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Courses soaking it all in

Dry Citrus and Hernando county links welcome recent rash of rain.

By BRANT JAMES and KEITH NIEBUHR
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 25, 2002


Rain is a golfer's worst nightmare.

But for those who work at and operate area courses, the drizzles, drops and downpours that have blanketed Citrus and Hernando counties in recent days are a beautiful sight.

"We were waiting on this for about five months," said David Robinson, pro shop manager at El Diablo Golf and Country Club in Citrus Springs.

Decreasing rainfall totals and on-again/off-again water restrictions during the past few years have resulted in less-than-ideal conditions at many courses. Without an abundance of water, fairways are not as lush and greens are not as smooth as players and course superintendents would like. And, the grass hasn't been that green.

Rain started to fall last week, and -- for the most part -- it hasn't stopped.

The brief afternoon thunderstorms that typically come during the summer strangely gave way to all-day rains and cooler temperatures. Citrus County got 8-12 inches of rain and Hernando 4-8 last week, well above normal for June. The weather kept golfers away and caused some standing water and washed-out bunkers, but should make for better playing conditions in the future.

El Diablo has about 500-800 rounds in a normal week, but managed about half that last week because the course was closed Friday and half of Saturday due to inclement weather. Despite the decrease in play, Robinson was not about to complain.

"It definitely helped," he said. "This was exactly what we needed in this area. With that rain, it usually takes 2-3 days to see the green coming up from the ground. Then, you'll see the thick and plush grass come in after 4-5 days."

The rain was at worst a minor inconvenience for Hernando County's courses. World Woods imposed a 90-degree play and cart-path restriction, but the rest of the county's facilities were unfazed.

"It's business as usual," said Jim Cocchi, manager of The Dunes in Weeki Wachee. "Actually, when it rains, we notice a spike because people come from other courses to play here. We're so high-and-dry, we're in fabulous shape."

The Dunes is at 40-110 feet elevation above sea level, Cocchi said. Also, the course, as its name suggests, is situated on a bed of candler fine sand, which expedites drainage.

Jason Nelson, head professional at Spring Hill Golf Club, said the four inches of rain his course received helped green conditions.

"We were so dry it soaked it up rather quickly," Nelson said. "We didn't get inundated like some other places, but it was a good soaker rain."

Gary Spaulding, superintendent at Sherman Hills in Ridge Manor, reported just one slurpy spot on his links.

"All the rain does is keep the golfers away," Spaulding said. "This course will take rain 40 days and 40 nights."

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