With temperatures climbing up to the summer norm I’m sure those of you out on the course have seen myself or one of the other interns out on the course in the afternoon dragging a hose out onto the green and asked yourself, “what is this kid doing?” I get a lot of golfers coming up to me asking “Hey, why don’t you guys just use the sprinklers, isn’t that what they’re there for?” Yes and No. While we do use the overhead irrigation during the hottest hours of the day, we tend to reserve such use for fairways and tee boxes. This is because the greens are held to a much stricter regimen for irrigation, mainly in part so that they are at the highest quality for you, the golfer. It is our goal to make sure that the greens are in the best possible shape in terms of playability and the biggest factor in making that happen is that the greens need to have a consistent and uniform profile. This means that when you are putting on a green, you are experiencing the same green speed and roll quality throughout the entire green and that every green on the course follows the same template. By accomplishing this it gives the golfer the ability to “dial-in” to a certain green speed and leave them confident that all of the greens on the course a playing at the same speed.
Since Stow Acres was constructed over 50 years ago and was also integrated into the natural landscape, this leaves the grounds crew with the added challenge of adapting to the varying profiles of certain greens. Most of the greens at Stow Acres have differing soil profiles. While some greens may have a sandy and more porous soil content others may have a silty profile and some may be composed of a more clay based soil then other greens. This means that each green has its own specific moisture profile that must be adapted to. For this reason, we use the practice of syringing and hand-watering. Syringing is the practice by which water is applied to correct plant water deficits, reduce plant tissue temperatures and remove substances from the leaves. Since the water is being applied principally to the turfgrass plant itself and not to restore soil moisture, we only require small amounts water, hence why we do so with a hose and not with overhead irrigation. Applying the practice of syringing at the first signs of heat stress on the greens, typically right at midday, we can insure proper plant health throughout the day. Now since some greens have different moisture profiles as I mentioned before, some greens may be able to survive with just one syringing whereas other may require two or three syringings throughout the course of the day. Being out on the course with the hose on hand and keeping a close eye on the greens helps assure us that we are staying on top of the situation and that we are not going to have any turf damage.
As I had mentioned previously about the different moisture profile from green to green, there is also a variance in the soil throughout the profile of the greens themselves. Due to the varying composition of the soil and the design of the green itself, as well as the surrounding landscape ( i.e., shade), certain parts of the green will require more water than others. These spots are commonly referred to as “hot spots” and will be the first spots on a green to show signs of stress. While some parts of the green require minimal water throughout the day, these “hot spots” will require much more water in order to survive throughout the day. This is where heavier hand-watering comes into play. By hose watering we can judge exactly how much water is necessary to sustain plant life and then apply the specific amounts to where the water is needed. This way the green as a whole remains consistent in terms of moisture which in turn means that the green will be consistent in terms of speed.
Another reason why we use minimal amounts of water on the greens is because when an area of turfgrass is mowed so often and at low heights it becomes more susceptible to all form of stress, including disease pressure. Fungal spores require surface moisture to germinate and breed infection in turf. Therefore by using proper irrigation practices and keeping moisture levels low, especially during the summer when nighttime temperature remain high and promote fungal growth, we can insure that we are not giving disease an environment to live in.
Practicing proper irrigation is an imperative step in maintaining a healthy and playable golf course, especially on greens where stress is at its highest. Hard work, good judgement, a keen eye for wilt, and attention to detail are the tools necessary to insure that the greens are at their highest quality. So when you see us out on the course dragging a long hose around and drenching ourselves with water you’ll now know that we’re racing around in order to keep the greens alive, and believe me, one misstep or oversight on a 100 degree day and a green can incur some pretty serious damage that is difficult to recover from. But at the end of those long summer days there is a sense of accomplishment knowing that you personally had a hand in the survival of those greens and while it may be easier to just dump hundred of gallons of water onto the greens via overhead irrigation, we put in the extra work and pay the closest attention to detail so that our fellow golfers are given greens to play on that would rival PGA Tour greens any day of the week and twice on Sundays.
~Andrew P. Lanigan-Turf Intern~