Courses Are In Great Shape! It Must Be Fall
September brings some of the nicest weather to the Rocky Mountain region. Great for golf, especially walking golf. Through the hard work of maintenance crews, fairways and greens that sustained winter damage have mostly healed. Seeding, sodding, spoon feeding problem areas, traffic control, and hand watering all were important actions for these recovery efforts.
Eastern portions of the region have seen cooler than normal days for most of the summer along with some serious storms. The majority of areas have received plentiful precipitation. On a Turf Advisory Service (TAS) visit, a Wyoming superintendent remarked to me, "We’re not supposed to be this green". Many courses have cut back on fairway and rough fertilizer applications, and some have even reduced their putting green fertilization.
Because of the rain, things have greened up, but it’s not the time to forget about turf fertility. In the high calcareous sand greens at many facilities in the region, nutrient retention in the low CEC soils can become limiting. It is important to maintain a good balance of fertility as putting greens will soon begin to harden-off for the winter.
Some courses have begun implementing early season snow mold protection programs. Certainly, product applications are a major component for snow mold control, but don’t forget about cultural practices as well. Even slightly raising the cutting height in the fall has shown to have a positive impact on the plants’ ability to produce food and store carbohydrates. Fall core aeration breaks-up the thatch layer, disrupting potential disease environments. Rapid healing has been noted recently on visits to those who were able to aerate in late August. Many more will do so after Labor Day, with adequate time for healing prior to winter. Others will wait until greens are almost in dormancy, hopefully counting on an insulating snow cover next winter for protection.
Native areas throughout the region have been extremely thick. With the increased precipitation, the "native areas in play" grasses that have been thin and wispy in the past have turned into thick jungles. A majority of courses will mow these areas down to six to eight inches before winter snows.
Another cultural improvement that has been implemented on courses and seen on TAS visits this year is selective tree removal to increase sunlight reaching struggling greens. Eliminating shade where possible thru tree removal often can have a dramatic effect on improving turf conditions. Morning sun is especially important for turf.
Evaluation also should be given to regrading green collars or selected perimeters that block important surface drainage. Greens that are holding (ponding) water and ice on the surface during the winter and spring can lead to severely damaged turf. Allowing water to escape these areas can have a positive effect on putting green health.
All of these cultural practice and agronomic ideas take careful on site evaluation and decision making prior to implementing. Could your golf course use a TAS visit to help evaluate things? The USGA Northwest Region is available to make course visits to help review your maintenance programs and make recommendations to improve your golf course. It is also possible for us to speak to members, boards or players in a meeting setting if requested. This can often help educate other groups about the challenges of golf course maintenance. Contact Larry Gilhuly, director, (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Derf Soller, agronomist (email@example.com) for more information or to schedule a visit. Wendy Schwertfeger, administrative assistant may also be reached for information at: 208.732.0280 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.