Drought and the impact on South African golf

Abu Dhabi – Seeing a lush golf course in the middle of a desert makes you realise that nothing is impossible.

In a place where there is an average annual rainfall of about 120mm according to a number of weather websites the fact that anything is able to grow here, let alone championship golf courses is down purely to the capital resources available to pump water out of the ocean.

To put it into perspective, Johannesburg’s average rainfall for January alone is more than that experienced here in a year.

The recent effects of El Nino and the severe drought it brought with it have had a massive impact on South Africa with farmers hit hard by the crisis.

The dry conditions have also had an adverse effect on South Africa’s golf courses as Bryanston Country Club’s head greenskeeper explained here yesterday. Cousins is part of a contingent of South Africans invited over as part of a trip to the Abu Dhabi Golf Championships here this week.

“It’s been tough but it’s also been a massive eye-opener. It’s the worse drought I’ve seen and I’ve been speaking to a lot of my peers in the Johannesburg area and we’ve all agreed,” Cousins told Saturday Citizen.

What it has meant is that any water at the disposal of curators has been used mainly to keep the greens alive. It is necessary given that the greens are arguably the most expensive aspect of a golf course to replace if they should die.

“It got to a stage where for almost seven weeks I had no water for fairways or tee boxes, just greens. During October, November, December we lost plenty of grass. It’s just been burnt away.

Bryanston has two dams, a holding dam that has an 80-million litre capacity and a catchment dam that is able to store about 13-millions litres. At the moment their main dam is half-empty with the dry spell and high temperatures responsible for evaporation as well.

“For six weeks we had absolutely no water on the fairways. At Bryanston we rely on rain water. At the moment we’ve got enough water for a bout 20 days. Ideally you’d like to have a store that could last you about three months,” said Cousins.

There has been some reprieve in recent weeks with intermittent showers hitting Johannesburg and it means that Cousins and his team have been able to get to work restoring the course to it’s usually lush condition.

“I’ve actually been lucky and started getting rains now. After a drought everything is barren and compacted but we’ve aerated the golf course twice which has helped immensely. It makes the course look really tatty for a while but the fairways are now back to being lush and we’ve got a couple of areas that are being worked on.”

“This drought has opened up everybody’s eyes. Everyone got comfortable thinking it won’t affect them but you need to be geared up for it now. It’s been an eye-opener and it’s been extremely harsh,” Cousins said.

*Nick Gordon is in Abu Dhabi courtesy of the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority

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