Thursday, March 23, 2017

The State of the Course: March, 2017

By Golf Superintendent Ben Larsen

After inspecting the course I’m happy to report that, currently, there is no evidence of significant turf loss; not to mention that the course is thawing and breaking out of dormancy nicely. Last fall, the use of heavy topdressing sand coupled with our annual plant protectants insulated the turf’s crown and aided in its winter survival from: low temperature kill, ice damage, desiccation and snow mold. However, before opening the golf course, we must now be patient to allow two naturally occurring events to transpire; thawing of the soil and turf recovery growth.

The first event is we must wait for the soil profile to thaw. Although the deep frost has been lifted; there are still several areas where the frost layer remains between 2-6 inches deep. Frost at shallow depths can cause serious damage and can set the whole golfing season back, if traffic is allowed prematurely. Maintenance equipment and/or golfer traffic on frozen playable areas, or areas in the current freeze-thaw cycle, can create a "shearing" effect on root systems. What happens is the top, or thawed, layer moves and the frozen layer underneath does not; which can have your 9” roots turn into 2” roots (imagine popping off a muffin top). Pictured below exhibits how much damage could be done, even within one foursome.

Another outcome from shallow frost is poorly drained soils. Because the soil is frozen, it will not allow water to drain downward, so all water is being held and saturating the top 2-6 inches. Once a golf ball lands or golfer steps in one of the mentioned areas, the ground will not have any cushion and will cause the surface to spread and lift the sides, much like a ballmark.

 (Left) Off-site example of cart traffic damage
Range ball plugged in our range fairway after a shot

The second event is we must wait for some turf growth. Before the golf course can sustain traffic, it must be able to recover. When temperatures fall below the ranges considered optimal for turfgrass growth, there is a change in the response of turfgrasses to the stresses from golf and course maintenance activities. Therefore, golf traffic during periods of reduced turfgrass growth can result in increased amounts of worn and thin turf, thus affecting the golf season.
Leaf tissue that has been setback by overwinter snowshoe traffic.

Along with everything mentioned above, the current conditions and long-range forecast are not conducive for a March opening. Furthermore, there is no set date for opening the golf course but check your email for updates on the opening of the range and Quarry course. On a positive note, the forecasted temperatures and rains next week will help speed up the thawing process and will then allow us to vent, brush, roll and mow the greens before opening.