Fall Is Time To Reenergize The Batteries And Plan For Next Year October 24, 2013 By Elliott L. Dowling

Leaf cleanup and removal is an important fall task. Keep fine turf areas such as greens, tees and fairways free of leaves to ensure sunlight is able to reach the turf.

With the recent change to unseasonably cool weather, many golf facilities have experienced their first frost. As this year’s golf season comes to a close, preparations for winter and next season are now in full swing. Strategies implemented on a golf course during fall/winter are often a good indicator of spring success.

Leaf cleanup is important to turf health and playability, plus the golf course simply looks better if leaves are removed. Left on the surface, leaves prevent sunlight penetration to the turf. Fall is an important time for plants to regenerate from summer stress by producing and storing carbohydrates (the plant’s source of food and energy) within the plant in preparation for winter and spring greenup. Sunlight is critical for these processes. Do not allow leaves to block necessary sunlight as the combination of sunny days and adequate temperatures are already limited at this time of year. Leaf cover can also encourage development of winter snow mold diseases in turf, adding another reason to remove leaves.

If unpractical to remove leaves, mulch them with a rotary mower. Following the mower with a blower, when necessary, helps to disperse the mulched leaves into the turfgrass canopy. Leaf cleanup and removal is often predicated by staff levels and available equipment. If one or both are lacking, focus on fine-turf areas (e.g., greens, tees and fairways) and ensure these areas stay clear of leaves through the winter. As time and resources permit, efforts can be shifted to bunkers and rough.

As winter approaches, now is the perfect time to recharge the batteries from a long summer. Take time for yourself and reinvest in your family. The grind of summer takes a mental and physical toll on everyone. Winter is a good time to take note of programs on the course, evaluating their success or failure. It is also a good time for continuing education.

November marks the beginning of education season in the Mid-Atlantic region. There are many educational opportunities now through mid-March. These meetings provide opportunities to keep up with emerging technologies and to reconnect with friends and share stories from the past season. Many use this time to acquire all important pesticide license credits as well. Remember, first and foremost, these meetings are educational in nature. It is important that golf facilities provide the financial resources for their employees to attend these meetings. It is equally important for the attendees to take these conferences seriously. One good strategy is actually writing down what was learned at a particular conference. This can prove the worth of attendance.

Course officials can also benefit from winter education meetings. There are many topics that relate to superintendents and stakeholders in the golf facility. For instance, USGA regional meetings focus on golf course playability, budgeting, the Rules of Golf and much, much more. Mark your calendars for the upcoming USGA Green Section regional meetings in the Mid-Atlantic region:

  • March 4, 2014 at DuPont Country Club, Wilmington, Del.
  • March 11, 2014 at Oakmont Country Club, Oakmont, Pa.

Source: Elliott L. Dowling (

Information on the USGA’s Turf Advisory Service

Contact the Green Section Staff