Bob Dembek Discusses Dealing with Heat Stress

Podcast

We recently sat down with Bob Dembek, Superintendent at Lexington Golf Course in Lexington Massachusetts to discuss how after 21 years with the course he maintains consistent look and playing conditions even through extreme heat and drought. 

Take a listen to the full interview or read on below.

Lexington (Mass.) Golf Club is steeped in tradition. Located just outside of Boston, the nine-hole private club was established in 1895 and has been situated on its present site since 1899.

For 21 years, it has been Bob Dembek’s professional home.

A native of Western Massachusetts, Dembek played high-school golf and worked in a pro shop, but didn’t get serious about a career in golf until he enrolled at the Stockbridge School at the University of Massachusetts at age 27. He started at Lexington Golf Club in 2002 and has been there ever since.

At the peak of a golf season that runs from the last week of March or perhaps the first of April to the second week in December, Dembek oversees a crew of 10 or 11, including an assistant and a mechanic. During the winter that number drops to four or five.

“We do a lot of hand mowing here,” Dembek says. “We hand rake bunkers. We hand mow greens, tees, and collars so it takes a little bit of extra work.”

Golf course

Last spring, Dembek began incorporating Aquaitin 19 and Defend into his fungicide protocol, after learning about them via trade publications and social media. He began using them on his two acres of poa annua greens, as well as the collars.

“I did both the 19 and Defend at first,” he said. “I probably started it in May or early June.

“It’s used on the greens and collars every 10-14 days. “Hopefully this year we’ll work it into the tee program and go from there. I don’t foresee right now using it on fairways but you never know.

Dembek started out using Aquaritin 19 exclusively before adding Defend to the mix.

“I bought a bottle of Defend in the summer,” he said.  “I think that’s the best to use with other fungicides. I kind of alternate a little bit during the heat of summer; 19 one spray and then Defend the next, depending on the weather.

“I don’t know if I can tell the difference exactly, but the Defend is maybe better to use with other fungicides and other products to help them work a lot better.”

Dembek was pleased with how his greens held up through a summer of 2022 that was, in his words, extremely dry.

“We had hardly any rain much of the summer,” he said, “and we didn’t have much humidity. We had a night here or there in the high 70s, but the humidity wasn’t around too much. It was mostly a dry, non-rain event summer, so it’s tough to compare it to anything in regards to other weather conditions right now.”

“But I was very pleased with the consistent look of them, the consistent playing conditions. When the 19 was being used, playing conditions didn’t get out of control as far as having to water too much, or anything like that.”

Dembek notes the challenge of nursing his greens through the winter, (they are covered during the offseason) and the importance of taking the proper steps to go into a new season with healthy turf.

“(Poa) is a tough grass to get through the winter anywhere,” he said. “We try to do light topdressing every 10-14 days during the summer to help protect the crowns.

“We make sure our fertility is on an even keel. We’ll do a soil test every two years … Anything we have to add is usually going into the wintertime or the second aeration in August or early September to prepare the soil for winter and the following year.

Golf course

“We’ve worked on a lot of topdressing on greens and fairways over the last 20 years. We’ve tried to build up so we have better surface drainage.”

While he’s used them for less than a full season, Dembek anticipates Aquaritin 19 and Defend having a positive impact on his bottom line, both in terms of cost and the allocation of man hours.

“I think they will in the long run,” he said. “It’s tough for me to tell right now. I wasn’t planning on using (Aquaritin 19) until I got into mid-budget so I’ll probably see that a little bit. 

“There are some products I will probably not replenish this year and use more of the 19 on a more consistent basis. 

“As far as the help goes, it seems like you can do some other stuff a little bit longer in the heat of the summer but without the rain and without the humidity it was tough to tell this year.”

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