COURSE CARE
Expectations Must Be Managed In The Early Golf Season! March 2, 2010 By Darin S. Bevard

Although the snow is melting and the grass is beginning to show, golf courses are a long way from being playable.  Once courses do open, expectations should be tempered with the winter that was experienced in mind.

While much of our region remains covered with the white stuff, and will be for some time, areas in Virginia and on the Delmarva Peninsula are now snow free, and the golfers can’t wait to play. In the coming days, as more snow melts, the pressure will increase to open the golf course. With the pent-up demand, golfers will be ready to go, and the golf courses will be glad to have them to begin generating revenue.

When your favorite golf course opens, be reasonable with early season expectations. The grass has been under snow for a significant amount of time, and even though the snow may be gone, warmer temperatures are needed to spur growth and allow golf course superintendents to begin grooming greens to improve playing conditions.

We are already hearing rumblings about skipping aeration or reducing the scope of spring aeration programs. Basically, the feeling is that many golf courses have not been playable since the late December snow storm, so disrupting things now with aeration is not acceptable. The focus is on revenue and member contentment, and not agronomics.

We have heard claims of reducing aeration because there has been little play, so compaction should not be an issue. Aeration on putting greens is about so much more than compaction. Thatch management and water infiltration also are big benefits of the process. Resist the urge to compromise early season agronomic programs, especially aeration. Although skipping aeration may provide some short-term gains, these programs are important for allowing the grass to survive the summer stress season in good condition. We cannot bank on another mild summer in the Mid-Atlantic Region.

Another major issue is course cleanup. The heavy snow and high winds caused massive tree damage at many courses. Many facilities operate with a skeleton crew during the off season, to save money, and there may be only three or four employees available to complete golf course cleanup and begin early season turfgrass maintenance. In many instances, access onto the golf course is limited, so cleanup is very slow. Patience will be needed with this process. When seasonal helpers return, cleanup and maintenance can accelerate.

Spring is just around the corner; officially, less than three weeks away. The slow snow melt is maddening to some, but it limits flooding potential. Again, patience will be needed -- first for the snow to melt, and secondly for your maintenance staff to prepare and cleanup the golf course. Be sure that expectations in the early part of the golf season are consistent with the severe winter that we have encountered.

Regional Meeting dates, etc.

There is still time to register for the upcoming Green Section Regional Meetings.

Oakmont CC, Oakmont, PA Tues., March 9thEvent Code: 30910
DuPont CC, Wilmington, DETues. March 16thEvent Code: 31610



Register online at www.usga.org/register to attend our Green Section Regional Conferences. We look forward to speaking with you at these meetings.

The Mid-Atlantic Region agronomists are part of your agronomic support team.  If you have a question or concern, give us a call or send an e-mail.  Stan Zontek (szontek@usga.org) and Darin Bevard (dbevard@usga.org) at 610/ 558-9066 or Keith Happ (khapp@usga.org) at 412/ 341-5922.

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