Got Ice?

By Derf Soller, agronomist, Northwest Region
February 22, 2012

The Powder Horn, Sheridan, WY maintenance staff members use a backpack blower to force air under ice to help loosen it.  Opening up channels for water to get off the green as it melts is critical! 

Recent travels to turf conferences identified that ice covered greens are a hot topic.  

While various techniques have been utilized to remove ice from golf course greens there is no single best solution. Do you or don’t you take action? That is a tough question to answer, and each location likely has their own customized plan.

The Canadian Golf Superintendents Association recently held their national turf conference in Calgary.  All of the Canadian provinces deal with winter issues, but many superintendents in the Calgary and Edmonton areas are witnessing more ice than usual. Attendees to the Peaks and Prairies spring conference in Wyoming, as well as the Idaho Superintendent’s conference in Boise also expressed ice cover concerns. 

Mechanical removal often is employed to reduce the amount of ice, but this is no guarantee the turf will be saved or emerge undamaged from the removal process itself. At least, as we look at the calendar and the sky, the days are getting longer. The sun is starting to provide some warming, so, now is the beginning of the critical time to get ready to get ice off the greens.  No matter how the ice was formed, its removal involves some key steps:

  • Make sure that the ice that melts (water) has somewhere to go. Good surface drainage is absolutely critical to be able to move water off of greens. If necessary, create small exit channels to move water away from greens more quickly.
  • If surface drainage is lacking it may be necessary to use squeegees and shovels to remove the water from the surface of the green.
  • Regardless of the removal method, the important point to keep in mind is that water that is allowed to refreeze on the green can cause serious injury.
  • Black sand and other dark materials can help speed up the snow melt process.
  • Be on the lookout for spring diseases, particularly Microdochium Patch. Preventative applications may be needed if the disease becomes active.  


Here’s a tip to try if you just have to do something to try to remove ice from a putting green. Assistant Superintendent John Hathaway at The Powder Horn, in Sheridan, Wyoming discovered that a backpack blower can help lift ice off the turf while lightly prying the ice up with a flat, steel shovel. John and Superintendent Jason Busch suggest this method works best once some warming takes place each day. As free water begins to form under the ice, give it a try. As you pry up the edge of the ice, aim the blower to shoot air under the ice. The force of air loosens a small area of the ice and it breaks off. Push the ice pieces across the unbroken ice on top of the green to the edge and off the green.

Regardless of the amounts of ice coverage or your methods for removal, it is important to keep the communications channels open with other departments and those who play the course. Who knows – you might even have a few volunteers show up to help if needed! 

Off to Fargo, ND I go for the next winter turf conference. I imagine I’ll again hear the question:  Got ice?

USGA agronomists are available to make course visits to help plan for spring recovery efforts or to review and discuss your maintenance programs.  We can help educate players and course officials about the challenges of golf course maintenance.  For golf courses in the Northwest Region, contact Larry Gilhuly, director, ( or Derf Soller, agronomist ( for more information or to schedule a visit.  Wendy Schwertfeger, administrative assistant may also be reached for information at:  208.732.0280 or at


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