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.
I am pleased to report that the golf course endured the winter season quite well. We had some staff on hand to remove covers from putting greens and found, as usual, that the turf underneath was not dead. It was, in fact, very green and healthy.
An interesting topic of conversation that came up this week while I was talking to a peer in the golf course maintenance industry was the topic of change and some people’s aversion to it. The specific topic was how we at the Wilderness are moving our maintenance practices on putting greens and fairways away from traditional core aerifying and more towards solid tine, less disruptive aerification techniques. On our golf course this makes perfect sense from a technical perspective. We do not have excessive thatch; we keep our fertilizer inputs to a minimum required for optimal playability, and have a consistent topdressing program. Just as importantly, we have a very short growing season and so should find ways to perform our aerification processes both less often and in ways that minimize if not eliminate their effect on our players. This all makes perfect sense to me.
Winter is actually the one season of the year where I have some time and energy to watch movies. As I was flicking through Netflix, I noticed CaddyShack (the original) on the menu and since I am always up for a good laugh, I watched it for what must have been the 10th time in my life. Good humor but the movie reminded me of an old slide I saw at a Superintendents’ conference a few years ago:
I know that most of you will be shocked to know that we can get some pretty cold temperatures in the winter months. 2017 has been no exception to this rule in that the first week of this year has seen below freezing bone chilling cold. From a golf course maintenance standpoint, I welcome the sustained cold weather-particularly since we have over a foot of snow cover everywhere to offer insulating protection to the turf. What we do not want is a huge thaw followed by a hard freeze. This creates a layer of gas exchange preventing ice that can be deadly to turf. I feel very good about the design and turf health on the golf course going into the winter having both built and managed it over the past 15 years. Regardless of the conditions, I feel confident that we will be fine coming out of winter and if any areas do not survive, we will promptly repair them. I have learned over the years that worrying over that which one has no control over is a fool’s game. Save your energy for tasks that make a positive difference for your workplace, home, and community.