A rare Monday night golf tournament at Bighorn Golf Club. Marilyn Chung/The Desert Sun
Nearly two consecutive weeks of at least 110 degrees can take its toll on residents of the Coachella Valley. But imagine what that weather can do to your favorite golf course in the desert.
Summer is a tough time for golf course superintendents in the desert. Sure, Bermuda grass loves to grow in the desert heat. But keeping courses in great shape, the same shape you might expect in January or February, is difficult at best.
For many courses, that’s not really an issue, because they close for the summer or significant parts of the summer. It’s a chance to do some much needed work on greens, irrigation systems and other major construction projects.
Many courses stay open during the summer, though, and while that gives golfers a place to play, it also means golfers who don’t quite understand how difficult it can be to maintain a course at all in the summer heat might not understand why the course isn’t pristine.
Forget for a moment that 122 degrees is not an optimum temperature for green surfaces. There are other issues that courses must deal with in the offseason. Greens need to be aerated to promote better putting surfaces in the winter. They must be top-dressed (that’s when courses spread sand on the greens) as well. And greens need to be kept a little longer than they would be in the cooler winter months.
So it’s interesting to hear comments from golfers like “Man, they just aerated the greens today. I couldn’t make anything.” Or maybe, “With all that sand on the greens I couldn’t hit any putt straight.” Or even, “I would have played better but there were about six putts I missed that I would have made had the greens not been so bad.”
It’s important for golfers to have a certain level of acceptance and a reality check when it comes to desert golf courses in the summer. You may not want to play when its 115 degrees, but many golf courses and their superintendents are doing remarkable work to have a golf course available to you if you do decide to venture out in the heat.
OK, it’s not quite like trying to unfreeze a golf course for play when its 20 degrees and the course is under three feet of snow. Maybe the areas around the golf course aren’t full of the colorful annual flowers that you might see in January or February. Maybe the greens are a little crusty and they may not be as pool table perfect as they are in the heart of the season.
And a few other areas of the golf course might look a little worse for the wear from June to September, when the golf courses prepare for the annual overseeding shut down. But if we accept that the golf world doesn’t really need to produce golf courses that each day of the year look like Augusta National during Masters week, then we have to accept that the courses don’t need to look like Augusta National during the toughest months of the year.
So June, July and August might be good times to temper your expectations of golf course conditions in the desert. When you do that, you might understand that the conditions on your local golf course are pretty good given the desert’s unrelenting heat and what it does to a golf course.
And you might not complain as much about that missed 12-footer.
Larry Bohannan is The Desert Sun golf writer. He can be reached at (760) 778-4633 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook or on Twitter at @Larry_Bohannan.