Temperature Fluctuations Have Triggered Concern

By Keith Happ, director, North-Central Region
January 22, 2014

Temperature fluctuations this winter have been severe. It will take time to evaluate if significant turf damage occurred.

Since our last regional update we have been receiving phone calls from superintendents expressing concern about the health of cool-season and warm-season turf. During the first week of January temperatures dropped to record lows in most area of the region. Add the wind chill factor to the polar vortex we experienced and the limits of what grasses can tolerate was pushed to new extremes. Within seven days of the record lows, the temperature rose to 50°F. While it may have been a welcomed change to golfers, this tease of spring was not good for the grass. When the snow and ice melted there was reason for concern but not panic.

Areas of the golf course that had snow cover had an element of insulation. Soil temperatures at a two- to three-inch depth hovered at 32°F even when air temperatures were well below zero. Fortunately, the severe low temperature extremes lasted only for 24 to 36 hours. Research has demonstrated that creeping bentgrass is far more tolerant of cold temperatures than ryegrass or Poa annua.

For warm-season species, there are significant varietal differences with regards to cold tolerance.

The newer generation of bermudagrasses (e.g., ‘Riviera,’ ‘Latitude 36’ and ‘Northbridge’) were specifically developed for cold tolerance. No matter what grass you are managing it is hard to predict the aftereffects of these unusual weather conditions.

The turf needs to break dormancy before we can determine if there is damage. We still have a lot of winter weather ahead of us before consistent spring conditions allow for sustained turf growth. The grass needs sunlight and soil temperatures sustained at 50°F or more to grow consistently and the days are getting longer. For the short term, communicate concerns to course officials. Some have asked about using black sand or natural organic fertilizer to warm the surface of their greens. Black sand or sunflower seeds will melt ice accumulation and can be applied uniformly or site specifically. These products will not over stimulate growth. Conversely, fertilizer treatments on frozen turf are never a good idea.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact one of our North-Central offices: Keith Happ, director, at 412-341-5922 or Bob Vavrek, senior agronomist, at 262-797-8743. Many superintendents have prepared very well for the winter weather. Plant protectants, anti-desiccants and heavy topdressing treatments have been completed. Continue to communicate concerns but don’t over react until the grass can grow.

It is not too early to plan to attend our Regional Conference at Oakmont Country Club scheduled Tuesday, March 11, 2014. Register online at https://www.usga.org/register. Enter event code 31114. Credit cards are accepted for online registration. We make every effort to control costs by partnering with allied associations. The modest fee of $45 to attend provides a continental breakfast, a great slate of speakers covering a wide variety of topics and concludes with a buffet luncheon. Mark your calendars to join us; it is a great way to kick off the spring season!

Source: Keith Happ at (khapp@usga.org) or Bob Vavrek (bvavrek@usga.org)

Information on the USGA’s Course Consulting Service

Contact the Green Section Staff  

Partner Links
AmEx image
AmEx image
AmEx image
AmEx image

The USGA and Chevron have committed to using the game of golf to encourage students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines. This commitment has led to the creation of extensive golf-focused STEM teaching tools, and has resulted in charitable contributions to support golf-related programs through Eagles for Education™

At U.S. Open Championships the Chevron STEM ZONE™ is an interactive experience highlighting the science and math behind the game of golf through a variety of hands-on exhibits and experiments.

The partnership has also produced educational materials such as the Science of Golf video series and a nationally-distributed newspaper insert which are provided to teachers as tools to enhance existing curriculum in schools. These lessons teach the science behind the USGA’s equipment testing, handicapping, and agronomy efforts.

For more interactive experiences featuring golf-focused STEM lessons, visit the partnership homepage.

Chevron image

Rolex has been a longtime supporter of the USGA and salutes the sportsmanship and great traditions unique to the game. This support includes the Rules of Golf where Rolex has partnered with the USGA to ensure golfers understand and appreciate the game.

As the official timekeeper of the USGA and its championships, they also provide clocks throughout host sites for spectator convenience.

For more information on Rolex and their celebration of the game, visit the Rolex and Golf homepage.

Rolex image

IBM has partnered with the USGA to bring the same technology, expertise, and innovation it provides to businesses all over the world to the USGA and golf's national championship.

IBM provides the information technology to develop and host the U.S. Open’s official website, www.usopen.com, as well as the mobile apps and scoring systems for the three U.S. Open championships. These real-time technology solutions provide an enhanced experience for fans following the championship onsite and online.

For more information on IBM and the technology that powers the U.S. Open and businesses worldwide, visit http://www.usopen.com/IBM

AmEx image

Lexus is committed to partnering with the USGA to deliver a best-in-class experience for the world’s best golfers by providing a fleet of courtesy luxury vehicles for all USGA Championships.

At each U.S. Open, Women’s Open and Senior Open, Lexus provides spectators with access to unique experiences ranging from the opportunity to have a picture taken with both the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open trophies to autograph signings with legendary Lexus Golf Ambassadors in the Lexus Performance Drive Pavilion.

For more information on Lexus, visit http://www.lexus.com/

AmEx image
American Express

Together, American Express and the USGA have been providing world-class service to golf fans since 2006. By creating interactive U.S. Open experiences both onsite and online, American Express enhances the USGA’s effort to make the game more accessible and enjoyable for fans.

For more information on American Express visit www.americanexpress.com/entertainment

AmEx image