Sometimes, The Best Surprise Is None At All February 16, 2010 By Bob Vavrek

Significant turf injury to playing surfaces dominated by Poa annua is a strong possibility due to the extreme weather conditions across the upper Midwest this winter. Superintendents throughout the Region have reported several rapid thaw/freeze events that encased low lying areas of turf in a thick layer of ice. These sites are prime candidates for crown hydration injury or ice suffocation.

Course officials and golfers are more easily accessible now than ever in the past, even the snowbirds that overwinter in warm climates. Just as easily as you are reading this email, the key golfers at your course can receive similar information regarding the potential for less-than-ideal course conditions for the start of the 2010 golf season.

The first step is to develop a list of the “power” players at the course, and they will not be difficult to identify. The general manager, pro, president, board, owner, parks director, green committee, etc. are no brainers, but key golfers may be just as important. These are not the “shrinking violets” at the golf facility; they tend to be vocal and, though they may not always be correct, people listen. Be sure to have influential representation from all the groups of golfers, including, but not limited to, the men, women and senior players on your list.

Feed them clear, concise information in a format that is easy to understand and they will spread the word amongst the other golfers. Keep the message short and to the point or it will immediately be downgraded to junk mail status. It’s easy to provide links to more detailed information about winter turf damage and recovery options for those who want to learn more about these issues, but avoid the temptation to include a three page dissertation about winterkill in an email to a golfer.

Whenever possible, document turf injury before raising any alarm about winterkill. Techniques for sampling winter turf to determine the severity of injury and related issues have been discussed in several past regional updates.  

Superintendents walk a fine line when it comes to winterkill warnings. “Cry wolf” about winter injury a few times and subsequent warnings will be ignored. On the other hand, no golfer wants to be taken completely by surprise by dead greens and fairways as they step on the 1st tee for the first round of the season, especially when timely communication between superintendent and golfer is so easy to achieve.

A timely Turf Advisory Service visit can be a lifesaver at a course affected by winter injury. Site visits can include a presentation regarding techniques for rapid recovery and general question and answers about winter damage prevention. Don’t take chances with your bottom line. Schedule an early season visit to minimize the impact dead turf will have on green fees and potential new memberships.

Source: Bob Vavrek, or 262-797-8743