Winter Is Just Around The Corner November 9, 2014 By David A. Oatis

Brilliant fall colors are one of the best things about autumn. Now is a great time to enjoy the final few rounds of golf before winter arrives.

Fall is my favorite time of year: Low humidity, clear air, cool temperatures and brilliant fall colors as leaves change. Putting greens get faster and stress levels on the turf, golf course superintendents and USGA agronomists drop. It’s the time for warm soup, hot chili, bonfires, s’mores and football.

But…winter is just around the corner, and last year it brought heartache and aggravation as the harsh weather resulted in thousands of acres of dead or damaged turf. The effects were far-reaching as courses incurred significant costs associated with recovery and huge disruptions in revenue streams. Hopefully you’ve read the updates and articles which discussed options for reducing the potential of winterkill injury. Unfortunately, there aren’t any guarantees in agronomy, and if the weather is severe enough, damage can recur. Fortunately, there are still a few things that can be done before turfgrass growth grinds to a halt and the ground freezes:

  • Remove strips of sod from greens or green margins and collars to facilitate positive surface drainage. The resulting drainage channels can help move water away from critical turf, thereby reducing chances of crown-hydration injury on greens. The sod, which can be replaced next spring, can be laid in adjacent bunkers to reduce potential for desiccation.  
  • Pay special attention to green perimeters where collar dams are present. Running a sod cutter over raised areas a second time, after the sod is removed, will loosen a layer of soil that can be removed to provide a more permanent fix when the sod is replaced next spring.
  • Cut extra holes in the low areas on your greens, and make them deeper than normal. They will collect water when the soils are frozen and melting occurs, and you can use small pumps to drain them, thereby keeping the turf surfaces drier.
  • If you have drains in your greens, cut holes over the drains in all of the low areas to facilitate rapid drainage.

Education opportunities exist throughout the year, but fall also represents the kickoff of the turf conference season. USGA agronomists participate in many turf conferences – see below for a list of those in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Regions – and we hope to see you at them this year.

NYSTA, Rochester, N.Y. – Nov. 12-14, 2014

Penn State, State College, Pa. – Nov. 18-20, 2014

New Jersey EXPO, Atlantic City, N.J. – Dec. 9-11, 2014

Maryland, College Park, Md. – Jan. 5-6, 2015

Eastern PA, King of Prussia, Pa. – Jan. 6-7, 2015

Virginia Turf Conference, Fredericksburg, Va. – Jan. 26-29, 2015

Maine Turf Conference – January 2015

Western PA, Mars, Pa. – Feb. 10-12, 2015

Source: Dave Oatis (

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