COURSE CARE
Being Prepared Is Always Better Than Being Surprised March 1, 2010 By R.A. (Bob) Brame

The decorative flag hanging on our porch reads, "Let it Snow." Well, it has. In fact, our neighbor came by last week to ask that we bring in the flag. "I’ve had enough," he announced with a smile "and I’m thinking it’s your fault."

Many areas of the lower North Central Region have set records for February snowfall. In addition, almost all areas have experienced snowfall levels at or in excess of the five snowiest years on record. This may bring some snow mold activity for golf courses, but there have been no reports of any significant turf damage, at least so far. Over the next few weeks, the transition from winter into spring is the more likely time we could experience cold weather- related turf injury. Melting, followed by quick drops in temperature, can open the door to crown hydration related injury. One thing is for sure – when given enough time, records are made to be broken, and being prepared is always better than being surprised.

Preparation with regards to the economy is the top discussion topic at conferences and calls with superintendents. Will 2010 bring improvements over 2009? The answer is fairly straight forward – the economy will get better, stay the same or get worse. So, recognizing that plans should be structured to cover tough or worse case scenarios, the real question is – can your maintenance operation handle another tough, or even tougher, year? Are budget cuts being carefully considered with an emphasis on sustainability?

Who knows, the tough economy could even extend into 2011, which serves to further underline the importance of wise decision making. Is sustainability over the intermediate and long haul part of the planning at your operation? Are all the key decision makers working as one with budgeting and the maintenance level that is being targeted?

A vital component in making sure key decision makers are in sync is having a comprehensive and agreed-upon maintenance standard. Is your plan of attack spelled out in a detailed document for all to review? In all candor, the answer for far too many operations is…NO. Cuts are being made as a knee-jerk reaction to the economic challenges, with little to no consideration being given to how it will impact the end product beyond the immediate- or short-term. Compiling a detailed maintenance standard is not the sole responsibility of the course superintendent. Clearly, the superintendent should guide the process and provide professional expertise, but the person or committee to whom the superintendent answers must be directly involved, or the document will have limited, if any, value.

The USGA Green Section staff is an unmatched resource in aiding your course with the establishment and implementation of maintenance standards. We have nothing to sell, and our ultimate goal is in your best interest. The minimal cost of utilizing your local Green Section agronomist is synonymous to investing in a regular physical examination. Being prepared is always better than being surprised, and when difficult decisions need to be made, having history to draw upon guards the outcome.

All courses in our database should have recently received a mailing and information on subscribing to the Turf Advisory Service. Give us a call if your course did not receive the package, or if there are questions about scheduling a visit. .

Source: Bob Brame, bobbrame@usga.org or 859.356.3272

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