COURSE CARE
A Real Winter With Freezes And Everything January 5, 2014 By Bud White

Frozen soils and persisting frost follow shade patterns. Golf shops need to be aware that turf damage can occur in shaded sites, especially greens, when play is allowed on semi-dormant turf during winter.

We have experienced a significant number of hard freezes already, and it’s only early January. The fluctuating temperatures can be very detrimental to turf health due to freezes and/or playing activity. For example, on Jan. 4 in Dallas, Tex., the high was 70°F, but on the morning of Jan. 6 the temperatures dropped to 15°F with winds gusting to 40 mph. This is not only hard on semi-dormant turf but, just as importantly, creates great potential for wind desiccation

With even the southern areas of the region already experiencing temperatures in December in the teens and below, it has prompted a few golf facilities to ask about covering their ultradwarf bermudagrass greens. Leaving greens uncovered is gambling with winter damage at these temperatures. If lows are in the mid- to upper-20s now, covers are needed unless the days before and after are quite warm.

Wind desiccation is the other primary concern with winter winds, especially on mounded areas. If areas experience localized dry spots in summer, they are likely to experience desiccation come winter. Be sure to monitor soil moisture continually to ensure the turf can hydrate itself and help fend off desiccation injury.

With the significant temperature fluctuations experienced, golfers still expect to play on warm days beginning first thing in the morning. A word of caution to golf shops: Greens can be frozen from frigid night temperatures and damage can occur from foot traffic the following morning even when warm temperatures are expected that day. Sometimes it may be a shady green or two that remains frozen whereas others are in full sun, thawed and fine for play. Perhaps it is only shaded greens that need to be closed to play. Areas which remain shaded until around noon can hold frost in the soil throughout the day and traffic can be extremely damaging to the turf. This seems reason enough to fix tree problems around greens, unless it is simply impractical to do so, and winter is a great time to perform tree work. All told, make sure your important playing areas are protected during our colder winter experienced this year.

If you would like more information about a Course Consultation Service visit and how we can help your facility with drought, water quality or other management issues, please contact me, Bud White, at (972) 899-2462 or (budwhite@usga.org). Early payment (before May 15) can save you $500. For more information on the USGA’s Course Consultation Service and to download an application for a visit, please click here. I look forward to being of service to you and your golf facility.            

Source: Bud White (budwhite@usga.org)

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