Friday, June 29, 2012

Why are they watering while I'm playing golf?

Throughout the year, but especially in the summer months, golfers are likely to encounter maintenance staff using hoses to hand water certain parts of the course, particularly greens and tees, but sometimes fairways, also.  Proper water management is one of the most important aspects of our jobs as superintendents, and as simple as it might sound, it is both challenging and time consuming to get the ideal moisture "dialed in" everywhere.  Too much or too little water in the soil can both result in rapid turf decline. 

Hand watering is primarily performed on greens for a few principal reasons:
  • ·         To maintain healthy turf, water is only applied where needed.  Greens are the most sensitive areas of the course because the turf is maintained around 0.125”!  The grass is naturally under some stress simply due to the fact that it has less leaf tissue to photosynthesize light (photosynthesis converts sunlight to sugar, which is the plant’s food), and also a weaker root system (generally, the taller the grass, the deeper the roots will be to sustain it)

  • ·         Within a single green, due to subsurface conditions, soil type, and/or surface topography, some areas hold water more than others.  Because of this, the entire green never needs the same amount of water at any given time.
  • ·         We apply wetting agents regularly to help distribute water more evenly within the soil, and to help re-wet localized dry spots that have become hydrophobic, but even with the advances in technology that allow us to use water more efficiently, there will always be some differences in soil makeup and drainage characteristics of any given area.

  • ·         IF WE DO NOT HAND WATER and we solely apply blanket irrigation with sprinkler heads to greens to address small dry spots, wet areas stay wet and become anaerobic, resulting in turf loss and poor playing conditions.

  • ·         Our maintenance workers are golfers, too!  We ARE doing our best to stay out of your way, but we are typically touching up areas that have dried out during the warmest parts of the day when the course is full.  IF WE WAVE YOU ON TO THE GREEN TO TAKE YOUR SHOT, we are watching.  Please go ahead and hit and the 2 or 3 minutes that you take to approach the green will allow us to more quickly get off the green and out of your way.

  • ·         There are some days when the combination of high heat, low humidity, and/or wind can cause many greens to begin wilting all within a brief period of time, so our water managers are rushing around trying to keep the grass alive AND stay out of your way.  It is a challenge, and our first priority is to minimize the interruption to your golf experience.  However there are going to be times where we need to get on and off the green very quickly when you are there if even just to quickly check soil moisture.  Again, we understand how an interruption can affect your game, and we do our very best to find the balance between keeping turf alive, and staying out of your way!  We take pride in the quality of our greens, and we would like to keep them that way with the least interruption possible.

  • ·         One sprinkler head can cover as much as 25,000 square feet of area (over half an acre!), depending on the design of the irrigation system.  You can bet that within that much area, the needs of the grass and soil are going to be different.    
  •        Sometimes you may see us turn on sprinkler heads in the middle of the day.  Generally speaking, the purpose of this is to cool wilting (or soon-to-be wilting) turf to help it maintain its turgidity so it can tolerate traffic until the next irrigation cycle that will more deeply wet the soil.  If you see heads running on a green in the middle of the day, it is because it is extremely dry and we can't get around fast enough with a hose.  A quick mist with the sprinklers will buy us a little time until we can water the soil more deeply.  
  •        Our courses have computer- and radio-controlled irrigation systems, so we can turn on individual sprinkler heads or groups of heads as needed in the field when needed.  This is generally done for a brief period of time (3 or 6 minutes, which is about 1-2 rotations of the head.  We are doing our best to do this in a manner that has the least impact on your round!!
  •         We are now using digital moisture meters that measure the volumetric content of water on the greens (and other areas of the course, too) at all MCG golf courses.  This technology is an incredible tool that will enable us to manage water resources even more wisely than we have been able to do in the past just using soil probes and getting a “feel” for the proper moisture.  Now we can determine, for example, the exact percentage of soil moisture when we see plants begin to wilt and better determine how soon that might happen.  We take moisture meters out on the course every morning to check water content, and can do more preventative watering on areas that are drier to save us some of the headaches of chasing wilt later in the day.  It is very interesting how one spot on a green as little as 6 inches away from another area can be substantially different in the amount of water it holds.  Monitoring this moisture in the morning gives us a good idea of how the greens will perform throughout the day, but because of the subtle differences throughout the green, it is not possible to check every square inch of them for water content, nor is it possible to know for sure how the wind/temperature/humidity will affect the turf that particular day (but it gives us much better idea), hence the need to hand water..

  • ·         Maintaining healthy turf AND conserving water is a difficult balance; we continue to refine our practices to give you great playing conditions in an environmentally responsible manner!
I hope this helps you understand this small part of our job!

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