Area golf courses fighting drought conditions

Joey Allen says there is a restroom on the golf course at Nueva Vista Golf Club that has been flooded twice in the six years he’s worked there.

These days he would like to see it flooded again.

“I wish we had that problem,” said Allen, the head golf professional at Nueva Vista.

Allen is like a lot of golf course professionals and superintendents in Midland in that they are wishing and hoping for any kind of moisture. As the drought in West Texas continues, area golf courses are facing something that they haven’t faced in a number of years.

Dry stretches are common in West Texas, but even veteran superintendents who have grown up in West Texas can’t remember a stretch that is now nearly nine months with so little rain.

But in typical West Texas fashion, the professionals and superintentendents are taking all of it in stride, knowing they can’t control the weather and can only do what they can to keep their golf courses in good shape.

“We are doing the best we can, and we are all grown men that just do our jobs,” said Ranchland Hills Golf Club superintendent Kevin Ochs. “If it never rains again, it never rains again.”

The top priority for any golf course is to keep the greens playable, and as the temperatues stay above 100 without rain, it is becoming tougher. That is why without rain, fairways become harder and the rough all but disappears.

All the golf courses in Midland County irrigate with wells that are on their property, but that doesn’t mean that how much water they used hasn’t changed.

Ochs said they have changed a “few minor things” when it comes to watering but with an on-site source they can continue to water the course as needed.

Midland Country Club superintendent Fore Brown said his course has a weather station to determine how much the course needs to be watered, and he said they have cut back by about 20 percent, which is normal for this time of year.

Green Tree Country Club head professional Brian McKinley said they are also cognizant of how much water they are using even with a well and a revese osmosis system.

“We are real careful about what we use and when we use it,” McKinley said. “Obviously we are not going to be watering in the middle of the day.”

What golf courses mainly face with using so much ground water is that West Texas’ water has a high salt content, and that salt content can affect growth on the greens.

As the salt content increases in the soil it becomes harder for the greens to grow, and both Brown and Ochs said rain washes those salts away to promote healthier greens. The more salt builds up in the soil, the harder it is to keep greens healthy.

“(Rain) flushes the salt out of the upper portion of the soil where the roots plant, and they can really take off in cleaner water,” Brown said. “Plus, rainfall has some nitrogen in it, and that is beneificial to growing turf grass.”

Courses can use different treatments on the greens to keep the salt content down, including Green Tree’s reverse osmosis system and Ranchland has bermuda greens that are more resistent to the heat.

“(The bermuda greens) thrive in the high nighttime temperatures,” Ranchland Hills head golf professional Terry Lester said.

What hasn’t changed even with the extreme drought conditions affecting local golf courses is the number of players and round. Nearly all the professionals talked to for this story said that rounds are above what they were at this time last year.

And the pros said golfers are very understanding of what is happening, and know the work needed to keep courses in shape with this kind of weather.

“I think everybody kind of understands what’s going on,” said Midland Country Club head professional Greg Beran. “We don’t hear any complaining, and they are keeping it in good condition.”

Allen also admited there is a positive to all of this for the players.

“People are hitting their drives further than they ever hit them before,” Allen said. “Normally this time of year, the fairways are taller and now it’s rolling 50 to 100 yards further. Everybody wants to be like John Daly.”

Golfing will continue in Midland County with or without rain, but each day the superintendents look to the sky hoping that some relief will come sooner rather than later.

“We just want it to rain, that’s all,” Ochs said.


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