Looking out at the winter snow covering the greens, tees and fairways of The Oaks… it’s difficult to imagine that in 2012 both of our courses were open for play on 275 days! That might be a record… a good record.
Regardless of the extended 2012 season; I suspect that most New England golfers (including me) are already anxious for spring… and getting back to the course.
The courses do need their rest; unfortunately, during these winter months of dormancy the turf grass is very susceptible to damage.
Wind Burn… Because snow cover acts like a protective blanket, course superintendents in northern climates hope that a foot of snow falls on the day after their course closes for the season. Then, after that initial foot of snow… they hope for more snow; especially on the closely mowed greens.
Turf grass (especially those that are shallow rooted*) when exposed to harsh winter winds, can suffer serious damage. It’s a phenomenon not unlike a wind burn we might experience on our face. Humans can suffer such wind burns after just a few hours in the elements; imagine being exposed 24/7 for days or even weeks.
*The greens at Candia Woods are shallow rooted. To provide the best possible winter protection, they are all covered with synthetic blankets. Because the greens at The Oaks were constructed to USGA specifications, the roots are down between 8 and 10 inches. They do not have the same need to be covered… but snow is welcome.
Ice Damage… Winter rain followed by cold temperatures, especially on top of light snow cover, can create ice buildup. When such ice buildup adheres to the surface of the grass, it can actually block the supply of oxygen to the plant.
When ice buildup lasts 60 days, it can cause serious and permanent damage; especially on the greens.
Snow Mold… Superintendents do love snow cover, but too long under that white blanket and the leaves of the grass plants become susceptible to cold-loving fungi that thrive in dark, damp conditions.
After 90 days under snow, the risk increases for the formation of both pink and white snow mold. Damage from these fungi varieties is limited to the leaf; there is no permanent damage to the plant. But, infected areas will encounter significant delays recovering from winter dormancy.
Freeze/Thaw*… Extreme temperature variation over short time intervals can be fatal to turf grass. A stretch of unusually warm days makes the grass plant think it is spring, and time to take in moisture. If a rapid fluctuation back to cold temperatures occurs, the moisture taken into in the root of the plant freezes… water in a frozen/solid state expands and explodes the roots. This is an absolute killer from which there is no recovery.
For many years this type of damage was called ‘winter kill’. It is now to be a phenomenon that is more likely to occur in the early spring.
*Like wind burn, freeze/thaw is more the worry with shallow rooted grasses. To take the extra precaution at Candia Woods, we do a late fall procedure called ‘Verti-Drain’, or ‘Deep-tine aerification’. A machine goes over every green creating nine inch deep holes spaced 6 inches apart; these deep holes are inserted to help water drain through the root zone. If the root zone remains dry there will be NO moisture available for a grass plant (tricked by an unusually warm stretch of weather), to absorb.
Although we do not have a lot of snow cover, there has been a sufficient amount to protect from wind burn. In addition, thus far there has been no ice buildup; a reasonably undisturbed early rest for the courses. But, the dangers of damage from snow mold and the dreaded freeze/thaw still remain.
Today is January 28th; imagine… Candia Woods actually opened for play in February of 2012. Although it was short lived, the course reopened (along with The Oaks) for the season on March 11-that’s only 40 days away!
Virtually all of our staff members, at both courses, are returning. They already are working hard, especially course superintendents Steve and Matt, preparing for 2013.
Hopefully the courses will get some undisturbed rest… as they do so, we’ll think about the golf weather heading our way.
The days are starting to get longer. We can’t wait to see you back at Candia Woods and The Oaks.