Reliability is defined as the ability of a person or system to perform and maintain its functions in routine circumstances, as well as hostile or unexpected circumstances. I could not think of a more fitting definition for both todays golf course superintendent AND the turf they manage. Facing unprecedented economic, personnel, and environmental challenges golf course superintendents have to deliver a playing surface that functions as expected for every client. At the same time the turf has to overcome a rapidly changing climate, intense management, and new pests.
My only issue with the definition of reliability is that I think there is no such thing as routine. These days golf turf management is hardly EVER routine. The lack of routine is intimately linked to economic pressures in that the competition for the golfing dollar is as intense as it has ever been. Country clubs, daily fee and munis all face the same challenges when it comes to attracting the golfer looking for good conditions. Reliable turf is the cornerstone of good conditioning.
Now is the time in northern climates to begin to plan for next years reliable turf. Any area that struggled start making a list of the low hanging fruit that is an easy fix, such as minor tree and limb removal, irrigation head placement and operation, amend existing soils through core cultivation, etc.
The larger structural issues should be discussed openly to make more significant modification. For example, do we need a tree removal program, should we add a fan, should entry and exit points be expanded. These improvements in growing conditions will aid with reliability.
Finally, the transformational changes that might be needed, such as re-grassing putting surfaces, major bunker and surround work, adding new tees for the play it forward movement. In these cases the investment and inconvenience can be so dramatic that you can market your operation in an entirely new way. Again increasing reliability and investing in retaining existing golfers and attracting new ones.
Golf course superintendents need to take a more active role in initiating discussions about the relationship among course conditioning, golfer economics and the time and resources needed to provide reliable conditions. The climate is changing so rapidly economically and environmentally that we can no longer afford to fly by the seat of our pants. If we dont openly discuss and plan for reliable conditions then the unexpected and hostile WILL be routine.