COURSE CARE
New Years Bowls You May Not Be Aware Of February 27, 2015

New Years Bowls You May Not Be Aware Of

By Larry Gilhuly, Northwest Director
January 4, 2010


While sitting through the plethora of college football bowl games in December, concluding with the much awaited national championship showdown in January, golfers in the Pacific Northwest and throughout the country may not be aware of the other intense competitions that go on every day on the golf courses they play. Just as two football teams compete to determine a winner, at this time of year golf course turf can come out a winner every time by following some common sense principles. Here is a short list of other less well known "bowl games" played on the golf course in the winter months:

The Bald Bowl - While mowing putting surfaces during the growing season to achieve the desired speed is understood, keeping mowing heights low during the winter months makes very little sense. This is especially true in the Pacific Northwest where handicaps are generally frozen from November through February. Continued low mowing during this time places the turf under far more stress and can result in turf loss from disease or other forms of winter stress. Since golf is played on grass that is generally growing very slowly or not at all during the winter months, make the right choice and don’t go for the buzz cut during the winter months.

The Traffic Wreck Bowl - This bowl game is played every time a player walks anywhere on the golf course during the winter months when the golf course is wet, frozen or thawing, It is worst in traffic areas onto and off greens and tees, and can be devastating around the golf holes in certain situations. One of the best common sense equations to promote turf survival during the winter and to make the primary portions of greens healthier during the growing season is the following:

Increased mowing heights = slower green speed = more hole locations on slopes/green perimeters = less traffic in desirable locations = healthier turf in desirable locations year-round.

The Footprint Bowl- While the ‘Traffic Wreck Bowl’ is played on wet, frozen and thawing conditions, perhaps the greatest turf loss during the winter, caused by a lack of common sense, is allowing play on a golf course that is covered with frost. Damage on greens, tees and fairways will not go away for weeks or months in the northern climates. While some may argue that this should not be an issue for tees, fairways, and green surrounds as preferred lies are used, the damage caused to the plants is severe. This damage will impact playing conditions in the spring until recovery occurs from Poa annua or reseeding efforts. When frost is found, win this bowl game with common sense and remove all players as much as possible.

The TIMBERRR! Bowl - This is the granddaddy of all unknown bowls. When grass attempts to compete with trees, trees will always win! Throw in traffic, weather extremes, and low mowing, and it is not surprising to see many greens, tees and fairways struggle during the winter months. The removal of these "sunlight bullies" is best done during the winter months, but do not be surprised if you hear a collective sigh of relief from every grass plant that is affected by shade from nearby trees. And be prepared for much healthier turf and better playing conditions when the growing season arrives!

Very cold temperatures were noted in the Pacific Northwest in December leading to a few "losses" of turf on greens comprised of Poa annua. By using a common sense approach during the winter months, your golf course turf has a much better opportunity to finish the entire bowl season with an unbeaten record in preparation for the coming year.

Source: Larry Gilhuly, lgilhuly@usga.org