There have been a lot of questions about the condition of the fairways this past week. The main concern is the appearance of the dried outlines on the fairways and why the fairways are so dry.
First, it’s important to understand that the lines that you can see are not from the irrigation project. They are from 25 years of drainage added to the course after the initial construction. When Fairwinds was built, it was done without drainage in the fairways or rough. The fairways and rough were grown in on the native ground, which is primarily soil and clay. Over the last 25 years, the maintenance crew has added drainage as needed; a process which includes digging trenches approximately one foot wide and two feet deep. Drain tile was then added and topped up with some drain rock and finally sand, before the sod was placed back on top of the drain lines.
While we are still irrigating the fairways, the drain lines quickly absorb the water through the sand, leaving the turf on top to dry out. The rest of the grass that is growing in the native soil or clay are receiving adequate amounts of water as the moisture holding capacity of these areas is much greater than that of the drain lines.
To put some perspective to this, as of June 21 we have used approximately 1 million gallons of water more than we had at this time last year. In 2013, May and June brought us nearly 4.5 inches of rain while in the same time frame this year we have had 1.4 inches.
If we were to irrigate to the extent that the drain lines were green it would leave the other areas extremely wet. Basically, the drain lines would be green while the rest of the turf would be mud or at least soaking wet. There is also the fact that we have run out of water available from Enos Lake – our prime source of irrigation water. During the spring and summer we pump water from Enos Lake to Dolphin Lake, behind the 14 tee, and then syphon it through the creek running along the #13 fairway until it eventually makes its way to the irrigation pond between holes 11 and 18.
As stated in our water use license, we are allowed to draw Enos Lake down to a certain level before July 15 to permit the spawning of Stickleback fish in Enos Lake. This has nothing to do with our Audubon certification, it’s the law. After July 15, we are able to draw Enos Lake down further in order to accommodate our irrigation needs on the course.
By mid-July, if there is not enough rain to help replenish Enos Lake, then Dolphin Lake and our irrigation pond may still be under a watering restriction as the supply may not be there to draw from. By that time, we will have at least two more months of irrigation season left, and would not be wise to deplete the source as we will need to ration it to get to the end of the season.
I have also been approached by a couple of concerned members about the possibility of adding some moisture holding material to the drain lines so they will stay wet enough to grow healthy turf. While this may seem like a sound solution now, it would cause problems in the winter months when our drain lines are holding water rather than draining it.
Rod Siddons, our Superintendent, and I have had several discussions about our irrigation priorities and agree that we need to ensure we have enough water to get us to the end of the season. As you have likely noticed we have stopped irrigating the rough and backed off the fairways. We are doing our best the keep the tee decks in the best shape possible. The greens will continue to receive the proper amount of water needed in order to keep them in excellent playing condition.
If you have any questions or concerns about our water issues please do not hesitate to contact me or stop me on the golf course to talk. In the meantime, enjoy the fast and firm conditions.
Fairwinds Golf Club