COURSE CARE
Warmer Than Normal Winter Causing Concerns In The West March 3, 2015 By Pat Gross, director, West Region

The warmer than normal temperatures in the Southwest have stimulated Poa annua seedhead growth on putting greens, prompting the need to initiate growth regulator treatments earlier than normal.

In the West, it’s been difficult to determine if it’s still winter or if we’ve already moved into spring. The warm than normal temperatures have been a benefit in some respects but have caused a few problems as well. The following is a brief summary of conditions throughout the West:

Ice and possible winterkill in the intermountain region  

In Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, the above-average temperatures this winter have created a lot of ice concerns on greens. Many clubs have reported removing snow and ice several times this winter.  It's still too early to fully assess any damage; however, there may be widespread turf loss due to the ice damage. Warm, mild winters usually result in more winterkill in the intermountain region than winters with abundant snow and colder than normal temperatures. Winterkill, if it occurs, will likely prompt some facilities to consider regrassing to bentgrass for improved hardiness.

Spring has sprung in the Pacific Northwest  

For clubs in the Pacific Northwest, the warmer than normal weather is a boon. Weather records indicate that last month was the warmest February ever recorded in the state of Washington. Moderate temperatures are resulting in bulbs sprouting, trees leafing out, and golf courses initiating turfgrass growth regulator treatments much earlier than normal. Courses that typically don't open until March or later have opened in February and report good early season revenue; however, they may face future challenges due to wear injury.

Non-overseeded courses are preserving aesthetics and conserving water  

Although overseeding is a staple for some resort courses in the southwest and drives golf course revenues from October through May, water regulations and/or costs are forcing courses to eliminate or substantially reduce overseeded acreage. As it turns out, non-overseeded fairways can be managed to yield quality conditions with the help of turfgrass paints and pigments. Paints and pigments provide an attractive appearance while producing firm, fast conditions. Although most golfers in the southwest still prefer to play on overseeded surfaces, the strategies employed on non-overseeded fairways and greens continue to improve.   

Programs for Poa annua seedhead control start early  

Another byproduct of the warmer-than-normal temperatures is the earlier-than-normal production of seedheads on Poa annua. Many courses have already initiated growth regulator treatments using a combination of trinexapac-ethyl (Primo®, T-Nex®) and ethephon (Proxy®) to suppress seedhead formation and preserve smooth surfaces.

Source: Pat Gross (pgross@usga.org)

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