COURSE CARE
Consider Your Options April 15, 2010 By Bob Vavrek

The level of frustration is ramping up for superintendents who have experienced significant winter injury on greens each spring during the past several years. Yogi Berra…It’s déjà vu all over again.

Your old greens have mucho Poa annua and poor surface drainage. Water pools and freezes on greens during winter. Poa dies. Greens are seeded with bentgrass. Greens are kept open for play during recovery. Opened greens are cut short and infrequently irrigated. Bentgrass germinates and then disappears. Poa eventually fills into the thin areas. By fall, greens have mucho Poa and poor surface drainage. Water pools and freezes on greens during winter. Poa dies……

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Experts believe that more frequent extremes in weather conditions will be a by-product of climate change. Unfortunately, Poa annua doesn’t like weather extremes, which is partly to blame for the region’s greater frequency and severity of winter damage. Several consecutive years of playing on damaged greens can have public golfers looking to pay green fees elsewhere, and members of private courses seeking greener pastures at new clubs.

Putting green covers, removing ice, and other maintenance practices can help prevent winter injury to Poa annuaunder certain circumstances. At some point, serious consideration must be given to replacing the Poa annua with creeping bentgrass, which better tolerates weather extremes. Keep in mind that creeping bentgrass is not immune to injury from extreme low temperatures, wind desiccation, or prolonged periods of ice cover, but it definitely tolerates winter stress far better thanPoa annua.

Greens can be completely rebuilt or fumigated/regrassed. Greens that have serious problems with internal drainage and extreme surface contours will likely require total reconstruction. Greens that have acceptable contours and adequate surface/subsurface drainage properties are good candidates for regrassing, at about 1/10 th the cost of reconstruction. A Turf Advisory Service visit can be tailored to determine the best option for your golf course. An excellent article that discusses reconstruction versus regrassing options in more detail can be found using this link.

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Cost always is an issue when it comes to course renovation, but down time can be an even greater roadblock to rebuilding greens. A good rule of thumb for the North Central Region is to seed new greens not later than mid-August if you want to open the putting surfaces to play by June the following season. Golf course contractors can work backwards from the mid-August seeding date to determine how long the greens will be closed for construction.

Shade may be another stumbling block along the road to putting green renovation. Total reconstruction or regrassing a green in a heavily shaded site will be a disaster. There are no shade-tolerant cultivars of creeping bentgrass. In general, bentgrass requires about eight hours of sunlight per day for optimal growth and development. Plant bentgrass in the deep shade and you will be wishing for Poa annua again within a season or two.

As mentioned above, a Turf Advisory Service visit is a good place to start when considering putting green options. Surface contours, shade, drainage and other factors can be evaluated during a site visit. Full day visits can include a presentation to course officials, owners, members, green committees, etc., for Q/A regarding putting green options and recommendations to help minimize the potential for winter- killing you in the future.

S ource: Bob Vavrek, rvavrek@usga.org or 262-797-8743

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