The saying goes you cannot control Mother Nature.
Golf course superintendents will take it one step further – sometimes you cannot live with her.
Such is the case for these professionals on the Gulf Coast after living through a summer of extreme heat that saw extended periods of drought and torrential rains from tropical storms and hurricanes. The net effect is many golf courses are experiencing a decline in course conditions as play begins to pick up this fall.
"It's been tough on golf courses," Wayne Wells, Ph.D., turfgrass extension specialist at Mississippi State University, said. "We have our typical weather challenges, but the difference this year has been the extreme nature of what hit us. You really cannot prepare for it and you really cannot do much to overcome it. The bottom line is it takes patience on everyone's part."
Wells indicated that the most severe damage was to the ultradwarf bermudagrass putting surfaces. And while the ultradwarfs are quite hardy varieties, recovery will still take time.
"Now that the weather has moderated, we are seeing the turf bounce back a little," Wells said. "But the major growing season is not until late spring or early summer. That is when we are going to see the full recovery absent any additional weather issues. My advice to golf course owners or green committees is to not overact and make changes for the sake of change. That won't result in better turf."
Neil Mayberry, GCSAA golf course superintendent at New Orleans Country Club and President of the Louisiana/Mississippi GCSAA chapter said that superintendents have reacted to the situation by raising mowing heights and alternative traffic patterns so as to not stress turf. He also indicated the use of covers for putting greens may have to be implemented in order to encourage growth over the winter months. Above all, he said facility leaders should not fall into the trap of comparison shopping.
"Each course is different," Mayberry said. "There are different soil profiles, shade patterns, amount of traffic, budgets, etc. Some courses were affected more than others. But the bottom line is a disproportionate amount of them suffered more this year than they typically do, and there was nothing that could be done about it in advance."
Mayberry noted that some courses have resodded areas where damage was significant, but most facilities will wait until next spring to plant new turf.
The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America is a leading golf organization and has as its focus golf course management. Since 1926, GCSAA has been the top professional association for the men and women who manage golf courses in the United States and worldwide. From its headquarters in Lawrence, Kan., the association provides education, information and representation to 19,000 members in more than 72 countries. GCSAA's mission is to serve its members, advance their profession and enhance the enjoyment, growth and vitality of the game of golf. The association's philanthropic organization, The Environmental Institute for Golf, works to strengthen the compatibility of golf with the natural environment through research grants, support for education programs and outreach efforts. Find GCSAA onFacebook, follow GCSAA on Twitter, and visit GCSAA at www.gcsaa.org.