A Wild & Wet Winter
Depending on your view of the glass being half full or half empty, the extra amount of precipitation this spring was needed but also a little excessive. The headlines were dominated with stories of mudslides, flooding and the amount of snow pack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains during the abnormally wet March and April.
Golfers and golf courses throughout Northern California suffered through the soggy weather. In general, rounds were down and rounds were accompanied by umbrellas, extra towels and rain gear. Many courses had U.S.-Open rough due to an inability to mow caused by the saturated conditions.
Real estate representatives turn the phrase location, location, location when trying to sell property. Golf courses would do well to use the words drainage, drainage, drainage for improving playing conditions. Here are a couple of examples of how courses cope with moving excessive rain off of the playing surface.
Sand capping or plating fairways has become a more popular option for newly constructed or recently renovated golf courses. This process involves installing and contouring six to eight inches of sand on tees, fairways and sometimes even rough. This foundation of sand is an excellent medium for growing turf and allowing excessive water to drain through the profile. This is an expensive option, but the results generally speak for themselves. The payout for these courses is firmer and more playable conditions when other facilities are closed or deemed unplayable. It is important to note that unless adequate internal drainage is installed properly during the plating process some drainage problems will ultimately surface.
In terms of internal drainage, the process of installing a permanent underground backbone for drainage is not very popular with golfers. This method has long been considered mess and disruptive for play. Thankfully, there are a variety of pipe alternatives and companies that can be contracted to provide a more palatable process. The time it takes to complete drainage projects has been greatly reduced due to improved machinery and techniques. Frequently, golfers don’t even notice the disruption to the playing surface after a drainage system has been installed. The addition of internal drainage plus a good surface management program should keep the subterranean plumbing viable for many years.
Surface management doesn’t only apply for greens. Many golf courses are employing cultural practices once exclusively used on putting greens on tees and fairways. Topdressing ¾ a light coating of sand ¾ is one of the industry standards for smooth turf surfaces. This cultural practice also helps provide a drier surface as well as speed up the recovery of any damaged turf due to divots. Most golfers will not see the benefits of topdressing fairways overnight. It takes several applications of sand each year for continuous years before the golf course begins to reap the benefits of firmer and drier fairways. This program requires the course to make a long-term commitment of resources in order to slowly but surely change the playing surface.
Now that summer is in full swing with high temperatures and clear, blue skies, the cool, damp spring is a distant memory. Taking time now to bury issues such as drainage, golf courses across Northern California will hopefully not get bogged down by embedded balls and wet socks in the future.