COURSE CARE
The Desired Effect - Action Following Preparation And Patience March 28, 2010 By Keith A. Happ

In the northern tier of the Mid-Atlantic Region the turf is waking up from a long winter’s rest. As the snow has melted throughout the region, evidence of varying degrees of damage is apparent. We have observed and heard reports of direct cold temperature damage on Poa annua putting surfaces, although it is impossible to determine the exact cause of the damage. We experienced one of the longest periods of heavy snow cover in recent history. Significant levels of gray snow mold, pink snow mold, and direct cold temperature damage in the northern and eastern portion of the region have been reported. The key issue now is how you recover from the damage and prepare for the upcoming season?

First and foremost, develop a game plan. Evaluate your current conditions to determine the appropriate course of action, focusing on restoring plant health first, so that surface playing quality can be sustained. This is not the time for short-term fixes! The grass in many areas of the region is just breaking dormancy. As the soils warm and day length increases, turf managers will be able to determine the full extent of the winter’s effects. Preparing for summer weather is essential. For example, overly aggressive fertility strategies can predispose the turf to damage from harsh summer weather. Although no one wants to start off the year with weak grass, golfers will not tolerate damage during the heart of the golf season.

Several programs can be implemented to stimulate controlled recovery. One of the most important is mowing. Comments from golfers often center on ball roll, and it is not uncommon for greens to be a bit bumpy and even slow early in the year. Avoid extreme lowering of mowing heights in an attempt to appease the golfers. Early in the year it is important to allow the greens to grow uniformly before mowing adjustments are made. There is tremendous diversity on Poa annua greens, and the annual and perennial biotypes do not grow at the same pace until the soil warms. The bumpiness affecting ball roll is a direct result of these various growth rates. Rolling can be used and topdressing applied, but to achieve mid-season conditioning expectations, we need beneficial mid-season weather patterns.

After the winter, golfers are anxious to get out on the course. Golf superintendents are equally anxious to prepare the course so that play can proceed and golfers can have fun. Patience will be a virtue while waiting for golf course turf conditions to improve along with the spring weather.

Please give us a call to schedule a Turf Advisory Service visit. We can help plan spring or summer programs and discuss seasonal preventive strategies to improve turf health.

The 15th Annual Rutgers Turfgrass Research Golf Classic is scheduled at Fiddler's Elbow Country Club in Bedminster Township, NJ on Monday, May 3rd, 2010. If you are interested in playing or in sponsoring this event, go online at www.njturfgrass.org. A great day is planned.

The Mid-Atlantic Region agronomists are part of your agronomic support team.  If you have a question or concern, 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.