Golf course management must inherently proactively consider weather patterns and the risks of severe weather. Whether your course is buried under snow or browned by the intense sun, proper golf course management requires a proper assessment of weather risks and effective mitigation techniques.
Golf courses can be affected by a broad range of weather factors. These often vary by region and require their own management plans.
Hot and Dry or Humid Weather
This weather is common in the South, affecting Phoenix, Dallas, and Orlando golf courses, and can cause greens to dry out, brown, and even die. It is expensive to replace the dead turf, so proper management is crucial for preventing distress on golf greens and courses. These weather conditions can be combated by adjusting mower height upwards or even skipping a mowing. Chemical treatments should be used sparingly under these conditions as they may kill the fragile grass.
Cold and Frosty Weather
This weather is common in the Midwest and Northeast where temperatures plunge during winter and snow coverage blankets greens. Cold conditions can cause winterkill, which restricts healthy growth during the milder seasons. Although expensive, covers can aid in protecting greens during winter and colder seasons in these climates.
Another condition that could affect courses in cold climates is crown hydration freeze, which occurs when melting ice is absorbed into the ground before subsequently freezing under returning cold conditions. This kills grass but can be avoided by ensuring adequate drainage of susceptible areas of the course like greens.
A fungus can grow in a diverse range of climatic conditions, so it is important to understand the risks of fungal growth relative to the location of the course. Snow mold and Microdochium patches are common in cold and wet conditions. Snow mold grows beneath layers of snow coverage, and Microdorchium patches occur in cool and wet conditions. Summer patches can also occur in hot and humid conditions. Fungus must be treated promptly and mitigated by applying fungicidal treatment three months before the beginning of the respective wet and snowy season.
With all of these possible weather conditions and impacts in mind, it is imperative that course managers develop a comprehensive weather management plan to prepare courses for weather threats. In addition to these less common but particularly destructive weather impacts, weather patterns as simple as frequent thunderstorms require proper management and deserve to be covered in this comprehensive plan.
Any plan needs to delineate all possible weather threats and the course of action necessary to mitigate their effects. Roles and duties need to be assigned to the staff so that everyone is prepared to mobilize in the event of severe weather.
It is helpful to develop an action plan with a concrete checklist delineated to determine an effective protocol.
The first step in any action plan should include obtaining reliable weather data. It is often useful to purchase complete and accurate weather data rather than relying on free sources that may not be precise or localized enough to dictate action on a specific course. Decisions regarding severe weather determination should either be automated or referred to a meteorological professional with experience to confidently and accurately determine the risks.
Once severe weather is approaching it is pertinent to establish communications with staff to enact the action plan and checklist and to notify patrons. An outdoor alerting system with audible alarms and strobe lights are an effective tool to signal everyone on the course of incoming severe weather. Shelters should be put in place for patrons to seek safety, and all staff should know their immediate response and responsibilities following such an alarm.
The key to any weather plan is knowledge and practice. Make sure your plan is communicated to all staff and essential personnel as well as visiting patrons. It is then necessary to practice a couple of times a year to ensure the smooth execution of the plan.
With these considerations in mind and a sound plan in place, any golf course can be prepared to mitigate the effects of extreme weather.