COURSE CARE
Enjoy The Great Spring Weather April 8, 2012 By Stanley J. Zontek

Overall, the warm spring has been good for the game of golf and for the growth of grass. Note this scene from the Tuckahoe Creek Course at the Country Club of Virginia. The bermudagrass fairways and roughs are essentially fully green weeks before the trees have leafed out. This early season has gotten the 2012 golf and grass growing year off to a good start.

Recent Green Section Turf Advisory Service (TAS) visits to golf courses in Virginia confirmed that the record-breaking warm weather has had a positive effect on the warm-season grasses and golf. Courses in southern and Tidewater Virginia have bermudagrass as their primary fairway, tee and rough grass. There are a handful of different varieties grown throughout the state, but most varieties have greened-up and are starting to grow. As a result, rounds are up and revenue is up. This is good news for the golf industry, which is working its way through an economic depression that has included less play and declining memberships.

The early spring also brings some negative agronomic consequences like disrupted timings for Poa annua seedhead control sprays, early emergence of a number of insect pests and an earlier than normal germination of weed grasses. In more than forty years of visiting golf courses, I have never seen crabgrass germinate in March as it did this year.

Keep in mind that the earlier start to the golf and turf management seasons may increase costs for labor and materials. After all, you could be potentially maintaining the golf course for at least a month longer than was anticipated when the budget was submitted. Fortunately, the increase in maintenance costs could be offset by the increased income from the early spring.

In summary, while there are some agronomic consequences to the early season, there are many more positives than negatives. Heck, I might even get my clubs out of the closet and enjoy the sunny weather.

For those courses considering a visit from one of our Green Section agronomists this year, remember that our early payment discount expires May 15. It makes sense to take advantage of a $600 savings for both full-day and half-day TAS visits.

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 email. You can reach 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.