Using turf covers is frequently debated this time of year. Advocates for cover systems value the protection they provide against desiccating winds, cold temperatures and ice encasement. Those who choose not to cover their greens raise concerns about the costs, effort and occasional negative impacts associated with using covers. The resolution usually lies somewhere in the middle. For some, turf covers are valuable tools; but for others they are unnecessary.
Few managers will accept the added costs and management responsibilities associated with cover systems if they don’t believe they are necessary. Many golf courses that manage annual bluegrass in northern climates use cover systems to avoid extensive and frequent turf losses across putting greens. Similarly, many courses in with bermudagrass greens use covers to insulate the warm-season grass from damaging cold temperatures. Selecting the right cover system to match your site and location is critical. Table 1 highlights the most frequently used cover systems and their intended purposes.
The following questions will help you determine if a cover system would be a practical addition to your winter management program and, if so, what type of cover system you should consider:
- What is the frequency and severity of cold temperature injury on your golf course?
- What type of winter injury is most common?
- What is the predominant grass species?
- What is the expected average low temperature?
- Are the surfaces open or protected by continuous snow cover?
- Is surface drainage effective?
- Is there dense shade during fall and winter?
- Are resources available to purchase, install and manage cover systems throughout winter?