Play Setup Duties: While generally not recommended in the northern United States,some winter play does occur and golfers still have expectations for course conditioning. It should also be noted that if winter play is allowed, not only should more staff be in place during the winter to accommodate play, but many· more labor hours will be required to repair the course for the beginning of spring play (another article in itself).
Cleanup: Snow, ice, wind, and rain require debris cleanup across the property,whether it be to accommodate winter play or to prepare the course for spring opening. This includes downed
tree branches and accumulations of leaves, soil, or anything that
moving surface water leaves behind on the grounds. Remulching landscape and flower beds is another great winter project.
Covering Greens: For
courses that annually suffer winter damage to their
greens, covering them with straw, tarps, or synthetic
covers, and heavy sand topdressings, just to
name a few, can be essential to avoid turf loss.
Many man-hours are required in covering and protecting greens, particularly if
covers must be removed or applied several times throughout the winter.
Ice on Greens: If by mid-February or early March
continuous ice cover still exists, it may need to be
removed or broken to allow gas exchange to avoid turf
loss due to lack of oxygen. Although winter
injury is poorly understood despite decades of
research, the threshold for Poa annua is assumed to be close to about 50 days, whereas creeping bentgrass
can tolerate continuous ice cover much longer. Regardless of these guidelines,
monitoring of ice is necessary in northern states and, depending on the
intensity and duration of the winter, breaking ice to save greens may be
Removal from Greens: Snow is welcome during the winter,insulating the turf from desiccating winter winds and temperature extremes,
but sometimes it must bere moved from greens to hasten ice melt, speed surface thawing during the spring, or allow surface melt to be directed off the greens where it cannot accumulate and refreeze. Snow removal from greens is almost always performed manually so as to avoid mechanical
damage to green contours.
Course Conditions: In addition to monitoring the golf course regularly, many superintendents frequently perform plug checks to monitor
turf health and check for winter damage. This is done by removing soil samples
and placing them indoors on window sills where they warm with sunlight. Doing
so in advance is a great way to determine if winter turf injury will be an
issue, in which case communication and recovery plans can begin.
Fungicide Applications: In northern climates, various numbers of timely fungicide applications are used for control of pink snow mold, or Microdochium patch (Microdochium nivale), and gray snow mold (Typhulaspp.) that frequent most cool-season turfgrasses.
Winter Weed Control: For facilities in the transition zone, where bermudagrass
and zoysia grass go completely dormant, controlling actively growing winter weeds,
such as Poa annua with pre- and post-emergent
herbicides is a must. As with all pesticide applications, staff are required to
be trained and certified.
Native Roughs: Burning in early spring is the best weed control method and the healthiest management for maintenance and cleanup of native vegetation. It has always been Mother Nature's way of maintaining the native plains. In addition to a burn
permit, make sure to notify applicable parties in the area when burning,
including the fire department.
Ordering of Fertilizers, Pesticides, and Other Chemicals: Bulk ordering of fertilizers and pesticides during the winter months can produce significant cost savings as a result of early order discounts, but doing so requires excellent forecasting, budgeting, and
planning, all of which takes time.Although this certainly applies to
all facilities,those owned by management companies,government agencies, municipalities, and the like require a minimum of three bids
for each specification of a product purchase. Depending on the situation,
creating detailed specifications to obtain fair, competitive bids for every purchase
order can be quite time consuming.
Purchases: Maintenance equipment and other capital purchases typically require similar purchasing and bidding processes, as outlined above for chemicals and fertilizers.
Education: Whether it be the annual Golf Industry Show, local superintendent chapter meetings, USGA regional conferences,pesticide recertification workshops, etc., continuing
education is needed to stay abreast of the newest
chemistries, technologies, products, and techniques.
Continuing education is required not just in certain instances (such
as pesticide applicators); it is integral to the success
of the facility.
Equipment Maintenance and Repairs: Some
equipment operates seven days a week all through the growing season,
and others run two to three days per week on
average. Parts become worn and need to be replaced,
fittings loosen, bearings and seals wear out,
engines and motors require tune-ups, and wiring
needs to be inspected.
Extensive preventative maintenance
in the winter is crucial for equipment reliability during the golfing season,
and reducing costly breakdowns results in substantial cost savings. Additionally,
there simply is not time to have multiple pieces of equipment waiting for
parts or repair during the summer. While breakdowns in the summer cannot be
eliminated, winter prevention and maintenance can go a long way in assisting with
equipment durability and dependability.
Keeping equipment clean and
operating efficiently does not just mean a better conditioned golf course; it
also increases equipment longevity and trade-in value. "The value of the
maintenance fleet more than justifies preventative maintenance and regular
service. Maximizing the investment in equipment is good business sense and important to the viability
of the overall golf course operation." 1 Do not forget equipment painting needs as well.
Mower Blade Sharpening and Reel Grinding:
With dozens of reels and blades on multiple fairway, green, tee, and
rough mowers,diligent sharpening and grinding of cutting units in-house takes weeks. Some courses
contract out this work, but it can be very expensive. As such, investing in reel and blade
grinding/sharpening equipment, and performing this job in-house, can produce
significant cost savings. Bearings, seals, and roller rebuilding are necessary,
Maintenance: Selective tree removal and pruning is needed annually to improve growing conditions by increasing sunlight exposure and air flow. Trees or branches that unduly interfere with play or intended architectural design
should be eliminated. Annual winter tree maintenance also
includes thinning of dense tree populations to reduce
overcrowding, clearing understory brush, raising canopies for improved air flow, and addressing trees damaged during winter storms.
Limited or no play during the winter is a great time to address deficiencies in drainage. This includes repairing existing drainage tile that
has become compromised and no longer functions properly, or the
addition of new drainage in areas that drain poorly.
To improve poorly draining areas or small pockets that hold water, this can
also be achieved through regrading drain basin contours.
Irrigation System: All facets of an irrigation system require annual attention.
This includes routine servicing of pump stations as well as upgrading deteriorating irrigation
components, leveling heads, and mapping of new irrigation lines and heads.
Green Collar Maintenance and Leveling: Collars
are areas of the course that are often overlooked, but they
benefit from routine maintenance. This includes
leveling,redefining widths, expansion, and
Leveling, Rebuilding, and Expansion: Intense play and divoting from the
centers of teeing grounds may produce surface unevenness that causes playing
areas to remain wet, as surface water no longer exits off the tees as originally
designed. The opposite also can be true. If aggressive divot-filling programs
are in place, excess accumulation causes the center of tees to form a crown.
Or, throughout the season it may be obvious that a tee is simply undersized for
the amount of play it receives, which is most likely on holes 1 and 10, where
additional practice swings are frequently used. In either case, the winter months
provide a great opportunity to level, rebuild, or expand tees for the upcoming
Bunkers: The general industry standard for the lifespan of bunker sand is five
to seven years before it must be replaced. This occurs because silt and clay impede bunker drainage
and offer poor
playability. Winter months are a great time to replace bunker sand, if needed,
or replenish sand if more is needed. To keep bunkers draining properly, it also
is wise to inspect the drain system so that tile lines can be cleaned or
Path Repair: At some point, highway sand streets require repair, and cart
paths are no different. Winter
months, when temperature and conditions allow, are a great time to prepare cart paths for the upcoming season. Curbing
can be built as well.
Facility Improvements: An organized, clean, and operative
maintenance facility does not happen
by itself, and directing some
attention here goes a long way to improving employee morale, better
productivity and efficiency, and attracting and
retaining quality employees.
House, Rest Stations, and Other Small Buildings: There is no rule that states that these structures must be eyesores. Rather, when routinely painted and well
maintained, even these facilities
can be aesthetically pleasing.
Course Accessories: These include tee markers,
wastebaskets, ball washers, benches, bunker rakes, bag racks, etc., and because
all are outdoor accessories that endure the elements, all require restoration
every now and again. Golf course accessories should be cleaned, repaired, refurbished,
painted, or built new, when necessary. New or updated accessories are noticed
Soil Testing: Although it may not be practical to
obtain soil samples during the winter, it is an opportune time to review soil
test results from the previous season (and past years to evaluate trends, if
any). Fertility needs should be addressed, and changes, if any, can be
anticipated for the upcoming season. This allows for late winter soil amendment
applications that may be in order.
Testing: Winter is a good time to establish baseline numbers on water
purity, as water should be at its
purest at that time. By running a
water test in the winter and again in mid-summer,
the relative ranges of water quality used
to irrigate your golf course can be obtained.
Other projects that can be performed during the winter may
include installing a brick patio
outside the clubhouse,installing a
deep well, repairing a leaking water fountain
line, cleaning/servicing/painting/installing large fans used to circulate air
on greens, refurbishing the
facility's main entrance gate, and
everything in between. Winter also presents
a great time to develop maintenance standards
and review safety and training procedures.
1 Nelson, M. 2004. Mountain standard
time (February, 2004).
Bud White is director of the USGA Green Section's Mid-Continent Region and Ty McClellan is manager of Green Section Education.