COURSE CARE
Preparing For The Fall And Winter Can Be Completed While Golfers Enjoy The Course September 16, 2014 By Keith Happ

It is becoming common to see rough maintained at 2 inches for everyday play. This reduces the difficulty of finding an errant ball and playing a recovery shot. The lower mowing heights have agronomic benefit as well. When leaves begin to drop in the fall their removal is much easier when the rough is shorter.

Recent shifts in the weather indicate that fall is almost here, and winter won’t be far behind. However, the shift in weather provides opportunity. While fall is a great time to play golf, it is also a great time to strengthen the turf prior to winter weather. Producing healthy grass remains the best defense against disease and weather stress. For example, many superintendents have completed aeration to take advantage of weather patterns that support rapid healing. This provides the opportunity for golfers to enjoy the game without interruption during the fall when the weather is conducive to being out on the course.

Another prominent issue during the fall is leaf drop and collection. A common adjustment during the late summer or early fall has been lowering the rough mowing height. Reducing the rough mowing height is typically done to facilitate moving leaves through the rough and away from important-to-play areas to nearby tree lines or another area for collection/mulching. Additionally, many courses have adjusted their course setup for golfer enjoyment rather than penalty. Rough mowing heights throughout the North-Central Region have been lowered to accommodate all levels of play. The focus for everyday play should be “fun” and it is becoming common to see rough mowing heights near 2 inches rather than the more aggressive setup of 3 inches that is used for special events. Therefore, lowering rough mowing heights can help prepare the turf for winter – removing leaves is essential – while also allowing for greater golfer enjoyment.

Finally, the latest long-term weather forecasts call for similar weather patterns to the winter of 2013/14. The terms “polar vortex” and “arctic blast” may again become commonly heard phrases. While we cannot control the weather, we can prepare for it by maximizing turfgrass health and implementing programs that promote the tolerance of winter weather. It is important to begin preparing turf for winter during late summer and fall when the grass is able to respond to maintenance practices. With proper planning, programs can be implemented without adversely affecting play of the course. Give us a call and we can discuss winter preparation strategies for your area. Individualized care programs can be developed. However, doing nothing is not an option.

Source: Keith Happ khapp@usga.org  

USGA’s Course Consulting Service  

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