The colder air and soil temperatures in the fall and winter slow the growth rate of bermudagrass which can make it a challenge to keep putting greens smooth and true. The USGA agronomists in the Southeast recently reviewed some of the more popular techniques used to maintain good winter playing surfaces. Some of the best tips are outlined below.
Here are seven ideas for smoother greens in the winter:
- Grow healthy, dense turf in the fall– Wintertime smoothness on ultradwarf greens cannot be achieved without excellent plant health going into winter. What happens in the summer and fall creates the foundation for what golfers will play on in the winter. As the summer winds down, focus on plant health-related practices such as fertilization. Maintain summer surface-management programs at a lighter intensity and/or frequency to make sure canopy density remains tight. Raise the mowing height as appropriate when growth begins to slow based on your location.
- Protect turf from diseases – As growth rate slows, bermudagrass can become susceptible to a variety of diseases. Have plans to treat greens with plant protectants as circumstances warrant. Also, algae can be problematic in locations that face prolonged periods of wet weather.
- Light vertical mowing – Lightly vertical mow greens if turf density is superior. Set the depth of the blades at bench height of cut or slightly above. Frequency can be once or sometimes twice per month if temperatures favor growth.
- Sand topdressing – Winter topdressing is different than summer topdressing and is for smoothness only, not for organic matter dilution. Sand applied at 20 to 50 pounds per 1,000 square feet at two to four week intervals will promote surface smoothness.
- Mowing – Mow only as needed. Most of the time mowing is done more to brush and pick up debris that has been tracked onto greens from surrounding areas.
- Rolling – Rolling can be performed as needed using either a traditional roller or a mower with solid rollers and the reels turned off.
- Brooming – Using a tennis court broom on dormant or semi-dormant bermudagrass is an excellent alternative on days when mowing or rolling are not done and helps to manipulate turfgrass blades from a winter resting position. Tennis court brooms are gentle on the turn and are a great tool to remove dew prior to play.