Winter Topdressing! Why Not?

By Larry Gilhuly, director, Northwest Region
January 23, 2013

Ball removal on soft greens can create “volcanoed” holes and inconsistent ball roll.

A unique aspect of the Pacific Northwest is the mild weather found on the west side of the Cascade Range in both Oregon and Washington. Turf growth slows, but does not stop in this area until temperatures drop to near freezing and below. For this reason, a trend is occurring in western Oregon and Washington that is worth considering – light winter topdressing of greens and fairways.

Light sand topdressing of greens is conducted for several reasons. There is no question that properly sized sand assists in smoothing and firming the surface. It also helps move water through the profile faster. However, another reason sand is used periodically is to incorporate it into the organic material produced by the turf. Since the turf in western Oregon and Washington turf continues to grow throughout the winter, the production of organic material also continues. Light topdressing with sand should be timed with plant growth. As a result, more superintendents are now making light winter sand topdressing on greens a regular practice. Several superintendents also report applications on fairways to minimize layers of organic material created between the fall and spring heavy sand applications.

With such a mild winter, the occasional application of sand on greens has helped. Very light rates of 1/3 yard per 10,000 square feet or less based on plant growth have helped firm winter playing conditions while smoothing surfaces. It has also proven helpful when dealing with those “volcanoed” holes that can appear on greens where there is too much organic material near the surface. As can be noted in the photo, players remove golf balls several inches from the hole. If your greens are too soft, it will create a raised area six to 12 inches around the hole which affects ball roll.

Timing sand topdressing on greens with plant growth is a year-round program in those locations where growth seldom stops. If the budget allows, don’t forget the fairways. Just make sure they are firm enough for your equipment. As January comes to an end, lets’ hope for an early spring to get the turf and game growing.

Source: Larry Gilhuly, or 253.858.2266

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