Frozen Chicken And Bermudagrass Greens
On January 8 th , the low temperature in Chicken, Alaska registered 68 degrees below zero. While I realize there are no golf course putting greens in Chicken, it appears increasingly likely that an arctic blast now in Alaska is going to move into the Southeast and expose bermudagrass putting greens to the coldest temperatures of the year. This update is being sent out because current weather models for southern cities are not picking up the potential for bermudagrass- injuring temperatures, and we want people to be prepared, not surprised, should this occur. As I have zero experience in meteorology, I included information from a Birmingham meteorologist, James Spann, and a link to his station's weather site. Tips for folks with bermudagrass putting greens are included at the end of the update.
ARCTIC BLAST NEXT WEEK: All eyes continue to be focused on the dangerously cold air over Alaska and Northwest Canada that will break away and move down into the continental U.S. next week. Here is what we are confident in forecasting at this point:
*The coldest air will be in Alabama over the latter half
of the week, Wednesday through Friday.
*Temperatures will be about 20 degrees below "normal" values; on the coldest day, which looks like Thursday, the high will be between 30 and 35, with a low between 12 and 17. Even these numbers might have to be nudged down a bit as we get closer.
What we don't know is the degree of risk of getting some ice or snow at the end of the week. The models have been trending colder and drier in recent runs, but we really won't have a grasp on the situation until early next week. Just keep in mind the idea is on the table, and I am not all that interested in individual model runs; the ensemble approach is the best way to handle the situation. And, remember, the models have not handled the cold air over Alaska very well, and they sure won't handle it down here. The GFS MOS will be pretty much useless for a few days, and maybe even during the Arctic outbreak.
This update is not being written to predict what will happen. It is being posted to encourage golf courses with bermudagrass putting greens to begin mentally preparing should the need for covers or other measures need to be taken.
A few ideas for consideration:
- Make sure covers are in position by early to mid-week.
- Have plans in place for labor to cover or uncover as needed.
- If a sufficient number of covers are not available, try to get as many greens covered as possible. In the event of winter injury, these covered greens could be used as a source of plant material. Given the demand for ultradwarfs, most of the grass available next summer may already be spoken for.
- In the worst case scenario with no covers and really cold temperatures, consider icing the putting greens. Will Arnett of Columbus CC in Columbus, MS has used this technique with good success and was kind enough to share it with me. Keep in mind the practice of icing reflects the art of greenkeeping and results may be site specific.
- Apply four cycles of five minutes of water at 10:30 pm, 12:30, 2:30 and 4:30 am when temperatures are =25 F.
- Forms about 1/2" ice.
- Ice remains through the morning hours until temperatures warm into the 40s.
- Lack of oxygen can be a concern, but the chance of having 72 consecutive hours below freezing in his location is low.
- Need sand-based greens and advantageous to not have to use full-circle heads.
- Golfers get to play the entire day of covering. After the freeze, time it takes for thaw is similar to what it took to remove covers.
Will Arnett, CGCS, Columbus CC, Columbus, MS Putting Green Icing Tip:
If the USGA Green Section can be of additional assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.