As the title of the USGA article “Stop Reading This Update and Go Play Golf” suggests, the current stretch of dry weather in the Northeast has created excellent playing conditions. This is a welcome change from the wet weather experienced over the past several years.
While playing conditions at most courses have remained good to this point, the effects of an extended drought are taking shape. Unirrigated areas are showing signs of drought stress, manifested in an off-color dormant appearance. Fortunately, drought-stressed dormant turf will recover once it rains enough to wet soils. Irrigation pond levels are also dropping, leading to some definite concern about what lies ahead.
The Northeast typically receives enough rain during the season, so drought emergency plans are rarely discussed. As a result, during extended periods of dry weather we often find ourselves worrying and wondering how much longer a course can go without rain. This is especially true for courses short on water supply or those that rely on city water. Developing a drought emergency plan is a good idea, even if it never gets used. The plan will always be there if needed to guide decisions about which areas receive water first, how much water will be used and when it is appropriate to purchase water, if applicable.
It will rain again; probably enough to average out monthly or annual totals and make most forget about a drought. However, planning is important and knowing what you are going to do, and what is expected, during a drought will help you manage resources to the best of your ability.