Friday, December 7, 2012

Wrapping up the Greens for the year!

With Christmas and the traditional annual wrapping that occurs during this time of year just around the corner, we're beginning a different kind of wrapping on the course, that is Greens Covering. Yes, the time has come to "put the greens to bed for a long winter's nap! This practice, that we've done for 23 years now, is happening a few days ahead of normal, but with the forecast indicating cold settling in next week, it's now the right time.

Covering has provided several important benefits over the years including:
  • Protection against a potentially open (little snow cover), windy winter period that could severely desiccate and injure the greens.
  • Protection against damage from geese, wildlife, snowshoe walkers, and cross country skiers when traffic on frosted and frozen greens could otherwise lead to damage.
  • Ability to aerate (with larger, deeper aeration equipment) much later into the fall / early winter period without concern of leaving large open holes exposed to potential desiccation. Covers minimize this concern.
  • Enhancement of early spring shoot growth and greening and the ability to get greens in top form ahead of normal.  
  • Enhancement of spring root growth and development as, in the spring, the covers will raise the soil temperature of the greens, thawing them earlier (if they do freeze), and bringing optimum temperature for root growth (50-65 deg) earlier.
 The covers we use (permeable) certainly do not solve all potential winter issues. They are porous and so will allow water (from rain or snow melt) to infiltrate and this can of course freeze. So they do not prevent ice damage issues should environmental conditions become favorable for ice accumulation. They do not prevent winter snow mold diseases such as Microdochium Patch or Typhula Blight (Pink and Gray Snow Mold) and other potential winter diseases.

They also require a good bit of manpower to install in early winter and then again in spring when we may have years where we have to perform what I call, "The Cover Shuffle". This is when the warm days in spring may come sporadically and briefly and are then followed by sharp temperatures drops. We have to manage the temperatures so as to not let too much early spring growth to occur too soon, and also not uncover them too early and cause a fallback in the progress (enhanced growth, greening) made to that point. Therefore we may pull them off for brief periods, then put them back on if temperatures so dictate and this "Cover Shuffle" may happen a few times in early spring. Last year was ideal. We pulled them off for the first time on March 13th and we didn't have to recover at all. This was certainly an exception to normal!
Floating a cover into place on #16 green
It takes about a day and a half for 6 crew to install on all greens and several tees. Staples placed every 5-6 feet around cover perimeter

Overall though, the benefits have outweighed the negative aspects and for our mixed stand of bentgrass and perennial poa annua, the covers have performed rather well. They are indeed not for every course as each has it's own unique needs. Courses with the newer improved varieties of bentgrasses would likely not want to use covers. Courses that aerate much earlier than we do (allowing time for the green surfaces to heal) would perhaps not have the need to protect the surfaces. Remote courses would perhaps not have wildlife and/or skiers to protect against. Again, every course has it's own unique needs.

And so today the greens close. They have recently been deep tine aerated, sand topdressed, treated with snow mold disease prevention products, fed with a late season nutrient blend, and are now covered. It's bedtime! For those diehard players that may want to play on nice days during the next few months,   temporary cups are in place in the approach areas. Hoping for a nice winter's nap for the greens!

All wrapped up!

Now that most of our project work is completed (or at least for this year) I soon hope to put together a blog recapping our last several week's activity including; bridge renovation, range tee expansion and re-sodding, chipping area expansion, and more. I've tweeted about all of these projects but for those whom would rather read the blog instead of follow twitter, I'll recap soon.

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