Thursday, March 19, 2015

USGA: The Big Melt - March 2015

USGA: The Big Melt - March 2015

The Big Melt

By David Oatis, director, Northeast Region

March 16, 2015

Snow and ice are melting,
but shaded areas are the last to clear, which makes them more likely to experience
damaging freeze thaw cycles.

and ice cover gradually is receding from courses in the Northeast, and
while most courses still are covered in the north, most are free of snow
and ice in the central and southern parts of the region. Now the
challenge becomes determining
whether or not injury has been sustained and whether it is extensive.
have been detected at numerous courses, but that in itself does not
guarantee that damage has occurred. Nonetheless, damage has been
documented in Pennsylvania, New
Jersey, New
York, New
England and southern Canada, but the extent is not fully known.

This can be a tricky time for turf managers. There often is a strong
desire to take action, but weakened turf can be pushed over the edge by
being too aggressive too soon. Keep the following points in mind as you
weigh options:

  • Make sure that no damming occurs as
    snow and ice is removed and/or melts. Shoveling drainage channels and using
    darkening agents can speed the melting process, but don’t enhance melting
    unless the weather is favorable. As Jim Skorulski wrote in the last Northeast Regional Update,
    “work with the weather.”
  • Turf plants can be closely examined
    for signs of life, but the only surefire proof of life comes when they
    break dormancy and begin to grow… or not. Incubating plugs is a great way
    to get an indication of turf viability.
  • Don’t be misled by color; it is not
    a foolproof predictor of turf health. Chlorophyll will be preserved by frozen
    conditions, so even turf that has sustained considerable injury may
    initially appear green and healthy once the snow and ice melt. Green water
    flowing off turf during snow and ice melt can be an indication that turfgrass
    plant cells have ruptured and are leaking chlorophyll.
  • Turf that is in a weakened state as a result of prolonged
    ice cover may survive, but its weakened state can leave it susceptible to
    a variety of other stresses, including additional freeze thaw cycles and
    golfer and equipment traffic.
    • Do not open greens too quickly following snow
      and ice melt. Soft, saturated soils are more prone to compaction, foot
      printing and rutting. Traffic
      on weakened turf will
      cause more injury.
    • Maintenance activities such as
      cultivation may be necessary to get seed in the ground if damage
      has occurred.
      However, weak plants that have nearly exhausted their carbohydrate
      reserves are more susceptible to damage
      from cultivation processes. It is important to get seed in the ground,
      but don’t rush it and push more turf over
      the edge.
    • Get the irrigation system up and
      running quickly. Dry conditions can be lethal to weakened turf.
  • Covers can be very helpful
    in promoting growth and recovery from damage, so
    get them out and cover known damaged areas right away. Covers also will
    protect weak turf from cold, dry winds.
  • If you have damage, be prepared
    to seed using multiple methods. Drop seeding following hollow-core
    aeration combined with slit seeding using newer, less-disruptive
    implements are all excellent approaches. Follow seeding with multiple, light fertilizer
    applications to promote more growth.
  • Planting small plugs (3 inch works well) from your nursery a couple of inches apart in damaged
    areas also can help tremendously. The plugs effectively raise the mowing
    height which helps protect weak turf and seedlings. Transplanting cores
    with soil probes and aerators also works well.
Unquestionably, the most important step in promoting rapid
recovery is to keep traffic off
of damaged areas. Opening damaged
greens before they’ve healed will prolong recovery time. Temporary
greens aggravate golfers,
but having to close greens that haven’t healed later in the spring is
even more aggravating. If your greens are open and still
recovering in May and June, you have missed the boat. For the latest
information on the role of potassium in winter damage, check
out the latest blog
post from Dr. Jim Murphy at Rutgers University:

Source: David Oatis (

Friday, March 13, 2015

Ice is the hot topic with golf course superintendents in Western Massachusetts

Jeremy Stachowicz
Golf Course Superintendent
Wahconah CC

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Couple of shots of the 1st and 10th greens after we removed the snow and ice. So far they look pretty good. We still have a long way to go and a number of freeze/ thaw cycles to go through. 

Jeremy Stachowicz
Golf Course Superintendent
Wahconah CC

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

USGA update March. Remove the snow or not?

It’s Hard To Be A Hero In March

By Jim Skorulski, agronomist, Northeast Region
March 3, 2015

Most golf courses in New England, upstate New York, and Eastern Canada remain covered in deep snow despite some rain and warmer weather that occurred this week. Recent storms have also blanketed southern parts of the region with snow. The deep, insulating snow pack has been beneficial for protecting grass from cold temperatures, but – like most in the Boston area will attest – there can be too much of a good thing. Those who have had ice on greens since January are justifiably nervous as ice cover now has lasted well over the 40 day mark. Several managers who have pulled samples from ice-covered greens in February (around 35 days ice cover) indicated that they detected the fermentation odor associated with anaerobic conditions and anoxia. Some of the turf samples pulled from ice covered areas were incubated and thankfully were still in good condition.
The condition of turfgrass plants growing in low-oxygen environments deteriorates over time. Part of the deterioration process involves the loss of stored carbohydrates that plants use to prevent cells from freezing. Low-oxygen environments most severely impact annual bluegrass health. Thus, those that manage annual bluegrass are faced with a difficult decision – remove the snow and ice and risk physical injury to playing surfaces and plant damage from exposure to colder temperatures; or allow the ice layer to remain and subject the plants to further deterioration and potential injury in the weeks ahead. It is not an enviable position to be in as the final weeks of winter approach. Fortunately, creeping bentgrass is better able to tolerate the impacts of anoxia while maintaining greater tolerance to colder temperatures. The following are some thoughts regarding snow and ice and the late winter season:
  1. Check the green surfaces. If no ice layer is present, allow the snow to melt naturally. Expediting snow removal should not be necessary and may actually create more problems should the cold weather pattern continue. Roads can be cleared to more easily access green complexes and some smaller paths across greens can be opened to help water drain when the thaw begins.  
  2. Check for anoxic conditions below impermeable covers or where surfaces have been encased in ice. Use a chisel and hole saw to cut or break through the ice layer. A sickly, sweet, fermenting smell will indicate there are anoxic conditions. Anoxic conditions does not mean the grass is dead, but plants will likely be compromised or weak and more vulnerable to cold temperature and freeze thaw cycles in the weeks ahead. A grass plug can be extracted and incubated indoors to check its condition.
  3. Annual bluegrass greens that are anoxic and have been under ice for 40-60 days are at the greatest risk of damage at this point and some action may be needed to get air to the turf. It is always best to work with the weather rather than against it, so it makes sense to wait until there is a favorable forecast before removing snow and ice. Several golf courses were able to successfully clear greens of snow and ice in past weeks, but were careful to blow snow back over the exposed surfaces as soon as the ice layer was eliminated. This strategy may be effective if you have workable snow and available resources to complete the process.
  4. Use larger, tractor-driven equipment to make paths to greens. However, clearing greens with smaller snow blowers is preferred. Even greens with ice layers are not always able to support the weight of heavy equipment. If the use of large equipment is necessary use caution. Make sure snow is cleared far enough away from greens that water from melting snow does not flow back on putting green surfaces.
  5. Once the ice is exposed, darkening agents can be used on exposed sites to hasten melting. On more shaded sites a greens aerator or dethatching machine can be used to chip away or facture ice if necessary. Creating channels through the ice or collar dams may be necessary for surface water drainage as ice melts.   
  6. Managers utilizing impermeable covers face similar snow-removal decisions especially if an ice layer is present above the covers and anoxic conditions are detected. Otherwise, the snow pack can be left in place until natural thaw begins.
February 2015 will leave a long-lasting mark for record levels of snow and cold temperatures. Ironically, it may not be the February weather that impacts golf courses as much as the less-memorable January weather or the future weather during the transition into spring. Good luck and feel free to contact your USGA Green Section agronomist if you would like to further discuss your situation and available management options. 
Source: JimSkorulski(
Information on the USGA’s  Course Consulting Service
Contact the Green Section Staff

Monday, January 19, 2015

Déjà vu All Over Again?

By Jim Skorulski, agronomist, Northeast Region
January 6, 2015

The recent weather system that brought a succession of snow, sleet and rain left standing water and slush over many northern golf courses. Hopefully, the surfaces were able to drain before cold temperatures transformed the water into ice.
Winter in the Northeast is seldom easy and never predictable. This winter started early with record snowfall and cold temperatures. December brought moderate temperatures and rainfall that removed snow and ground frost from most of the region. Mother Nature decided to make things interesting by generating a weather system that, in about the time it takes to drive from New England to a warm Florida beach, produced snow, sleet, rain, and warm temperatures followed by some of the coldest temperatures of the season. Surface water and slush left by the weather system quickly transformed into ice. A 30- to 40-degree decrease in temperature over a 24-hour period is not a favorable weather scenario for any golf course and it is similar to what occurred in many areas last season.
The most recent weather raises some concern for facilities that rely heavily on annual bluegrass playing surfaces. Fortunately, the period of warmer temperatures was probably too short to initiate significant de-hardening of the plants, which should improve their ability to tolerate the cold temperatures that followed. The biggest concern now is for golf courses that had standing water or slush as the temperatures dropped below freezing. Fully hydrated annual bluegrass plants are more susceptible to cold-temperature injury compared to plants that are not fully hydrated. The areas that received a fresh layer of insulating snow before the onset of extremely cold temperatures were fortunate. Those who did not receive a layer of snow must hope that the grass tolerated the low temperatures. However, facilities using covering systems should have fared well through this first winter challenge.
Facilities with a solidice layer in place should not have to take immediate action. In fact, the processes to remove snow and ice layers can be more damaging to the plants then letting the snow and ice remain in place. It is important to keep track of how long ice persists and to occasionally check beneath ice-encased surfaces for signs of anaerobic conditions. Anaerobic conditions are an indication that the turf is probably beginning to lose its ability to tolerate cold temperatures, or that damage may have already occurred. Begin monitoring ice-covered surfaces when ice has been in place for about 40 days. Also, it is a good idea to begin removing plugs from greens that were hydrated before being encased in ice to determine the turf status. Sampling greens under winter conditions is not an easy process, but identifying damage early can be very helpful both politically and for planning future management programs.
Golf courses farther south in the mid-Atlantic did not have to deal with the hydration and rapid freeze events produced by the latest weather system. However, Elliot Dowling expressed some concern for the impact that cold temperatures and wind may have on turfgrass in the mid-Atlantic. A fairly warm November and December was great for completing work on golf courses in the southern portion of the region but not ideal for preparing exposed grass for the cold and wind that occurred this week.
We hope to see you all at one of the upcoming education conferences where we will be happy to discuss winter topics and what to expect in the summer ahead. The following are a list of educational opportunities occurring in January:
2015 Connecticut Association of Golf Course Superintendents Winter Seminar – Jan. 15, 2015 – Mystic Marriott, Mystic, Conn.
2015 Maine Turf Conference – Jan. 14-15 – DoubleTree by Hilton, South Portland, Maine
2015 OTVA Winter Conference – Jan. 13-14 – Centurion Conference and Event Center, Ottawa, Canada
2015 New England Regional Turfgrass Foundation Conference and Show – Jan. 26-29 – Rhode Island Convention Center, Providence, R.I.
2015 Northeast Pennsylvania Turf Conference – Jan. 29 – Woodland Resort, Wilkes Barre, Pa.
Source: Jim Skorulski(, Dave Oatis(, Elliot Dowling(, and Adam Moeller(
Information on the USGA’s Course Consulting Service 
Contact the Green Section Staff

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

14th upper culvert

Here are some shots of the upper cuvert on 14 that was icing over, causing flooding down the right side of 14, between 14 and 12. Water was stacking up pretty good behind the 12th green area. Cleaned out what I could today to get better flow. A bit chilly out there today. 

Jeremy Stachowicz
Golf Course Superintendent
Wahconah CC

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


Here is a good picture of our current conditions. Greens are very fast. 

Jeremy Stachowicz
Golf Course Superintendent
Wahconah CC