Tuesday, November 20, 2012

2012: A Summer to Remember

Ask anyone who spent any time outdoors this summer and they will tell you that 2012 was brutal. We should have known, as March brought with it temperatures in the low 90’s and was relatively dry. Despite a cool snap in April, summer was here and it was set to challenge golf course personnel in ways we have not been challenged since 1988, some even say the dust bowl. We broke records all summer with the high heat and lack of rain, and the efforts put forth by the CCC Grounds Staff were monumental. Below are some “interesting facts” about the summer of 2012…

- Starting in March, it was confirmed that Illinois had just come off the third warmest winter on record.

- Also in March, Central Illinois was added to the US Drought Monitor as being “abnormally dry”.

- March became the warmest March on record with an average temperature of 54.7 degrees. A full 14.1 degrees above normal!

- After a relatively cool April, May became the 5th warmest on record. A warm May finished off the warmest spring on record. Year-to-date, 2012 had become the warmest January to May on record.

- By the end of June, Champaign County was in a moderate drought and was verging on a severe drought according to the US Drought Monitor. At this point 89% of the state was in some sort of drought.

- July went into the record books as being the 2nd hottest and 4th driest on record. Only the dust bowl years eclipsed these records. The US Drought Monitor indicated that 71% of the state (including Champaign County) was in a D3 or “extreme” drought. Crop loss reports began piling up.

- During the month of July, we used just over 7.5 million gallons of water to keep CCC alive. One third of this amount or 2.5 million gallons were used through hand watering with hoses. On many occasions we had six staff members at a time hand watering dry areas to keep them alive. This proved to be a game changer in our quest to keep CCC green.

- The month of August finally gave us “normal” conditions with the average temperature 0.1 degree below normal and rainfall at 95% of normal.

- September actually was slightly below normal for temperatures and above normal for precipitation. Discussions of the drought subsiding were common and turf recovery went into high gear.

Despite broken records, a historical drought, and a summer that started in March, we survived. Water was king this summer and courses that didn’t use it enough or who ran short suffered miserably. I feel fortunate that we have ample water available to us however we will always be vigilant on how much we use. We saw first hand this July that, while we have plenty of water available, it is not free! Our approach to hand water as much as we did not only helped save our turf, but saved a considerable amount of water in the process. I spoke to many superintendents during the summer about irrigation practices and found that many courses in our area were using upwards of 500,000 gallons of water each night to keep up with the drought. We never topped 250,000 gallons per night at CCC.

In retrospect, 2012 was a good year. On the heels of two seasons of turf loss we made it through a very difficult summer in good shape. The difference? We were in control of the water for the entire season! A member told me this summer “this place loves to be dry!” and I would have to say that he was spot on with that statement. Our major turf loss comes during times of too much water and high temperatures. Our course cannot shed water fast enough, remains saturated for long periods of time, and suffers through wet stretches. When we are in control of the water, we see far healthier turf!

Looking ahead, no one knows what 2013 will bring. My hope is that it will bring moderate temperatures with occasional light rain… only at night… and only when we need it.