Collar Dams Kill Turf

By Larry Gilhuly, director, Northwest Region
June 11, 2013

Collar dams are usually found in the front of greens resulting in weak turf and inconsistent playing conditions.

The Pacific Northwest is often called the “Pacific Northwet” for a reason. In this part of the country it can seem like the rain never ends. While this spring has had its share of wet weather, it has been interesting to observe on golf facilities visited common patterns of weak or dead turf in the fronts or sides of greens where surface water accumulates. The culprit? Collar dams. Collar dams are a frequent problem at many golf facilities and it has many superintendents fighting back to remove this issue with basic programs that fall into two categories:

  1. The “Hole and Roll” Approach Success has been achieved with the use of solid or hollow tines on the raised area approximately two to three feet next to the green. The aerated area has no sand applied, is irrigated heavily and then rolled in the same manner outlined in A Simple Method for Smoothing Tees. While this will not remove major collar dams, it will start the process of allowing water to move away from areas that are showing signs of weak turf due to the lack of surface flow.
  2. The “Now You See It, Now You Don’t” Approach – There is no question that when collar dams become as extreme as the one pictured that a more aggressive approach is needed to minimize the problem. The best way to address a problem that is this pronounced is with a sod cutter. Once the sod is removed, excess soil or sand buildup can then be removed to re-establish positive surface drainage. This is followed by replacement of the sod. When completed in this manner, weak turf suffering from collar dams is eliminated and playing conditions improved.

Source: Larry Gilhuly (

Information on the USGA’s Turf Advisory Service

Contact the Green Section Staff

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