Rain, Rain, Please Come Today

By John H. Foy, director, Florida Region
June 16, 2011

Along with increased fairy ring and localized dry spot problems on putting greens (L), cart and equipment traffic damage is much more of a problem on Florida courses because of the severe drought (R).   


June 1 marks the beginning of the Atlantic hurricane season, and typically by this date afternoon thunderstorms occur on a regular basis throughout Florida. However, a record-setting drought continues to plague the state. Palm Beach County, the Treasure Coast region, and the southeast coast have been especially hard-hit and are experiencing rainfall deficits of 30 inches or more for the past 12 months.  A Phase 1 water use restriction (15 percent reduction) was mandated for all golf courses in the South Florida Water Management District; and on June 1 monthly allocation reductions also took effect, further reducing the water available for irrigation. The result is a marked increase in drought stress and off-color turf on golf courses. 

During recent Turf Advisory Service visits, a greater incidence and more severe outbreaks of fairy rings are occurring on putting greens due to the drought and heat stress. Adjustments in course management programs are essential to minimize turf damage and loss until rainfall occurs on a regular basis.

Bermudagrasses and seashore paspalum have good to excellent drought tolerance, although continuing to maintain very low heights of cut on bermudagrass putting greens results in reduced root system development and depth, further reducing the turf’s drought stress tolerance. It is extremely important to continually and closely monitor putting greens for signs of drought stress, and to hand-water or syringe the putting greens as needed. Turf and drought stress do not take the weekends off so this is a seven-day-a-week job.  Slightly increase heights of cut and exercise care with verticutting and other cultural practices to minimize the amount of mechanical stress exerted on the turf. 

At least one, and in some cases two, core aerations have taken place on putting greens at courses throughout the state. However, fairway and rough aeration, verticutting, and/or scalping typically are just getting started. Reducing and controlling thatch accumulation and surface compaction is very important for increased and more uniform moisture infiltration. However, these cultural management practices also can result in accelerated moisture loss from the root zone, thereby increasing the turf’s moisture needs. If there are limitations in the amount of water available for course irrigation, delay large acreage aeration and verticutting programs until the drought is over. Another option is conducting these practices on only one or two holes at a time so that it is possible to keep up with irrigation needs. Other helpful measures or adjustments until the drought breaks are raising heights of cut, reducing the mowing frequency, and continuing to routinely inject or make broadcast applications of wetting agents.

Last, but certainly not least, is keeping cart and equipment traffic off areas that are exhibiting severe drought stress. Otherwise, additional turf damage, and possibly even loss, will occur. Keep all golfers aware that their activities have a direct impact on conditioning and ultimately course quality. 

The severe drought that has plagued Florida will come to an end at some point, but be careful what you ask for. Multiple tropical storms or hurricanes will quickly erase a rainfall deficit, but this is not the most desirable way for a drought to end. 

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


Partner Links
AmEx image
AmEx image
AmEx image
AmEx image

The USGA and Chevron have committed to using the game of golf to encourage students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines. This commitment has led to the creation of extensive golf-focused STEM teaching tools, and has resulted in charitable contributions to support golf-related programs through Eagles for Education™

At U.S. Open Championships the Chevron STEM ZONE™ is an interactive experience highlighting the science and math behind the game of golf through a variety of hands-on exhibits and experiments.

The partnership has also produced educational materials such as the Science of Golf video series and a nationally-distributed newspaper insert which are provided to teachers as tools to enhance existing curriculum in schools. These lessons teach the science behind the USGA’s equipment testing, handicapping, and agronomy efforts.

For more interactive experiences featuring golf-focused STEM lessons, visit the partnership homepage.

Chevron image

Rolex has been a longtime supporter of the USGA and salutes the sportsmanship and great traditions unique to the game. This support includes the Rules of Golf where Rolex has partnered with the USGA to ensure golfers understand and appreciate the game.

As the official timekeeper of the USGA and its championships, they also provide clocks throughout host sites for spectator convenience.

For more information on Rolex and their celebration of the game, visit the Rolex and Golf homepage.

Rolex image

IBM has partnered with the USGA to bring the same technology, expertise, and innovation it provides to businesses all over the world to the USGA and golf's national championship.

IBM provides the information technology to develop and host the U.S. Open’s official website, www.usopen.com, as well as the mobile apps and scoring systems for the three U.S. Open championships. These real-time technology solutions provide an enhanced experience for fans following the championship onsite and online.

For more information on IBM and the technology that powers the U.S. Open and businesses worldwide, visit http://www.usopen.com/IBM

AmEx image

Lexus is committed to partnering with the USGA to deliver a best-in-class experience for the world’s best golfers by providing a fleet of courtesy luxury vehicles for all USGA Championships.

At each U.S. Open, Women’s Open and Senior Open, Lexus provides spectators with access to unique experiences ranging from the opportunity to have a picture taken with both the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open trophies to autograph signings with legendary Lexus Golf Ambassadors in the Lexus Performance Drive Pavilion.

For more information on Lexus, visit http://www.lexus.com/

AmEx image
American Express

Together, American Express and the USGA have been providing world-class service to golf fans since 2006. By creating interactive U.S. Open experiences both onsite and online, American Express enhances the USGA’s effort to make the game more accessible and enjoyable for fans.

For more information on American Express visit www.americanexpress.com/entertainment

AmEx image