This winter has proven so far to be an unusual one for the Iron Range. The lack of snowfall so far this season has been something to be concerned about-not just for area businesses dependant upon snowmobile traffic but also for area golf courses. Normally by January we have a healthy coat of snow on the golf course. This is a good thing as this snow acts as an insulating layer protecting turf from the ravages of cold and dry winter winds. Because we have so little snow, a turf condition called desiccation might be something that we will be dealing with in the spring.
The main reason we cover our putting greens is for protection against winters much like this one. For this reason, I am confident that we will emerge in the spring in decent shape despite the winter challenges-though we may see some exposed areas of the golf course that are damaged. Areas like six tee, 18 tee, and 13 fairway have historically shown their vulnerability to desiccation.
The article below is an interesting read for those interested in learning more.
WATCH OUT FOR WINTER DAMAGE
By Nick Christians (Iowa State University)
January 2, 2012
While this mild winter has been great for holiday travel, it will probably not be good for golf course superintendents. Surprisingly, it is the hard winters that are generally good for the golf course. Snow cover and cold temperatures through mid to late winter protect the turf from desiccation and the golf course emerges in the spring in good condition. It is the open, mild winter with windy conditions like we are getting today that results in drying of the turf (especially bentgrass) and causes damage that can persist well into the spring and even to early summer.
The last few winters have been anything but mild. The white Christmas has been the standard for the last few years and heavy snow cover has been common in many areas of the Midwest. Winter desiccation has been rare and we tend to forget about it. Unless the weather changes soon, this will be one of those springs where severe desiccation is common. In my experience here in Iowa, it is the northwestern part of the state that gets the worst damage because that area lacks tree cover and is exposed to the northwest winds of winter.
So what can you do about it? Greens covers are part of the answer and those of you who covered your greens a few weeks ago should be fine. But, there are many uncovered golf courses in the state. Fairways and tees generally go uncovered and these areas can be badly damaged even on courses that cover greens. Winter watering can be useful if you can do it. When I worked in Colorado years ago, winter winds would kill bentgrass greens and tees if we did not get some water to them during mild winters. It was too cold to charge the irrigation system. The courses had water trucks and it was typical to spray water over the greens every couple of weeks to keep them hydrated.
Topdressing is another way of protecting greens. In the 80’s and 90’s we did some work on this. I will post some information from that work in the next few days. The last couple of weeks I have had some questions on whether it is too late to topdress in January and if it is not, how much topdressing should we apply. I don’t know the answer to those questions. If the mild weather continues, we will try to get a quick trial together at the research station to look at these issues. I’ll keep you informed about the work during the spring.
Winter desiccation on bentgrass
Area that was protected by a cover during a mild winter
As this winter unfolds we will be updating everyone on the status of the golf course. In the meantime, we should be hoping for more snow.
With the cold winter temperatures, work on the golf course has moved inside to the area of golf course equipment maintenance and facility cleaning and organization. The hectic summer months leave little time to implement changes in our maintenance facility but the winter season gives us time to evaluate our operation and determine where changes are necessary. This season we have focused on our mechanic’s maintenance area-we are finding ways to maximize our utilization of limited space and create a much more effective way of organizing our parts inventory. This will lead to greater efficiency once we get going in the spring.
For your reading pleasure this month, I have attached an article by the Golf Course Superintendents’ Association of America about the many positive things that golf courses offer to the environment. Golf courses take some heat with the press as being water wasting environmental polluters-something that is simply untrue when one stops to consider the facts. As with any other sensitive issue these days, we all must be careful to not let emotions cloud the reality. Have a happy and safe holiday season.
Golf courses and the environment
The use of pesticides, the impact on water and soil quality, and irrigation water usage are often cited as public concerns about the golf industry. GCSAA is leading the golf community in working to correct public misconceptions through a comprehensive effort combining research, education and communication. These inaccuracies, if not corrected, could pose a serious threat to the vitality and integrity of the game of golf.
Sound environmental practices are implemented on golf courses.
- University and government studies indicate that, when properly applied, pesticides and fertilizers do not leach into groundwater in any appreciable amounts.
- Modern turfgrass management practices greatly reduce the potential for leaching or runoff into water supplies.
- Pesticides and fertilizers are used only on certain portions of the golf course. The rest of the property often consists of natural areas not maintained with turf care products. These areas can provide a home for wildlife and include a diverse variety of native plants and trees.
- Golf course superintendents are among the best-educated and most conscientious users of chemical management tools. Today, most superintendents have two- or four-year university degrees in agronomy, horticulture or other related fields.
- Many superintendents enter the profession because of a love of nature and the outdoors, and are strongly committed to conservation. A recent survey shows superintendents give extremely high priority to maintenance practices that do not have a negative impact on the environment.
- Most golf courses compost grass clippings and leaves, which reduces the amount of waste in landfills. Composting is a growing and recommended practice for golf course operations.
Turf-related benefits of golf courses
The water used on golf courses can be an excellent investment in both economic and environmental terms. Irrigated golf courses generate millions of tourist and property tax dollars for state economies. Many courses now use recycled water as part of their irrigation practices.
When effectively irrigated, healthy turf provides numerous environmental benefits. Properly maintained turfgrass:
- Produces oxygen (carbon dioxide exchange) and cools the atmosphere
- Prevents soil erosion
- Filters natural and synthetic contaminants from rainfall and irrigation
- Recharges critical groundwater supplies
- Provides crucial "greenspace" in urban settings
As a result of computerized irrigation systems and improved turfgrass varieties, courses can now use less water more efficiently to achieve the same level of conditioning. Continuing research will provide even more low-water turfgrass varieties in the future.
Ecological and community benefits of golf courses
In addition to turf-related benefits, courses provide other important ecological and community assets. Golf courses are:
- Key sanctuaries for birds and other wildlife
- Disposal and treatment sites for (effluent) wastewater
- Attractive and environmentally sound "covers" for closed landfills and other ecologically damaged sites
- Recreational places for nongolf activities, such as jogging, walking and bird-watching
- Businesses that provide hundreds of thousands of skilled and semi-skilled jobs
- Places for social interaction and community events
- Civic benefactors that give major contributions to charities
- Community improvements that add value to land, thus increasing local tax bases
- Wetlands preservation areas
On golf's behalf, GCSAA has built strong and cooperative relationships with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other major regulatory groups. Through governmental affairs, professional education and public information, the association strives to make environmental responsibility a basic precept for its members.
The golf community has the willingness, the resources and the motivation to address the environmental issues that exist on the golf courses of today. It is hoped that through these efforts golf will be perceived as a model environmental industry for the future.
The first snows of the season appear to be on the way and with them a slow down in much of the work being performed outside. We are very pleased with the amount of work performed this fall. Everything is properly prepared for the long winter-all winter chemical applications are done and covers are in place. In addition to routine winter preparations, we have performed numerous projects in the past month. These projects included:
- Drainage work on 8 and 9 fairway. These holes are often some of the softest parts of the golf course after rain events. The addition of about 750 linear feet of drainage tile should help improve the playability of these holes.
- Repair bridge on 9-should be a much smoother ride now.
- New chipping area by practice green that will better mirror what we have on the golf course.
- New tees on 3 and 7. Rough grading is complete. The next step is to let the new tees settle over the winter and spring and then perform the finish grading and grassing in the spring. The tee on 7 will likely be open sometime in June. The tee on 3 will hopefully open sometime in August.
- Replace broken curbs on 10 tee and 12 tee.
We are confident that these improvements will provide a better experience for everyone in years to come. Hope to see you in 2012.
This summer seems to be hanging on this year and I for one am not complaining. I truly enjoy when we have warm and dry summers like this one has been. While it does mean more work for us on golf course in the form of hand watering it also means that the good working conditions allow us to more handily perform our more disruptive maintenance operations. Many of you may have noted that over the past few weeks we have been performing aerification and topdressing functions on fairways and approaches. As of today all fairways are done with the exception of number eleven which we hope to complete tomorrow morning weather permitting. Performing this operation ensures better conditions for years to come and helps to alleviate the compaction from excessive traffic that this year has seen. Seems like this golf course is always busy and that is a good thing.
I truly appreciated the feedback received from last month’s newsletter-and have noted how it seems as though our players are doing a better job of taking care of the golf course-at least on fairways. That being said, I do have a picture from the 7th tee after a Saturday of golf in August. As I see it, it looks like about 25% or less of players actually used the seed boxes located next to the tee markers. The box was full of unused seed mix.
Respecting the golf course is everyone’s responsibility and seeing improvement in this area has been very encouraging but can be improved. I would like to say thank you to everyone for their efforts to date and hope that we can continue to improve.
Our closing date is scheduled for October 9th. Many may think why we close so soon compared to other places in the area. The reason for this is that our winter preparations are as follows:
- Deep tine aerify all greens-we use solid tines that go down 10 inches. This helps to alleviate compaction on putting greens. We will roll greens after this process to firm them up.
- We also plan on rebuilding some of the damaged curbs on the golf course as well as repairing the cart path adjacent to the bridge on 9.
- Spray greens and approaches with a preventative application for snow mold diseases.
- Begin to topdress with sand and then cover greens. We cover all putting greens at the Wilderness with a permeable cover that we have found to be beneficial-especially in years with little snow cover. It is a kind of insurance policy for a dry winter season.
- Begin preventative applications for snow mold on tees and fairways. This process takes about a week. At this time we will also add a thick layer of sand i.e. topdress our tees.
- Begin to perform drainage work throughout the golf course. The focus this fall will be on 2, 8, and 9. This work can be very disruptive to play and so is best left for after we close.
- Install the hundreds of yards of snow fence to protect the golf course from snowmobile traffic.
- Winterize golf course buildings on 5 and 14.
- Perform final course cleanup-ensuring all drainage basins are clear so that drainage in the spring functions properly.
- Brush clearing on 8, 11, and 15 to facilitate better visibility for the player.
All of this is in addition to all the other work involved with closing a golf course such as bringing in all accessories and equipment. We will work until there is too much snow on the ground to continue or the temperatures become too cold to be effective. Typically, we are busy outside until November 10th.
On a final note, on August 19th Anita Lynn was voted by her peers as the employee of the month for August. We all appreciate her willingness to work extra to make the golf course the best that it can be. Congratulations Anita.
See you on the golf course,