Tree Programs: Gentlemen, Start Your Engines! February 27, 2015

Tree Programs: Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!

By Adam Moeller, USGA Agronomist

November 3, 2009

Trees on golf courses can have numerous positive impacts from an architectural and aesthetic standpoint (defining or protecting doglegs, etc.). The Northeast Region is home to some of the oldest golf courses in the country, and one of the most common change golf courses go through over the decades has to do their tree populations. More trees and more mature trees require more resources for their maintenance, especially during the colder seasons.

Leaf and debris cleanup has been a daily maintenance practice at nearly every facility over the past month. Annual tree maintenance and/or pruning are common in the fall and have begun at many facilities across the region as well. Facilities with an abundance of trees, particularly when some are located in the wrong place, are faced with more important tree issues; their impact on turf health and sustainability.

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Putting greens grown in shaded microenvironments are predisposed to numerous turf maladies, especially during stressful weather patterns.

There is no substitute for sunlight. A lack of sunlight cannot be overcome by any construction method, maintenance practice, or product. Adequate sunlight and air circulation are basic yet critical physiological requirements. Adequate sun exposure and air flow are essential to growing high quality turf that is tolerant of the daily rigors of golf course use and maintenance. Therefore, tree removal is necessary in locations where grass growing microenvironments have been compromised through haphazard planting or tree maturation.

At many facilities, removing trees is a long, arduous process that often requires some form of approval from the course decision maker(s). Over the last decade, many courses in the Northeast Region have taken a proactive approach, with large scale tree removals for the sake of turf health, playability, and restoring the golf course to the original design. Regardless of the challenges tree removal may present, improving sunlight and air flow will unquestionably create a better grass growing environment for turf.

USGA agronomists can provide insightful and invaluable information pertaining to all areas of golf course maintenance, which will help maximize turf health, playability, and efficiency. Contact Dave Oatis,; Adam Moeller,; or Jim Skorulski, for a Turf Advisory Service visit this season.