Puddles Predict Problems

By Bob Vavrek, senior agronomist, North-Central Region
June 11, 2014

Take a snapshot of a green during heavy rain and you will have a permanent record of drainage patterns. Push a metal nail or spike into the green where the deepest water is found to mark the exact areas that need drainage or grade modification in the future.


It’s no coincidence that winter injury and summer stress often affect the same areas of a putting green annually. Two common denominators that predispose turf to injury are shade and poor surface drainage.

Severe shade problems are relatively easy to document and very easy to remedy if you and the golf course are not allergic to a chain saw. However, surface-drainage issues are another story; you kind of know where they are, but they can be hard to define, especially when several exist on the same green. On the other hand, sun angles and shade patterns change throughout the season, while a drainage problem remains constant.

There is a simple and foolproof way to document poor surface drainage if you don’t mind getting wet. Simply take a picture of each green during or immediately after heavy rainfall and the pattern of puddles will clearly define the areas were surface drainage needs to be corrected. Fixing the problem may be as easy as lowering a slightly elevated collar or as difficult as completely rebuilding the green. One thing is for certain, puddles always predict problems.

Source: Bob Vavrek (rvavrek@usga.org)

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