Preparing For A Dry Year

By Pat Gross, director, Southwest Region
April 25, 2012

In California, April is the month when people in agriculture, including golf course superintendents, anxiously await the forecast on the state water supply for the year. Based on the most recent estimate from the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), it looks like it’s going to be a dry year. Recent measurements indicate rainfall is 70 percent of normal, run-off is 50 percent of normal, and snowpack is 55 percent of normal. As a result, DWR water deliveries for this year will be approximately 50 percent of the contracted water supply.

How should golf courses prepare for a dry year? It is important to start now with careful planning, education, and sound agronomic programs. The following practices should be incorporated into the maintenance plan for the year:

  • Aerate, aerate, aerate – Although golfers hate to see the course torn up by aeration equipment, it is an essential program to make the turf as healthy as possible going into a dry summer. Aeration promotes deeper, healthier roots that can draw water from deeper in the soil reservoir. Both warm season and cool season grasses benefit from spring aeration, so grease up the equipment and get going.
  • Obtain a soil test and plan your fertilizer program for the year – The test will show if nutrients are adequate or low and what needs to be applied over the coming months. Under drought conditions, it is generally recommended to reduce nitrogen applications to avoid overstimulating leaf growth at the expense of roots. Supplemental applications of potassium help to produce a stronger plant that can stand up better to drought.
  • Level and adjust sprinklers – It is important to use every drop of water as efficiently as possible when water supplies are low. Leveling and adjusting sprinklers can improve irrigation efficiency by as much as 20 percent.
  • Make a drought contingency plan – If there is not enough water to cover the entire course, it is essential to determine exactly where restricted water supplies will be used. Some courses are planning on reducing irrigation in the rough by 20 to 30 percent and eliminating irrigation in out of play areas. Several courses in the Los Angeles area are continuing with turf reduction projects to reduce the need for water.
  • Sharing information – The importance of educating and sharing information cannot be overemphasized. Posting a color coded map of the drought contingency plan can be a valuable communication tool with golfers. And don’t forget to remind golfers that a firm and fast golf course not only uses less water but also benefits their game.


Source: Pat Gross 

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