I would venture to guess that 108 degrees Fahrenheit sounds pretty darn to hot most people. Even folks in states like Arizona, California, Florida and Texas might even admit to that sounding a bit warm. But 108 in the Pacific Northwest is not that same as 108 in those traditionally hot pockets of the country. 108 degrees for us in Seattle may seem more like 125 Fahrenheit to other places.
The last week of June and the first week of July saw unprecedented temperatures for the Pacific Northwest. To put the 108-degree mark Seattle hit on June 28 in context, the average temperature for that date in the city is 73.
Portland, Oregon, hit 116 degrees on the same day. Although Portland does trend to the warmer spectrum in the Pacific Northwest, there is no dismissing these types of temperatures.
Golf course greens in the Pacific Northwest are almost exclusively Poa annua. Poa, of course, does not care for extreme temps, which is the main reason it thrives out here. We don’t (sorry, didn’t) experience 100-plus temps very often, let alone a multi-day stretch of them. In fact, we can often go an entire summer without seeing 90.
Safe to say it was a bit surreal to see the forecast six or seven days before the extreme heat was going to hit us. At one point the Seattle Times had the expected high on June 28 at 114. We ended up hitting 108, shattering the recorded record high for the Emerald City by 4 degrees.
Superintendents throughout the region were preparing for the heat event with the same apprehension and concern one might feel in preparing for an approaching hurricane or flood event.
My golf course, Avalon Golf Links, is about 75 minutes north of Seattle in the Skagit Valley region of Washington. Although our temps trend a few degrees cooler than Seattle, anything north of 100 degrees is nothing to take lightly. My assistant, Tyler Harris, and I started to formulate a game plan about a week before the extreme stretch.
We figured out an afternoon hand-watering schedule, as well as an afternoon syringing schedule, coordinating this with the pro shop to secure some gaps in play to allow us to cool the Poa. The problem with extreme heat in June is the long hours of sunlight. June heat is always more stressful than August or September heat because of the length of sunlight.
We also raised heights about a week before on the greens from .100 to .120 and dropped our daily mowing from two sides a day (we have three nine-hole sides to make up our 27 holes), to one per day and increased our rolling accordingly.
But it wasn’t just the planning of water and figuring out mowing and rolling that had to be considered. For the first time in my 19 years at Avalon, I had a legitimate concern about Pythium, a disease I haven’t given serious thought to since leaving Minnesota a quarter century ago.
Jacob Close is a new sales rep for Simplot in our region, and also a well-respected past superintendent. Jacob observed regionwide concern for the high-temp disease.
“Many superintendents in the region put out preventative Pythium apps before the weekend,” Jacob told me. “After we got through the extreme heat, I heard of no courses that ended up with a Pythium outbreak.”
Jacob also saw many superintendents doing the same things we did at Avalon: raising heights and reducing or even eliminating mowing for about a week. “Regionwide, grass came through healthy for the most part,” he says. “It was definitely a very long eight to 10 days for everyone, but almost all of them were successful.”
I think two things more than any other may have helped us get through the heat event mostly unscathed.
One, our normal preconditioning plan. Preconditioning for summer stress is not something you do immediately before an event like this. It must be part of your seasonal program. It starts every spring. A solid fungicide, fertility, wetting agent, plant growth regulator and biostimulant program must be in place. I can’t imagine how tough it would have been surviving this event without the biostimulant/extract program we are on at Avalon. Without that strengthening of the physical and biological aspects of the soil, it would be so much more difficult to keep the Poa alive and healthy during the extreme temps.
The second most important thing that got us through was undoubtedly the use of our soil moisture meters. Jacob also noticed this was a savior for most superintendents. “I believe the widespread use of moisture meters has allowed superintendents to better prepare and manage through intense heat without making the soil profile too wet,” he told me.
I have to agree with him. Although we lost some speed through the event as we raised heights, mowed less and watered more, the moisture meter allowed us to not overwater to the point of overly saturated and soft.
As I write this a few weeks after the heat, it still has not rained on our golf course in five weeks, and none is in the forecast. Although our temps have dropped to normal (mid 70s), we are in the midst, like many in the country, of a drought. I think this is in the new norm. High-temp events and little to no rain.
Even for us in what has traditionally been a mild region for summer, the game has changed. I think you either change with it or get left in the dust. Literally.
Ron Furlong is the superintendent at Avalon Golf Links in Burlington, Washington, and a frequent Golf Course Industry contributor.
Los Bordes has debuted its New Course, the first Gil Hanse-designed design project in continental Europe.
Hanse travelled from his home in America to France’s famous Loire Valley to give his personal seal of approval to the new layout, hitting the inaugural tee shot prior to members flying in from across the world to experience his new creation.
In direct contrast to Les Bordes’ Old Course, the New Course features a more traditional heathland style. When combined with the 10-hole short course – the Wild Piglet, also created by Hanse and opened in 2020 – members of Les Bordes Golf Club will receive distinct golf experiences.
“We’ve never built anything in continental Europe and we wanted to make sure that our first project was going to be something special, and Les Bordes gave us that opportunity,” Hanse said. “I have always loved visiting France, and to have the chance to create this course and leave a lasting legacy in such a beautiful part of the world makes me particularly proud.
“The golf facilities at Les Bordes are on a par with anywhere else in the world. When you consider the variety and contrast of the Old and New, the originality and quality of design coupled with the Wild Piglet and Himalayas putting green, across the board there are outstanding facilities for serious golf and fun golf – and there are very few places who can say that.
“One of the challenges that we were excited to accept was to have the chance to build a golf course on the same estate as (the Old Course), a course that has been ranked as the best in Europe.
“There are elements of a number of golf courses (in the New Course) including a lot of the great heathland courses around London and Paris. I think that I am always influenced by Pine Valley, which is very near to my home, and I think that some of the scale of National Golf Links is apparent out there too. If you roll all of those into one, I think that’s a pretty good recipe.
“With the three golf courses and the amenities that are already in place and the ones that are coming, I can’t see how Les Bordes won’t be considered one of the finest golfing destinations in Europe or in the world.”
Set 90 minutes south of Paris in France’s magical Sologne Forest, the New Course fits harmoniously into its surroundings, with the fairways blending seamlessly into the natural vegetation and trees, and maximum care and attention was taken by Hanse and his team to clear the location and preserve the natural environment.
Featuring large bunkers, subtle elevation changes and incredible green complexes, the layout measures 7,211 yards from the back tees but, in contrast to the Old Course, is expected to play shorter than its overall length due to the firm and fast playing conditions.
“The opening of the New Course is a significant landmark in the history of Les Bordes and the culmination of many years of hard work from Gil and his team, and everyone here on the estate,” said Les Bordes director of golf Jack Laws. “The New Course is an outstanding golf course with truly exceptional architecture. It’s incredibly exciting what Gil has achieved here, and its addition means that our members and guests will be in the enviable position of being able to enjoy two world-class, but very different golfing experiences.”
Pine Lakes Country Club, Myrtle Beach’s first golf course, reopened to public play on July 13 following a greens and bunker restoration project. Founders Group International, Pine Lakes’ parent company, partnered with Craig Schreiner to lead the effort at the Granddaddy.
The renovation included the installation of new Sunday Bermudagrass greens. Sunday Bermudagrass replaces paspalum installed during a 2008-09 renovation. The greens were restored to their original size, adding more than 21,000 square feet of putting surface, an increase of 20 percent.
“Sunday Bermudagrass is ideal for Myrtle Beach’s climate and golfers are going to love the new greens, which will provide a smoother, faster putting surface,” Pine Lakes general manager Jimmy Biggs said. “Golfers playing Pine Lakes this fall will return to a course that is in spectacular condition and our staff couldn’t be more excited.”
Schreiner also reworked every greenside bunker, an effort that included the installation of a new drainage system. Twenty of the 26 bunkers were reduced in size.
The new bunker faces feature traditional, native grasses that roll into the sand, giving the course a more natural look that provides an equally fair test for players of varying skill levels. Pine Lakes closed on April 26 to begin the project.
“Pine Lakes is one of the Myrtle Beach area’s iconic layouts, and we are committed to ensuring it maintains not only it’s position of historical importance but also its reputation as a course golfers relish the opportunity to play,” Founders Group International President Steve Mays said. “We are delighted with the results of the greens and bunker restoration project and can’t wait to welcome golfers back to the Granddaddy.”
Pine Lakes, which opened in 1927, was originally designed by Robert White, a native of St. Andrews, Scotland and the first president of the PGA of America, and the course, along with its famed clubhouse, is part of the National Registry of Historic Places.
Built along natural dunes less than a mile from the Atlantic Ocean, Pine Lakes features natural elevation change and a classic design that has long made it one of the Myrtle Beach area’s most popular courses.
The work at Pine Lakes is just the latest capital improvement project undertaken by FGI as the company has committed to reinvesting in its 21 courses. In the last three years, FGI has also completed significant course improvement projects at TPC Myrtle Beach, Aberdeen Country Club, the PineHills and Palmetto courses at Myrtlewood, and Tradition Club.