Welcome everyone to Spring of 2021 at Nemadji Golf Course.  The big question every year is how the golf course fared over the winter months which is indeed an apt question considering that the site here at Nemadji is quite vulnerable to damage from the winter.  This is due to the poor surface drainage on many greens and the prevalence of Poa annua (Annual Bluegrass) on the areas of putting surfaces that drain poorly.  All this being said, we came through the initial thaw in excellent shape but then March came along with three extreme temperature swings with temperatures going from the 60’s to the teens within the span of a few days.

Superior Temperatures March 2021

What this can lead to is a textbook case of what is called crown hydration on annual bluegrass. To be brief, this is caused by a period of warm temperatures causing annual bluegrass to break dormancy and absorb water in areas saturated by both the spring thaw and poor surface drainage. When this is followed by temperatures below freezing for a few days, the water engorged cells of the grass plant burst causing damage like the example below illustrates:

4 East 4-5-2021

Note low lying, poorly drained areas with damage to Poa annua

This really is a sneaky deal in that the initial read on the golf course was great-we had no real ice issues to worry about over this winter.  If we did, we would have likely seen damage on 3N (looks great) and other areas where the snow lingered the longest this year due to shady conditions.

Recovery from this will be rather straight forward-indeed the damage is, compared to what it has been sometimes in the past, very spotty and there is bentgrass in most of these voids to help take over the areas left behind by the damaged annual bluegrass.  Most of these areas-like the one above-will recover on their own with the arrival of warmer temperatures and good growing conditions.

4 East 4-12-2021 Already noticeable recovery.

To speed the process along and help to minimize these issues in the future, we will be seeding more winter-hardy bentgrass into these areas this week to help facilitate the recovery as well as plug turf into other areas as needed to speed the process. We just need the weather to cooperate.

My belief, after observing two winters at Nemadji and speaking with long-time Superintendent at Nemadji Steve Flagstad as well as others on the staff here at Nemadji, is that getting through winter at this site without some degree of winter damage is a rarity. The poor surface drainage, annual bluegrass populations, and unpredictable and highly variable climate at this location make this so. Nemadji offers many challenges which most players here, in my opinion, understand. Please see the following link if you are interested in learning more about winter injury to golf courses. An easy read to help one develop an understanding of what is probably the biggest agronomic challenge being faced by superintendents north of Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

Winterkill of Turfgrasses (psu.edu)

Moving on to other agronomic matters, we took the liberty of treating some fairways-particularly on the East Course, for winter turf diseases last fall. This has not been done in the past. The low cost of generic alternatives allowed us to afford this. The results were highly successful. While we did not, at that time, have the equipment to do all golf course fairways, we hope to expand upon this program in the future to help get through the winter as best we can.

2 East Fairway. Note disease-free areas on left treated with winter plant protectant application.
Next time you are on the East Course, have a look at the 5E fairway. This one was treated in its entirety with an application provided to us for free from Bayer for winter disease research. In fact, I was with the representatives from the manufacturer this morning who were operating a drone to record just how well this application worked on a fairway that is usually rocked by winter diseases every year.
Moving on to the most recent events, heavy rains, and snow of late have created some issues for us here at golf course maintenance. One such issue is the following:

5 East 4-12-2021
Erosion around irrigation line crossover

The spring thaw combined with the substantial rainfall has created unexpected work for us in this instance as we will be making this repair before charging the irrigation system within the next few weeks. Good times and, to be honest, “unexpected work” will likely turn into real work once we charge this antiquated system. Next time you see someone from the crew with their head in a hole making a repair, please be understanding of what it takes to keep Nemadji being the best golf course that it can be. On this crew, we have a passion for even the dirtiest jobs but it is nice to be appreciated for what we do. I know that I certainly appreciate this group.

See you on the golf course.