The Summer Of 2011 Off To A Sizzling Start

By Chris Hartwiger & Patrick O'Brien, agronomists, Southeast Region
June 3, 2011

Ninety-three, 95, 95, 98, 99, 97?  These are not your grades from your senior year in high school.  We hope they are not your golf scores, either.  No, these are high temperatures in Birmingham, AL for May 29 – June 3.  Although summer does not arrive on the calendar until June 21, the summer of 2011 is picking up right where the summer of 2010 left off, hot and dry.  These conditions leave golf course superintendents managing creeping bentgrass putting greens with a big challenge.  Because every decision on a golf course involves agronomics, economics, and politics, dealing with difficult summer weather conditions requires a multi-faceted approach.  Below are a few ideas and resources to assist you. 

 

  • 1. Communication – Golf course superintendents have highly-specialized knowledge and experience.  Communicating the appropriate amount of information to key personnel, such as an owner, municipality, resort, or club membership, is vital to getting everyone on the same page.  As far as summer bentgrass management is concerned, owners need to be aware that temperatures are a game changer.  Research shows us that creeping bentgrass roots begin dying back as soil temperatures begin to reach the 80 degree range, and that in North Carolina it is not unusual for bentgrass to lose 75% of its root system to high temperatures from May to September. 
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    To put it another way, the optimum soil temperature range for creeping bentgrass is 55-65 degrees F.  In 2010, soil temperatures in the region reached the low 100’s F.  The link below leads you to a narrated webcast on the summer of 2010 for bentgrass putting greens.  It reviews the basics behind why high temperatures are difficult for bentgrass and how infrastructure and management play a role in turf survival, too.  We hope this is a good communication tool for you:  http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs003/1103157499740/archive/1103631998989.html 

     

  • 2. Manage Expectations –  As a young turf student nearly twenty years ago, a professor of mine talked about the “edge of failure” as it related to cool season turf management in the summer months.  He told the class that being a step away from the edge of failure is far more palatable than being a step over the edge.  His statement had multiple implications.  First, being a step or more away from the edge of failure provides some leeway for events above and beyond a superintendent’s control.  An act of weather, unusual amounts of play, or even an honest mistake made by a crew member would not be catastrophic if the greens were a step or two away from the edge of failure.  Second, greens that went over the edge, even by a fractional amount, do not come back quickly.  The summer of 2010 attested to this fact in the Southeast Region.
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    The advent of another difficult summer puts superintendents with bentgrass putting greens in a precarious position.  We believe the best philosophy for bentgrass putting green management in the Southeast Region is contained in the old adage, “live to fight another day.”  In bentgrass terms, stay back away from the edge of failure as long as possible.  This requires taking a view that a successful summer is one that ends with full turf coverage.  When this occurs, a transition back to seeking higher performance from the grass can occur quickly in more favorable weather. 

    Now is the time to meet with other vital people at your facility, including golf professional, general manager, course officials, etc.  Everyone needs to get on the same page and hold the course for the months of June, July, and August. 

    This article speaks to this idea: http://turf.lib.msu.edu/gsr/article/bevard-philosophy-4-1-11.pdf .

    Scheduling a USGA Turf Advisory Service visit is another way to assist in both communication and managing expectations.  Collectively, we have almost 50 years of experience conducting Turf Advisory Service visits and would be honored to assist you. 

    Links on the USGA Turf Advisory Service: 

    http://turf.lib.msu.edu/gsr/article/brame-insurance-11-19-10.pdf 

    http://www.usga.org/course_care/turf_advisory_service/The-Value-Of-A-USGA-Turfgrass-Advisory-Service-Visit/  

     

  • 3. Agronomy – Summer bentgrass management is an art rooted in science.  Superintendents managing bentgrass putting greens in the summer must pull together management practices such as fungicide sprays, watering practices, fans, mowing heights, mowing frequencies, venting, traffic control, pest management and more to meet their goals.  For additional information on summer management strategies for bentgrass in the Southeast visit:    
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    Webcast:  http://webcast.usga.org/usga/Bentgrass_greens_survival_Hartwiger.wmv  

    Southeast Region Summer Survival Techniques:  http://www.usga.org/course_care/regional_updates/regional_reports/southeast/Here-Comes-Another-Summer---March-2010/  

    Conclusion

    When will 93, 95, 95, 98, 99, 97 turn into 81, 79, 84, 82, 81, 80?  It’s anyone’s guess, but keep one thing in mind.  The USGA has resources available to you and we want to help in any way we can.  Give us a call or email any time. 

     

    Chris Hartwiger (chartwiger@usga.org; 678-591-7410); Pat O’Brien (patobrien@usga.org; 678-591-7340)

     

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