COURSE CARE
Management Tips For Hot, Wet Weather July 9, 2013 By Darin S. Bevard

(L) Cart traffic damaged a lot of grass over the past weekend in the Mid-Atlantic region. While this grass is not necessarily dead, these brown tracks will be visible for a long time. Golf carts on stressed grass can have devastating effects, which means traffic management is critical when stress levels are high. (R) Bermudagrass sprigs are planted in a fairway. More golf facilities are converting to bermudagrass fairways in the Mid-Atlantic region in hopes of providing better season-long playing conditions, while reducing inputs of fungicides and water. 

A large portion of the Mid-Atlantic region has been inundated with rain in recent weeks. For most of the region, average rainfall for June is around 3.5 inches. In Wilmington, Del., 14 inches of rain fell in June. On the Delmarva coast and Virginia Tidewater, rainfall totals of 15 inches for June are common. While temperatures have not been sweltering, they have been hot enough to create stress on fine turf areas. This is actually a common occurrence during Mid-Atlantic summers, so how can you beat the heat and rain?

  • Manage Traffic – If possible, keep golf carts out of fairways under hot and/or saturated conditions. Ironically, during a brief period of dry weather, damage from golf cart traffic was noted on one golf course. In some areas, the damage appeared to be wet wilt and in others dry wilt. On putting greens, be mindful of walk-on/walk-off areas that can thin out rapidly under hot, wet conditions. Managing traffic is critical.
  • Vent the Soil Profile – Aerating with small solid tines will allow air to enter the soil profile, and hopefully allow the soil to dry out to a degree. Generally, these small tines do not disrupt playability, but they can be a huge help to the turf.
  • Tighten Fungicide Intervals – Disease breakthroughs have been observed in spite of solid fungicide programs. With repeated rainfall, fungicide residual can be reduced. More importantly, with high humidity, frequent rainfall and high temperatures, your golf course can become a petri dish for turfgrass disease. Do not expect the same control intervals with fungicide applications under current weather conditions that you received earlier in the season.
  • Be Conservative – If the greens or fairways are too wet to mow, then do not mow. There is always pressure to meet expectations, but nobody wants to see thinning or dying grass due to self-inflicted injury. Communicate with course officials as to why certain maintenance practices have been suspended. Let them know that normal mowing schedules will resume when the weather allows.
  • Consider Another Grass – With the finer-textured, cold-tolerant bermudagrasses that are available, more and more golf facilities are converting fairways to bermudagrass. They are tired of fighting the battle with cool-season fairways during the summer months only to have the grass decline anyway in July and August. Bermudagrass requires fewer fungicides and less water while providing excellent mid-season playing conditions on fairways and tees.

Source: Darin S. Bevard (dbevard@usga.org

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