Winter Preparations

By Jim Skorulski, senior agronomist, Northeast Region
November 16, 2011

Late fall offers an excellent opportunity to plant deciduous trees that are or near dormant. A large sugar maple tree is being carefully transplanted to a more favorable site at The Country Club last week.    

It is hard to believe it is mid November with the Thanksgiving holiday right around the corner.  This year provided heavy snow, spring flooding, 100 plus degree temperatures, a tornado, an earthquake, a tropical storm and hurricane, and a freak winter storm has many of us wondering: what’s next?

To say the extreme weather has taken its toll on the Northeast states is an understatement. The physical, emotional and financial strains have been difficult. The landscape in many areas has changed forever, and repairs and clean-up will continue for a long time. But life goes on and so too the preparations for the inevitable winter weather that is ahead.

Late fall is a time when the grass is supposed to gradually acclimate to cold temperature. During this time we hope the plants are exposed more consistently to temperatures at or just below freezing temperatures during the day. Turf growth rates will continue to decline in the next few weeks, and there should be a gradual transition towards the purpling and khaki colors associated with winter dormancy. Maximum cold temperature acclimation is achieved in early winter when the plants are exposed to colder (below freezing) temperatures. Some areas have experienced colder temperatures already, but temperatures have not been consistently cold enough yet to make managers comfortable that the turf is ready for what lies ahead.  

Winter Covers 

Those who utilize cover systems to protect annual bluegrass from cold temperature injury are being challenged by the warmer-than-usual temperatures. Installing the covers too early will prevent the plants from fully acclimating to the cold; waiting too long risks headaches associated with a significant frost layer or a flash snow storm. Managers utilizing covering systems are encouraged to wait until a colder and more consistent weather pattern sets up in the region. That may not be until December in central and southern parts of the region, but courses further north are probably closing in on the time when covers need to be installed. Waiting an extra week in my opinion is worth the risk.

Temporary Greens 

Now is the time to develop temporary greens that will be used for winter play. Temporary greens are never popular with most golfers, but are the best means to protect the primary greens after the turf is dormant and there is frost in the ground. Take advantage of the warmer weather to topdress and roll the temporary greens, the winter golfers will appreciate it!

Most, if not all, aeration practices have been completed by this time. Late fall topdressing also has gained popularity as a means to apply more sand to playing surfaces without disrupting play or damaging mowing equipment. The late season topdressings may also protect the plants from wind desiccation and warm the surface more quickly in spring. You are fooling yourself, however, if you try to use the late fall application to compensate for limited or no topdressing in season. Sporadic topdressing with heavier rates of sand creates distinct layers in the root zone and does not produce the homogonous soil mix provided with more frequent and light topdressings. Avoid dragging or aggressive brushing once the turf is dormant. Finally, consider dimple seeding the greens prior to the final dressing. The extra step will not require much additional labor or cost, and can provide new bentgrass seedlings in spring.          

Tree Evaluations 

Late fall also is a good time to evaluate your tree plantings. The October snow storm probably culled most of your weak trees or severely damaged those with susceptible branching. Use this time to evaluate the condition of the trees and look for poor branch structure and external signs of internal decay. Trees shading playing areas or encroaching into sight lines or play corridors should also be noted so that action to remove or prune the trees can be taken in the next few weeks or over winter.

The Green Section Northeast Region thanks you for your interaction and support this season, and we hope that we have been helpful to you in this year of extremes. We wish you all a relaxing Thanksgiving holiday and let us hope that the winter ahead is a little more kind and gentle.


Northeast Region Green Section- Dave Oatis, Director; Adam Moeller, Agronomist Jim Skorulski, Senior Agronomist


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,, 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

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

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

AmEx image