COURSE CARE
Just About Time To Rock...And Roll March 16, 2015 By Bob Vavrek, agronomist, Central Region

A heavy roller can help transform a lunar landscape into a fairly smooth playing surface during spring when soils are affected by severe frost heaving. However, be wary of operating heavy equipment across unstable peat soils that are saturated with water.

Organic soils (histosols) are especially prone to frost heaving as winter transitions into spring. Several courses with exceptionally peaty soils have recently reported wildly undulating lunar landscapes on fairway surfaces now that the frost is finally leaving the soil.

Sometimes frost heaving settles down after a period of mild weather and a warm rain but sometimes it doesn’t. Courses where frost heaving is a chronic problem have employed various ways to smooth out their funky fairways before the first surge of play begins. A seriously heavy roller can be a fairly effective way to address this issue, though you are not likely to find what you need from traditional turf maintenance equipment outlets. Furthermore, high-peat soils are notoriously unstable when they are soaking wet, so a two-ton asphalt roller might just break through the turf and sink out of sight if you have limited experience with how a specific site will react to the weight.

Rolling greens a few times prior to the first mowing operation of the season is also standard operating procedure for many golf facilities. Rolling versus mowing at an unreasonably low height of cut is a particularly good option during March and April because spring is the peak period of root growth for cool-season grasses. Keeping the stress of ultra-low mowing off the greens during early-to-mid spring can reward you with a deeper, healthier root system. Without a doubt, deep, dense roots are a considerable asset to have just prior to the summer months of peak play and heat stress.

Source: Bob Vavrek (rvavrek@usga.org)

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