When the right trees are in the right places on a golf course, they add tremendous value. Trees can provide strategic interest and beautiful views, along with a host of environmental benefits. Native trees also give golf courses a distinctive character that connects them with their surroundings.
With all these positives, it’s not surprising that tree management can be one of the most sensitive and emotional subjects at any golf course. However, there can definitely be too much of a good thing when it comes to trees on golf courses, and when trees are planted in the wrong locations, they can cause problems for decades.
“Trees are an integral part of golf courses in most of the U.S.,” said Adam Moeller, director of USGA Green Section education. “Understandably, people get nervous when discussing tree removal, even if the issues are very clear.”
“The key is getting past the emotion of the subject and looking objectively at the impact of each individual tree,” said Moeller. “With golf courses everywhere facing higher maintenance costs, higher expectations and tough competition, effective tree management is probably more important than ever. Facilities simply can’t afford the issues that come with problematic trees.”
From the East…
When Todd Raisch took over as superintendent of The Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, N.J., in 1995, trees on the course were overgrown and there were hundreds of non-native trees that had been introduced as part of a planting program. Dense shade and limited air movement around the greens were a recipe for disaster.
“I had it pretty easy my first few years as superintendent,” recalled Raisch, “but eventually we had a major disease outbreak on the greens. By August of that summer, you couldn’t even play on a bunch of them.”
Ridgewood had no choice but to act (see image below), even though many members were opposed to tree removal. A company was hired to conduct shade studies and identify which trees were having the most negative impacts. Once that information was conveyed to the membership, the club decided to remove more than 1,000 trees around the greens alone.