One thing that I have always looked forward to in the spring is the initial inspection of the golf course to see how well the golf course came through the winter months. As we all know, this can vary a great deal from year to year with some years resulting in dead turf while others result in minimal to no damage. I am pleased to report that, as of today, I really see no issues anywhere on the golf course that give us any real cause for concern. Our fall fungicide applications for turf protection, combined with optimal late-season fertility (very lean) and a heavy sand topdressing program have all combined to make most areas look like the picture below.
9 North Green 3-15-2021
This photo is very interesting in that it shows the effects of a fungicide/pigment application made close to five months ago when we put the greens to bed for the winter. Note the untreated rough on the left side of the picture for contrast. Always a psychological lift to see that kind of color this early in the season. In addition, the darker color of the treated turf absorbs more of the scarce radiant heat available this early in the year at our location which in turn can help to generate more early season growth. I have been using this technique for many years in cold climates with pretty decent results and while some may say this is cheating, I say, “so what?”
As the walk continued, I noticed this common winter phenomenon at the same location though in this case the damage is caused by a rodent called a vole.
Vole Damage 9 North 3-15-2021
Voles are small, mouse-like critters with a short, stubby tail. They create tunnel systems under snow and in many cases in low lying areas where the snow lingers for longer. This damage is rarely if ever a cause of concern. Our plan here and in areas like it will be to clean up the debris and grow through the cosmetic damage. Other cosmetic damage was evident in the form of snow mold damage as well.
1 North Tee 3-15-2021
Note the treated, disease-free turf to the left of the key rings and the fungus-ridden turf to the right of the keys. Another testament to the efficacy of our winter preparation techniques. Having been in this industry for decades, I am very impressed by how plant protectants have become more effective in performing their intended function while becoming much more environmentally friendly. What is not friendly is this last picture:
3 North Green 3-15-2021
The green where snow lingers the longest still has a way to go before we can get a better look at what is going on here but with what I have seen so far, I expect this green to look much like the other ones on the golf course. My best guess looking at the weather is that this green will be mostly exposed within the next week or so.
So, to summarize, this spring has shown, so far, what I had been cautiously expecting-a winter with just enough snow and cold to allow for the optimal survival of turf. Too little snow and the risk can be desiccation and/or outright cold temperature kill. Too much snow can result in increased snow mold disease pressure and the development of a long-lasting, clear ice layer underneath the snow which takes months to melt away. Of all the ailments listed above, the last one scares me the most by far. Turf does not like clear ice at all.
Hope to see you all on the golf course soon.