Thursday, June 4, 2015

Plenty of courses are still struggling with recovery from winter injury. Cold water temperatures in the Great Lakes and Atlantic Ocean are keeping temperatures cool in coastal areas, slowing turfgrass recovery. Too often the calendar dictates when damaged greens are opened, and rushing weak greens into play too quickly results in more problems later in the summer. It is often observed that golfers are aggravated when greens are kept closed in the spring, but they won’t remember that the greens were opened a couple of weeks early when the greens don’t perform well in July or August. Remember, one critical function of the committee is to protect the course from the golfers. Doing what is right for the turf now will pay dividends later in the season.

USGA May 29th Update

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Bentgrass interseeding and a brutal winter.

3 replies to this topic

#1 Adam Fletcher

  • Golf Course Superintendent
  • 10 posts
  • Club/Course/Company:Oakfield Golf and Country Club
  • Location:Oakfield, Nova Scotia, Canada
Posted 24 May 2015 - 01:22 PM
Hey folks,
Like most courses in Nova Scotia we have suffered a brutal winter that created all sorts of problems to the greens,  basically wiping out all of the poa in the province and a decent amount of bentgrass. We have verticut, over seeded, tarped, fertilized (AS, starter and 0-18-19) and kept the seeds damp, and we are on our way back to establishment. We have a pretty good catch in the verticut lines and the open areas are beginning to look good.  Which is where the problem lies. In a compromise to the greens being closed we have opened the course with temporary greens, and while playing the members see the green and claim them to be playable.  At this point the new plants are about two weeks old and still fragile ( at least in the areas where there were large voids in the spring).  I'm trying to establish a bench mark for when the plants would be able to withstand the traffic of daily play.  The members see things in terms of "time", but not in things like root density or stolon establishment.  I have found lots of info about re-establishment but not much about when to allow traffic on the greens without them going backwards.
I realize we will play on the greens long before I am comfortable with it, but I would like to at least provide a time line that makes both me and the members happy.

#2 Clay Putnam, CGCS

  • Golf Course Superintendent
  • 647 posts
  • Club/Course/Company:ServiScape, LLC
  • Location:Crown Point, IN
  • Interests:Eating ice cream with my kids for a bedtime snack. Having a neighborhood fire in the back yard fire pit. Golfing. Upstate NY with the family.
Posted 25 May 2015 - 10:31 AM

I feel your pain and understand your circumstances. We went thru a similar re-establishment the winter of 2013/2014. Fortunately the membership was understanding and allowed the time necessary for full recovery.

Initially we created temp greens on all of the affected holes. There were several greens that were only partially affected. This allowed us to place pins within the "good side" of the green and we opened these greens fairly quickly (2-3 weeks). We had other greens that we closed entirely because such large swaths of the green were affected. We kept these greens closed for 6-7 weeks. We seeded all the affected areas with the exception of two greens were we sodded the affected areas. The sodded greens were back in play in 3-4 weeks and we set the pins away from the sod. Keep in mind that the spring of 2014 was unusually cold in the our area. Therefore, our re-establishment time was extended.

Having said all that, this is completely different than growing-in greens from scratch. I've done my share of grow-ins and it has been my experience that a minimum of 8 good growing weeks are required before opening the greens.

#3 Sam Reznicek CGCS

  • Golf Course Superintendent
  • 76 posts
  • Club/Course/Company:Grand Forks Country Club
  • Location:Grand Forks, ND
Posted 25 May 2015 - 10:39 PM
We are dealing with a similar situation this spring, while all of the Poa in our greens took a total dump, fortunately on most greens we had enough bent in there that they are still playable, just needing to go easy on them here for awhile and push recovery.

We did have to seed and cover one of our worst greens, and took it out of play for about 3 weeks (it is still closed.)  I just yesterday sent my greens committee an email stating that while all of the seedlings are looking good in the green, it will still be awhile before they are mature enough to withstand golf traffic.  I tried to stress the whole "golf season is a marathon, not a race" concept.  Dealing with a short term loss for a long term gain.  Every committee member responded back to give the green some more time and open it when it is ready.

Granted, this is only one hole when you are dealing with a lot more than that I take it Adam?  I think if you are open and honest with the powers to be about the consequences of opening them early, and effectively communicate YOUR plan and timeline with the rest of the golfers, I think you'll find they will back you 100%.  I am hoping to give my green another week, giving it close to 4 weeks total from the time I seeded it to the time it will be back in play.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Boston Globe

Area golf courses bouncing back from winter whiteout

The ninth hole at The Ledges in South Hadley looked more like a ski slope than a golf course during the winter.
The Ledges Golf Club
The ninth hole at The Ledges in South Hadley looked more like a ski slope than a golf course during the winter.
Aside from a chance of rain on Monday, it appears to be a glorious Memorial Day weekend forecast, the perfect kind of weather to go out and play some golf.
Just don’t expect the golf course to be in perfect shape.
The record-setting snow that blanketed Boston for much of the year’s first four months delayed the opening of nearly every golf course in the state. When the snow finally did melt away, course superintendents discovered that the challenges winter brought would extend well into spring, maybe longer. Some have it worse than others — there are still temporary greens being used — but almost every course is dealing with the after-effects of more than 100 inches of snow from a mean, unforgiving winter.
“I can tell you, in the Western Mass. area, there’s still a large group of boys still recovering. Mother Nature was pretty vicious,” said Mike Fontaine, superintendent at The Ledges Golf Club, a daily-fee facility in South Hadley. “Even still, now that the snow is gone, her weather pattern has not been all that great. Guys are chasing, getting all aspects of their golf courses ready to go.”
In the golf industry, especially here in the Northeast, Memorial Day is a key weekend; it’s when course operators and superintendents want their place to shine. It signals a start to the golf season, the unofficial start to summer, and draws eager golfers who are ready to play more after a long, forced break.
With the snow long gone and recent temperatures in the 70s, those golfers might expect area courses to be in midseason form. This year, those expectations aren’t reasonable, and likely won’t be met, at least not yet.
The issue at many courses is damage from winter kill: grass that has died, either from a layer of ice, or a combination of other factors that can lead to the plant suffocating. This time, though, there was one main culprit.
“It was the weather this year,” said Jim Skorulski, the US Golf Association’s agronomist for the Northeast region. “We can deal with weather, just not the extremes, like heavy rain or strong winds. The winter this year was extreme, there’s no doubt.”
It’s interesting, because some courses had more damage than others, and some courses experienced damage on certain parts of their course, but not others. Growing grass — and keeping it alive — in these kinds of conditions isn’t easy.
“A lot of the things that we’ve done, and a lot of the things a lot of my colleagues have done over the years, is improve the growing sites that greens and golf courses are on. They’re doing work on drainage, they’re working on tree removal to get more sunlight in. I think a lot of what’s happening in the winter has more to do with drainage and shade and environmental factors that we can control,” said Mike Luccini, the superintendent at Franklin Country Club and president of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of New England. “What you see coming out of the winter is very course-specific, whether it’s good, bad, or indifferent. What happens over here might not be the same thing people are experiencing 5, 10, 20 miles away.”
There have been a few positive course stories this spring. George Wright Golf Course in Hyde Park and the William J. Devine course at Franklin Park were the hosts of the Massachusetts Four-Ball Championship on May 12-13. With the courses opening two weeks later this year (April 17) than last, it didn’t leave much time for the course maintenance staffs preparing them to welcome and challenge the best amateur players in the state.
“We were very concerned. We know the reputation that George Wright has, so we were more concerned for Franklin Park,” said Dennis Roache, who manages both city-owned courses. “The Four-Ball gave us an opportunity to showcase Franklin Park, and for those who had never been here, we didn’t want them to have a bad experience.
“We were very concerned about the conditions, but they got both courses looking phenomenal. Up to 10 days before we were worried that we’d be in April conditions for a May tournament.”
It will take much longer for most area courses to hit their peak condition, and that is no guarantee. A lot will depend on the weather we get going forward. Seasonal weather will help: Heat, warm nights, precipitation.
“Everybody is still nicked up, I would say,” said Fontaine, who had The Ledges ready to open April 24, the latest start date he can remember in nearly 30 years in the profession. “Superintendents are very proud of what they do, nobody wants a golf course to grow in faster than we do.”
Until then, a little patience and understanding is recommended. Winter set everybody back, reflected in most courses not opening until late April, some in early May. It will take time for the bluegrass and bentgrass greens used on the majority of area courses to get completely healthy.
“They might look healed, but they’re not. They might look recovered, but they’re not,” said Skorulski. “It’s so true in this case: Be patient. Everyone’s working hard to get them back. I would guess, based on historical principles, we’re probably looking at mid-June, maybe early July for really damaged courses to get back to normal.”
Michael Whitmer can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GlobeWhitmer.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Effects of winter still lingering

Not all winter damage on golf course turf is created equally.
Damage caused by harsh winter conditions typically is a concern throughout the Northeast and much of the Midwest, but what causes it and its severity can vary from location to location and year to year. And this year is no different, with superintendents in some areas reporting minor damage and others calling this year's damage the worst they've seen.
Now that spring finally has arrived, the USGA Green Section recommends adequate moisture on areas where turf is damaged but still alive, slit seeding those areas with weakened turf and reducing or eliminating traffic until such areas are repaired. A leading university researcher suggests reseeding severely affected areas with creeping bentgrass followed by a strict fertility program.
This green that has been damaged by winter conditions has been slit-seeded in multiple directions.
This green that has been damaged by winter conditions has been slit-seeded in multiple directions.
At James Baird State Park Golf Course in Pleasant Valley, New York, 16 of 18 greens were lost to winter kill, a problem that kept the course closed into May. The same can be said for The Golf Course at Yale in New Haven, Connecticut, where superintendent Scott Ramsay, CGCS, called the damage the worst he has seen in his 31 years as a superintendent.
According to the USGA Green Section, there were several different causes for winter damage, including rain followed by freezing conditions in December and January that left exposed and dormant turf covered in ice for an extended period. At James Baird, an ice storm that rolled through Pleasant Valley in mid-January was to blame.
Copious amounts of snow in other areas left turf blanketed in snow so long that suffocation was a concern. Then later in March, turf in areas where standing water is a concern went through the thaw-freeze cycle. For other courses along the coast, wind was the problem, first removing snow cover and then blowing over exposed dry and dormant turf, resulting in desiccation.
While Green Section agronomists recommend reviewing programs and procedures, they acknowledge there is really little any golf course superintendent can do to prevent winter damage, other than to repair areas where standing water is a recurring problem.
That's the route Ramsay took at The Golf Course at Yale in New Haven, Connecticut, where he said winter damage could have been much worse if not for a fall aerification treatment that prevented standing water from accumulating in low areas on greens.
The story is the same on Long Island, where long and persisting winter conditions have resulted in delayed course openings, tournament postponements and temporary greens, according to published reports. Normal playing conditions at many courses, especially those with annual bluegrass putting surfaces, are not expected until summer.
As usual, courses with predominantly bentgrass greens fared better than those touting mostly annual bluegrass, which is the area's primary putting surface.
In December, Kevin Frank, Ph.D., of Michigan State University delivered a seminar on winterkill during the annual Ohio Turfgrass Foundation conference and trade show.
The ability to recover depends entirely on the level of damage incurred, but such programs often begin with seeding bentgrass. Frank discussed 
One such recovery program Frank discussed at OTF included seeding with bentgrass, followed by a starter fertilizer application at 0.75 pounds of phosphorus per 1,000 square feet, followed by a foliar program of 0.10 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 applied every four to five days through mid- to late May. That program also included delaying PGR use until mid-June. 
Properly preparing the area for seeding to improve seed-soil contact also played a critical role in how quickly an area recovered. 
Frank has had a lot of experience lately helping superintendents from throughout the Midwest deal with the aftermath of winter damage. Damage from harsh winter conditions throughout Michigan was worst in 2014, but was more widespread this year, he said.
A year ago, winter damage was concentrated mostly in the Detroit area, while this year courses northward into the state's thumb all the way to Gaylord are reporting dead or damaged turf. At least three courses in the Detroit area have filed documents in court against The Travelers Indemnity Co. for denying insurance claims associated with winter damage.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Tweet from Jeremy Stachowicz (@JerStack)

Jeremy Stachowicz (@JerStack) tweeted at 4:08 PM on Thu, Apr 30, 2015:
9th today and last week. The 1st green today and last week. Not bad for no weather.

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Jeremy Stachowicz
Golf Course Superintendent
Wahconah CC

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

April Greens Update

We plan to open the course Friday April 24th, with a very soft opening. As most know we experienced a fairly large amount of winter damage to our greens. When we open we will be dealing with a large number of temporary greens while we recover the damage. Your cooperation and patience for the next month is greatly appreciated. Nobody like temporary greens but as of right now we have very little choice. On Friday we will open holes 1-7 with 4 and 5 as the playable greens. After you finish 7, please play 17 and 18 as open greens to finish your nine. As we move along we hope to have more and more of the golf course available each week as we head towards Memorial Day. Below is my report to the Board for the month of April.

Greens Report
April 20th, 2015

Summary -Its no secret that we are dealing with some significant winter damage to our greens and a few other areas of the golf course. This has been widely publicized in many of the local media outlets including the Berkshire Eagle and on Masslive. We received damage to pretty much all 18 of our greens, which I will try and breakdown for you. The majority of the damage is to the relatively weak Poa Annual, however even a few of our Bent grass areas got dinged up. Most areas of the golf course were under ice encasement between 91 to 100 days. Most grasses cannot last that long under ice. This is the worst amount of injury that I have experienced possibly since the spring of 1999. That year we opened with 14 temporary greens. The last green (4) was put into play on June 6th.

Group I – least amount of damage and greens that I would open first.
4,15,18,17,12 and 5. Most of these have small amounts of damage and will recover and fill in quickly.

Group II – Fairly large amounts of damage probably greater than 1/3 of the area.
2,11,10,16,3,13 and 8. I’m hopeful that we can get these in play relatively quickly. While they have some significant damage I think I’m working with some decent amounts of live material in the damaged areas. Plugs I have taken out and brought in have responded favorably.

Group III – I would put these at damage levels greater than 50%.
            14,1,9,6, and 7. These possibly will take a bit more time to recover.

Plan: - I have ordered two full size covers that are now currently out on the 1st green and the 7th green. We have covered the other areas of damage with sections of covers. I’m leaving the black enkamat on as long as possible to help bring soil temperatures up. This week we will be working on the irrigation system; we will need water for recovery. Once we have this in place we will seed, fertilize and topdress the damaged areas. Covers will be used as much as possible to help initiate germination and speed up growth. The greens will all have to start the year at a higher height of cut in order to allow for establishment. I will be keeping all growth regulators off the greens until they have fully established. Our goal will be to grow as much bent as possible, but the reality is with traffic and low cutting heights we will end up with more poa than desired. Speaking with other Superintendents in the county we are almost all in the same boat, some a little worse than others perhaps. We are currently at least 10 days behind courses both to the North and South of us. The reason is our microclimate is a bit cooler than others. We tend to hold onto our snow and ice for longer periods of time. Our current soil temperatures are in the low to mid 40’s. Nothing will happen until we reach temperatures of 55 to 60 degrees on a consistent basis.