As I type this blog post regarding the potential of opening greens, more snow is falling. I guess it is timely since the Winter Olympics are taking place in Russia. With warmer weather approaching this week and the potential for the snow to melt away from the golf course, I thought I should make a post regarding the opening and then possibly closing the course during some moderate weather over the next week or two. Our greens will begin the transition from frozen and hard as concrete to potentially mushy and partially frozen sponges that are living and breathing.
During the winter, it is my hope that our golf greens stay either completely frozen or completely thawed. Where I see the biggest potential for damage to our greens is when the surfaces are soft and the profile of the green is still frozen an inch or two below the surface. Foot traffic can cause roots to shear at the interface between the frozen and thawed area. Regeneration of these root systems take time throughout the spring and potentially into the summer to heal. Significant energy is used by the plant to heal itself. What we hope is that the root systems stay intact and begin to grow and branch as much as possible. As the roots branch and increase in mass, root hairs in the billions can form along a healthy root. Damaged roots produce less root hairs and reduce the plants ability to produce energy for the plant to use. The primary function of the root hair is to absorb moisture and nutrients into the main part of the root system. Plants that are producing more food than needed to keep the plant alive then place this material in storage within the plant stems and crown area. The plant uses this material during periods of poor production brought on by severe weather related stress during the summer. The greater the reserves the plant has, the more energy that it has available to use during these extreme weather conditions when production is very low.
Besides root shearing from greens partially thawed but frozen underneath, greens can be full of water like a sponge. The greens will begin to thaw on the surface and remain frozen below the surface. Water can build up on the surface because it cannot penetrate through the frozen profile. Earlier in the winter season, we were forced to keep the course closed during a relatively mild temperature outbreak because of the sponge like affect we had on the surfaces of our greens. During this time, foot printing can be become very prevalent as well. The greens are soft and a foot prints can stay on the surface of the green for many days. Too many foot prints from multiple players could lead to the green being very bumpy and virtually unplayable plus the potential for unseen damage in the profile of the green.
As temperatures moderate and the snow leaves the golf course this week, we will be monitoring conditions for potential problems. We might open the course for a day or two but then be forced to close it again if conditions warrant to allow the greens to thaw properly.
I will keep you informed regularly through blog and twitter postings as conditions warrant. We appreciate your understanding during this most difficult weather situation. Our focus is to have the course come out of winter unscathed with its greatest potential for growth and healthy conditions occurring during the green growing season from March through difficult conditions this summer and into November of this year.