Friday, March 20, 2015

How Parts of a Green Spent This Winter May Influence Spring Growth

Golf course superintendents often discourage golfers from making comparisons between courses for a number of reasons.  Although two golf courses could be only a few miles apart, they may deal with many different factors including the number of rounds, variety of grasses they're managing, and growing conditions, such as the amount of sunlight, air movement, soil types, etc.

To take this a step further, even within an individual golf course, conditions can vary greatly.  People use the term "micro-climate" to describe a particular area which may differ from the rest of the course.  At Laurel Creek, #8 and #15 greens are a great example of this.  Although they are only 500' apart, the growing conditions are vastly different, with #15 receiving full sunlight and great air movement, while #8 sits down in a hole, and is consistently much hotter in the summer.

You might think that this is the level where varying growing conditions end.  However, as we come out of this winter, we're actually seeing a good deal of differences even within individual greens. 

So, why would the growing environment change from one part of a green to another?  Well, in the winter, a higher, mounded part of a green may lose its snow cover, and be subjected to more wind and desiccation.  A low swale in a green, might have been protected from these winds and be in better shape having spent much of the winter under a nice blanket of snow. 

However, in another scenario, over the winter some of these low areas of greens may have had the snow cover melt while the ground beneath was frozen.  If this melting water couldn't run off the surface before the next blast of cold weather, it often refroze, creating an ice layer on the surface--and ice is not a good thing for the health of greens in the winter.  In this situation, the low swale may be struggling come springtime.

What does this all mean for Laurel Creek's greens this spring?  While we haven't seen any signs of severe winter damage to the greens, the differing conditions that the putting surfaces had to deal with throughout the long, cold winter probably means we're going to have a brief period where some areas green-up before others.  Once we start seeing some consistent warmer weather, we expect that the turf growth will be more uniform.

Lastly, some have asked when we can expect to see green grass again.  The answer is in the two pictures below:
The top picture shows plugs taken from greens on March 11.  They were placed on a windowsill and wrapped in a moist paper towel.  The bottom picture is the same plugs six days later, on March 17.  So, what do we need for the course to green-up?  It looks like some consistent temperatures in the 60s will do the trick.  However, when we'll actually see those temperatures is the real question at this point.

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