Mother Nature’s Mulligan – El Nino Starts Recovery Of Greens

By Larry Gilhuly, Northwest Director
February 19, 2010

Turf recovery is taking place after a significant number of golf course greens were damaged from the cold December weather in the Northwest Region (Illahe Hills Country Club, Salem, OR).

During December, Mother Nature went "one up" on golf courses from the southern border of Oregon past the northern border of Washington. A large number of greens were damaged on Poa annua golf courses located on the west side of the Cascade Mountain range, as very cold weather hit non-hardened greens with a vengeance. Interestingly, golf courses that practice intensive sand topdressing programs (or any portion of greens, collars, bunker edges, tees or fairways where high sand content was found near the surface) showed the worst signs of damage. Golf courses with slightly more organic material and higher mowing heights appeared to withstand the onslaught. So, how do things look now, about one month later?

Although Mother Nature clearly scored a victory in December, she has been kind enough to give the Pacific Northwest one of the warmest January in history, and February is following the same El Nino pattern. With temperatures into the 50’s, and occasionally in the lower 60’s on the west side of the Cascades, some superintendents report good recovery, while others are still using higher mowing heights on shaded greens that were hampered by the lack of light. Make no mistake about it – recovery has started; however, every golf course green will not recover completely without seeding or sodding.

As we move toward the month of March, it is important to keep mowing heights up on weakened greens, use hole locations in areas where weaknesses did not occur, and not be in a hurry to get the greens back to their previous summer playing conditions. Allow your golf course superintendent to slowly bring back damaged greens and realize that the number of impaired greens in the Pacific Northwest is the highest seen in the last 40+ years. Mother Nature has been kind enough to give the greens a mulligan; however, patience and ongoing warm weather is the key to recovery.

Education Opportunity

The annual USGA Regional Conference for course officials will be conducted at Waverley Country Club on Monday, March 15. The program will include a one- hour panel concerning the ongoing recovery from winter damage and ways to prepare for next year, along with several excellent speakers on golf maintenance, Rules of Golf, and other golf related topics. Hope to see you all there!

Source: Larry Gilhuly, lgilhuly@usga.org or 253-858-2255

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