Rainy Days: An Update For Superintendents And Golfers

By Chris Hartwiger, senior agronomist, Southeast Region
July 10, 2013

Rainfall totals for the 14-day period between June 25 and July 8, 2013. These extraordinary totals are having a profound impact on the golf experience in the Southeast. Source: weather.gov Precipitation Totals

One doesn’t need to be a meteorologist to know that the Southeast has been unusually wet in early July. The feature image was taken from www.weather.gov and shows the 14-day rainfall total for the period between June 25, 2013 and July 8, 2013. Unfortunately, more rain appears to be on the way with precipitation forecasts of at least 40 percent through July 13. There are numerous implications for golf course superintendents and golfers in the Southeast region that can be drawn from this map.

  • Firm and fast is a hope, not a reality. We will need at least 14 days to dry out before fairways firm up with desired ball roll. Now is a good time to tee it forward as golf courses will be playing much longer with little to no roll in fairways.
  • Plant growth regulator use proved to be inexpensive fairway quality insurance this year. Multiple fairway mowings have been missed over this rainy period and hot, humid weather has accelerated the growth of bermudagrass. For golf courses that applied a plant growth regulator, clippings will be manageable when mowing can resume on fairways. If mowings were missed, clippings will be excessive, messy and time consuming to disperse with blowers. Golfers may notice scalping on the fairways as well. This is not a mower malfunction, but the effect of rapidly growing bermudagrass that can’t be mowed as often as needed.
  • Rough may be out of control. Hot weather plus ample rainfall plus fertilizer is a formula for the maximum growth rate of bermudagrass. Because the rough at most golf courses takes the better part of a week to mow, any five to seven day period of rainfall can wreak havoc with the height of the rough. If this has occurred, expect plenty of clippings to deal with and some scalping, too. Golfers should not be surprised if this chain of events requires the superintendent to bump up the height of the rough until normal growth rates and mowing frequency resumes.
  • Bunker washout issues. The number and severity of bunker washouts is related to bunker design and the amount of heavy downpours a golf course has received. We expect that significant labor hours have been spent multiple times to repair bunkers from washouts. When sand must be redistributed within a bunker following a washout, golfers should be aware that playing quality is going to be affected.
  • Ultradwarf establishment and grow in. There are numerous golf facilities in the Southeast that have either planted an ultradwarf in the last 14 days or are about to do so. We have not heard any reports about washout issues that have caused the need to resprig, but heavy downpours shortly after planting can move sprigs and necessitate replanting washed out areas. On the other hand, cloudy weather may have been helpful for the first seven days or so after planting. The overcast weather is gentler on new sprigs than scorching hot temperatures. Golfers should check with their facility to find out if turf establishment has been impeded.
  • Disease pressure. 2013 has been a good year so far for bentgrass putting greens. How the summer progresses from here is speculation, but we can say that wet greens for the better part of 14 days are an ideal haven for disease and mowing stress. Now is the time to deploy the strongest plant protectants to preserve turf quality until the weather becomes more favorable. Golfers should expect to see plant protectants applied and fans running daily.

Source: Chris Hartwiger (chartwiger@usga.org) and Patrick O’Brien (patobrien@usga.org

Information on the USGA’s Turf Advisory Service

Contact the Green Section Staff

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