Now Is The Time To Begin Winter Preparations

By Jim Skorulski , senior agronomist, Northeast Region
September 18, 2013

For a quick overview of one method of covering greens be sure to watch this How It's Done presentation.

I am not one to push the seasons but it was hard not to think of the winter as I scraped the first frost off the car windows this week. Like it or not, it is coming and now is the time to begin preparing the golf course for the winter season ahead. The shorter days and cooler temperatures trigger the winter acclimation processes in plants. A major part of that process involves the accumulation of carbohydrates that are stored in the roots and crown tissues and utilized to protect the cells from the effects of cold temperatures and hydration events. Plants that are low in carbohydrates entering the winter season will be less likely to survive extremely cold temperatures and multiple freeze/thaw events. Management priorities on more northern golf courses should begin to shift towards promoting vigorous plant growth to help the plants maximize carbohydrate accumulation. This does not mean raising the height of cut to ¼” and mowing three days per week. But, more northern golf courses should try to maximize sun exposure, raise mowing heights even slightly and make sure the grass plants are receiving sufficient levels of nutrients for sound growth. It is time to keep the grass plants happy and hope that Mother Nature takes care of the rest. 

This is also the time to begin planning and preparation if winter cover systems will be utilized. The covering systems used to protect annual bluegrass putting greens from cold temperature and ice are comprised of both permeable and impermeable covers and usually some form of insulation. They are used most frequently in areas where there is a history of cold temperature injury. Greens with poor surface drainage are vulnerable to cold temperature injury and are good candidates for the cover systems. Those who already use cover systems will soon begin pulling covers and insulating materials out of storage to check for damage and determine what needs to be replaced. While those contemplating the first time use of a cover system will need to decide if and what system best meets their needs and order the materials if they have not yet done so.

The use of covers does not guarantee success! Timing the installation and removal of the cover systems can be tricky and labor intensive and monitoring conditions beneath the covers is an acquired skill. However, their use on northern golf courses has saved annual bluegrass more times than not. I have attached the link to two articles and a Podcast that provide additional information that will be helpful for winter preparation programs, understanding cold temperature injury and the winter cover systems. We also encourage you to contact your Green Section agronomist to discuss any of these issues further.

Winter Protection Covers - How It's Done Presentation  

Winter Protection of Annual Bluegrass Golf Greens  

The Greatest Challenge  


Source: Jim Skorulski (

Information on the USGA’s Turf Advisory Service

Contact the Green Section Staff

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