Weathered, Worn, And Battered February 22, 2010 By Todd Lowe

Lower mowed areas are beginning to green up, but roughs are still brown, especially in areas with frost and high traffic.

Cold conditions continue to plague Florida golf courses, as below-normal temperatures have persisted since early January. A golf course superintendent from Southwest Florida questioned a local meteorologist about weather conditions, and below are a few of the reported facts:

  • There have been nine morning lows in the 30's. In an average year, we reach the 30's only a few mornings for the entire winter season.
  • Three morning low records have been broken.
  • The coolest high temperature was tied on Jan 10.
  • The area has tied "the record" for consecutive lows below 50 F.
  • On January 9th, a high of 52 F was reached at midnight, but around 8am temperatures fell into the 30s and remained there all day. The coolest high temperature was 40 F, so, if you overlook midnight, January 9th could be the coldest day ever in Ft. Myers.

The turf actually began to come out of winter dormancy and turn green on lower mowed surfaces, when a slight reprieve from the cold weather was experienced in late January. Believe it or not, this factor also had a negative impact on some golf courses that deal with plant-parasitic nematodes, as the nematodes became active as well. Soil temperature dropped shortly thereafter with several cold fronts and frosts, and this caused additional turf loss, as already-thin areas received continued golfer traffic and no turf recovery. Putting green perimeters have been the most widely damaged areas due to the stresses of increased mower turning, golfer entry and exit, and shade.

Cold fronts have generally been accompanied by rain. In fact, many superintendents have reported no irrigation applied in 2010 to date. This has had a beneficial impact on lake levels, as they are very high on most golf courses, but excessive leaf and soil moisture and moderate temperatures can increase turf diseases. Patch diseases have been observed at a few golf courses, and the University of Florida turf pathology lab has reported a high incidence of Pythium in golf course samples. Preventative fungicide programs should be continued until warmer and drier conditions occur.

Recovery simply cannot occur until active turf growth resumes with warmer soil temperatures. Multiple days above 80F and nights above 60F are necessary to make any marked improvements in turf quality. Sustained warm air temperatures are necessary to significantly raise soil temperatures. Active bermudagrass recovery can occur when soil temperatures rise above 65 F at a four-inch depth. The forecast for the upcoming week is low temperatures and scattered rainfall. Unfortunately, considerable improvements in turf quality should not be expected for at least another three to four weeks.

Source: Todd Lowe, or 941-828-262