Letter to Membership: Range Opening Schedule and Winter Recovery

Dear Membership,

I am writing this letter to inform all Membership of the measures we at the Grounds Department are taking this spring relative to the winter injury anticipated throughout the golf course.

The delayed spring and unseasonably cold weather has not only prevented spring growth but has inhibited efforts of the Grounds Department to initiate scheduled maintenance activities. The severity of this winter’s cold and extended ice cover may have taken a toll on the predominantly Poa annua golf greens. This species of grass is extremely sensitive to both types of abiotic stresses and has succumbed at many golf properties throughout Ontario. An effort to raise soil temperatures through the use of growth blankets has been initiated. This artificial raising of soil temperatures has afforded a window into potential turf survival, unfortunately, the results are not positive. An intensive over-seeding and recovery plan will be implemented.

The long range forecast next week is for cool, dry, sunny conditions. This weather pattern is required in order to implement a bentgrass over-seeding recovery effort to repair and improve the greens surfaces while returning them to playable condition. This work, including the seeding of injured tee and fairway areas, will continue over the coming days and weeks, thereby, preparing the setting for a successful summer season. A blog summarizing the next steps to recovery will be posted later this week.

On a positive note; the Long Range practice tee and Short Range bentgrass putting green and chipping green will be open Friday, April 18. The use of the Short Range fairway and target greens will be delayed 1 week for scheduled aerification and maintenance.   These learning facilities, with improved turf varieties, are truly remarkable and afford some of the best practice in the Country.

On behalf of the entire Grounds Department, I thank you for your understanding and patience as we transition and work to restore the golf course to normal playing conditions.

Respectfully Yours,

Jayson Griffiths
Golf Course Superintendent

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The Spring of 2014… Winter Injury and Recovery…

Spring is a time of excitement and rejuvination for people, plants and wildlife alike. This year is with no exception, considering the duration and harshness of the winter of 2014. This past March will go down in the record books as one of the coldest in recent history unleashing a series of plummeting temperatures well below zero. All this weather has certainly put a hold on the excitement and optimism of spring, at least for a few more weeks.

2014-04-02

10 Green, March 31, 2014

Golf Course Update
At present the course remains 40% snow covered, with deep frost well below 3 feet in the ground. The long range forecast is for a brief warm up followed by seasonably cool weather with highs below 10 degrees. The receding snow and ice cover over the past few days has opened a window into the health and condition of the golf course. Recent plug samples are indicating that we have experienced extensive injury.  It wouldn’t be a total surprise if there is a 60% winter kill ratio and possibly higher on some greens.The remaining snow and ice covered turf on fairways, tees and rough have been examined and show early signs of health, although we are still many days away from warming temperatures. The accumulation of ice above saturated frozen soils in December and January coupled with extreme temperature fluctuations through March has made this winter the most severe in over 30 years. Would the perforated covers have made a difference on the greens this winter? The answer to this question is no and we would be faced with the same situation. The covers are permeable and were never designed to prevent water from flowing through the plastic weeve and freezing to the surface of the greens. The 4 inches of solid ice stayed in place for well over 60 days due to the severe length of cold from January through late March. This layer of “frozen concrete” smothered the grass and prevented any gas exchange to the air above, leading to death by anoxia. The use of covers, however, to artificially increase soil temperatures and promote the germination of bentgrass seed will be used over the coming days and weeks. A detailed restoration and recovery plan has been established and we are now preparing for the next step in this process.

Golf Course Traffic and Injury…
In light of the saturated, frozen conditions and fragile turf health a decision to withhold spring golf has been implemented. The transition from frozen soils to saturated wet conditions is the most critical time for avoiding additional turf damage. The plants will be awakening from over 100 days of snow and ice and have very little energy reserves or capacity to receive additional traffic.   At this time last year we were well into our spring clean-up and maintenance programs, including the first cut to fairways. The current saturated conditions need time to thaw and drain and will certainly delay on-course equipment operations for the foreseeable future. All efforts will be made to open our range facilities at the earliest possible time to give Members an opportunity to prepare for an eventual spring opening.

Course Preparations
There is much work to be carried out this spring; winter recovery will be our top priority. Our spring maintenance schedule, including the coring and verticutting of greens, tees and fairways will be crucial in the establishment and incorporation of new bentgrass seed. Weather permitting, the following course activities will be completed by the Grounds Team over the next 3 weeks and include:

  • Winter debris and branches cleaned and removed
  • Dressing of landscaped beds
  • Long range maintenance, set-up and opening
  • Short range maintenance, set-up and opening
  • Greens, tees and fairways cleaned of winter debris prior to scheduled maintenance activities
  • Overseeding and covering of injured greens with new and improved cold and heat tolerant grasses
  • Irrigation system start up
  • Undergrowth and brush removal from greens complexes 7, 9, 10, 11
  • Bunker maintenance will be delayed due to frozen soil conditions

2014-04-02b

April 2, 2013

2014-04-02c

April 1, 2014

Talking Points…the Silver Lining

  • With the severity of the winter, we are anticipating weaker Poa annua this spring with slower growth and potential losses. Nature determines survival; although a slower transition to bentgrass over time is preferred and injury was not desired, an opportunity presents itself…
  • Our long-term goal has been to strengthen our golf course, particularly the greens, with reliable, genetically superior creeping bentgrass varieties.
  • The long range Tree Management Program has now been initiated and will be a key factor in promoting morning sunlight and air movement in an effort to establish and maintain an environmentally stronger species of grass.
  • All cultural practices will be carried out in such a way as to minimize the impact to Membership with the ultimate goal of providing superior, healthier putting surfaces.

The Grounds Department is excited to make the 2014 Golf Season a memorable one and we appreciate all the support that we receive from the membership. Thank you!

Upper Thames Regional Conservation Authority Update: Spring Melt Progressing Slowly….

2014-04-01

The glacier like deposits of ice and snow are finally receding across the golf course, exposing signs of a long winter. Over the coming days a significant amount of solid water in the form of snow and ice will melt and flow into the Thames River basin. A brief update from the UTRCA below indicates early flood control measures are in place. Please follow our twitter and blog updates for further course conditions.

“A relatively cool and dry spring thus far has produced some melting of the snowpack over the past several days. Warm daytime temperatures of near 10 degrees Celsius are forecast for the next two days, with temperatures dropping closer to zero overnight. There is no rain in the short-term forecasts, but the warm temperatures will cause water levels to rise above where they have been for the last several days. Serious flooding is not anticipated at this time.

A snow survey taken today indicates that the southern portion of the Upper Thames River basin has an average of about 30-40 mm of water equivalent with 40-50% coverage remaining. In the north there is still mostly 100% snow coverage, with an average water equivalent of 60-70 mm. We expect most of this remaining snow to be melted by the end of the day on Tuesday.

Residents are reminded to use extreme caution near all watercourses. Any remaining ice cover is unstable and dangerous, stream banks are slippery, and water is very cold

Flood control reservoirs at Fanshawe, Wildwood and Pittock are at seasonal levels, and will be operated to reduce the effects of flooding. UTRCA officials are monitoring the situation and will report on any changing conditions as necessary.”