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.

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