Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Course Closing/Opening Decision, Science/Experience Tells Me Next Week

As mentioned in the email blast I sent to all members, I expect the course to remain closed until early next week at the earliest. This is not a set in stone decision. If you are a gambler I'm guessing a 20% chance of opening. I feel the existing freezing weather conditions over the next few days, scientific evidence regarding playing on thawing greens and what I've seen with my six years of experience at Glen Echo leads to this decision. Below is the reasoning that I use in making this most difficult  decision.

At this time, the greens are frozen solid and still have snow/ice on them as do many parts of the course. The snow/ice must melt, the moisture must drain from the surface/thatch and the sand layer must thaw completely before opening this time of year.

When greens begin to thaw, the surface will hold moisture like a sponge.  The thawing must go deep enough into the sand profile allowing the water to evacuate from the thatch/surface area. Walking on soft and water logged surfaces could create severe imprinting of footprints into the surface of the green.  These footprints could lead to bumpy and uneven surface for the first days and or weeks after they occur.

Another issue we face with thawing surfaces and frozen profiles is the potential for root shearing or tearing that can occur. The thawed surface moves under our feet as we walk and the frozen subsurface stays in place. This action can lead to long over wintered roots breaking at or near the surface. Instead of the root beginning its spring growth long and healthy, it must begin anew and use excessive amounts of energy to heal and grow.

A majority of excess energy is stored in the fall to early winter in a grass plant.  This energy is stored in stems and the crown of the plant. A healthy plant uses less energy.  A plant damaged in late winter and or early spring uses more energy than normal and can deplete stored energy. As the heat of summer increases, roots slow and or stop their growth.  A root that is fully mature simply makes for a much better grass plant that can withstand more stress.  A shorter rooted plant is subjected to more water stress, disease incidence and wear and tear issues from the work and play that takes place on its surface..  

Opening greens to early can be deadly for a green consisting of millions of 1/8" tall plants. The plants get walked upon, driven on by equipment, struck with balls from hundred of yards away, mowed, attacked by disease/pests, and pounded by unmerciful heat.

I will check the greens each day over the weekend as they begin to thaw. We still have aeration holes open on the greens that could help us drain more effectively. I appreciate your understanding during this process. Below are a number of holes and greens so you can see where we are so far with our snow/ice cover.  I will provide updated photos on Friday.

10 green

2 green

3 Fwy

3 green

7 green

6 green

9 green

4 green

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