Severe weather hits US courses


Sean Dudley

Extreme weather is causing problems for golf course managers across large parts fo the US at the moment, with prolonged periods of high temperatures, excessive rainfall and high humidity proving happy breeding grounds for turf diseases.

“The simple fact is the cool-season turfgrasses such as bentgrass, fescue, bluegrass, poa annua and others are stressed when temperatures climb and humidity is high,” said Dr Clark Throssell, director of research for the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America. “Golf courses in many parts of the US experience this every year, however what makes the situation so dire this year are the high levels of extended heat and humidity, and the sizeable part of the country affected.”

Throssell said superintendents are addressing the issue with a variety of management practices to make sure turfgrass survives. While there may be some short-term impact on playability of the course, the alternative is the loss of grass, the closure of the course and the additional costs of re-establishing playing surfaces.

He also cautioned golfers from thinking that water, whether from rain or irrigation, is the answer to the ills. There is a difference between heat stress and drought stress. Adequate irrigation will alleviate drought stress. Adequate irrigation will not alleviate heat stress. It is not only possible, but likely, for a turfgrass plant to be adequately watered and still suffer from heat stress under extended periods of high temperatures.

“Communication is vital,” Throssell said. “Superintendents, golf professionals, owners, 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. 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.”