COURSE CARE
Preparing For Winter: Turf Blankets For Cold Weather Protection Of Bermudagrass Putting Greens November 10, 2014 By Patrick O'Brien

Turf covers are a valuable tool to protect ultradwarf bermudagrass putting greens from winter injury when conditions warrant.

Last winter was the coldest winter in the Southeast in the last 20 years. Despite the frigid conditions, ultradwarf bermudagrass putting greens didn’t miss a beat when turf covers were used appropriately. As another winter approaches, we have included a few questions and answers on turf covers for your consideration.

  1.  Who needs to cover? If your golf course is in an area where temperatures fall below 25 degrees Fahrenheit regularly, it is not only necessary but mandatory to use turf covers. If you were to draw a line from Jackson, Miss., to Montgomery, Ala., to Macon, Ga., to Aiken, S.C., to Myrtle Beach, S.C., any area north of this line typically mandates covers.
  2.  When should we cover putting greens? The general recommendation from years of research at Mississippi State University by Dr. Michael Goatley is to cover any time temperatures will be 25 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Over the years, golf courses that have followed this guideline have fared well.
  3.  What types of covers work best? An interesting aspect of Dr. Goatley’s research was that the type of covering material is not critical for winter protection. Covers of all material types were successful. As a result, superintendents have favored turf covers that are lightweight and durable. Lightweight covers are the easiest to install and remove, reducing labor as much as possible.
  4.  Do we need double covers during extreme cold weather? When temperatures fall to about 5 degrees Fahrenheit or below, some amount of winter injury is possible under a single cover. While a second cover is effective, other options are available. The most popular is pine straw. A two- to four-inch layer of pine straw placed directly over the turfgrass prior to covering helps maintain higher soil temperatures during extreme cold weather. Pine straw is available for purchase and sometimes it is readily available from wooded areas on the golf course.
  5.  How much do turf covers cost? Generally, the cost of lightweight turf covers varies from 13 to 18 cents per square foot.

The use of turfgrass covers should be viewed as an insurance policy and not an annoyance. If there is ever any doubt on whether or not to cover, go ahead and cover. Keeping your grass alive during a cold winter is the most important prerequisite to excellent playing quality in the spring. For additional information on winter management of ultradwarf bermudagrass putting greens in the Southeast, please see Ultradwarfs in the Offseason – A Winter Wonderland.

Source: Patrick O’Brien (patobrien@usga.org) and Chris Hartwiger (chartwiger@usga.org)

Information on the USGA’s Course Consulting Service 

Contact the Green Section Staff  

More from the USGA