Mid-Season Blemishes

By Todd Lowe, senior agronomist, Florida Region
February 20, 2013

Thin turf conditions are common on high-use tees during the peak golfing season.

In Florida, the peak winter golf season reaches its climax at this time of year and many facilities are producing a record number of rounds. Increased play combined with lower temperatures are taking their toll on golf course conditions, and the recent cold snap will further slow the recovery of traffic wear patterns.

Putting Greens: Ball marks are prevalent this time of year, as the turf grows slowly. It is each golfer’s responsibility to repair ball marks, and a properly fixed ball mark may only take a few days to recover whereas an unrepaired ball mark that is scalped by mowers may be a noticeable blemish that lasts for several weeks.

Tees: Turf thinning is a particularly important issue on teeing grounds come February. Especially problematic are high-use tees and par 3s where iron shots (and divots) are taken. Oftentimes, only the middle section of tees becomes thin as golfers tend to acclimate toward the center of the tee markers. On wider tees, it may be necessary to narrow the distance between tee marker placements and relocate them closer to teeing ground edges. Doing so will encourage complete usage of the entire teeing area. There must be adequate time between tee stall rotations for complete recovery, and teeing grounds may simply be too small for the amount of play received during the peak season (see article Tailor Made for more information on tee size requirements). 

Fairways and Roughs: Tight fairway lies are common at this time of year and it is not caused by lower mowing heights. In fact, fairways are generally only mowed once or twice each week, mostly to remove divots. Semi-dormant conditions along with 200+ daily rounds cause the turf to become matted down. Fairway spray programs (see Liquid “Overseed”) are helpful, as they not only improve turf color but also encourage growth and overall quality. 

Cart traffic and cold weather are also problematic on golf course roughs this time of year. Turf discoloration and tufted playing conditions are common on golf course roughs in Florida during the winter months, especially in high-traffic areas. While the goal is to produce a dense and uniform turf canopy, inconsistent turf growth rates and traffic make it an impossible task at times. 

In the big picture, increased wear and tear is a good sign of the viability of the game of golf, but it is important for golfers to understand what can be expected at this time of year and ways they can help minimize turf stress. 

Source:  Todd Lowe, tlowe@usga.org or 941-828-2625 

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