It Must Be Next Year! January 17, 2012 By Derf Soller

(L) May 2011 - Late spring snow kept turf wet, and soil temperatures on the cool side well into the summer, causing a slow start to turf growth.  (R) January 2012 -  Lack of snow cover on many turf areas keep golf course superintendents busy watching for damaging, drying conditions, or desiccation.  Hand watering greens, even in January may be necessary to save exposed turf. 

Photos courtesy of Mike Valiant, Director of Agronomy, Talisker Club, UT. 

We must be on our way into another year and another golf season. Golfers are looking forward to new equipment to buy and new courses to play. But for the golf course superintendent a new year can have different anticipations: will it snow; will it melt; will it flood again; will it be a good year to manage turfgrass or  not?

 January 2012 has presented conditions sharply contrasting a year ago in most of the Rocky Mountain region. Courses that didn’t receive snow last year are getting some limited coverage, while many mountain courses that set snow amount records last winter are now facing large areas of exposed turf. The precipitation, white and otherwise, just wouldn’t let up last spring, and now it’s nowhere to be seen.

What do you do when you get unusual winters? Evaluate the current condition, react accordingly and communicate how things are different than normal. Many courses that typically have sufficient snow cover for turf insulation thru the winter are finding themselves dealing with different concerns and solutions this winter. Instead of monitoring for the possible development of winter snow mold diseases under snow cover, many superintendents are instead keeping a close eye on exposed areas that are now prone to winter desiccation. Drying winds and prolonged winter sun can cause significant turf thinning and loss, especially on elevated mounds and exposed tee boxes. 

Many superintendents have been recently hand watering areas of their courses.  Underground irrigation systems were winterized months ago, making it mandatory to fill portable tanks at the maintenance shop and haul them out onto the golf course to moisten turf. This type of winter irrigation is typically a light syringing or just moistening the plant tissue. The ground remains frozen and therefore no penetration into the soil is possible.

Although hauling and hand applying irrigation water is a time consuming endeavor, it is very important, especially for putting green surfaces. This simple application of moisture to the turf on a couple of occasions thru the winter can be beneficial to turf health and key to its survival. 

The 2012 Turf Advisory Service (TAS) information and how to schedule a visit from USGA Green Section agronomists will be mailed to golf courses, superintendents and course officials soon. Visit this link for more detailed information about the TAS.   

If you would like to schedule a TAS visit this year, or to find out additional information, contact:  Larry Gilhuly, director, NW Region, ( or Derf Soller, agronomist ( Wendy Schwertfeger, administrative assistant may also be reached for information at:  208.732.0280 or at