U.S. Water News Online
STAMFORD, Conn. -- The region's ongoing drought emergency
could shape up to be a water hazard for many area golf courses.
But the lack of rain clouds has a silver lining for course
supervisors, many of whom have taken advantage of the unseasonably
warm, dry weather to get their links in shape for an early opening
``We're a month ahead. It's awesome,'' said Tracey Holliday,
superintendent of Sterling Farms Golf Course in Stamford.
The weather has allowed Holliday and her grounds crew to complete
work that would not usually be finished until well into April, such
as aerating the greens.
As she supervised crew members operating the aerating machines --
which bore small holes into the ground to reduce compacting of the
soil -- Holliday explained that the dry conditions have other
While parched conditions can be fatal for a golf course in the
summer, dry winters help the turf, she said.
``When it's dry like this, the roots will start to seek down for
the water, so it actually helps the grass get stronger,'' Holliday
said. ``You'll get more damage from too much water.''
The warm weather and busy maintenance schedule also will allow the
Newfield Avenue course to open by the second week in March, which is
good news for manager Paul Grillo.
``As far as my end, the revenue end, is concerned, it's great.
It's fantastic,'' Grillo said.
Other area courses are eyeing similar early openings. But behind
the enthusiasm about the weather lies the nagging fear that a dry
spring and summer -- which long-term forecasts are predicting --
could be disastrous.
``To start a season in the predicament we're in is pretty scary,''
said Rick Schock, property manager for Wee Burn Country Club in
Wee Burn has two irrigation ponds that have a combined capacity of
10 million gallons. Though full now, they are recharged by wells,
Once irrigation begins in May, the ponds will draw down quickly,
Schock said. If the drought begins to affect the wells, the course's
lush greens and fairways could easily give way to a more barren
Schock is hopeful that won't come to pass. ``We're definitely on
the cautious side right now, as far as cautiously optimistic that
things are going to even out with Mother Nature,'' he said.
Courses such as Wee Burn that have their own wells are better
positioned to handle drought conditions than those on city water
systems, Schock said.
Sterling gets about half its water from the city, but Stamford's
other municipal course, E. Gaynor Brennan, is dependent on municipal
water for irrigation, said Michael Sullivan, superintendent of
After warnings from BHC Co., which supplies water to 95 percent of
the city's residents, Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy declared a water
emergency earlier this month.
Under city ordinances, residents caught washing cars or watering
their yards can be fined $100, though town officials say they will
not start handing out tickets yet.
Golf courses are businesses that need water to sustain their
operations, and are therefore exempt from the ordinance, said Dr.
Anthony Iton, Stamford's director of health and social services.
``The goal here is to conserve, it's not to drive people out of
business,'' Iton said.
Golf courses can take several conservation measures to reduce
water consumption without interfering with the golf experience,
Computerized irrigation systems already allow course managers to
water only where needed, Sullivan said. As a last resort, workers can
water only the most parched areas of grass by hand, he said.
Several projects around the course will require areas of
resodding, but those will likely be postponed until conditions
improve, Sullivan said.
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