While drought is leading to issues across Minnesota, the Odessa (Texas) Country Club is facing claims from a surrounding neighborhood that the course is causing severe flooding. In Natchez, Miss., Duncan Park Golf Course Superintendent Greg Brooking goes from spraying growth inhibitors to preparing to spray a soil penetrate on his greens to keep them growing.
Duncan Park Golf Course in Natchez, Miss. has two different soil bases and course management changes with a heavy rain season followed by drought, The Natchez Democrat reported. In one month, Superintendent Greg Brooking said he went from spraying growth inhibitors to preparing to spray a soil penetrate on his greens to keep them growing. Brown spots appear on the greens in the summer because they can’t get the water they need, he said.
“We have watered these greens every day for a week. The hydrophobic areas don’t go away. They repel the water from the areas,” Brooking said. “When it gets this bad, I spray a soil penetrate, it is a type of soap and it relieves surface tension of all of the grains of sand repelling the water. Once I spray the surfactant, it will make the brown areas go away. The grass will revive and grow again.”
It has been pretty dry the last three weeks, he told The Democrat. Daytime temperatures got up into the 90s with strong winds drying out the grass. Brown spots develop in the greens because they are areas where water cannot percolate down, he said.
Greens look to be in better shape on the back nine of the golf course because they are made up of push-up clay and are not hydrophobic, he told The Democrat. Greens on the front nine of the course are having a hard time because they are made of pure sand, which has hydrophobic fungi in them.
“There are all kinds of fungi in these greens,” Brooking said. “There are certain fungi that coat certain sands. It is the structure of the silica to cover the sand. When the fungi coat the sand, it doesn’t allow any water through there. It just sits on top of the soil. It has so much surface tension the water cannot move.”
Brooking said he would let the greens get to a level above death before spraying soil penetrates on the greens, The Democrat reported. He has to wait because he does not have the budget a big private golf course would have.
“The first application of a soil penetrate is going to cost somewhere around $450,” he said. He applies the soil penetrate at a lower rate every 2 to 3 weeks to prevent hydrophobicity. “We want to be good stewards of the tax money. One of our main concerns out here is trying to not spend money.”
Grass on the golf course has to compete with trees in addition to hydrophobic soil bases, The Democrat reported. On the ninth green, a towering southern red oak tree soaks up the moisture on the left backside of the green.
Brooking said he installed a flood head on a sprinkler to get more water to that side of the green, so his grass gets whatever water the tree does not, The Democrat reported. He waters all of the greens by hand because greens take 10 times more water than the apron of the green.
“It takes tens of gallons of water a day to keep a tree alive. Where that water comes from, I do not know,” Brooking said. “They get first dibs on the water. They will get it before my grass gets it. My grass can’t compete against a tree. It can’t do it.”
In Brooklyn Park, Minn., Matt Olsonoski, Golf Course Superintendent at Edinburgh USA, is responsible for the day-to-day maintenance of the 170 acres, CCX Media reported. In his five years as course superintendent, this year has been especially challenging due to this month’s drought and hotter-than-average temperatures.
“The revenue, rounds, everything’s up. People love the golf course,” said.
Edinburgh has a weather station on site that provides Olsonoski with information on wind, rain, temperature and water loss, CCX Media reported.
“We use that information to try to figure out how much water we should put back in on a nightly basis,” he said. “This summer, some of the struggles we’ve faced, we haven’t even been able to come close to those numbers.”
June is typically the wettest month of the year. Instead, it’s been anything but, CCX Media reported. The course is about four inches below where it would normally be for moisture.
While the weather has brought out large crowds, it’s been less than ideal for keeping the grass looking green, CCX Media reported. Instead, the focus has shifted to keeping the course playable.
“We’re focusing on the fine turf,” Olsonoski said. “We focus on everything, greens, tees and fairways. Anything outside of that, we’ve kind of let, I don’t want to say let go, but we’ve reduced our water usage out there.”
Edinburgh’s signature 17th hole is one such example, CCX Media reported.
“On the fine turf, the greens, the fairways, everything’s holding in pretty good,” Olsonski said. “But as our irrigation kind of fades out on the edges, you can see how dry it really is and how poor some of our coverage is.”
The grass in that area isn’t dead, it’s just dormant, CCX Media reported.
“As long as no one minds the look, I think it plays fantastic,” he said.
While some cities in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area have started to issue watering restrictions, courses typically have a backup source of water, according to Jack MacKenzie, the Executive Director for the Minnesota Golf Course Superintendents’ Association.
“For those that have [their own supply], it’s not going to be an issue at the current time,” he told the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal. “It is hot and dry, absolutely, but there are contingency plans in place.”
MacKenzie added that courses can limit watering to only certain parts of a course to help conserve water should it become a bigger concern, the Business Journal reported.
Ramsey County’s Park & Recreation’s department has several golf courses, but is confident it can handle the dry weather, the Business Journal reported. Keller Golf Course, which part of Ramsey County’s system and is one of the best municipal golf courses in the metro area, has its own retention ponds that recollects a lot of the water it uses for irrigation.
“Ramsey County courses and irrigation ponds will be able to operate through the drought for the next two to four weeks,” a county spokeswoman said on June 28.
Lake Elmo implemented an emergency outdoor watering ban on June 25, but that doesn’t impact the Royal Golf Club in the east-metro suburb, the Business Journal reported.
“The watering ban they have in Lake Elmo does not affect the golf course,” said Hollis Cavner, one of the course’s founders. “We get no city water and we are totally self-sustaining from using outside water.”
Although there hasn’t been any significant rain for some time, most of the state is “abnormally dry” or in a “moderate draught,” the Business Journal reported. Severe draught, extreme draught and exceptional draught are all more direr categories, according to the U.S. Draught Monitor.
“I don’t think anybody needs to panic,” said Randall Doneen, the Conservation Assistance and Regulation Section Manager at Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “I am unaware of any complaints or notices of low aquifer levels in the Twin Cities area wells due this year’s dry conditions.”
Conversely, Homeowners in the Ridgewood neighborhood in Odessa, Texas spent most of June 28 letting water flow through their homes or attempting to pump it out, KOSA reported. Most of the people who live there say that the Odessa Country Club is to blame for the excessive flooding.
“They can’t just dump their water in these poor people’s neighborhood and drown them out just ’cause they can. Just so they can play golf tomorrow,” said Ridgewood homeowner Gary Reese. “We don’t care if they can play golf tomorrow. We would like to stay in our house and stay dry.”
The Odessa Country Club and the city of Odessa say that the golf course and Ridgewood sit on a natural drainage path, KOSA reported. The club’s General Manager Ryan George told KOSA that the club isn’t responsible for the neighborhood flooding … and has built more retention ponds in recent years to prevent flooding.
“We have worked hard with the city to capture and retain every drop of water that we can because we will utilize that,” George said. “In this case, there is no way we could have retained all that. In no way, shape, or form are we pumping any water onto anyone’s home or off of our golf course.”
The neighborhood also sits in Midland County and Commissioner Scott Ramsey told KOSA that there are plans to add drainage in problem flooding areas.