Friday, January 15, 2010

Course Conditions

As we go through some winter thawing, I wanted to update those of you who are anxious to get back out onto the golf course with some pictures to show you the current status of the golf course. We have had some nice melting of the snow over the last few days but still have 6-8 greens with some level of snow still on them. To compound our issues, the greens are completely frozen with just a very thin layer on top beginning to thaw. With the greens being frozen, there is no where for the moisture to go but remain on or just below the surface or slowly roll off of the green. As the temperatures continue to stay moderate, thawing will continue but is slowed when there is no sunshine to help warm the surface of the green. Rain does help to thaw the turf a little quicker and has a tendency to make the surface a bit more firm. Right now, all of our turf areas are very sloppy and unplayable; tees, fairway, rough and greens.

I expect that the course will not be opening this weekend Jan 16-17 and will stay closed through the next week until our greens begin to drain the water away from the surface. We will monitor the conditions on a daily basis and will keep the pro shop informed when we might potentially open.

4th fairway and the front part of the green with snow.
The 3rd green with snow cover and in the foreground you can see the water sitting on the green surface with no where for it to go except to drain off of the front of the green.

11 green with snow and water on at least 1/3 to 1/2 of the green surface.

Here you can see water coming up around my boot as I push down on the surface. Where the greens are thawing, they are like a sponge completely filled with water.

13 green with snow and water on the surface

10 green complex with more snow and ice on its surface.

I have posted a section of Ty McCllellan's USGA regional agronomist report below which discusses thawing and frozen conditions of greens. The second article is from Ohio State University discussing the different turf conditions we face throughout the winter season and the impacts that winter play has on our greens.

By Ty McClellan, Agronomist, Mid-Continent Region January 7, 2010
Oftentimes, golfers think winter is vacation time for the golf course maintenance staff, and they fail to realize the number of jobs on the golf course that are carried out through the winter. We are all familiar with the more common tree pruning and drainage work, but there are other key items to consider.
Winter Traffic Management
We have witnessed significant winter freezing this year and our winter is just beginning! Traffic management is critical on all grasses, but many golfers think that the dormant bermudagrass is dead and traffic will not hurt it. Superintendents recognize the potential pitfalls, but golfers need to as well, so education is critical!
The freeze line in the soil profile can create a shearing of roots or rhizomes if the turf is thawed at the surface, but still frozen just below. This must be closely monitored, on a daily basis, when extreme winter conditions persist.(OUR CURRENT GREEN TURF CONDITION)
Looking Ahead: Winter Golf Play a Difficult Decision
Nov 24, 2007
Opening the golf course for winter play is one of the more difficult decisions a golf course superintendent or owner will make. Many golf courses just close for the winter while others remain open. In these situations, there is little worry since the decision has already been made. However, if you are caught somewhere in the middle, winter play decisions are difficult and often times result in political consequences. Whether to allow play or not are often late winter/early spring decisions. However, with the relative mild winter this year these winter play decisions are being made now.
In general winter play is not good for turf, especially golf greens because of little if any turfgrass growth. The repercussion from no growth is little if any recovery from traffic or wear (especially on greens). Also, divots, ball marks and generally tearing up the turf become potential"beachheads" for the development of winter weeds like annual bluegrass (Poa annua).
I have ranked the various situations from least to worst for winter play. I would say that any play on frozen turf (leaf blades, plants) should be avoided. Immediate damage will occur to the plant similar to playing on a frosted turf. In addition, golf greens will be subject to the most intensive traffic so use temporary greens where possible.
Possible scenarios:
1) Play on dry unfrozen soil - Although wear injury is always a potential problem this is situation will result in the least damage.
2)Play on frozen soil - Most likely will result in wear injury to the turf but little soil compaction. This condition is not occurring. Some thawing at the surface layer is occurring.
3)Play on wet, unfrozen soil - The potential damage under his scenario is significant soil compaction can occur but less wear injury.
4)PLAY ON A THAWING SOIL (UNFROZEN (WET) ON THE SURFACE, FROZEN BELOW) - This situation can result in both wear injury and soil compaction. This type of situation should be avoided. (OUR CURRENT GREEN TURF CONDITION)
The problems associated with winter play will affect spring play. Once the spring season begins the condition of the course (hard, worn, etc.) will not be at the level of golfer expectation.
Posted by Karl Danneberger

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