees, and fairways should be performed as needed over the next few weeks until turf growth ceases completely.  Leaf cleanup is a considerable focus for the majority of courses.  This activity can be a very labor intensive and time consuming task, especially for those with limited staffs.  Irrigation systems are being blown out to avoid damage that can be caused by freezing and thawing inside pipes during winter.  Preventative snow mold disease applications are being performed throughout the region.  Finally, many golf courses are preparing temporary greens on approaches or fairways to avoid damaging the putting greens during winter play.         

Turf Advisory Service Visit 

USGA agronomists can provide insightful and vital information involving all areas of golf course maintenance to help maximize turf health, playability, and efficiency. Contact Dave Oatis, director,; Adam Moeller, agronomist ; or Jim Skorulski, senior agronomist, for a Turf Advisory Service visit this season.