November golfing was limited to just one nice day. It is now November 20th and a it feels like December 20th. We have already had a couple significant snow falls and freezing cold temperatures. It looks like milder temperatures are on the way for next week. We did manage to apply our snow mould fungicide and dormant fertilizers which is very important for healthy greens next spring. Many people have asked me if we are planning on doing anything different than last year to prevent the turf loss the East course greens experienced. The short answer is no. Every year we prepare the course for winter the best that we can. I would like to recap what happened last winter.
The ice storm in late December and another rain event in January left a four inch ice layer on the greens. The solid ice layer trapped noxious gases which caused significant turf loss to the greens. The Valley greens did not suffer any ice/winter damage because the greens are creeping bentgrass whereas the East greens are predominantly annual bluegrass.Annual bluegrass invades creeping bentgrass greens overtime. Most golf courses have poa annua. The grass can be identified by the seedheads throughout the year. The older the golf course, the more annual bluegrass unless the greens have been recently rebuilt. Annual blue grass or poa is a fine turf for putting greens except it is not as tolerant to extreme winters as we have witnessed in 2014. The Valley greens did not have any damage this spring because the three year old greens do not have any annual bluegrass – yet!
We were aware of the problem during the winter and tried different methods to break up the ice. In hind sight our efforts did not make a difference and may have actually made the situation worse. The damage to golf courses was wide spread across southern Ontario and the eastern United States. Many of the top rated golf courses in North America were devastated. There has been many experts give their opinion on why this happened and what could have been done different to prevent this damage. The agreed consensus was that you cannot fight Mother Nature. Last winter was terrible and it did not make a difference if you covered your greens of if you shovelled off the show and ice. If your golf course was in a geographical area where the accumulation of ice was bad and the temperatures were frigid then you lost some poa annua. The only greens that had little to no damage were newer greens with mostly creeping bentgrass and smaller budget courses that keep there greens mowed much hire. Remember the demand for fast greens has forced superintendents to lower the cutting heights to the extremes.
Once the damage was evident, Jason and his staff worked diligently to get them back in shape. This included overseeding and covering the worst areas with seed blankets. The seed blankets act as a greenhouse and allow the seed to germinate as well as encourage any surviving turf to fill in. We closed certain areas of the greens for as long as we could. Being a golf course that relies on public green fees and tournaments to financially survive we were forced to take the covers off sooner that most private clubs. The result of this was that most of the creeping bentgrass seedlings would not survive and more annual bluegrass would fill in the dead areas. The staff spent a considerable amount of time fertilizing, topdressing, hand mowing, taking tarps on and off and plugging the worst areas until the greens were finally filled in. The extra resources required for all this definitely meant some other areas of the golf course suffered like the bunker maintenance, line trimming etc. We thank you for your patience during this time. As for going forward, we will continue to prepare the greens the best that we can for the upcoming winter. The chances of us having a similar winter with all the variables that caused the problems are very remote. I was speaking to some retired Superintendents and they have not seen anything like that in forty years.
Lets hope Mother Nature is better to us this winter. I will keep you posted throughout the winter. Until next time….