The Heat Moves North

By Bud White, director, Mid-Continent Region
July 30, 2012

We are in the midst of another hot summer and this year the extreme heat has moved further north into Kansas and Missouri. Many courses in these states have bentgrass greens and bluegrass roughs. Both are cool-season grasses that struggle to survive a “normal” summer, much less one that is breaking records for heat. During my Turf Advisory Service visits I am often asked why more water is not applied to keep these grasses alive.

First, golf as an industry has realized that it is important to conserve water whenever possible. Making frequent applications of water to large areas of rough, particularly those areas that seldom come into play, is counterproductive to this effort. Obviously, it is important to keep the grass alive but wise turfgrass managers are applying only enough water to ensure the turf can recover when cooler temperatures return in the fall. If concentrated traffic is eliminated from these areas, good playing quality can be maintained in spite of the off-color appearance. Firm and fast is a good concept that not only conserves water but other resources as well.

Unfortunately, many courses still have badly outdated irrigation systems that limit the maintenance staff’s ability to apply water only where it is needed. For example, rough sprinklers may be electrically wired to tee and green surround sprinklers. If so, cutting back on irrigation in the rough may endanger these highly visible and frequently played areas. If the course has a large enough maintenance staff to support hand-watering some of these design limitations can be overcome. However, courses with more limited resources may have no choice but to overwater the roughs just to keep the turf around the greens alive.

Golfers need to consider more closely that a reduction in water applications is usually more of a reduction in aesthetics than playability. Summers like this one may result in a temporary reduction in the quality of roughs and even some higher profile areas should the extreme temperatures persist for much longer. However, golfers can be confident that golf course superintendents are as a group some of the best water managers found anywhere. With the cooperation of golfers (keep your carts out of turf that is drought stressed!), the course can be carefully nursed through the remainder of the summer and recovery efforts instituted once cooler temperatures return.

If you would like more information about a Turf Advisory Service visit and how we can help your facility, please contact me, Bud White, at (972) 662-1138 or (budwhite@usga.org). I look forward to being of service to you and your club.

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