January 23, 2016

Winter Conditions - The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

It's 2016 and the first blog of the year so... Happy New Year! I know it's a bit late but we've had our hands full both on and off the golf course. I wanted to update everyone on the winter conditions that exist currently. With that comes the good, the bad and the ugly...

The Good: A total of 14.8 inches of rain has fallen so far this season. Our irrigation pond is full and spilling over recharging nicely with fresh rain water. The course has received a much needed flush of good water as well as a much needed break from constant golfer and mower traffic that's become the norm over the last four years of drought. New grass is growing and areas of stressed turf are regenerating as well. The staff has been able to take some much needed days away to rest and spend time with family. Golf course and employees, take a deep breath.

The Bad: The course is wet and has been unplayable at times. On some days following rain events, golf carts have been restricted to paths only and at times not allowed at all. The decision to restrict carts in never easy and is made for safety purposes as well as to protect the course from damage. Rutting and compaction occurs when wet and saturated soils are driven on by carts and equipment. The result is damage that can take months to recover and will set us back come spring time. Our push up style greens do not drain as well as newly constructed greens and we must limit traffic from mowers when wet conditions exist. The result is green speeds slower and bumpier than usual. Following significant rain events like we've had this season, conditions for golf can be below what has become expected in winter. Remember, it used to be like this every year.

The Ugly:

The pictures here speak for themselves. Bunkers have been washed out and contaminated with soil on many occasions this season. This requires many hours of labor to repair. It is important that once the rain lets up, we get out to at least remove contamination and repair washouts prior to the next rain. Whether we rake bunkers or not following this process depends on the forecast and when we are likely to see the next rainfall.

Once soils reach saturation, there is no where for water to go. During heavy downpours it's common to see standing water on much of the course. It can be days before we are able to mow following such events as the course must be cleaned of debris as well as firm enough prior to mowing. The fairway sanding program and some drainage work in areas around the course have improved overall winter conditions greatly but in times of extended rainfall, the play ability of the course will lessen. So should our expectations.

The last four years of drought have helped us to forget just how wet the golf course can get during a normal winter. The ability to play virtually 365 days a year with good to great conditions has made for long periods of uninterrupted play. Very cool from the golfer perspective. Not that cool from the course's perspective. Really, the course hasn't had a break in years and is thankful to get one so far this season.

So, I say here's to El Nino bringing another 14 inches of rain to finish off the season nicely. Enjoy this winter as we are on track for normal rainfall and that's a good thing. We sure do need it...

Now lets go to Tahoe!