Thursday, March 10, 2011

Water Water Everywhere

Yes it's true its wet out there.  And okay, I'm sure some of my college buddies are snickering at this title, (for reasons that must never be revealed), but let's face it; the golf course looks more like a water park at the moment.  We've seen a lot of rain over the past 24 hours, and with some still falling, it has certainly taken care of a lot of snow.  Oh, but let's not forget about the possibility of 15 cm of the white stuff on its way tonight.......

So the title of this post has more to do about a very interesting seminar I was fortunate to attend in Vancouver on Monday at the Canadian and International Turfgrass Conference in Vancouver.  The seminar was titled "When and How to Water".  I'm sure there are some folks out there who think, well just water when you need to,  or even perhaps water when the grass starts turning brown.........if only it were that simple!

So when the decision is made on when and how to water, there are so many things to take into account; not just temperature but wind, amount of play, future forecasts, whether there are products applied needing water, maintenance schedules, disease developments, and much more that can be possibly listed here.  The timing aspect also depends on the amount of water desired, and making an attempt to keep the leaf blade wet for as little time as possible (having extended periods of leaf wetness enhances disease pressure).  The other major choice is the capability of the irrigation system, and more importantly the pump station.....something we are all well aware of its limitations from the 2010 golf season!!

But one of the biggest influencing factors that has in this case corrupted us Golf Superintendents, is the desire to keep consistency on a day-to-day basis.  As one leading turf researcher in North America put it bluntly, "in our stride to appease the membership with consistency, we've left good agronomic practices at the door." 

Now I've mentioned in this very blog about our abilities at Sawmill Creek over the past few years to provide the membership with very consistent playing conditions, despite the environment around us.  In fact, its almost become one of those "beat your chest type things", where you brag about how good you are to be able to provide a green that rolls 10 on the Stimpmeter after 2 inches of rain the night before......

Now although there is so much more involved in our irrigation practices other than playability, it certainly helps become a deciding factor.  All of us in the turf world, have known for years that in an ideal world we water deeply, but infrequently.  I've yet to be able to follow this practice for a variety of reasons, not to mention the famous Sawmill winds that seemingly pick up out of nowhere and dry the course out in a matter of minutes (such as the 2010 Pro/Am).  And eventually every summer, we seem to fall into the same trap, as do many turf managers, of having to water on a daily basis. 

There are so many problems which can be caused by this including disease, insect and weed invasion into our playing surfaces.  But we continue to do so due in part to our desire to provide consistent playing surfaces day in and day out.

But how did this industry evolve to this?  Shouldn't we as golfers expect the greens to be slow after 2 inches of rain?  What is the problem if the greens are a tad bit slower one day compared to next?  Shouldn't the only important statistic be that all 18 greens putt the same that day? 

These are all some very valid questions, and points to ponder.  The reality is, if I were able to water deeply and infrequently, perhaps I would have healthier turf, needing less pest control product use (which may be a scenario we will have to live with sooner than you think....)  This may mean that our greens aren't a perfect shade of green for 7 days of the week.  Maybe they turn a little off colour for a day or so, while the roots of that turf start digging in, trying to find moisture in the ground.  As long as all 18 are putting the same does this really matter?

Now don't get me wrong; I'm not about to change everything overnight; but this certainly is a point to ponder.  The reality is, that sometime in the near future, synthetic pest control products will be gone.  We will be forced to find ways to maintain turf like they used too in the late 19th and early 20th century. 

Tough times are among us; it is time to prepare.  At the end of the day, we all have a common goal; to play the game which we love, on a beautiful golf course, on a beautiful day, and hopefully beat yesterday's score. 

And as the title of this post alludes to, perhaps enjoy a drink at the same time.....


1 comment:

  1. Great article Jamie,

    You are so right - Sawmill's winds are somewhat special - I have experienced them first hand - and since I'm a early morning golfer - 7 am tee times I have seen the course dry out and change in the matter of hours between the back anf fron nine. - Sawmill is a test of wills and the winds make all the difference - each round is special and different - depends what the wind blows in .... LOL!!!