October is finally here and with it comes the planning for preparing the golf course for the coming winter months. Just yesterday we took shipment of plant protectants to protect greens and tees at Nemadji for winter diseases-an essential preventative step to allow the golf course to survive the long winters in the Northland-particularly wet winters with abundant snowfall. The primary diseases we will be treating for are both the pink and gray snow molds. Gray snow mold(a fungus) in particular can get pretty damaging during periods of extended snow cover as the pictures from the previous golf course that I worked at illustrate:

Drone Photos of Extreme Snow Mold Damage

Wilderness at Fortune Bay April 1, 2019

Very easy to tell from these pictures exactly where we protected the greens, tees, and fairways since those areas actually came through the winter with minimal damage while the untreated areas were thoroughly smoked and were not quite right until July and then only after much expense in otherwise unnecessary fertilization and labor. Not treating greens in this scenario would have been devastating.

More recent photos show some damage from a summer disease and a comparison between treated and untreated areas at Nemadji.

Dollar Spot Damage 17S Approach   –   September 23, 2022

Nemadji 12 West – Treated vs. Untreated

September 30, 2022

The area on the left, adjacent to a green, has been protected while the area on the right has not. The disease pressure in this case is from another common turf disease called Dollar Spot(another fungus) which if left unchecked can run amok over a period of time causing a gradual but substantial loss in turf quality. Golf course greens are quite clean at Nemadji at the moment but without a well timed, label directed, and environmentally safe application, greens at Nemadji would be much like the right side of the picture. A final recent picture shows a textbook example of what is called localized dry spot.

Localized Dry Spot 9N Approach

Soils underneath turf can often become what is called hydrophobic-they resist rewetting once they become dry and water-in the form of both rainfall and irrigation-simply runs off the surface instead of being absorbed by the soil profile. This can be prevented by regular application of what is called a soil wetting agent which assists greatly in preventing this condition from developing. This condition can be especially prevalent on sand based soil mediums like we have on the East and West greens at Nemadji. Without the proper use of wetting agents, many greens at Nemadji would be showing symptoms similar to the photo above unless we were to irrigate a great deal more, wasting water irresponsibly and greatly reducing the playability of the putting surface.

These are just a few examples of common technical issues that arise on the golf course-there are many more.

I show these pictures and explain their meaning because I think that it is important that people understand the highly technical nature of golf course maintenance. This field is not just mowing stuff, raking bunkers, and cutting cups-much thought goes into anticipating issues and getting a handle on them before they become a problem. Today’s player is very demanding in conditioning and so we must do what we can to accommodate them within our budgetary allowances.

On a final note, I would like to offer my perspective after 38 years of working golf courses regarding the use of chemicals on the golf course. I started working in this industry in 1984 and remember some pretty nasty products-both environmentally and to people-that were used. The industry needed a thorough cleaning up and this has been accomplished over the past three decades through tighter environmental regulation(which thankfully banned the worst products), higher superintendent education requirements, a much tougher licensing process for the approval of new products, a willingness to tolerate some pest damage on the golf course, and the embrace of IPM(Integrated Pest Management) principles. Superintendents as a whole care greatly about the greenspace and wildlife habitats that they are responsible for and do what they can to minimize negative environmental impacts. More information will be forthcoming regarding the topic of environmental stewardship as we move forward at Nemadji with the certification process as an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary. This is a very thorough certification which takes a number of years to complete as the documentation requirements are quite thorough.

ACSP for Golf – Audubon International

The topic of environmental stewardship is indeed very important to me as before arriving at Nemadji, I was superintendent at a very sensitive environmental site on Lake Vermilion in Tower, Minnesota. During the construction process, grow-in, and into routine maintenance, water quality testing over a period of five years at nine different sites around the golf course scanning for pesticide and fertilizer contamination came back as clean.

Water Quality Testing Sites

We were justifiably very pleased with these results as they proved through science that our practices were indeed environmentally responsible. That site was/is loaded with all sorts of wildlife including Monarch butterflies which we helped by planting an acre of milkweed in an out of play area. These efforts resulted in much appreciated recognition for our crew in 2010:

We have taken these same practices and put them to use at Nemadji and hope to continue to make similar efforts to enhance the site in a responsible manner while providing optimal playing conditions for our patrons.

See you on the golf course.