My experience has been that winter injury is the most challenging aspect of managing golf courses in the Northland. I have, over the course of my career, experimented with a variety of techniques with mixed results. I have used permeable covers in the past and found they were helpful in years with little to no snowfall (rare) but useless when it came to protection from ice formation. Impermeable covers, while offering some protection from ice formation when installed properly (very labor intensive), can sometimes cause more harm than doing nothing at all-especially if they are left on for too long in the spring. The biggest challenge with the use of covers is their cost of use-not just the covers themselves but the labor to install and remove them. While I can see the merit of cover usage in high budget facilities-usually private country clubs-where the resources exist and early closings are possible for their proper usage, I cannot justify their usage at a facility like Nemadji where resources in both labor and supply are limited. In addition, installing covers properly takes time and would require an earlier closing of the entire golf course in the fall-something that I do not think would be a popular option at Nemadji.
What we do at Nemadji after application of winter chemicals is apply a thick layer of topdressing sand to the putting surfaces. This age-old practice offers protection from winter desiccation (similar to a permeable cover) without the labor and storage requirements. In order to remove water (and potential ice formation) from the surface of putting greens, we also deep tine aerified putting greens going into winter to help facilitate movement of water deeper into the profile. While nothing guarantees optimal winter survivability, every little bit helps.
The reason I write about this-other than for everyone’s general information-is that on December 15th of last year, an unseasonably warm stretch of weather melted virtually all of our snow cover. This was followed with rain that quickly (over the course of a few hours) turned into snow with the arrival of very cold and windy conditions. A perfect storm for clear ice forming conditions. Turf under ice sheets typically does not fare very well. Snow is good. Ice is bad. What we did do before this chain of events was cut channels in collars and in some cases well into greens through which water can leave putting surfaces-this was actually done weeks before this weather event as a preventative measure. In addition, I went out at 4 am on December 16th and did my best to remove water from greens where standing water was (and historically has been) an issue. Greens like 1N, 4E, 7E, and 8E. I only had a two-hour window to work with here after the rain stopped and temperatures became too cold to remove water. While I feel pretty good about where we are and confident that we did all that we could to alleviate the potential for winterkill due to ice formation on these poorly draining areas, you truly never know until spring how well your efforts worked. In any event, we are prepared for any potential challenges in the spring. This is nothing new to anybody who has worked on golf courses north of Madison-especially on particularly poorly drained sites like Nemadji.
Moving on to more exciting news, we have a new addition to the crew at Nemadji. His name is Bentley (Ben for short). He is an English Cream Golden Retriever who is currently 9 weeks old. By the time we open, Bentley should be well on his way to being a solid golf course dog. Definitely keeping Boomer on his toes.
See you in the spring,