The biggest challenge faced in the management of turf in a cold climate such as ours is the possibility of winter damage. Sometimes with all the best preventative measures, factors beyond our control can cause us to come out of the long winter with some damage to turf. This was the case this year on a few of our putting greens. A late December thaw with rain followed by a cold January which in turn was followed by a mid-February thaw with heavy rain followed by a cold early part of March created thick layers of ice on parts of putting greens that caused some isolated damage. Damage was most prevalent on the putting green, 2, 7, 8, and 16 greens. Normally this sort of damage grows out and is for the most part recovered by the time that we open, but cold weather and snow throughout the month of April/May delayed the process. Cold temperatures and snow are not what you want when driving growth. When we opened, all areas were for the most part recovered with the exception of the 7th green.
April 10, 2017
May 10, 2017
The before and after pictures show the improvement of the putting surface from April 10th until May 10th. Note the deep, dark green on the May 10th photo. This is the plant response to applications of Ammonium Sulfate that we use to drive early season growth. I am confident that with warmer temperatures and hopefully a few days in a row without a frost or snow will help to continue this recovery.
Patience is needed when dealing with this sort of challenge. The solution in this situation is not to go crazy aerifying and overseeding damaged areas right away. Seed is slow to germinate in cold temperatures and all you are doing is making a choppy putting surface (playability comes first) and possibly delaying the recovery by damaging the plants you already have. I have made that mistake before. Rather, the proper play is to encourage growth of what you have and then, with the resumption of consistent growing conditions, touching up areas in need of assistance. This is our plan.
Moving on from the why is that grass brown topic, I would like to throw out a big thank you to the entire staff who worked tirelessly in the rain, freezing rain, and snow to get the golf course up and running for opening day on May 5. This spring was particularly difficult but they endure without complaint and truly show a dedication to the golf course that continues to impress me year after year.
See you on the golf course.