Going To The Edge - And Back February 16, 2015 By Larry Gilhuly, agronomist, West Region

Warmer temperatures in cooler climates have brought out golfers. In times of no or slow growth, keep traffic areas on green edges and away from heavily used portions of the greens.

While the winter weather continues to slam the Northeast, record warm weather continues in the Pacific Northwest and turfgrass is actively growing earlier than normal in many areas. In California, Pat Gross, regional director of the USGA West Region, observes that the recent heat wave in the Southwest is not a good start to the year. Temperatures ranging from 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit over the past few weeks have made it necessary for many courses to turn on irrigation systems much earlier than normal. On the positive side, bermudagrass and kikuyugrass are showing signs of active growth. However, courses are spending money on water in February, which is not typically necessary during a normal year.  

On the non-weather front, Agronomist Brian Whitlark reports a growing trend in the southwest part of the region – golf course renovation projects. For years, courses deferred large-scale projects as a result of the Great Recession and many facilities now are in a position to allocate funds toward course-improvement projects. A few examples of the most popular capital-improvement projects in the region are offered below:

  • Bunker renovation including moving bunkers to more strategic areas and installing liners, drainage, and new sand with enhanced physical characteristics and playability seems to be the most popular course-improvement project.
  • Upgrading and replacing irrigation pumps and motors
  • Sand topdressing fairways to improve soil physical properties, turf health and playability. This strategy may be included in the operating budget or may be a capital expenditure.
  • Turf removal projects are popular, especially in southern and central California. Removing and replacing turf with native and/or arid-adapted plants has the potential to yield big water savings if managed properly.
  • Along the same lines, the introduction of native-grass areas is gaining popularity. Researchers including Dr. David Kopec at the University of Arizona and Dr. James Baird at the University of California, Riverside are working on the development of native grasses and methods to establish and maintain these plants.
  • Tree-management plans – including tree inventories, selective tree trimming and removal and, where appropriate, new plantings – are becoming more popular as courses mature throughout the region.

For additional information on course-improvement projects at your facility, read the article Get Projects On The Right Track.

In the intermountain portion of the West Region, another facility successfully recovered from one of last year’s major weather incidents. The CommonGround Golf Course, owned and operated by the Colorado Golf Association, is located just outside of Denver and is in an area that collects water from large rain events. Last year, when several inches of rain occurred within 48 hours, some of the greens at the CommonGround Golf Course and the entire pump station were submerged under up to 20 feet of water. After the water subsided, it was obvious that at least five of the greens required resurfacing. The damaged greens were successfully resurfaced in 2014 and during a recent visit to the course several creative practices worth noting were being implemented by the course maintenance staff to ensure the long-term health of the greens:

  • Canada goose populations have been significantly reduced.  Hiring a part-time staff person to continue harassment efforts after the maintenance staff is done for the day has had the greatest impact on reducing geese populations. The results mirror those noted in the article A Method To Give A Goose To Your Geese – No Deposit, No Return, where the relatively small expense involved with part-time labor to deter geese has worked extremely well at Heron Lakes in Portland, Oregon.
  • Use multiple holes in cold climates. The Denver area also is experiencing unusually warm weather and a record high of 70 degrees Fahrenheit was recently set in early February. As a result, turf throughout CommonGround Golf Course has been breaking dormancy and an unusual amount of play has occurred. Bobby Martin, golf course superintendent, and the maintenance staff cut five holes into each green to minimize traffic wear while play occurs during frozen conditions. All of the greens showed very little wear while offering quality surfaces to those that must get their winter golf fix.
  • Use the edge of the greens. Positioning hole locations near the outer portion of greens can be a valuable technique to divert traffic to areas that are not commonly used during the golf season. For those in cooler climates where play lasts through the winter this “maintenance on the edge” makes perfect sense.

Source: Larry Gilhuly (