The Long Season Comes At A Price

By Adam Moeller, agronomist, Northeast Region
October 2, 2012

Walk-mowing is preferred to triplex greens mowing because they do not create as much traffic stress on the turf and eliminate problems with hydraulic leaks. However, limited staff in the spring and fall can force the use of triplex mowers because they require fewer operators.

Does everyone remember the excitement at your golf course when it opened early this spring? I didn’t think so. Golf facilities across the Northeast opened two to four weeks earlier than normal and the golfers certainly enjoyed using the course. Unfortunately, the earlier than normal start to the season has caused many facilities to exceed their pre-planned golf course maintenance budget. Higher than expected labor costs in the early part of the golf season now have many superintendents scrambling to maintain the golf course in the last few weeks of the season with a smaller than normal staff. If this is the case at your facility, it is important to realize that without adequate staff golf conditions are going to suffer, and the challenges of an early start to the season may now be evident. 

The fall is a great time to get a lot of work done on the golf course. Teeing ground leveling, bunker renovations, tree pruning and removals and drainage work are some of the common fall projects at golf courses. These projects are similar to home renovations in many respects. There is some temporary disruption but ultimately they are being performed for the betterment of the golf course. In terms of their importance and priority, these are also similar to home renovations. Drainage work is like paying for a new roof. It can be costly depending upon the severity of the problems but there are not many projects that are more crucial. 

Agronomic problems have slowed at most facilities in the Northeast. However, just a few weeks ago there were many golf courses that experienced significant disease in their rough, particularly gray leaf spot, leaf spot/melting out, and rust on perennial ryegrass and Kentucky bluegrass. In some cases this damage was severe and will require renovation and overseeding. Turf-type tall fescue is a great grass for rough because it is not susceptible to as many diseases as perennial ryegrass or Kentucky bluegrass, tolerates traffic well, and requires less nutrients and water than Kentucky bluegrass once it is mature. Fungicides can work well for disease control in the rough but their cost can be significant and the damage threshold may not justify their use for most facilities. 

Annual bluegrass weevil damage was found on a golf course in New Jersey recently. This late damage is surprising but this pest continues to be the most challenging insect in the Northeast so anything seems possible at this point. Continue to scout for this insect over the next few weeks. 

USGA agronomists can provide insightful and invaluable information involving all areas of golf course maintenance, which will help maximize turf health, playability and efficiency. Contact Dave Oatis, director (doatis@usga.org), Adam Moeller, agronomist (amoeller@usga.org), or Jim Skorulski, senior agronomist (jskorulski@usga.org) for a Turf Advisory Service visit this season.

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