Golf Course Maintenance 101: Water Drainage & Course Management

This is the second post in a multi-post series on golf course maintenance from an interview with Brandon Evans, General Manager & PGA Certified Golf Professional at Village Greens of Woodridge (and self-imposed “Director of Fun and Entertainment”).

In this post, we talk about water drainage and general course management in regards to the up-keep of the course.

CGN: What other things can happen that will change the normal activities that players do during a round of golf (in regards to the up-keeping of the course)? For example, I’ve played on courses that received a heavy amount of rainfall, and all that was done was not allow motorized carts. That’s understandable, as the course managers don’t want to turn the fairways into a mud pit. At what point do you make that call to not allow motorized carts?

BE: Every course is different, and every course has different drainage characteristics. For instance, some golf courses (typically municipal courses like Village Greens of Woodridge) actually serve as stormwater retention for neighborhoods and businesses surrounding the property. Therefore, when we get rain, we’re often taking water on 24 hours after the rain stops, and sometimes golfers don’t understand why the course is still closed or carts aren’t available even though it’s sunny and 80 degrees and the rain ended 24 hours earlier.

Some courses have very expensive and elaborate drainage systems to get water off the course quickly so as not to interrupt business operations. Private country clubs and high-end public courses (like Cog Hill #4 “Dubsdread”) have great drainage systems and you wouldn’t know it even rained 3-4 hours after a one inch rainfall.

Other things [that could change the normal activities] are aerification of greens, tees, and fairways, topdressing, chemical applications, and simply letting a course ‘rest’ for a day (like private country clubs do on Mondays).

Every course weighs those actvities which are required for acceptable turf conditions vs. budgets vs. rounds played vs. customer satisfaction, and tries to blend it all together at times when weather is favorable. It’s a delicate decision to weigh short term financial gain, customer satisfaction, and long term course damage/restoration, and there’s often no clear cut answer. Additionally, some courses allow different people to make the decisions… a grounds superintendent’s job is to keep the turf as nice as possible, and they’ll obviously be much more conservative in their decision making. Golf managers are charged with generating revenues and are the front-line for customer service issues, and they’ll be more aggressive in decision making. This is often why golf pros and superintendents don’t get along at some facilities… there’s always a ‘winner’ and ‘loser’… and this routine takes place 100+ times per year as conditions constantly change.