By STEVE HANF
In these dire times, folks in the golf course industry have no use for semantics.
When putting surfaces have suffered tough times with bermudagrass in the cold-weather months, it’s been called “winter kill.” When the same issues have reared their ugly head in the heat, the term was “summer bentgrass decline,” explained Brier Creek Country Club superintendent Michael Haq.
“This bentgrass didn’t decline,” Haq said. “It’s dead.”
Welcome to the unwelcome year of “summer kill” plaguing golf courses across the Carolinas. Haq, at the private course in Raleigh, spent most of July overseeing the installation of temporary greens after the existing putting surfaces became unplayable. He’s headed operations at the country club the last five years and served as a superintendent for the last nine, but “this is the worst summer by a mile. We’ve had hot, we’ve had wet. This is the first one where we’ve had that deadly combination with heat and afternoon thundershowers.”
Countless colleagues feel his pain. In a survey conducted by the Carolinas Golf Course Superintendents Association this summer, 70 percent of the nearly 250 respondents reported being “concerned” or “fearful” about course conditions due to a summer that arrived with an early heatwave on the heels of a wet winter and sopping spring.
“It just cooked our greens,” said Tony Laws, director of Burlington’s Recreation and Parks Department, who had to shut down Indian Valley Municipal Golf Course on July 19.
In the case of Indian Valley, its greens failed to drain well anyway considering they’d never been replaced in the 40-year history of the course. But at any course with bentgrass greens, excess water and 90-degree temperatures form a deadly combination.
“You’re putting water down into that root system,” Haq explained. “Water is an excellent conductor, and that water almost boils the plant. Overly dry is better than overly wet.”
The way courses keep their bentgrass greens going in the summer is to “syringe” the greens: start at one green and hose down the surface just enough to provide a cooling effect. By the time you’ve hit all 18 holes, Laws said, you’re ready to start the process over again.