A common question that course superintendents hear from golfers is: “what do you guys do in the winter?”
Sometimes I think they presume that there really isn’t much for a golf course grounds crew to do during the cold, snowy months of a New England winter. The reality is actually quite the contrary.
That said, like most golf course maintenance crews in our area, my assistants (Bill Nickerson and Jeremy Stafford) and I do scale back to a 40 hour work week. And, during the months of January/February/March take our annual two week vacation time. But, to insure that the course is in great shape for the upcoming season, there is a laundry list of items to complete.
Typical inside winter tasks include sharpening of all reel cutting mowers (we have 40), and sharpening on any large rotary mowing machines (we have 4), preventative maintenance service on all other equipment including a complete overhauling of the golf car fleet* (we have 75). In addition we clean; repair and paint all course and range supplies such as tee markers, flag sticks and benches.
And, that’s the easy part. The real winter work for a course maintenance crew takes place out on the golf course. Yes… we spend a lot of our winter work time outside.
Golf is played on manicured turf; turf that is living, growing and part of a larger eco system which includes trees and brush; trees and brush that are also living and growing — resulting in ongoing negative impacts on our precious greens, tees and fairways… the turf grass.Specifically, tree growth creates shade encroachment which reduces adequate sunlight reaching the turf… a 6 to 8 hour necessity, even during the winter months.
The growth of low level brush reduces air flow which causes moisture buildup in turf areas; resulting in increased risk of disease.
To sustain the healthy turf grass that golfersdesire requires trees be cut and brush removed. Winter is the only time to “get it done”.
There is also the annual clearing of wetland areas that, if left unattended, will adversely affect golfer sight lines.
Take a look at the images above right — To prevent turf suffocation from prolonged ice cover, during the latter months of the winter season, there is frequently the two step process of clearing ice buildup from greens, tees and fairways. First, an application of black sand to attract sunlight and accelerate melt; and second, the removal of the broken down remains from the turf… without so doing turf grass can be destroyed after as little as 60 days under ice.
And it’s the responsibility of the grounds crews, at most golf facilities, to plow, sand and salt parking areas.
The winter months are also the time in which operating budgets are developed, and supply purchases scheduled. And, it’s the time to catch up on the latest trends in turf grass management. Our crew at The Oaks attends the annual New England Turf Conference and equipment show in Providence RI. In fact, we are there on the very day of this post (Tuesday, March 1, 2016).
There you have it. A golf course grounds crew, even here in New England, has plenty of work to stay busy throughout the months of the winter season.
NOTE — This winter has been mild, and the long range forecast is for warmer than normal temperatures. At the time of this writing, I anticipate an early opening at both The Oaks and Candia Woods… much of which I attribute to El Niño.
When you come out to play that first round of the season I ask that you give a thought of what took place to get the course ready for opening day… enjoy!
*Both The Oaks and Candia Woods have all new golf car fleets to open the 2016 season. CLICK HERE to see all of the cool new features in our RXV E-Z Go fleet.