Golf Course Management

JUL 2014

Golf Course Management magazine is dedicated to advancing the golf course superintendent profession and helping GCSAA members achieve career success.

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Page 68 of 122

64 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 07.14 on the ground who see the trouble and realize things are getting a little wobbly. Local media pick up on it and run stories about "averages" and historical numbers, but drought really doesn't become anything more than a conver - sation until it actually impacts the area. By the end of June, the public had been made aware of voluntary water restrictions for all city water users. By the end of July, still with no signifcant rainfall, low humidity and high temperatures knocking on 100 F, man - datory restrictions were in effect. No one is ever pleased with water restric - tions, but the city of Decatur did an excellent job of communicating the problems and in - forming the public. Obviously, someone who is in the business of selling water would like to have water to sell, so we are all on the same team as a community. At frst, the water restrictions limited us to watering only three days a week. This can put any superintendent in a bind. With the high temperatures, the course didn't need to be fooded on those days, as that would cause a different type of problem, but moderate water - ing was certainly not enough for a course that was already severely stressed. A few weeks later, the city imposed total water restrictions, and no outdoor usage was permitted. While water is always a top prior - ity for me, during this period the rest of the community was in the same situation. Land - scape companies, sod growers and even car washes were shut down. The lake levels were a daily conversation. Now, at the Country Club of Decatur, what started as heat stress quickly turned ugly. Simple things like raising mowing heights, which we had been doing for weeks, became a non-factor as we were running out of grass to mow. Carts had been restricted to the deep rough and cart paths. One thing was certain: We were losing turf and losing it fast. Considering solutions While the course continued to burn, the new focus became a plan to avoid these prob - lems in the future. Wells were not an option. After testing and digging, we could fnd no signifcant source of water under our course. Although this mission was a failure, it was something we knew we had to try. Sometimes, things have to line up just right — the perfect storm, as some call it — before you can move forward. Because we were no strangers to water restrictions, our problem was to reduce our water needs and still provide a top-notch golf course. One of the frst topics that is addressed in any golf course management textbook is turfgrass se - lection, but most superintendents don't have a choice: They work with whatever they are handed when they take over a golf course. At the Country Club of Decatur, that meant 36 acres of bentgrass fairways as well as greens. Changing the turf at this century-old private club was a drastic solution in terms of cost, disruption of play and potential loss of mem - bers, but one way or another, we had to start over. Why not start over with turfgrass that would work better in this situation? The ques - tion wasn't whether we could afford to take this drastic step. The fnal analysis concluded we couldn't afford not to take it. Located in central Illinois, Decatur is pretty well known as a hot box in the sum - mer. With a lower topography similar to a cra- ter, the oven-like conditions and cool-season golf course turf don't quite mix. In most new climate models, Decatur is now in the transi - tion zone range. While the summers do get testy, the winters can bring plenty of snow and ice. Several years ago, the concept of converting the fairways to zoysizgrass would have appeared to be an illogical overreaction. Through quite a bit of research, countless conversations with multiple agronomists and researchers from leading universities, Zenith zoysia became a frontrunner for our turf of choice for fairways and tees. While under total water restrictions along with the city of Decatur, CC of Decatur experienced major drought damage (pictured is the No. 3 fairway) in 2012. 062-071_July14_DecaturCC.indd 64 6/17/14 2:31 PM

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