Today was a picture perfect day to open for the season! It was great to see a lot of players ready to go first thing this morning.
Unfortunately, the weather during the late-winter/early-spring this year was far from as ideal as it was today. As many of you experienced, this winter was really a tale of two winters... by mid-February the combination of relatively warm weather and a shallow snow pack in the valley exposed many parts of the golf course and warmed the soils underneath the snow. At this point in time, we were thinking about the possibility of bringing the crew back early to prepare for an early April opening day.
However, winter had other ideas. Exposed turf was soon re-covered by late season snow falls and a cold snap put us back into full winter mode by the end of February. While this was great for the final few weeks of the ski season, this winter weather fluctuation is extremely detrimental to turf, particularly annual bluegrass or poa annua.
Normally, in our mountain environment winters remain cold enough that annual bluegrass stays dormant until spring finally decides to show itself. But this winter, the February thaw was warm enough to allow the annual bluegrass to break its dormancy and begin the uptake of water. When winter returned the re-freezing damaged any turf plant that came out of dormancy because the water inside the plant cell freezes and expands which ruptures the cell membrane and cell wall. This type of turf injury is called "crown hydration."
Crown hydration is a typical problem for golf courses in the midwest and northeast because those regions are prone to winters that can fluctuate wildly. Crown hydration can lead to total death of turf stands in the worst case scenario. But in this instance, while we took a severe hit, many of the meristems, or growth points, of the grass plants have survived while the surrounding leaf tissue has died. In general, let us all hope that next winter is closer to the norm!
With that said, the maintenance team will be employing some extra treatments and tricks this spring to speed the recovery of the fairways. This will keep some of our large equipment out on the golf course later into the spring than is normal for us. I appreciate your patience in advance as we will aim to work around the players the best we can. Some of the extra maintenance practices you may see include...
- An extra round of vertical cutting to remove more dead leaf tissue and create space in the turf for new seeds to grow.
- An extra round of core aerification for the approach areas
- Core aerfication for the severely damaged fairway areas
- Addition of brushing treatments to work off the dead leaf tissue to expose the surviving tissue underneath.
- Addition of three early season foliar fertilizer feedings to aid in the recovery of the surviving turf plants.
- 2x-3x our normal overseeding rates to promote turf species that are less prone to crown hydration injury.
- Prayers, dancing, and possible ritual sacrifice for warmer soil temperatures--the biggest factor in our recovery process!
Once again, thank you for your patience as we will be hard at work to speed the recovery process as fast as mother nature will allow. In the meantime, please enjoy the extra 10-20 yards of roll on your drives!