COURSE CARE
Wrapping up the Summer and Prepping for Winter September 17, 2012 By John H. Foy

A hurricane feeder band from Tropical Storm Isaac dropped 17-plus inches of rain all in one day in parts of southeastern Florida. Naturally, extensive damage to bunkers was a problem at some courses caught in the storm’spath.  

It has been another long, hot and humid summer in Florida. Throughout most of the state, frequent and, at times, heavy rainfall has occurred in the last two to three months. Sept. 10 marks the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season, and so far we have been very lucky in avoiding a direct hit. This does not mean, however , that everything has been perfect in paradise. When Tropical Storm Isaac was positioned in the Gulf of Mexico, a massive feeder band stretched from Cuba all the way up the East Coast and resulted in some locations receiving 15 to 20 inches in one day. Along with localized flooding, some courses suffered extensive bunker washout damage. This was certainly a setback because additional labor hours had to be consumed for course cleanup. On the positive side, localized flooding problems quickly dissipated and acceptable playing conditions were restored within a few days. It is still amazing how variable rainfall rates were between golf facilities just a few miles apart.

Another more universal concern for golf facilities throughout the region has been significantly reduced sunlight intensity for consecutive weeks due to persistent and  heavy cloud cover. While Florida may be known as the Sunshine State, during late summer and fall, daily light intensity tends to be consistently below what is required for optimum and balanced bermudagrass growth. This is a concern because with reduced photosynthesis and, in turn, limited carbohydrate production and storage, the turf transitions into late fall and winter in a weakened condition. Especially with putting greens, extra care needs to be exercised with respect to heights of cut so that sufficient leaf surface area is maintained to compensate for the lack of sunlight.

It has been very interesting to observe the marked improvement in overall bermudagrass turf health and quality at golf facilities that are utilizing the putting green management program of maintaining an elevated height of cut in the range of 0.150-inch in combination with strictly applying granular slow-release nitrogen sources. In addition to a dense and healthy turf cover that is less affected by several days of little to no full sunlight, everyone is quite pleased with the fast putting speeds in the range of 10 to 11 feet that are routinely provided. To read more about this alternative putting green management strategy that continues to provide very impressive results, see Changing Times in Bermudagrass Putting Green Management .

If not already performed, courses throughout Florida are in the process of completing a final core aeration on the putting greens as well as tees and through fairways. While nobody enjoys this work, it is extremely important in preparation for the upcoming winter season. With putting greens, it is very important to limit mechanical damage and stress exerted on the turf during a time when very intense environmental stresses are also occurring. Using smaller diameter hollow tines on tighter spacing is suggested as opposed to larger diameter tines. While turf growth is and will continue to occur through September and October, recovery from large diameter hollow tines tends to be much slower.

The Florida Region agronomists are here to assist courses with agronomic issues or concerns. You can reach Todd Lowe, senior agronomist, at (941) 828-2625 or tlowe@usga.org, or John Foy, director, at (772) 546-2620 or jfoy@usga.org.

 

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