Golf Course Confidential – The Masters

Posted on: April 25th, 2012 by admin No Comments

Published April 06, 2010

Every week,¬†Tim Moraghan¬†– long-time golf industry insider with a 20+ year tenure at the USGA and “inside the ropes” access at over 100 national championships – offers an over, under, and on the ground look at courses, conditions, architecture, and how to play the game.

This is a big week for games played on grass. Besides The Masters teeing off – beginning the golf season for most of the rest of us, too – the baseball season has begun, people are out playing tennis, even Easter egg hunts depend on green lawns and warm weather. However, almost every part of the country is still recovering from an unusually cold, wet winter. As a result, you should be prepared for less than ideal conditions when playing your favorite golf course over the next few weeks.

Just because the sun is out and temperatures are in the 70s, don’t expect the turfgrass to be in mid-season form. Grass doesn’t really grow until soil temperatures are above 55F both day and night; any gains in growth from warm temperatures during the day will be lost if it’s still in the 40s at night. The grass may be green but it isn’t growing consistently, so it will be a few weeks before fairways are healthy.

No matter where you live, you encountered some weird weather this past winter. Here’s what too much of a bad thing can do to courses in your area.

Rain/Floods
–Saturated ground means soft, slow playing conditions.
–Any holes closed due to flooding at your course? There are at mine.
–Walking only, no carts.
–Rain brings earthworms and they bring more soil to the surface, creating sloppy conditions.
–Practice range is closed since it’s too wet to drive around and pick up the balls.

Cold
–The long cold spell down South means the Bermuda grass could be dead, especially on non-overseeded putting greens.
–New hybrid Bermuda grasses on greens may be suffering as the cold hurt rhizomes (stems that grow horizontally close to the surface).
–Frost damage from player and cart traffic.

Snow Cover
–Up North, expect to see gray or pink snow mold, big bare blotches on the course; down South, you’ll see spring dead spot, which is exclusive to Bermuda grasses.
–Ice left for too long can cause turf loss.
–The freezing and thawing cycle can fracture root systems, leaving plants defenseless come the stress of summer heat and humidity.

The Economy¬†(not a weather condition, but tough times didn’t help the last few months, either)
–If the golf course was covered in snow or flooded, no one was playing. That means no cash was coming in, so now the course can’t afford to hire a full grounds crew, buy new machinery, or start the spring clean-up.
–Work not done in spring will affect how the course looks and plays the rest of the year.

What can you expect on your course?
–Soft, slow greens and fairways.
–Holes cut in unusual spots as a way of keeping player traffic away from wet areas.
–If the greens are a combination of bent grass and Poa Annua, which grow at different rates, expect surfaces to be bumpy until growth evens out.
–Practice areas closed.
–Mud on the ball (as well as your shoes, pants, clubs…).
–What grass there is will be uneven, resulting in thick and thin lies, especially in the rough.
–Sand has shifted, creating uneven depths in bunkers.

After the winter we just had, give your superintendent and his crew a break. They are doing the best they can, especially with reduced money and manpower. The work they do isn’t as easy as it looks: It takes time and manpower to clean up nature’s handiwork.

Also, it’s unrealistic to expect your course to look like Augusta, where they spend months, and millions of dollars, preparing for one week in April. You want your course to be healthy and playable not only this week but for months to come.

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