Update from the Sunshine State
After experiencing a record setting rainfall deficit from November 2008 through May 2009, the early start of the summer rainy season in Florida was welcomed by all. While the city of Naples and portions of the panhandle continue to be the exception, most of the state has received frequent and, at times, heavy rainfall as a result of typical afternoon thunderstorms. While we should not complain about the rain, going from one extreme to the other results in golf course and turfgrass management challenges. At many courses, prolific fairy ring, Pythium, bermudagrass decline disease, and a flush of weeds has occurred.
Another consequence of the rainy season is reduced sunlight intensity due to prolonged cloud cover. While golfers and the course maintenance staff appreciate the clouds, bermudagrass turf does not. Reduced sunlight causes stress on the turf, particularly close cut putting greens. To compensate, increasing the height of cut ensures sufficient leaf surface is present for photosynthesis and carbohydrate production.
Florida bermudagrass putting greens accumulate thatch (organic matter) at an accelerated rate, and putting greens must be aerated several times each summer. Core aeration is a much maligned practice as it temporarily disrupts golf course playing conditions by decreasing ball roll smoothness and uniformity. Some may feel that golf course superintendents enjoy upsetting golfers by poking holes in the greens and dumping tons of sand on them. In reality, core aeration is a disruptive practice on the staff as well, as it means long hours in hot, humid weather, not to mention that the extra sand wreaks havoc on mowers. There is no question that the long-term benefits of core aeration far outweigh these short-term inconveniences.
The USGA is sympathetic to significant impacts the current economic recession is having on operating revenues. USGA Green Section agronomists can conduct Turf Advisory Service (TAS) visits to specifically review golf course maintenance operations and offer suggestions and recommendations on cost saving measures while continuing to provide the level of quality and conditioning desired. If cutting costs is the only option, educating course officials and golfers on the impacts of these decisions can be the focus of the site visit and follow-up report. Budget preparations for 2010 are underway at many courses in Florida. There will not be an increase in TAS visit fees for 2010.