OLD WEATHER CHALLENGES AMIDST NEW CHALLENGES ON GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT
Tom Kaplun - North Hempstead Country Club
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, one silver lining is that golf has served as a great means for leisurely activity in a safe, socially distant setting. Many courses in the tristate area have received record rounds of play to date. This is great for the game as it has exposed a whole new generation of people to the game of golf and allowed those who wish they could play more to do so given the various shutdowns and stay-at-home mandates. The challenge for golf course superintendents has been adjusting and adapting to this high volume of play with reduced resources, labor, and adverse weather through the early part of the summer.
The weather through the late spring and early part of the summer has been challenging. On the heels of an extremely mild winter where many cool-season grasses did not go dormant and continued to use carbohydrate reserves rather than stockpile them, the turf has needed additional TLC. Many golf courses that were reaching the point of moderate to severe drought conditions have now been pummeled with periods of heavy rains. This has been accompanied by temperatures well into the 90s on most days. Coupled with a high volume of play and single-rider carts, the turf has already gone through a great deal of stress in the first part of the 2020 season.
With these challenges come adjustments. Cutting heights may be raised and the frequency of cutting and rolling may be reduced to keep turf alive. The greens may not be as fast and the fairways and tees may not be mowed as tightly as in the past, but healthy turf is a lot better to play on than dead turf. Measure the quality of the course by the health of the turf and consistency from hole to hole rather than how firm and fast it is playing. Firm and fast will return when Mother Nature relents.
In line with superintendents having to adjust and adapt to the weather and higher volume of play, many have also been asked to evaluate their operating budgets and be as fiscally responsible as possible. Budget cuts have been made to save money that will help offset lost revenue in the other areas of the facility. However, amidst these cuts it is paramount that sound agronomic practices such as topdressing, proper fertilization, preventive disease programs and aeration are not compromised. Equally as important is giving your superintendent the manpower and time to do so. These procedures are the backbone of sustainable turf on the golf course.
The coronavirus has affected our daily lives in ways we never thought were imaginable. Thankfully, the golf course serves as a place where some sense of normalcy still exists. Do not forget that the golf course is the number one asset to the club and make sure you are providing your grounds department with the resources necessary to keep the course as good as it can be!