Water Woes on the Golf Course

Written by Arborjet’s Turf, Ornamental, and Golf Specialist, Kevin Lewis

From increases in water cost and restrictions to societal pressures to conserve water and labor shortages, managing turfgrass moisture is a significant challenge for Superintendents everywhere.

As a former Golf Course Superintendent, turf care was my number one priority. The bane of that existence was wilted and stressed turfgrass. Just when the weekend mows and course set-ups were complete and I was ready to leave, the first area of turf wilt would show up. What should have been time spent enjoying a cookout or picnic, or just getting work done around the house became time consumed by dragging hoses around the course in pursuit of rescuing droughty playing surfaces. Once the hours of chasing hotspots were complete, my interests in recreation were dashed.

Drought stress can happen at any time and on a routine basis. There does not need to be a severe weather event or catastrophic irrigation failure to deplete the amount of plant-usable moisture in the rootzone. Gravity is constantly pulling precipitation and irrigation water down past the reach of roots, rendering it unavailable to the plant. Simultaneously, the forces of evaporation pull water vapor out of the soil, further depleting the amount of usable moisture. It’s the daily management of that available moisture that is key to maintaining optimum plant health.

For me, managing plant hydration came with both the cost of water and the cost of watering. The cost of watering included electricity to pump water, wear and tear on the system, and labor required for hand watering, not to mention the cost of replacing hoses worn out after being dragged all over the course. Today’s Superintendents deal with all of these same challenges, compounded by labor shortages. Regulations over H2B visas have left the green care industry scrambling to complete the same job with less people.

Fortunately, there are a number of things that Superintendents can do to improve water management. Beyond cultural practices, such as thatch management, core aeration, topdressing and adjustments in mowing height, there are several products that can be used to improve watering efficiency and reduce the burden on Superintendents and their staff:


Hygroscopic Humectants

Hygroscopic humectants, such as Hydretain, LESCO Moisture Manager™ and H3O Plus™, are a unique class of chemistry designed to improve root zone moisture management. Unlike wetting agent chemistries, hygroscopic humectants function to convert soil moisture vapor into plant usable water droplets within the root zone. This process reduces evaporative loss of moisture and allows you to reduce irrigation frequency without stressing turf. Hygroscopic humectants are also used in several combination products. FOURPlay™ combines hygroscopic humectants with a wetting agent, root hormone biostimulant and potassium humate to address your worst localized dry spot problems. Multi-Purpose Plus™ (4-0-2) combines hygroscopic humectants with a biostimulant, surfactant, macro and micronutrients for an unparalleled addition to your greens and tees program. Finally, NutriRoot® combines hygroscopic humectants with nutrients, seaweed extract, humic acid, and surfactants for tree and shrubs care.


Wetting Agents

Wetting agents are designed to improve the movement of water down to and throughout the root zone. There are many wetting agents/surfactants on the market, and several combination technologies that utilize wetting agents with other chemistries for improved performance. One such combination technology is SeaXtra™ Water Penetrating Pellets. These pellets combine an advanced non-ionic surfactant with seaweed extracts to effectively combat persistent hydrophobic conditions while simultaneously providing beneficial bioactive substances to help plants maximize their natural potential for root development.



Healthy and robust root systems can be one of the best way to improve water efficiency and reduce turf stress. CytoGro® is an EPA registered hormone biostimulant designed to stimulate root growth, encourage tiller, rhizome and stolon production, increase vigor and improve stress tolerance. CytoGro utilizes hormone cofactors such as amino acids, vitamins, proteins and more to be effective at low rates, providing a low costs solution for amplifying root mass.


Arborjet and Ecologel not only offer you a range of effective control, nutrient and water management technologies, but we also have prominent authorities in turf stress management who are happy to help.