COURSE CARE
Northeast: Indications of a Promising Spring March 21, 2016 By Addison Barden, USGA

A mild winter and early spring are welcome changes from the past several years. (USGA)

After two consecutive years of winter injury and delayed course openings, current signs point to an early spring without the extensive damage seen in recent years.

A Marathon, Not a Sprint:

Spring golf conditions should be excellent if the weather continues to cooperate. However, golfers should not expect mid-season conditions too early in the year. Remember Aesop’s fable of the Tortoise and the Hare when thinking about early season playing conditions. Currently, winter injury is only a concern in a few areas of the Northeast and conditions should be much better than the last two springs.

Roots, Roots, Roots:

Good spring weather sets the stage for healthy midseason turfgrass. Cool-season turf must develop deep, healthy roots during the spring so that it can withstand the harsh conditions of summer. Superintendents perform cultivation practices in the spring to promote root growth and turf health, so golfers will have to be patient when they encounter the remnants of these important practices.

Poa annua Seedheads:

Poa annua seedheads make for bumpy putting surfaces. Unfortunately, Poa annua seedhead suppression may be challenging this year because spring temperatures have been both warm and erratic. This makes it difficult for superintendents to time crucial seedhead suppression treatments accurately. In the southern parts of our region, where bermudagrass is grown, golfers may notice heavier Poa annua weed outbreaks as a result of the warm weather.

No Free Lunch:

This golf season in our region is shaping up to be excellent, and possibly a long one. Starting the season a month early is good for golfers, but it also increases costs for the facility. Managers will have to balance these costs with the benefits of early season play. 

Addison Barden is an agronomist in the Northeast Region for the USGA Green Section. Email him at abarden@usga.org.

What to Watch for This Spring