The Fall Harvest
Golf course superintendents at older courses in many parts of the
country know this. They see the problems caused by shade on
greens, tees, and other important turf areas, and they recognize
that poor air circulation is a major factor involved in disease
activity, drainage problems, compaction, and other forms of turf
decline. Tree roots, too, rob the turf of moisture and nutrients
and complicate irrigation and drainage programs. Trees too close
together make it necessary to use time-consuming small equipment
for mowing purposes. And mowing around low-branching species
often requires hand mowing work or the use of small riding
Too many trees can also affect the play of the course. They can
encroach on play off the tee, forcing golfers to one side of the
tee or the other. Trees can unreasonably block play across the
corner of a dogleg, where a sand bunker would be a better choice.
Surface roots can be a nuisance for golfers and for maintenance
equipment and golf carts. And too many trees can be a factor in
Golf course superintendents have come to recognize some of the
concerns about trees. but the same cannot be said of most
golfers, who generally view trees as sacred. One course, however,
where the superintendent and club officials agree on the need to
control the problems caused by too many trees is the Country Club
of Rochester, in New York state. Hundreds of trees have been
planted on this old Donald Ross course over the years, many of
which were pines planted about 25 to 30 feet apart. As the trees
grew, superintendent Bob Feindt recognized that many of them were
becoming overcrowded and were affecting their own growth and that
of the nearby turf.
Feindt's first hint of a serious problem was encountered on
the 7th green, which was surrounded by trees. A combination of
shade and poor air circulation made it very difficult to maintain
good quality turf on this green during the summer. On the
recommendation of the USGA Green Section, the club agreed to
remove several trees. The next season the turf on this green
improved, and the club decided to remove several more trees and
to follow through with some pruning work.
Upon seeing the significant improvement of the turf on the 7th
green, the club began to look at other areas of the course where
too many trees might be having a negative impact on turf quality.
The superintendent, golf professional, green committee chairman,
and several other committee members got together, toured the
course, and selected trees for removal or pruning. For example,
if an evergreen tree was crowding a good hardwood specimen, the
evergreen was marked for removal. The results were great, and the
tour of the course for the purpose of tree evaluation became an
annual event known as "The Fall Harvest."
Most of the actual tree pruning and removal work is scheduled for
the winter months. The trees are removed, the stumps are ground
up, the holes are filled with soil, and seed or sod is used to
reestablish turf. By doing the work during the winter and
cleaning up thoroughly, the die-hard tree lovers don't miss
the trees. One winter 42 trees were removed, ranging in diameter
from 3 inches to 36 inches, and nobody said a negative word about
it the following season.
The removal of trees that cause turf problems is really not so
unusual on golf courses today; it's the attitude of the club
and its officials that is unusual. Here is a club that respects
and values its trees, yet it is willing to look at them with a
critical eye and remove those that no longer play a positive role
on their course. That is an attitude that every club should
WHAT'S WORSE than not having enough trees on a golf course?
The answer: having too many trees on the course.