Winter Issues In The Southwest

By Pat Gross, director, SW Region
January 8, 2014


(L) Erecting a two- to three-foot vertical net or chicken wire fence along the perimeter of a lake is one of several methods to keep coots and Canada geese off fine-turf areas. (R) Mower and equipment traffic on dormant turf can contribute to turf thinning and inferior playing conditions that may linger into spring.

The top issues this winter in the Southwest include damage caused by coots and geese, deciding whether or not to mow fairways and rough, and water management.  

Coots and Canada geese – The return of migratory coots and Canada geese during the fall and winter brings with it the messy fecal matter and feeding damage these birds cause. In speaking with several superintendents, there is no single product or practice that discourages coot and geese activity. A combination of several of the following approaches is necessary:  

  • Use a variety of harassment techniques to keep the birds moving and away from fine-turf areas. These include specially trained dogs, noise makers and remote-controlled airplanes and boats.    
  • Use a tractor-mounted leaf blower to clean areas of fecal matter, which has the added benefit of further aggravating coots and geese.    
  • Erecting two- to three-foot high netting or chicken wire fences along the perimeter of lakes makes it more difficult for birds to enter and exit the water.    
  • Use of a green laser flashlight is especially effective for harassing Canada geese. Extreme caution must be taken when using the green laser to avoid pointing the laser into the sky where it could interfere with aircraft or bouncing the beam off the water and into nearby homes.    

To mow or not to mow? Slow turf growth is typical during the winter season in all but the overseeded regions of the Southwest, thereby reducing the need for frequent mowing of the fairways and rough. Although mowing does a good job of breaking up divots and producing a clean appearance, the added mower traffic can result in turf thinning and lingering damage. This is especially true where multiple mower passes are made in confined areas near bunkers and along fairway edges. It is important to keep these factors in mind when deciding on the mowing frequency that is appropriate for your golf course along with carefully training equipment operators to avoid concentrated wear patterns.    

Winter water management – It has been an especially dry winter in the Southwest so far causing many golf facilities to operate the irrigation system much more often than in a typical winter. Even dormant bermudagrass and kikuyugrass need some soil moisture to avoid winter desiccation. Frequent monitoring with soil probes and moisture meters are effective methods to decide when and where irrigation is necessary while conserving water.  

Upcoming USGA Regional Conferences – Please mark your calendar for the upcoming USGA regional conferences:  

Monday, Jan. 13 – Southern California Regional Conference at Tustin Ranch Golf Club, Tustin, Calif.  

Monday, March 17 – Northern California Regional Conference at Diablo Country Club, Diablo, Calif.  

Source: Pat Gross  (  

Information on the USGA’s Course Consutation Service  

Contact the Green Section Staff  

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