Just as plenty of golfers are doing, superintendents in many parts of the country are beginning the process of restoring their golf courses to playability. Unfortunately, this winter was particularly harsh in several regions and impacted many courses. While some are gearing up for major replanting efforts, others have had to delay normal spring maintenance practices. Many golfers are anxious to help their courses get back into shape as quickly as possible. Here are some things to be aware of during the recovery efforts:
· Fairways may have experienced injury this winter, particularly in shaded areas. Avoid using powered and pull carts in these areas.
· Damaged areas may have to be replanted with seed, sod or sprigs, all of which require frequent watering. Keep all traffic as far away as possible from these areas.
· The maintenance staff may have to give priority to repairing damaged areas and spend less time on tasks such as bunker preparation and planting flowers.
· In many areas, the prolonged winter conditions have prevented scheduled maintenance practices from being completed. For example, putting green aeration may have to be performed later than desired.
· On those courses with damaged greens, remember that getting the greens back into good shape takes precedence over other maintenance tasks. While no one wants to play temporary greens, removing traffic from the damaged regulation greens can speed up recovery by weeks or even months.
· In many parts of the country, the turf may still be dormant (brown). Dormant grass is extremely prone to injury from concentrated traffic and will not begin the recovery process until it turns green and begins growing. Although it is frustrating to golfers and superintendents, the grass cannot be forced to grow and will do so only when temperatures rise.
· On range tees, golf facilities should limit play to synthetic practice surfaces, if available, until turf recovers from winter damage and/or resumes active growth and can tolerate play.
· Some courses may have suffered damage to both turfgrass and trees. Debris cleanup may need to be delayed while the course superintendent and staff focus on repairing playing surfaces.
· While no superintendent views winter damage as a good thing, some make the most of a bad situation. Some might decide to convert to improved turfgrasses or begin that major tree project that has been so badly needed so that similar damage is less likely to occur again in the future.
Finally, and most importantly, be patient. The recovery process takes time and is dependent on weather conditions. Recognize that the superintendent wants the course back in top condition as badly as you do. Staying patient is often the most difficult aspect of a spring recovery program.