King of spring

By |  May 15, 2018 0 Comments

For me, spring break is a time for personal rejuvenation after a long winter. I’ve been kidded that I may be close to holding the record for going on the most spring breaks. Starting in college and continuing to this day, spring break is our family’s one big vacation for the year.

This year, we went to Destin, Fla. Destin is in the Florida Panhandle on the Gulf of Mexico and is known for its beaches and fantastic golf courses. My sons have tried to play a couple of times while on spring break. When they were in school, I would allow them to “beat me” in sports like basketball to give them a feeling of accomplishment and build self-confidence. There was one sport where this didn’t happen: golf.

Playing golf with my sons through their middle school and high school years was one of the best times for me. They were good players, having played on school golf teams and participated in junior golf tournaments. My favorite moment when playing with them occurred on the first tee, when I would throw down the challenge: “Do you want a shot at the title?” I just loved saying that.

Unfortunately, like most things in life, the tables often turn. Playing golf with my sons this spring — and for the last several spring breaks — I watch their tee shots airmail mine and suffer insults normally associated with “diminishing skills.” To overcome the beating I’m incurring, I spend most of my round looking at the golf course.

This year, I throw shoutouts to Golf Course Superintendents Greg Hafley, Wil Wilbourne and Kevin Churchill, whose courses I played or saw this year. They have done excellent jobs.

The first thing that strikes me regarding spring break golf is that you are playing on warm-season grasses. The contrast becomes even more defined when you think of golf course management programs. There are certain similarities between warm- and cool-season management programs, most focused around green speed and firmness and greens management strategies.

Pest control programs vary but often differ in management intensity. For example, weeds for the most part are either annual or perennial. But southern weed control is much more diverse than what I am used to. It seems I can’t identify half the weeds I see on a southern golf course. In contrast, disease pressure is more severe in the North. There are some common insect pests, but I’m quite pleased I don’t have to look at or make control recommendations for mole crickets.

The most striking difference is the concern for water quality in areas of the South and western United States. Around the Great Lakes, water quality is not something people in general — let alone most golf course superintendents — think about on a regular basis. In Columbus, Ohio, salt is something you put on your steak. However, in areas where water quality is an issue and that use effluent as the primary irrigation source, it’s a continual concern.

The concentrations of the various salt cations and anions and how they interact is continually being monitored in irrigation sources. Measuring electrical conductivity (EC) and sodium absorption ratio (SAR) is a given, and what the implication of those measurements mean for management programs, including irrigation practices, the addition of amendments and mechanical practices (e.g. type and number of corings) is considered continually. Around the Great Lakes, we often do not even consider testing EC and SAR.

Returning from spring break, I remind myself I need to make golf course visits and play more golf at monthly superintendent meetings. By getting out — and out of your daily routine — you begin to see the diversity among golf courses, even within close proximity. Getting out is like a mini spring break. It provides a chance for professional rejuvenation.

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