It's one of those years (5th warmest November) when temperatures are above normal in November-December and the inevitable questions arise: "Why are the North greens closed? Other courses have their greens open."
As background, In the Golf Course Standards:
The North Course greens will close to play after dormancy and before damage occurs to the turf. Temporary greens will be used throughout the winter once the greens are closed. The Board of Directors has approved the North Course greens closing date each year at the end of play on the 2nd Sunday following Thanksgiving Day.
This year (November 2015) our hand was forced a bit because our window to get the North greens topdressed was the Monday following Thanksgiving, and that dictated moving to temps sooner than expected.
Here is the basic rationale for temporary greens:
- Strategically, we have been asked to condition the North Course as closely as possible to the South Course. "A top 10 Michigan" course.
- Traffic on frozen greens (or greens in the current freeze-thaw cycle) creates a "sheering" effect on root systems. The top layer moves and the frozen layer underneath does not. Imagine popping off a muffin top.
- Water can be held above this frozen layer, saturating the upper layer. Traffic on saturated turf is not beneficial.
- One of the ways to protect greens from harsh winters (2013 & 2014) is to apply a layer of topdressing sand. In addition to winter protection, it makes the greens smoother in the spring - assuming there is no winter foot traffic. Traffic on topdressed greens is like sandpaper to dormant grass.
- Ballmarks on greens in the winter ... will be annual bluegrass (poa annua) in the spring.
- Topdressing with heavy equipment needs to be completed before the ground freezes.
- Tarps or covers are installed for winter protection and the staples used to hold them down need to be pushed in, before the ground freezes.
- In a Championship year and with the winters of 2013 and 2014 in the rear view mirror, I believe we should be vigilant.
I believe strongly that these practices - in addition to our snow removal, aerification, mowing, fertilization, watering and numerous other seasonal agronomic practices - have a proven record and are beneficial to quality playing surfaces and member service and satisfaction. I believe strongly in our overall Agronomic Plan, that it pays dividends when times are tough (the last 2 springs come to mind) and that we need to continue our policy of protecting the North greens in the winter.
Lastly, "temporary winter greens" cannot be separated from the overall Agronomic Plan. It's all part of the woven tapestry that works together to provide a consistent product.
**However, it is the privilege of the owners to reset the strategic plan for the courses and I am happy to adjust my recommendations if that strategic shift occurs.
Here are some other resources that may help: