Spring has sprung!
I wasn’t exactly imagining it would come this fast, but after the winter we had, it’s more than welcomed. As of this morning, there are only small pockets of snow on the ground, mostly in bunkers and on North facing slopes. It’s easy to get excited about the Spring golf season and we look to be opening the golf course earlier than normal. I want to explain how the next few weeks will unfold, what needs to happen before we can open as well as what to expect during your first round.
Yes the weather has been unusually warm this week, but it’s easy to forget that just 7 days ago we had 3″ of fresh snow and high temperatures in the 20s with lows in the single digits. With very little snow cover this winter and extremely cold temperatures, it created a lot of frost in the ground. There are reports that it reached 5 feet deep in areas with no snow cover. This frost takes warm weather like we’re having right now to melt, but it’s important to remember that it will take more than a few days of warm temperatures to break the frost. Right now, the frost is only out of the top 1.5″ of the ground. We use 2 different styles of stakes to hold our greens covers down, one is a 5″ long staple and the other is a 12″ long stake, so they are currently firmly frozen in the ground. With the past few days of warm weather and the short range forecast, my hope is that we can remove the stakes and covers starting next week. It typically takes us 4 days to take all of the covers off, which is more time than putting them on. We have to diligently and properly roll them up to maximize our summer storage capabilities. It will then take us a full day to get all of the golf course accessories out, the playing surfaces blown off and playable, as well as the cups cut in the greens. All of this is weather dependent as wind plays a roll in allowing us the ability to get the tarps rolled up.
As the frost in the ground breaks, it pushes moisture upward, suspending water at the surface so the golf course is currently extremely wet. When the frost breaks, it will allow all of that suspended moisture into the ground and the surfaces will firm up. My hope is that by next week that will happen. Any traffic from play and carts before the surface dries out and firms up will damage the soil structure, create compaction and can result in significant turf decline in the middle of the summer during hot and stressful periods.
As far as how the golf course fared winter, it looks to be in fantastic condition. With the covers still being on the greens, I haven’t seen every square inch but what I’m able to see looks great. When you play your first round of the year, you will notice some stark color differences in the turf, which is a result of desiccation. Areas that maintained consistent snow cover have a darker green color. Areas that were exposed to cold temperatures and dry winter winds looked more bleached.
The picture on the left of #2 fairway shows where there was exposed turf to the winter elements. The picture below of #12 fairway is an example of where there was consistent snow cover all winter. Again, the desiccated areas on #2 will recover in time with warmer temps.
The leaf blades of the desiccated turf are dried up and almost have a hay appearance to them. It’s still alive and will grow out of this look, once the soil temperatures warm up and it breaks dormancy. High and exposed tee boxes and fairway slopes are most noticeable. The pictures below show’s the effect of being exposed. The up close picture on the right shows the hay appearance because of the lack of moisture in the leaf blades.
You will also see Vole damage in a few areas of roughs, bunker faces and fairways. Voles are a type of mice that burrow at the surface of the turf. We will repair all of these areas in time and they will recover as soon as it’s warm enough to germinate seed.
Overall, the golf course came out of winter in excellent condition, with no winter kill to ice and I expect all desiccated areas to grow out quickly if the weather stays warm. I will make a decision on opening the golf course after we get greens uncovered next week based on the ground frost, firmness of the property and weather forecast.
Spring is here early and we’re excited to open the golf course when it’s ready!