07/28/10 — Local golf courses need rain, less hot weather

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Local golf courses need rain, less hot weather

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on July 28, 2010 1:46 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- The heat is on for local golf course superintendents.


At Southern Wayne Country Club, superintendent Scott Heath is not feeling the pressure that is ruining work days for several of his contemporaries.

"I feel for the guys that are trying to keep their bent grass greens alive through July and August," Heath said from his work shop. "Because we have Bermuda grass, the heat is not as big a problem for the course here. No grass likes five straight days of 100-degree weather, but we are dealing pretty well with it."

Scorching temperatures during the summer force superintendents to water the grass more than usual. Because bent grass is considered a cool-weather grass, searing heat causes the root system to shorten on and around the greens.

Superintendents at courses that feature bent grass greens begin their mornings by watering the putting surfaces, then spend the rest of the day anxiously waiting for sections of greens to dry out. With sprayers in hand, bent grass workers try to keep the grass cool with cold-water mists.

Goldsboro Municipal Golf Club and Walnut Creek Country Club each use bent grass. Lane Tree Golf Club is currently in the process of switching from bent grass to bermuda.

"I have worked on both types of grass and I know how much time, water and work it takes to keep bent grass growing this time of year," said Heath. "I worked at Kinston Country Club nine years ago and the watering was a full-time job in itself. It was all that the superintendent worried about."

In his six years at SWCC, Heath has gotten used to a different set of problems associated with the red hot summer months.

Bermuda grass does well in hot temperatures and keeps growing in the humid conditions as long as rainfall amounts are consistent. Keeping the pumps that push water from the lakes on the golf course to the sprinklers around the greens and tee boxes is Heath's top priority.

"We sit right between two huge water features in Goshen Swamp and the Neuse River, but being in the middle isn't necessarily a good thing," said Heath. "I have seen it rain on the river and rain in the swamp, and completely miss the golf course."

Not only getting the rain, but getting it at the right time is of the utmost importance. Rainfall in the middle of the afternoon can be both a blessing and a curse for local links.

"I am never going to turn down the rain because it presents some time that the grass can relax," said Heath. "But if it rains in the middle of the afternoon and then it gets hot after the rain, the hot water essentially boils the grass and gives courses 'wet wilt.'"

Temperatures soared into the mid-90s this week, but relief appears to be on the way over the weekend as temps struggle to hit the 90-degree plateau.

"That's what we need more than anything is just a couple days that aren't as hot," said Heath. "I would be glad to see it, and I know the guys trying to control bent grass would be ecstatic."