Fall Into Winter

By Jim Skorulski, senior agronomist Northeast Region
October 30, 2013

The brilliant fall color of a sugar maple tree lights up a late October morning at Tedesco Country Club in Marblehead, Mass. Trees can be an important part of golf courses but their impact on the budget is more than most golfers realize.

Below normal temperatures have made it feel more like November than October in many parts of the region. The large number of wooly bear caterpillars I have come across lately also reminds us to prepare for what lies ahead. Many golf facilities remain busy with leaf removal and finishing up late-season cultivation. Hopefully, mowing heights have already been raised, the putting green surfaces are fully recovered from aeration and the turf is once again producing new roots. It has been a very dry fall and, for the most part, that has been helpful at least for irrigated turf. Non-irrigated roughs and heavily trafficked areas are showing the effects of this dry weather stretch. A dry, cool fall is always preferable over wet conditions even if some rough turf is sacrificed. A continuation of this weather pattern should allow the turf plants to acclimate well for winter. 

In the last Northeast Regional Update – Leaf Debris Management, Frost Delays And White Grub Damage – Adam Moeller discussed the hidden costs associated with fall leaf and debris removal on golf facilities in the Northeast. A survey was included in that update that asked how many man hours were allocated weekly for fall leaf cleanup. Not surprisingly, an overwhelming 97 percent of the respondents indicated that leaf cleanup consumed greater than 12 hours per week. Several New England golf course superintendents that I have spoken to will utilize 40 to 90 labor hours per day to keep their heavily treed golf courses playable during peak leaf drop this time of year. The work begins modestly in late summer and continues until snowfall when the oak and beech trees finally drop the majority of their leaves. The process is an anticipated and significant expenditure for golf facilities, but is an area where cost cutting opportunities do exist. One more argument for a strong tree management program. 

Source: Jim Skorulski (jskorulski@usga.org)

Information on the USGA’s Turf Advisory Service

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