Early Season Worlds Collide

By Darin S. Bevard, director, Mid-Atlantic Region
March 19, 2014

Cleanup of debris from multiple snow and ice storms is ongoing at many golf courses, but wet, and in some cases, snowy conditions are delaying this work at a time when turfgrass maintenance practices also need to be completed.

Winter in much of the Mid-Atlantic region continues to linger. Although the first day of spring is upon us, heavy snow across much of the region earlier this week brought maintenance operations to a halt once again. This creates small issues that, pardon the pun, snowball into bigger problems as winter cleanup and turfgrass maintenance efforts collide due to weather delays.

Course Cleanup  

Heavy snow and ice storms brought down several tree limbs and, in some cases, large trees on golf courses throughout the Mid-Atlantic. Removing the debris will be a slow process. The snowfall, and resulting melting, means equipment cannot go out on the golf course without causing damage to the turf. Therefore, equipment must remain on cart paths, or cleanup must be delayed until drier conditions are present, which extends the time necessary for course cleanup. Recent travels show there is still a lot of debris on many golf courses in the region.

Surface Preparation  

Snow and wet conditions make it difficult to prepare fairways and greens for play. Several courses opened up over the weekend only to be shut down again by more snow and rain. Furthermore, many facilities do not have their full complement of workers, and the lost days for course cleanup and preparation are adding up. Several courses that had spring aeration scheduled for March 17 and 18 were unable to aerate because of the recent snow. To compensate for adverse conditions and staffing constraints, superintendents are being forced to alter the scheduling of routine maintenance practices. The rescheduling of important maintenance practices, such as core aeration and topdressing, may affect the early-season golf schedule. Therefore, it may be common for golf courses in the region to remain littered with debris from damaged trees and have less than optimal playing surfaces as golfers play early-season rounds.

On a positive note, most reports from the field indicate that turfgrass plugs removed from Poa annua greens and brought inside have quickly greened-up. This includes areas in far northeast Pennsylvania that have been snow covered for several weeks or longer. Hopefully, this trend will continue.

It feels like one of those springs where a rapid transition from cold to mild temperatures will occur. The golfers will come quickly, but course conditions may lag behind. It will take some time for maintenance crews to play catch-up.  This is the product of a winter that just doesn’t want to end.

Source: Darin Bevard (dbevard@usga.org)

Information on the USGA’s Course Consulting Service

Contact the Green Section Staff  

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