It Is Time To Take A Walk
Recent phone conversations with golf course superintendents have focused on early concerns about ice accumulation on greens in the northern tier of the Mid-Atlantic Region. Fluctuating temperatures, recently as high as 50 o F in Pennsylvania, allowed snow to melt rapidly. Temperatures again have plummeted to single digits resulting in a layer of ice forming as moisture followed surface drainage patterns. Despite the surface melt, the soils remained frozen and there is a very good chance that winter hardiness of the turf was not compromised.
With that said, don't take anything for granted. Take a walk around the property and inspect any areas that have been problematic in the past. Brush off the snow and inspect the surface for ice accumulation. While we have not been covered with snow and ice for very long, it is a good idea to formulate a plan just in case the weather patterns persist and ice needs to be removed. A darkening agent, whether it is a natural organic fertilizer, black sand etc., can be used very effectively to accelerate the melt.
On another subject, many calls have been received regarding maintenance budgets and maintenance plans. Some superintendents have resubmitted the operating budgets several times, and, in every case, allocation of funds for the care and presentation of the golf course has decreased. It is a sign of the current economic climate. Still, golf will be played and golfers will want to play on a well conditioned golf course!
Separating needs from wants can be difficult. Now is the time to look at every element of the turf maintenance operation and the play of the course. Despite what many committees might think, the golf course is a revenue center! If course conditions suffer; the main play areas decline, golfers will stay away, and the downward spiral in overall course income will continue. Committees should clearly define course conditioning expectations in order for superintendents to design and develop maintenance programs for a good golf course. Golfers should not, however, assume that the course can be presented and conditioned in the same manner if budget dollars are reduced drastically.
It is time for solutions and suggestions, not complaints and confusion. For example, can things be done differently and still achieve the desired result? Do conditioning expectations need to be adjusted? Should the focus of turf care be shifted more to the center lines of the course? Is it realistic to have shot-gun starts four days a week when funding for labor has been reduced? Can gap maintenance be implemented so work can get done in a timely fashion? Answering these questions will be a start!
Now is the time to come to the table with ideas and alternatives for the upcoming season. These and many more issues can be addressed during a Turf Advisory Service visit. Stan Zontek, Darin Bevard and I are here to help. We look forward to talking with many of you during the conference season. Don't forget our Green Section Regional Conferences February 24 th at The Country Club of Virginia and March 10 th at Woodholme Country Club in Baltimore, Maryland.
Remember, the Mid-Atlantic Region agronomists are part of your agronomic support team. If you have a question or concern, give us a call or send an e-mail. Stan Zontek ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) or Darin Bevard ( email@example.com ) at 610-558-9066 or Keith Happ ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) at 412-341-5922.