Walking 'Round In Winter Wonderland...

By Derf Soller, agronomist, Northwest Region
December 14, 2010

Winter desication injury can have devastating results in the spring. Bah Humbug! 

Or maybe not.  Throughout the vast Northwest Region some golf course superintendents are enjoying winter conditions on their courses and others aren’t quite so lucky.  Lucky, you say?  The majority of golf courses in the Rocky Mountains actually look forward to a good snow cover to help protect the turf from the harsh conditions of the winter months. 

The return trip from the 57th Annual Rocky Mountain Regional Turfgrass Association Conference & Trade Show took me from a warm and dry front range through greater-than-normal amounts of early season snow in the high country.  While skiers are happy, many of the superintendents and their staffs again were busy charging-up irrigation systems to irrigate dry, exposed turf.   And I left Denver wishing I had snow tires on my vehicle.

One of my personal highlights of the Rocky Mountain Conference was an announcement at the opening session that Dennis Lyon, CGCS, Aurora Golf Division, will be the 2011 recipient of the USGA Green Section Award.  In establishing the Green Section Award, the USGA honors those persons deserving special recognition for distinguished service to golf through work with turfgrass. I hope all in attendance at the 2011 Golf Industry Show can join us at the USGA Educational Program on February 11th, (10 AM- Noon), as the award is presented as part of the program.  Congratulations Dennis!

A year ago, we had a large amount of snow and ice damage to turf on many golf courses throughout the region.  These same areas are now trying to limit the amount of winter damage again, but this time it is caused by desiccation, another type of winter injury.  Winter injury or winter kill, has multiple conditions causing turf loss, including ice cover, plant crown hydration and freezing, rapid low temperature damage, snow mold diseases and desiccation.   It is a moving target and superintendents react each year to the changing conditions. 

Many different snow mold control products were used this fall at courses that had previously relied on PCNB- based products.  Superintendents are experimenting with different products to see what will fit into their programs in future years.  These decisions will be based on product effectiveness and budget.  Hopefully, each superintendent has good records, (and hopefully some photos too) of the application test sites for an adequate evaluation in the spring. 

This year’s Turf Advisory Service golf course visits found me explaining to green committee members, course officials, and players the many causes of winter kill on their golf courses.  While we don’t particularly like seeing lots of dead grass on visits, we do embrace educating people on the difficulty of dealing with Mother Nature in golf course maintenance.  The USGA Green Section staff is available for individual course visits as well as speaking to course officials and golfers to help educate about the challenges of golf course maintenance. 

In the Northwest region, contact Larry Gilhuly, director, (lgilhuly@usga.org) or Derf Soller, agronomist, (dsoller@usga.org) for more information or to schedule a visit.  For information, Administrative Assistant Wendy Schwertfeger also may be reached at:  208.732.0280 or at wendys@usga.org.

Have a safe and happy holiday, and I look forward to seeing you next season. 

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