Fall Shade Can Contribute To Summer Stress

By Darin Bevard, director, Mid-Atlantic Region
October 16, 2013

Putting greens, or any turf area, that receive persistent shade will be weaker than greens in full sun. In some instances, shade that occurs during fall and winter can negatively impact the grass for the upcoming summer stress season.

Weather patterns have been good for turfgrass growth from late summer through the early fall. Dry conditions in much of the region have been alleviated with timely rains, and most damaged or weak areas have recovered from earlier summer stress. Fall is a great time to play golf, but it is also a very important time for the grass. The grass is developing new roots that are the foundation for next season’s playing conditions. It is easy to forget struggles during the summer and just as easy to forget to evaluate what caused the problems now that they are behind you.

One of the biggest causes of turfgrass stress is shade. Fall shade can be especially problematic. The sun is lower in the sky. This can keep tees, fairways and greens in shade for much of the day. Fall is the time when the plant is building carbohydrates to help it through the winter as well as next summer. Now is a good time to evaluate tree plantings and shade patterns around important to play areas. It is not a coincidence greens that are shaded are weaker greens. What many do not realize is that persistent shade traps the grass in a reoccurring cycle that affects performance on a season-long basis. Too often, the focus is on sunlight patterns in spring and summer. However, poor sunlight penetration in late summer and fall can set grass up for failure the following year. Right now is a good time to evaluate tree plantings and shade patterns throughout the golf course.

One option to consider is a Turf Advisory Service visit focused specifically on tree management. Our main focus during these visits is initially turfgrass health, especially putting greens. The impacts of trees on playability, traffic flow and aesthetics on the golf course can also be discussed. Trees also can damage important infrastructure such as drainage and cart paths. During a tree visit, the golf course is toured hole by hole and tree management recommendations, including new plantings, are made and discussed. A plan is developed so that trees remain an asset, rather than a detriment, to the golf course.

Source: Darin Bevard (dbevard@usga.org)

Information on the USGA’s Turf Advisory Service

Contact the Green Section Staff

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