Golf and Turf Update

By Stanley J. Zontek, director, Mid-Atlantic Region
February 22, 2012

As measured by the amount of snowfall,most parts of the Mid-Atlantic Region have received little snow this winter. It has not been a cold and snowy winter and most courses have been open for play. 

Comparisons of this mild Mid-Atlantic Region winter to others is a frequent topic of discussion on the evening news, and golf media writers are pointing out the positive effects this weather is having on the game of golf in this part of the country.

Rounds are up, golf income is up, and the usual golfer complaints about winter play are nothing but a bad memory. Unlike most years, our phones have not rung once with golfers trying to find out why their golf course is closed whereas a neighboring course is open for play. It is a good kind of “problem” to have. 

The mild winter adds to a trend of weather extremes that we have been experiencing. We seem to be setting some type of record almost every year. While the purpose of this message is not to discuss all that is involved in managing grass during weather extremes, suffice it to say, growing healthy grass should be your number one priority. Healthy grass simply has fewer problems, is more resistant to and tolerant of weather extremes, and recovers faster once those conditions are over. 

There are agronomic consequences to a mild winter. Some are relatively simple to understand, to manage and to mend. Others are not. These include:

 

  • Potential insect problems. The mild winter has the potential for increasing insect problems because the general lack of mortality to whatever insect overwinters. This could mean a problem later this year. Of particular note is the Hyperodes weevil. The mild temperatures will only confuse and complicate the timing of preventative sprays this spring. Stay tuned.

 

  • Poa annua seedhead control. There are reports from southern Virginia that a few Poa annua seedheads have already emerged. In fact, some flowering trees are already in bloom.  The mild weather could compromise control for those courses that use Poa annua seedhead suppression programs on their greens. Remember, the goal is to control the majority of seedheads, not the first seedheads to emerge.  Again, stay tuned. 

 

  • Winter weed control in bermudagrass. Another agronomic consequence of a mild winter is the unrestricted development of a whole host of winter annual weeds in bermudagrass turf. This includes Poa annua, which germinated throughout the winter. Research conducted by the University of Maryland has shown, if the ground is not frozen, some amount of Poa annua can germinate all winter long. Since frozen soil conditions have been rare this winter, it is likely extra winter weed control applications will be needed. Additionally, the mild temperatures have raised some concerns about applying Roundup for winter weed control on dormant or semi-dormant bermudagrass and zoysiagrass. It is important to remember to reduce spray volumes to 18-20 gallons of water per acre. This should minimize concerns about Roundup’s penetration too deep into the canopy. If you have any questions, give us a call.

 

  • Bumpy ground. Winter golf and winter cart usage often results in footprinting and ruts. The maintenance staff may also cause some damage as they work on winter projects. Corrective action includes aeration, topdressing and rolling. This is all good work for the spring made necessary by the mild winter. It is one of the least of our problems, but a problem that still needs to be addressed.

 

  • Traffic wear and tear. Winter play also results in additional divots, ball marks and general wear and tear to semi-dormant or slowly growing grass. This damage is best repaired through early applications of fertilizers and the same aeration and topdressing work mentioned above. If the ground is too cold, seed germination is slow to nonexistent. Most recovery will occur from the grass plant itself, thus the need in many cases for some extra fertilizer this spring. 

 

 

Overall, the mild winter has been more good than bad. Some amount of extra work in the spring will no doubt have to be scheduled because there are some agronomic consequences to the golf course being open for play on a year-round basis during the winter of 2011-2012.

Green Section Regional Meetings are a special opportunity for course staff, officials and committee members to attend a USGA meeting covering a wide range of topics on golf and turf.  CEU credits are available for GCSAA, CMAA and PGA.

Our 2012 Green Section Regional Meetings are scheduled as follows:

Tuesday, March 20th               Oakmont CC                           Oakmont, PA 

Tuesday, March 27th               DuPont CC                             Wilmington, DE

Online Registration:  http://www.usga.org/register/    Credit Cards Accepted

NOTE:  2012 Invoices and Profile forms for the Turf Advisory Service have been mailed. If you have not received this mailing, or if you would like information on how to arrange for a visit to your facility, please feel free to contact our offices. A $600 savings is available if payment is received prior to May 15, 2012. 

The Mid-Atlantic Region agronomists are part of your agronomic support team.  If you have a question or concern, give us a call or send an e-mail. You can reach Stan Zontek (szontek@usga.org) and Darin Bevard (dbevard@usga.org) at 610/ 558-9066 or Keith Happ (khapp@usga.org) at 412/ 341-5922. 

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