Colder temperatures and recent activity of the Great Lakes snow machines are bringing to end another golf season across much of the region. Superintendents are busy with late-season topdressing, fungicide applications and installing putting green covers. Sub-freezing nighttime temperatures combined with dry weather this fall have been favorable for readying turf for the upcoming winter. Freezing temperatures trigger cold temperature acclimation processes in cool-season turfgrasses while dry conditions reduce moisture content in the plant’s crown, both of which will help turf prepare for and tolerate winter conditions ahead. Of course, a period of above normal temperatures and wet weather could negate the winterized benefits already achieved so we keep our fingers crossed.
An employee at Hillsdale Golf and Country Club in Mirabel, Quebec, Canada, uses staples to secure an impermeable cover. This is the final piece of a combination covering system that uses a permeable ground cover, a layer of straw and then an impermeable fabric that insulates underlying turf and keeps it dry during winter.
Northern golf facilities that manage annual bluegrass greens may be entering their most challenging season. Annual bluegrass has far less cold tolerance than other cool-season grasses. The higher moisture content in the tissue of annual bluegrass and its willingness to break dormancy earlier make it more vulnerable to varying temperatures and ice layers that can occur across the Northeast.
Turf managers will use winter covers to protect putting greens dominated with annual bluegrass. Remember, however, that covers have different functions and it is important to match the right cover system to its intended application. For instance, permeable covers provide protection from wind and may offer an earlier spring greenup. Impermeable covers offer wind protection as well but when installed properly can prevent turf from becoming hydrated and encased in ice. A combination of permeable and impermeable covers and an insulating material is often used on northernmost golf courses to prevent hydration and ice encasement and to buffer against wide temperature fluctuations. The combination systems usually begin by placing a permeable cover over the turf. This is followed by an insulating material and finally the impermeable cover. Insulating materials may include straw, bubble material, closed cell foam, or even some types of bunker liner materials. The impermeable cover is usually manufactured to the size and approximate dimensions of the green. The process of installing and managing these covering systems is more complex and expensive, but their use impacts survival of annual bluegrass in cold temperature climates.
The effects of Hurricane Sandy are still being felt in the Northeast. Storm cleanup and repair work continues and turf managers now have a better idea of turf damage sustained from saltwater flooding. The later date of the flooding and ability for some golf courses to irrigate flooded areas once saltwater receded has reduced turf injury on putting greens and other playing areas. Low-lying fairways and rough areas that were submerged for prolonged periods or sites where it was impossible to flush salts from soils have not fared so well and extensive overseeding and turf renovation programs will be required. Remember to check irrigation ponds that may have been breached or flooded during the hurricane. Salt levels should be checked at various water depths to make sure it is suitable for irrigation. We will continue to provide updates on recovery from Hurricane Sandy and subsequent nor’easter storms. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding turf recovery and renovation following storm aftermath.