August 4, 2006
The stunning heat wave that hung over the Cape Region for much of July has only seemed to intensify as August begins. It is definitely affecting local golfers and the golf courses.
On August 2 Shawnee Country Club was to host one of its biggest golf tournaments of the entire year, a three-club competition for the benefit of Kent-Sussex Industries, a great vocational rehabilitation center in Milford.
However, the weather forecast for that Wednesday predicted temperatures over 100 degrees, accompanied by the same remarkably high humidity that has plagued the area much of the summer.
Head golf professional Devon Peterson reported that the KSI folks and the club agreed to postpone the tournament until a new date in October, instead of asking folks to suffer through the heat.
Peterson also noted that daily use of the course is down during this hot spell, while more of those who continue to play golf are also using golf carts.
Shawnee is usually a very pleasant course for walkers, but apparently several golfers are following a different version of the “90-degree rule.”
That phrase usually refers to the signs on some courses that tell cart riders to stay on the cart paths, and ride out to their golf balls on a perpendicular path.
When it’s this hot and muggy, however, it means that golfers such as yours truly simply give up on the walking and use the carts instead.
The only reason I had a string of double bogeys on the back nine last Saturday is because I decided not to follow that rule, and was just too hot, tired, and sweaty to play those last few holes the way I should.
The heat wave even took a toll on the Tuesday evening golf league at Shawnee this past week. Several two-person teams simply decided to take an unofficial break from the season, and spot those who showed up an easy forfeit victory. Considering how hot it was, I’m not so sure who actually “won” that night.
It’s also becoming really obvious that Cape Region golf course superintendents are having a real struggle to keep their courses in good playing shape under these trying conditions. The extreme heat means that the golf course irrigation systems have to run longer to keep the turf from going dormant, browning out, or simply dying. On the other hand, the high humidity slows down the evaporation rate, which invites other kinds of troubles for the turf, from opportunistic microorganisms and other pests.
A soggy green is not a healthy green.
On the other hand, the wind storms that blew through the Cape Region in early July may also prove to be inspirational for observant local golfers interested in helping their favorite golf course recover from the heat.
At Shawnee Country Club, for example, several dozen trees were knocked down, as well as some hedges. Former club treasurer Terry Johnson, the uncle of former Cape golf standout Mark Johnson, said recently that the hedges near the twelfth tee were blown down because the vines that infested the tops of the hedges acted like a sail. The added greenery gave the wind something to push against.
Several now-gone trees stood near several of the course’s greens complexes. Their absence, replaced by some short stumps and others level with the ground, is really noticeable to long-time members.
Several years ago, a consultant from the United States Golf Association visited the course and made several suggestions for improvement. Many of these tips called for removing trees and undergrowth from the forest edges, to improve air circulation and access to sunlight for the turf grasses.
Some of these suggestions were accepted, but the current heat wave shows that the club should take the USGA’s advice even more seriously, such as in the wooded space between the second hole and the sixteenth hole.
Both greens are suffering right now, and both could really use better access to the breezes to help cool off.