On The Road With The USGA - April 2009
"March Madness" is coming to a conclusion - the final four in college basketball has been determined. Here in the North Central Region the Michigan State Spartans will carry our enthusiasm forward.
There is another type of "March Madness" that leads to "April Fool's Day." It is unrealistic expectations by golfers as they pull their clubs out of storage and head to their favorite courses - unrealistic expectations about course conditioning and unrealistic expectations about their skill. The later should remind us that golf is a game to be enjoyed, and perhaps a lesson from your local PGA professional would elevate that enjoyment. As for unrealistic course conditioning expectations, only a fool would expect the course to be in mid-season form this early. Talk to your superintendent about the specifics at your course, offer a word of encouragement to those you see working on the golf course, and remember that patience is a virtue.
There have been a few calls over the last month about when regular greens can be opened to play. The easiest rule-of-thumb to apply is changing or cutting new holes. That is, if the frost has come out of the soil sufficiently for holes to be changed the green can be safely opened to player traffic. Keep in mind, weather conditions could change a few days later and necessitate closing what was open. There also is the very real possibility that some greens may be ready to open while others on the same course have not thawed sufficiently to accommodate play without damage. Damage will typically weaken the turf so that it is predisposed to pest and/or traffic injury. This damage could seriously delay getting the greens to top form, while also increasing maintenance costs.
If it is a need at your golf course, Poa annua seed head control is at hand. In fact, the ideal time frame has passed for more southern courses in the region. Monitoring growing degree days (GDD) is commonly used to zero-in on the proper timing of plant growth regulation for specific locations. Check out the following Web site, which illustrates how the timing of applications for seed head control varies http://www.gddtracker.net/ . Keep in mind, if your maintenance program is aimed at stressing and reducing the Poa annua population it may be better to allow seed heads to develop while adding other types of plant growth regulation to maximize suppression. Multiple factors must be considered to outline an efficient site-specific program for using growth regulators, if they are to be used at all - a good example of what our Turf Advisory Service (TAS) can offer.
If the plan at your course is to core aerate once in the fall and a second time in the spring - it's too early. The process of removing aeration plugs and filling the channels with topdressing sand should ideally be done when growth is consistent (mowing with clipping removal daily) so that recovery will be quick and root growth down the channels is maximized. The ideal spring window ranges from mid-to-late April in the southern part of the region to mid-to-late May further north. All aeration work should include a scheduled target date and an alternate date one or two weeks later to accommodate weather-related postponements. Juggling aeration dates to accommodate play yields a false sense of security that poses a very real threat to sustainability. If your course is floundering with aeration needs, give us a call. While it can be an emotional topic it also is a vital component of quality golf turf conditioning - frequency and timing do matter.
Whatever the need at your course, whether agronomic, political, or economic, we're here to assist. An annual on-site visit is the best way to establish and maintain a team relationship that maximizes the benefit to your operation. The tough economic times further elevates the value of what can be accomplished during an on-site visit - call or email anytime.
Source: Bob Brame, firstname.lastname@example.org or 859.356.3272