A Rainy Day Holds No Secrets

By Jim Skorulski, senior agronomist, Northeast Region
June 11, 2013

(L) “Collar dams” prevent surface water runoff from exiting putting surfaces. Where water collects is often the same areas that routinely experience winterkill injury. (R) Standing water in bunkers confirms that poor drainage is leading to poor playability.

Yet another rainy day in the Northeast; it sure seems like we have had our share of them in the past several weeks. Golf courses are wet. Everything is wet. Sure, we need the water, but enough already. Just when it seems like it may start to dry out, another wave of rain arrives further disrupting maintenance and play. So much for firm and fast. Fortunately, temperatures have been moderate during this stretch of wet weather and the turf has generally remained strong with good rooting and few disease issues. This can all change quickly, however, should this pattern of wet weather extend into the hotter days of summer. 

The heavy rains can help to point out drainage deficiencies and they usually tell a story or explain why playing conditions are the way they are. The pictures illustrate two common maintenance issues that are impacted by poor drainage. The image on the left shows a “collar dam” that is impeding water flow off the putting green surface. The area where the water is collecting was damaged this winter when water collected behind the collar and froze to ice. Standing water and similar winter damage patterns were observed on several other greens that morning and helped to highlight the extent of the surface drainage problems and their impact on winter turf survival.

The image on the right was taken on the same day at another golf facility and illustrates a puddled greenside bunker where there is an obvious drainage problem. Golfers at this facility complain of hard sands and inconsistent playing conditions. The picture is a helpful tool to explain how and why the bunker sands play the way they do. It is one thing to explain the process of fine soil particles such as silt and clay intermixing with the bunker sand, but this explanation is made quite clear with a picture like this that shows a puddle of dirty water. This illustrates the reasoning behind inconsistent playing conditions in bunkers, while also confirming the need for new drainage and sand replacement.    

Never let a good washout go to waste. Use the heavy rain events to chart water flow over the golf course, to identify problem areas, and to use as an illustrative tool to explain the impacts of poor drainage. The sun will come out again at some point but as Dave Oatis, director, Northeast Region, likes to say, “Best keep your powder dry.”


Source: Jim Skorulski (jskorulski@usga.org)

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