Early Winter Course Conditions In Florida

By John H. Foy, director, Florida Region
December 3, 2010

Healthy turf and good quality playing conditions are being enjoyed by early winter season golfers in south Florida. 

Golfers from the North started returning to Florida in October, and by Thanksgiving many clubs had hosted official season-opening events.  There is always a progressive increase in play during October and November, but, unfortunately, both private and public facilities are reporting that the number of golf rounds continue to be down 10% to 20% compared to pre-recession numbers.  It is hard to be optimistic when faced with another season of reduced golf revenues. 

Similar to the rest of the eastern two-thirds of the country, record-setting high temperatures were experienced throughout the Florida summer.  However, bermudagrasses and seashore paspalum have very good high temperature tolerance, so extensive turfgrass damage and loss was not a problem.  The drier weather pattern that has prevailed during the late summer and fall has limited the usual extended periods of heavy cloud cover, and the abundant sunshine has directly benefited the health and quality of bermudagrass.  During TAS visits in the central and southern part of the state, good quality and appropriate overall course conditioning is being provided and enjoyed by the early winter season golfers. 

At courses in north-central to north Florida, winter overseeding is still underway.  Another few weeks will be required for redevelopment of consistent and good quality conditioning.  During the initial stages of overseeding establishment, frequent supplemental irrigation is necessary.   Besides the often soft and wet playing surfaces, conditions are favorable for disease outbreaks.  Especially with putting greens and tees, employing a preventative fungicide treatment program is advisable.  During this critical time, preventative treatments are more effective and economical, and are good insurance. 

In the southern part of the state, often between Thanksgiving and the New Year, moderate-to-severe outbreaks of leaf spot disease has been a problem on bermudagrass putting greens and fairways.  Dollar spot and/or patch disease outbreaks also tend to be a common occurrence on seashore paspalum.  With very limited or no growth (i.e. recovery) occurring with these turfgrasses over the next two to four months, timely preventative fungicide treatments are justified to ensure that setbacks are not experienced during a time of peak seasonal play. 

Accurate weather forecasts beyond one to two weeks are not really possible; however, according to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, a moderate-to-strong La Nina will be the dominant climate factor influencing winter weather across the United States.  It is still unclear how this will affect temperatures, but it is being predicted that below average rainfall will occur in Florida during December through February.  Even though turfgrass water use rates are naturally lower during this time of year, astute supplemental irrigation is necessary to prevent drought stress, while at the same time provide dry and firm playing surfaces. 

An additional concern when rainfall is not regularly occurring is the progressive salt buildup in the primary rootzone. Beginning in December, implement non-disruptive or venting aeration treatments to help alleviate soil compaction and maintain adequate moisture infiltration to help leach salts out of the rootzone.  Unfortunately, the beneficial effects of venting operations are temporary, and, ideally, this process should be repeated on a three-to-four week interval throughout the winter and spring.  Venting operations should not be conducted when nighttime temperatures are in the 50 degree range or colder, because this can result in faster soil heat loss. 

2011 TAS Fees are now in effect.  A half-day TAS visit is $2400, and a full-day visit is $3200.   A $600 discount will apply for payments received prior to May 15, 2011 ($1800 and $2600, respectively).  To take advantage of this discount, call our office now to schedule your 2011 TAS visits. 

Source:  John Foy, jfoy@usga.org (772-546-2620) and Todd Lowe, tlowe@usga.org (941-828-2629). 

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