The damage from Hurricane Sandy continues to be felt in many parts of the Northeast Region. Clearing of downed trees has been of utmost priority for many golf facilities. Recent course visits have focused on storm damage with many reporting 100-plus trees down! Damage from salt water has been showing up in full force this week for many coastal courses that experienced flooding. Any saltwater flooded turf that has not greened up may not necessarily be dead, but it should provide some idea of how extensive the damage could be. Knowing the severity of damage will be painful, but it will allow the grounds staff to determine the best plan of action to promote successful recovery.
The damage from Hurricane Sandy was followed by another damaging nor’easter, which dumped six to 10 inches of wet snow on many golf facilities in New Jersey, Long Island and Connecticut. This heavy, wet snow was the coup de grâce for many trees in these areas. In many respects, the damage caused to trees on the golf course is a blessing in disguise because trees are often very detrimental to golf course turf. Unfortunately, these storms took down specimen trees at many facilities in addition to removing undesirable trees, i.e., those casting shade or interfering with turf health on key playing surfaces. After two consecutive years with a damaging hurricane and an early snowstorm, perhaps another mild winter like 2011 will repeat itself as well?
Winter preparations are being made across the region. Many courses have scaled back mowing operations dramatically to save on labor and improve grass health as winter draws near. Raising the putting green mowing height is a very beneficial strategy to reduce the potential for crown hydration and ice encasement damage. Although putting conditions may be altered, the program is in the best interest of the grass for next summer. The same is true for the installation of temporary putting greens in the approaches.
Late season cultivation is also being performed at many facilities in the region. Drill and fill and/or deep tine aeration are two of the most common late season cultivation programs for putting greens. Although disruptive to playing surface, these practices are very beneficial in alleviating soil compaction and deep modification of the putting green soils.
USGA agronomists can provide insightful and invaluable information involving all areas of golf course maintenance, which will help maximize turf health, playability and efficiency. Contact Dave Oatis, director (firstname.lastname@example.org); Adam Moeller, agronomist (email@example.com); or Jim Skorulski, senior agronomist (firstname.lastname@example.org) for a Turf Advisory Service visit this season.