Spring Course Care

Understand the reasoning behind why we open our golf courses when we do. With every year being different due to season temperatures, many factors will play a role in determining when golf courses should be open for play…

Golf members, get ready to tee off on a journey through the intricacies of turf management with our course expert, Jason Schwieters, Director of Grounds at RedWater Golf. Jason has been a part of the RedWater team since 2012. As we eagerly await warmer days, Jason brings valuable insights into why we hold off on opening too soon. With Jason’s expertise, he’ll explain the importance of waiting for the right conditions before welcoming our members and guests back to the fairways.

Jason’s knowledge will help us appreciate why waiting a little longer now will lead to a better golfing experience for everyone in the long run. Read on as Jason dives into turf management, discussing factors like how freezing and thawing can impact the health of our courses:

What a glorious day it is, with the sun beaming down and temperatures exceeding 50 degrees! It might seem tempting to open the golf courses right away, but considering the fluctuating weather patterns ahead, there are a few factors to consider before officially welcoming spring on the greens.

Late fall and early spring, or the tail end of winter in this instance, share similarities. While we may experience some delightful days suitable for golfing, the majority remain chilly or marginal at best. Here are some challenges we encountered during the transitional period:

  • The freezing and thawing of the upper 2” of the green profile, where playing on partially thawed frozen greens can harm the putting surface, leading to softening and potential root sheer.
  • Increased ball mark damage on greens and divots that struggle to heal on tees and fairways.
  • Limited time for course cleanup, making the course playable. Fortunately, this year is an exception due to the extended warm weather last December.
  • Numerous frost delays.

On a positive note, this winter has been very beneficial for golf course turfgrass and maintenance:

  • The mild December allowed many courses to do a complete course cleanup of leaves.
  • Cart paths were edged at various locations.
  • Sprinkler heads were trimmed for visibility and readiness.
  • Projects and course renovations were completed before the courses were put to rest.
  • No ice damage occurred under the snow due to early freeze/thaw. Annual bluegrass (poa annua) will die when under ice for 30-40 days.
  • Less snow reduces the likelihood of snow mold, although Pink Snow Mold may still develop in cold, wet conditions. February was noted as the third driest on record.

Ideally, we prefer a gradual transition into spring for the grass plants. A period of several weeks allows the ground to absorb excess moisture, firm up, and maintain temperatures around 35 degrees or higher at night and over 50 degrees during the day. This gradual approach enables the turf to awaken slowly and start growing before facing the wear and tear of carts, divots, ball marks, and maintenance vehicles. Prematurely forcing growth to recover from early-season damage is unhealthy for the plant. Fertilization and stimulation for recovery are only considered when soil temperatures exceed 50 degrees, the minimum temperature for grass growth and seed germination. Natural awakening prioritizes root development, ensuring strong roots heading into summer.

Our constant monitoring of short and long-range weather predictions guides our decisions. When we observe consistent patterns at the described temperatures, that’s when we typically open the courses. While a week may seem promising, the following week could return to seasonal temperatures.

In conclusion, a heartfelt thank you to Jason Schwieters for his insightful guest blog on turf management. His expertise provides invaluable insights and a deeper understanding of the intricate processes involved in maintaining top-notch golf courses. As we eagerly anticipate warmer days, let us embrace Jason’s wisdom and measured approach, knowing that each decision is made with care and foresight. Thank you, Jason, for your dedication to ensuring an exceptional golfing experience for all.

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