Still Trying To Catch Up From The Summer

By John H. Foy, director, Florida Region
November 14, 2012

(Left) After a tough late summer and early fall, bermudagrass fairways and roughs at some courses are in a weakened condition heading into the winter play season. (Right) The high winds of Tropical Storm Sandy in combination with high tides caused significant salt damage at several coastal courses.

 

At courses throughout Central and South Florida, the focus of efforts over the past six to eight weeks has been completion of final preparations for the 2012/2013 winter golf season. Unfortunately, a very common concern that has been encountered during recent TAS visits is fairway turf conditions. Heading into the time when peak seasonal play will be hosted, difficulties have been experienced in fully recovering from the environmental stresses of the late summer and early fall and in turn providing the type of conditioning and quality desired.

Late summer and early fall weather in Florida can be far from conducive to healthy bermudagrass turf growth. This has certainly been the case this year because of the frequent and at times very heavy rainfall that occurred. This is the normal rainy season for Florida; but in most areas, year to date totals are 15 to 20-inches above normal. A primary consequence of the very heavy rainfall that occurred during August, September and early October was rapid leaching and depletion of required nutrients from the soil. When combined with the persistence of low light conditions due to cloud cover, photosynthesis, carbohydrate production and storage were greatly restricted. Thus, along with a lack of density, bermudagrass is in a weakened condition heading into the winter. Increased bulk granular fertilization of fairways and roughs has been conducted at most courses over the past few weeks. However, the growth and recovery response has been much slower than desired and needed.

Tropical Storm Sandy also had an impact on many Florida golf courses, even though it remained well off the east coast of Florida. This was not a major rain event; but with constant high storm force winds for several days, the rapid onset of drought stress further exacerbated weak turf conditions. On top of this, some courses are still recovering from salt damage caused from this storm. When followed by a very early season cold front and low 50° temperatures in South Florida, another setback in turf growth and recovery was experienced. As already noted, it is very important to continue with regular, adequate and balanced fertilization to support continuation of turf growth and some additional recovery from the challenging weather conditions of the past few months. Also as discussed in the previous regional update by Todd Lowe (Manage Cart Traffic Proactively), it is very important to start now and be proactive with traffic control measures to minimize course damage to the degree possible through the winter play season.

The Florida regional agronomists are here to help courses with agronomic issues or concerns. You can reach Todd Lowe, Senior Agronomist, at 941-828-2625  tlowe@usga.org, or John Foy, 772-546-2620, jfoy@usga.org.

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