It’s been a roller coaster winter, and just like we didn’t want, a few extra weeks of it.
But Wednesday at 10:00, we can put all of that behind us, and kick off the season. The weather looks great, I hope you can join us!
If you haven’t already heard, this winter was a tough one for turfgrass. Record low temperatures, record snowfall and extended ice coverage, have taken its toll on turf, stretching from Duluth down to Iowa, East to Wisconsin, South to Illinois. Poa was the victim, and it perished for several different reasons. Relative to courses around the metro area, we came out relatively unscathed. The majoirty of our winter-kill is on the edges of fairways/approaches. Although you never want winter kill, this type of loss is what I call acceptable, and an opportunity to improve our stand of Bentgrass.
I can’t speak for other courses, but for Midland Hills, we lost Poa in 4 different scenarios and/or a combination thereof:
- Extended ice coverage from the December 2018 rain.
- High traffic areas from carts and foot, creating the ideal environment for weak annual bio-types of Poa.
- Areas where snow melted off greens, and the flowing water over the Poa broke its dormancy and crown hydration occurred.
- Desiccation from not having snow/not enough of it during the -20+F temperatures.
However, if any of the above four scenarios were combined with shade, the turf didn’t stand a chance. During the late fall and winter months, the sun is the lowest in the sky, and although not very strong, it makes all the difference in assisting with melting ice, as well as strengthening the plants to survive weather extremes. Any turf areas that battle shade, plus one of the above 4 listed scenarios, perished, and showed us where we need to improve. The Poa died, but it’s WHY the Poa exists in those areas, is the important question. Fortunately, over the past decade+, we’ve been decreasing the amount of shade on our playing surfaces, especially our putting green surfaces. However, there are areas where we cannot correct the shade – fence lines/perimeter trees, being the main culprit. Examples of these areas are 7 and 12 greens. The winter kill areas also tell us where we need to improve drainage. Drainage to improve the soils from being compacted with carts and equipment because they’re chronically wet, which ends up leading to an environment favorable to Poa.
When you play the course this week, if you look at areas that fit any of the above listed scenarios, you’ll see where our areas of improvement lie. Can we do anything about the shade on 7 green? Not really, since those trees are needed to help keep balls from leaving the property. Can we strategically aerify areas of weakness on the edges of fairways/approaches, in addition to what we are already doing? Possibly. Can we invest in additional drainage? Absolutely. Can we prevent any winter-kill from ever happening on the course in the future? Impossible.
A peer said that we “got lucky” and that’s why we didn’t experience wide-spread winter-kill this year. I couldn’t disagree more. We created our own luck. Years of hard decisions by the Greens Committees and BOD, often at times unpopular, were made to remove trees, and improve the stands of turf that you play the game of golf on. Without turf, you don’t have a golf course to play on, and in order to have turf that can sustain weather extremes that are becoming more common, you need stronger turf, which is Bentgrass. Surviving winter has become a significant part of our success as a club. It is not a one-time event that happened that created our success this year. It is a long-term plan to identify weakness, make corrective action, and improve. We’ve taken a scientific approach – you can’t have strong turf and shade. Trees win out every time in the competition for sunlight and moisture. We are ahead of the curve in the metro, in regards to eliminating shade, and the results speak for themselves this Spring. We’ve also maintained and continually refined our aggressive aerification process. Are we immune to wide-spread damage? Absolutely not. Even Bentgrass can experience winter-kill, and with as long as we had turf under several inches of ice this year, even Bentrass was at risk. However, the conditions needed to kill Bentgrass are much more rare, increasing our chances of survival. Luck? Nope. Strategic planning and identifying the goal that the turf comes first? Yep.
No shade on 13 fairway, but wet soils combined with cart traffic down the left side, equals dead Poa when combined with extended ice coverage
Heavy cart traffic down the left of 2 fairway resulted in the intermediate cut to be predominately Poa
10 fairway’s concentrated cart traffic all the way down the left side, combined with wet soils resulted in Poa loss under ice.
Here are both sides of 9 approach. On the left, cart traffic led to Poa. On the right, all the of snow melt from 9 green flowed over this area and created a crown hydration situation, including the Poa in the intermediate cut.
This damage on 8 collar is where the greens cover doesn’t cover the collar, and the wind keeps this areas free of snow, resulting in desiccation kill.
Finally, here is a situation (7 green chipping area) where 3 scenarios come into play – major shade, foot traffic, and extended ice coverage. Notice where the shade ends, the turf survived. This is the worst area of damage on the course.
So what will we do to repair our damage? Seed won’t germinate under soil temps of 50F, but we’ll start the process before then so the seed will be ready when we reach that point. This week, we’ll solid tine aerify damaged areas, drop Bentgrass seed in those holes, then use our inter-seeder to “drill” Bentgrass seed into those areas as well, which will create a good seedbed. We’ll then roll them shut, and hope for warm weather. If you are a cart driver, please stay off these areas! They are too scattered to rope off, and if you pay attention, you’ll realize that these areas are where you commonly drive. Drive your carts in the rough, then onto the fairways to your ball, or drive down the middle of the fairways. Don’t drive down the edge of the fairways where the damage is. That’s where all the soil compaction is, where the Poa has died, and where they’ll be millions of fragile Bentgrass plants trying to establish. Not all of the areas that look dead on the course, actually are. There is live tissue down below, and with warmer weather and rain, they will bounce back.
Speaking of germinating seed, we will be hitting off the driving range mats for another few weeks. Remember that we just had 6″ of snow on the ground last week, with soil temps in the 30’s. Our driving range tee is very small, and it stays in good shape in the core of the season because we utilize the mats.
In regards to seed/soil for divots, please replace your divots! That is always the preferred method, and especially during the spring and fall, when the soils are too cold to germinate the seed/soil mix rapidly.
The Centennial Bridge is almost complete. These last few snow and rain events prevented Hartman Construction from finishing before the course opened. For safety and efficiency, we will keep the 8th tee closed, and you will tee up on 8 fairway. If you are a walker, you can leave your bag next to the inlet to the left of 7 fairway on your way to 7 green. If you’re a cart driver, you will not be able to drive behind 7 green. There will be signs and traffic stakes directing you to 7 approach where you’ll park, then follow the signs and stakes around the inlet, to 8 fairway. Our hope is that we’ll have the bridge and 8th tee open in less than a week from opening the course. Thank you for your patience while we finish up this significant project.
Top deck completed today.
Follow the signs and stakes from 7 green to 8 fairway.
We had the golf course spotless before the snow and 50 mph winds, as the boys and girls golf teams from Roseville came out to rake sticks. However, we had to start over, and are working hard to get things cleaned up.
You’ll also see restoration work on tire ruts in the rough from our tree trimming trucks, stump grinding, smoothing out bunkers, filling divots, small sod work on damaged collars/approaches, preparing landscape beds, and general clean-up around the property.
We’re also replacing irrigation valves for tee boxes before we charge the irrigation system, so please be aware of these areas if you’re a cart driver.
A friendly reminder that my staff always have the right-of-way, while on the course. If you see them working, and focused on their task at hand, and they do not see you, please give them a friendly whistle or holler to let them know you’re there. They also might only have a few seconds left and are trying to clear the way. Please have patience with them, and realize like every year, we have new faces on staff who need training on balancing watching for play, and focusing on their work. My staff has been working extremely hard over the past (wild) several weeks, getting everything transitioned from winter to spring. If you see them, or the Hartman staff, make sure to thank them, as it goes a long way!
Each new golf season is exciting, this year being especially nostalgic, being it’s Midland’s centennial year. We’ll see you out there soon!