COURSE CARE
A Really Dry, Dry Season February 27, 2015

A Really Dry, Dry Season



By John Foy, Director
April 1, 2009

With the economic woes dominating the news, there has been very little talk about the La Nina condition in the Pacific Ocean: the occurrence of cooler ocean surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific region. A La Nina condition developed in the mid-fall of 2008, and is currently predicted to last into May 2009. Although thousands of miles away, it still impacts Florida weather patterns; i.e. the early onset and persistence of below average temperatures and reduced rainfall. Cool to cold temperatures limit or even stop warm season turfgrass growth, which, in turn, exacerbates cart traffic wear and damage problems through fairway and rough areas. At all facilities with moderate to heavy winter season play, cart traffic management must be an integral and ongoing part of routine course management.

The winter and spring months are the dry season in Florida. Yet, as a result of the La Nina condition, rainfall or, more accurately, the lack of rain over the past 4 months, is approaching all time record levels. It was recently reported that for most of the state a rainfall deficit of 10 to 14 inches exists. In some locations, less than 2 inches of rain have fallen since November 2008.

Naturally, with very limited rainfall occurring regular supplemental irrigation is essential; and any and all limitations in irrigation system coverage and control are highlighted. At this same time a year ago, the state was in the midst of a severe drought and most of the water management districts had mandated irrigation restrictions that included golf courses. The South Florida Water Management District has not yet reinstated irrigation restrictions that include golf courses, but it is extremely important that all facilities abide by their consumptive use permits. Both bermudagrass and seashore paspalum have very good drought tolerance, and dry and firm overall course conditioning is truly best, yet, a lot of golfers still expect wall-to-wall green turf, and this is a hurdle that must be overcome.

With the probability of very limited rainfall for at least another couple of months, the following are a few suggestions to minimize the impacts of the drought:

    1. Judicious fertilization - Coming out of the winter, adequate nutrients must be available to support sustained and balanced turf growth for recovery from traffic wear and damage. Applications of high rates of soluble nitrogen that result in excessive top growth should be avoided.
    2. Maximize irrigation effectiveness and efficiency - Deep and infrequent watering promotes healthy and deep roots. This irrigation regime also is best for minimizing the salt buildup in the upper root zone. Relieving soil compaction and wetting agent treatments are measures that help ensure maximum water infiltration so that deep watering cycles can be conducted.
    3. Continue to aggressively control cart traffic - Quite simply, drought stressed turf has greatly reduced tolerance to traffic.

Green Section agronomists across the country are acutely aware of the problems and challenges brought about by the economic downturn, combined with increases in course maintenance costs. We can share an extensive list of cost savings measures with golf course superintendents and course officials as well as allocating time during a Turf Advisory Service (TAS) visit for a presentation focusing on the impacts on course conditioning when budget reductions must be made.

The $500 discount for TAS visits is available for a limited time only (must be prepaid by May 15 th , 2009). Please call our office if you would like information about TAS visits, or go to the USGA Green Section Web site: http://www.usga.org/turf/turf_advisory_service/turf_advisory_service.html

Source: John Foy, jfoy@usga.org or 772-546-2620