Patience Is Essential During Recovery From Turf Loss
September 14, 2009
Many golf courses in the Northeast Region experienced substantial turf loss on putting greens as a result of a tough stretch of weather in mid- to late-August, which, in many cases, was exacerbated when core cultivation was performed during that time period. As a result, many courses are in the middle of a recovery period on one or more of their putting greens. Unfortunately, most courses I’ve visited recently have reported a slower than expected recovery given the weather over the last two weeks.
During the recovery process, course officials and golfers need to be patient and accepting of the golf course conditions. Green speeds are sure to be slower and, perhaps, not quite as smooth as a result of higher heights of cut adopted to hasten recovery and reduce stress to immature seedlings. Pushing for similar green speeds during a recovery process is most assuredly going to delay the recovery process.
Many golfers have expectations of green, lush turf throughout the golf course. Surface playability should always dominate over aesthetics, especially when turf loss has occurred. Simply put, damaged areas are not going to look good during the recovery process. In many instances, however, ball roll can be acceptable. For example, consider a 20 foot putt with the first five feet over a damaged area. Ball roll over the damaged area probably isn’t going to impact the end result of the putt very much. Bottom line, do not pay attention to the visual quality of the healing areas, instead, focus on the playability. If the damage is severe enough, adequate ball roll should not be expected and temporary greens probably are needed. Using temporary greens will not be popular, but doing so will speed the recovery process, and it will likely yield a more sound recovery.
Course officials and golfers are certainly not the only ones who need to be patient. Impatient superintendents who are overly aggressive during recovery can extend the process substantially. There is not a magic number of times the greens should be opened up via cultivation and seeded, but two times is probably enough assuming good seed to soil contact is established. Repeated cultivation and overseeding usually is pursued when slow germination is observed. Spiking and seeding every few days will increase the seed in the damaged areas, but consider the damage to the seedlings that have already germinated. Surface smoothness, and, more importantly, seedling health, is likely to be compromised if these practices are used too much. Sound cultural practices (water, fertilizer, etc.), good weather, and patience are the keys to a successful recovery. If any of these are not in place, the frustration with losing turf on greens is likely to increase because the recovery time is probably going to be longer.
USGA agronomists can provide insightful and invaluable information involving all areas of golf course maintenance, which will help maximize turf health, playability, and efficiency. Contact Dave Oatis, Director firstname.lastname@example.org; Adam Moeller, Agronomist email@example.com; or Jim Skorulski, Senior Agronomist firstname.lastname@example.org for a Turf Advisory Service visit this season.