Heat Wave, The Open, & teachable moments

I have been working outdoors for pay since Jr high school. Suffice to say that was a long time ago. This is my 18th summer on MV and the weather trend is definitely hotter. A story I like to tell is how in my first season I tried to dress the part of a GCSAA poster child professional superintendent.  It was my first, and only, top position after all so I wore pants every day. It was not hard. I do not think the temperature went over 80 more than once. As a working superintendent on a nine-hole course I ruined many pairs of pants and as the temps climbed I favored shorts over long pants and now even sport beach shoes such as Tivas in the afternoon. You might ask what is the difference or what does that mean working superintendent? Well in a nut shell if you spend most of your time performing a task such as mowing, spraying, repairing irrigation I would consider that a working Super. If you spend more of your time supervising, planning, training, scouting, than that would be more of a professional Super. Both can behave as professionals and both serve a vital role in the game of golf. The point to this story is we have seen some of the worst weather anyone can remember and it is not even August yet. In the last 16 days including today we have had 13 days at 80 degrees or above. The last 4 days have been 90 or above. That is not normal for MV. Then again what is normal? We have had to help people off the course several times due to dehydration/heat exhaustion. Again it is not even August where we expect this type of heat for a day or two not weeks on end. The dew points have been in the high 70's and sometimes 80's during this stretch. If a dew point of 70 and above is oppressive what is 80 and above? Dangerous that's what.
Hottest day I recorded here was 7/16 at 97 degrees for the high

  I tell you all this as a segway for a perfect teachable moment. We are in the throws of The Open this week. A chance for every American to see what courses could and should be maintained to as a standard. The weather or climate in your area should dictate what your individual property should look like. It is OK to have an irrigation system. We have had one since the beginning in 1936. It surely was not controlled by a computer with the capabilities of using hand held radios and the total acreage covered is much greater but we are still using much of the same pipes to distribute. Pause and think about that for a moment. The veins and arteries in our body start to have trouble at around 50-60 years and we have all sorts of procedures to clean them out or replace sections. I could espouse for days about the need to modernize our irrigation system but would we be any better off? With the climate changing and controls over water and its' availability getting stricter every year would we not be better served focusing our energies in embracing playability over color and lushness? It would be strange to come here only for a few weeks in the summer and have the course be off color but we spend an inordinate amount of time and inputs trying to keep it green. As the weather reaches its peak if you have lots of moisture you are prone to disease. 90 % of the blemishes you see right now are fungal scars, or damage from fungal pathogens. We try not to use many conventional fungicides, in fact, i have not used any on fairways or rough since 1997. Yet if I could focus my energies on converting the grass species to a more drought tolerant and manage water for those we would be even more environmentally sound and have less disease. Sounds simple right? All it takes is for us to be willing to unlearn all the stigmas fertilizer and irrigation companies have brain washed us into thinking what grass is supposed to look like. Sure it can be lush and green but only when the weather dictates. We had a cold and wet June. Place was awesome. I knew it was a set up for disaster. You want turf to be lean and tough not soft and lush. Muirfield Golf Links is crispy and all shades of colors right now. Playing great I might add. Bet there is not a single fungus around or even a worry. A couple of days of rain and the dormant turf will come out of dormancy and be more green than you could think possible. There are problems however. Carts and dormant turf will not get along. You can literally wear out the dormant turf. Just ask your southern Superintendent about why he over seeds and about wear on dormant turf.
All it takes is for us to be willing to unlearn all the stigmas fertilizer and irrigation companies have brainwashed us into thinking what grass is supposed to look like.

  To wrap this up since I have to head back out on the course to battle another 90+ degree day. I hope you all are enjoying the course, I receive many compliments and they are appreciated even though it may seem I am not as happy with the conditions as you all are and please take care to hydrate and be safe while playing. Take a moment to enjoy some air conditioning and watch some of The Open this weekend and while you are watching think would it be so bad to be a bit more like that? It is OK to play a ground game and heck aren't you sick of trying to master all 4 wedges in your bag anyway? If you need another take on the subject read a former colleagues blog HERE
sunrise this morning

1 comment:

  1. Superb post Matt! Should be required reading for all members. I like the idea of playability over lushness and allowing the turf to go dormant when the weather dictates. It's all good. Thanks for the post.