August 11, 2011

The Fine Art of Handwatering

I received the question yesterday: Why do you do all this handwatering? There are many different reasons why we handwater. The fact is that no irrigation system is perfect and to provide the consistent playing conditions that we strive for daily, we must do some amount of handwatering.

Miguel handwatering new sod at #9 Tee.
Our number one goal in the turf department is plant health. Our philosophy with regard to irrigation is deep and infrequent. For the course at Claremont this means a heavy or "deep" irrigation cycle every 7 to 10 days where we water the golf course to the equivalent of 1/4" to 1/2" of rain. In between these deep watering's, we supplement the areas that need extra water with area specific irrigation and handwatering.

The deep and infrequent program does many good things for plant health and for the playability of the golf course. First and foremost deep watering promotes deep rooting and in turf, it's all about the roots. With water comes oxygen and when we water deep enough we actually pull oxygen into the rootzone. As the water moves down through the soil profile, we allow the surface to "dry down" and in turn, the roots of the plant go down searching for that water. Deep Roots = Good Turf.

Micro sprinklers set up in the rough

A wise old superintendent once told me that if you are not handwatering, you're over watering. We could just turn on the irrigation every night, water enough to keep things green and go home at 2:30. This promotes a shallow root system and in turn, turf that will not hold up to the stresses that we put it through daily. The move for golf courses to use less water and promote firm and fast conditions is not just good for playability but good for the environment. Remember, a little brown grass is OK. Thanks and we'll see you on the course.

Josh Clevenger
Golf Course Superintendent

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