During my travels over the past few weeks, the theme remains the same: “What happened to our head start on the 2023 season?” After brutal cold in December, the remainder of winter blessed the region with mild temperatures. While there was an early spring greenup, the weather has been unpredictable lately, with large temperature swings coupled with stretches of dry and wet weather.
With the yo-yo in temperatures and precipitation, a touch of cabin fever and golf calendars already published, courses find themselves playing aeration roulette when scheduling this springtime task. For the courses that have already aerated, temperatures have not allowed for consistent turf growth and recovery. The positive is that this disruptive, necessary process has been completed and the agronomy team can move on to other tasks. Unfortunately, the limiting factor in healing is not fertilizer or water, it is simply warmer temperatures. These will come soon enough so we just need to be patient. Additional fertilizer now will not help to heal lingering aeration holes but it will cause an unnecessary flush of growth when temperatures do finally increase.
What hasn’t been slow to grow is the number of rounds played. As many golfers are finding their way back to the course, a little communication can go a long way and help educate them on what to expect. Here are some thoughts to take the edge off the uncertainty that comes with spring golf:
- Many putting surfaces are still slowly healing from aeration and the weather hasn’t allowed maintenance teams to dial in the performance of their greens yet. Greens are typically a little slower and more receptive at this time of year so take advantage of the opportunity to use hole locations that might be too challenging for normal use. On greens with limited hole locations, this can alleviate traffic stress and give golfers something they’re not used to.
- Soon enough, if not already, the rough will be growing aggressively and swallowing golf balls. It can be tough keeping up with rough mowing, especially if courses aren’t yet fully staffed or labor is needed for other springtime tasks. Consider setting tee markers farther forward than normal to take some rough out of play and keep golfers moving while the rough is thick. This also saves wear and tear on the primary teeing areas for when they’re needed most.
- Navigating the fluctuations in springtime conditions can be challenging, so communication is paramount. Golfers just want to play golf and may not understand the challenges facing the maintenance team. Remind golfers that playing conditions will improve soon enough. In the meantime, emphasize the importance of repairing ball marks, filling divots and following cart rules. With slow turf growth this spring, everyone’s efforts will help protect the golf course.
Doing the right thing at the right time while balancing Mother Nature, the golf calendar and golfer expectations is always a challenge. This is exacerbated when growing temperatures are less than optimal. While every effort can be made, we cannot change what Mother Nature gives us so make the most of it. Be patient and set up the golf course for fun!
Northeast Region Agronomists
Darin Bevard, senior director, Championship Agronomy – email@example.com
Elliott L. Dowling, regional director, East Region – firstname.lastname@example.org
Brian Gietka, agronomist, East Region – email@example.com
Information on the USGA’s Course Consulting Service