Prolonged periods of high temperatures, excessive rainfall in some parts of the country, and high humidity made life uncomfortable for U.S. golfers and golf courses alike this summer, according to an expert at the Lawrence, Kan.-based Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA). Golf facilities managers had to pull out all the stops to address the challenges of the weather and its effects on delicate course grasses.

Clark Throssell, GCSAA's director of research, said high levels of extended heat and humidity affected a sizeable part of the U.S. this summer, including the Midwest, Mideast, Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. "The simple fact is the cool-season turfgrasses, such as bentgrass, fescue, bluegrass, annual bluegrass (Poa annua) and others, are stressed when temperatures climb and humidity is high," explained Throssell.

Course managers are not alone in their efforts to preserve turf against the heat. Athletic field grounds crews, facilities managers and even homeowners can experience turfgrass and lawn damage brought on by extreme heat. At golf facilities, low mowing heights and heavy traffic add to the stress on the turfgrass, said Throssell.

Golf course superintendents took a variety of steps this summer to address the extreme heat and its effect on turf, to ensure the survival of turfgrass. Some of the practices included:

  • Raising the mowing heights of playing areas, most notably putting greens.
  • Alternating daily practices of mowing and rolling putting greens, with consideration to skipping a day if the schedule of play allowed.
  • Forgoing double-mowing, topdressing, verti-cutting or grooming greens.
  • Watering to provide adequate soil moisture, but not over-watering because saturated soil causes turfgrass to decline rapidly.
  • Hand-watering as much as feasible. If a green had a dry spot or two, superintendents hand-watered the dry spots only and not the entire green. When the whole green showed stress from a lack of water, superintendents used overhead sprinklers to water it.
  • Avoided aerifying with large-diameter tines that penetrate deeply into soil and remove a core of soil. For sealed putting surfaces, superintendents vented the soil with small-diameter solid tines or similar tools, instead.
  • Fertilized with small applications using a sprayer; the turf's response was monitored before fertilizing again.
  • Monitored and adjusted golf car traffic patterns to minimize stress to turf.

During extreme weather conditions, golf course managers need to consider the long-term health of the playing surface, said Throssell. "Communication is vital. Superintendents, golf professionals, managers and others must be in constant contact with golfers to educate them on what is happening at the facility. But golfers must also understand that golf courses are like snowflakes — no two are alike. Some courses may be able to withstand the challenges of Mother Nature better than others because of better drainage and soil conditions, better air flow due to the placement of trees, less traffic or the presence of greater financial resources."

Patience on the part of everyone is important during unusual weather, added Throssell. "We know the weather conditions will become more agreeable. What is important right now is to manage the golf course in a manner so that turf can be kept alive until that point."

GCSAA is a professional association for golf course managers in the U.S. and worldwide. Its focus is golf course management. The association provides education, information and representation to 20,000 members in 72 countries.

Related Stories