Monday, March 28, 2011

Cold Weather Slows Course Opening

The combination of last week's cold temperatures and this week's predicted cold weather has caused the golf course to take a step backward. In order for the golf course to open, we must first be certain that all frost has left the ground. Traffic on frozen turf and soil, even foot traffic from golfers, can cause a significant amount of damage to the plants themselves. The turf at NSCC is very susceptible to damage at this point in the year. Until the plants are once again growing, they are unable to recover from any damage that they may receive from play. The golf course maintenance staff is eagerly watching the forecast in anticipation of course opening. To date, our activities on the golf course have been limited due to the frozen conditions. While some course clean-up has been completed, much work remains to get done. As the frost leaves the ground, the golf course maintenance staff will begin preparing the course for opening. Activities such as bunker repair cannot be completed until the bunkers are free from snow and the sand is no longer frozen.

The picture above helps to illustrate how fragile turf can be when the ground is frozen and the plants have not yet begun to grow. The brown tire tracks are clearly distinguishable in the photo taken of 8 Blue fairway. While the picture was taken recently, the damage was done in December when we applied black sand to fairways in order to melt the ice. Imagine for a moment the potential damage that could occur should golfers be allowed to walk on frozen fairways, tees, and putting surfaces. This picture not only illustrates how the decision to remove ice should not be taken lightly, but also how sensitive the turf can be during the winter and early spring. Many areas such as this exist throughout the course which will be noticeable upon course opening. In most cases this damage seems superficial and the turf should quickly recover following a couple weeks of growth.

As the forecast indicates, temperature appear to warm significantly toward the end of next week. These temperatures coupled with the hard work of the golf course maintenance staff will allow us to open the course as soon as we are able. Both I and the turf thank you for your patience.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Strong Start to 2011

Throughout last winter, many stories were shared by golf course superintendents about the horrific growing conditions of 2010. While most stories revolved around the challenging summer conditions due to excessive rains followed by high temperatures and excessive humidity, golf course maintenance staff employees and members of NSCC are well aware that the challenges of 2010 began as the snow first receded from the course. The melting snow revealed significant turf damage due to excessive ice coverage and flash freezes following rainfall.
The most common question of 2011, asked by NSCC members and maintenance staff personnel alike, is "how's the course looking?" I had been hesitant to give a definitive answer to this question, even though everything has been looking very good to date. Nearly all the ice formed in December had melted and snow had covered the course on a mostly consistent basis for the remainder of the winter. Both of these outcomes lend themselves to healthy turf in the spring.

Even though environmental conditions worked mostly in our favor, I was hesitant to give a definitive response for two reasons. First of all, one of the most common plant protectant products used to prevent fungal activity beneath the snow was removed from the market in 2010. The lack of availability of this product caused us to use a new product for the prevention of these pathogens. After lengthy analysis of university research and further cost analysis, we selected a combination of products that appeared to meet our needs. Since 2010 was the first year we applied this product, I was concerned about its efficacy, even though all research had indicated it should function well. At this point, I am pleased to report that the combination of products which we applied has exceeded expectations, allowing for nearly 100% control of winter pathogens. The second reason I was hesitant to predict the courses condition is due to the fact that the course is ever-changing. While the course appeared to be healthy throughout the winter, poor conditions in spring were still possible. A rain event, followed by a hard freeze could still present problems, although the likelihood for this decreases with each day. A moderate rise in temperatures, without extreme fluctuations in temperature, provide the turf at NSCC the greatest opportunity for survival and viability in the days to come.

Currently, I am very pleased with what I have seen following multiple walking tours of the course. The putting surfaces and tees have survived the winter with almost no damage at this point. The fairways are well above average. There appear to be no widespread areas of damage. There may be some small areas of damage in fairway depressions where minor areas of ice accumulation occurred. Currently, the course could use a gradual increase in temperatures to get the turf started out right. Once all frost has left the ground and the soil has dried enough to support foot traffic, we will open the course for play.

Taking Advantage Of Warmer Weather

After spending most of the winter inside, the golf course maintenance staff is thrilled to be working outside. Last week's warmer temperatures afforded us the first taste of spring-like weather of the year. In addition to melting most of the remaining snow, the sunny days allowed us to install a new roof on rain shelter on 7 Blue tee prior to the ground becoming too soft for equipment passage. While this shelter, and its sister on 2 White, are not the most beautiful structures on the course, they have provided many golfers safe refuge from multiple storms over the course of the past summers. Years of exposure to inclement weather had left the roof of the shelter in terrible condition. Late last fall, many shingles were blown from the shelter, exposing the rotting roof below. The maintenance staff did a great job replacing the roof, ensuring that the shelter will remain serviceable for years to come.