Ice Ice Baby

Laying down special covers before winter.
"Ice, Ice Baby" and I'm not referring to Vanilla Ice. The term "winter kill" usually refers to turf damage caused by ice formation on the playing surfaces. While there are other forms of winter kill (mainly snow mold fungus, crown hydration, and wind damage) the main cause of serious winter damage is ice. In previous posts I have discussed how ice damages turf. In short, the ice forms an impermeable layer that eventually suffocates the turf. Snow on the other hand allows the dormant turf to breath. Simply put, snow is good and ice is bad... Just like the current skiing conditions.

The black cover has melted the ice and is showing through
The agronomy team at Stowe Mountain Club and Stowe Country Club walk the courses multiple times in the winter to assess the snowpack and ice levels. We use this information to predict the spring conditions and properly prepare.  Due to the extreme weather fluctuations at Stowe Mountain Club we have instituted certain practices that mitigate the potential for ice injury. Specialized turf covers are placed on the greens in the fall that help prevent winter kill and then removed in the spring. These covers are used in areas that have historically received a significant amount of damage.  A common example of an unwanted ice formation on greens is caused by collar dams. A collar dam is created due to the turf height of the collar being higher than the height of the putting green. When snow melts, the change in height allows water to pool creating a natural dam blocking water from draining. When the temperatures fall below freezing the pooling water forms  unwanted ice along the perimeter of the green. To assist with the melting process, a section of the sod from the collar around greens is temporarily removed for the winter months and then repaired in the spring.   

Example of  a collar dam creating ice on a green
Proper spring thawing is a very critical step to the survival of turf that has been under ice.  A consistent thaw above freezing can aid in the turf's survival. Unlike the local maple industry, the extreme swings in temperature with severe freeze-thaw cycles are detrimental to the turf. During these cycles, the ice will begin to melt and create puddles on the turf. Then a drastic drop in night time temperatures to below freezing will flash freeze the water and kill the turf.

Notice the water that froze in the collar channel during melt
From mid December on, this winter has been all about the ice and these extreme weather conditions have captured our attention. Multiple icing events have occurred this winter. Some areas of Stowe Mountain Club have been under ice since December. Stowe Country Club has also seen it's share of ice. Rain and thaw events in January and February have only added to ice levels. Are we concerned? Yes. Have we done everything available to us to prevent ice? Yes. Have we seen ice damage before? Yes. Do we know how to recover from ice damage? Yes. Are we certain there will be damage in the spring? No. One never really knows what the outcome will be when the turf finally begins to wake up in the spring. We can only explain the current conditions, compare it to our historical knowledge, and prepare for what may happen. "Prepare for the worst and hope for the best" is a very appropriate saying for this winter's potential impact on our golf courses.

The Year In Pictures

Stowe Country Club 15th Tee Renovation Start to Finish

Looking back from 15 tee

Standing on tee looking toward green

Standing on 14 approach looking at dead white pine trees

More before looks

White pines growing into 14 green

Construction starts with removal of 35 white pine trees

 Hauling pulp wood off course

Burning limbs and stumps was an important part of the project to stay on budget

Mark Finch standing on the location of future blue tee

Looking back at future fescue mound

Start hauling fill for fescue mound

Shaper arrives to start shaping the fescue mound 

Shaper starts shaping tee complex and new cart path

Cart path cut in

SCC crew starts grading tee surfaces

Tee complex rough graded and cart path gravel installed

Mark Finch and crew start irrigation installation

Hydroseed the fescue mound with Sheep and Hard Fescue seed blend

SCC crew hauls asphalt to pavers for cart path installation

Fescue mound waiting for germination

SCC placing tee mix

On-Course Golf Construction arrives to laser level tee surfaces

Sean Hanley working his magic

Tees are level and ready for creeping bentgrass sod

SCC crew starts laying sod on a rainy day

The pursuit of perfection

Almost done, a lot of sore backs

Sodding done, now start finishing edges

hydroseed Kentucky bluegrass rough

Split rail fence installed


Stowe Country Club 2nd and 15th Bunker Renovation

Hole 2 left side before

Left side after
Hole 2 right side before
Hole 2 right side after

SCC crew starts Hole 2 bunker renovation

Plywood is used to minimize damage to existing turf 

Drainage installation

New sand installed
Hole 15 right side before
Right side after

Hole 15 left side before

Left side after

SCC crew starts renovation

New outside contours excavated, bunker had significantly shrunk 

SCC crew fine grading bottom contour

New sand installed

No drainage installed due to pure river gravel being found

Various Other Photos

SCC Fall fescue cutting
SMC 4th hole on a Fall day

SMC fescue cutting

 Annual 5th grade class field trip to SMC, 13 years running!

Nice look at SCC 4th hole

Pine needles are one of many reasons to remove white pine trees

It rained a little bit this year

The day of the Vermont PGA Stroke Play Championship

And it rained a little more

SMC greens aeration

SMC Wildflowers, find the bee...

SCC cart path paving on Hole 15
SCC Irrigation pond dredge
Verticutting greens at SMC

Much deserved crew BBQ

2017 Golf Grounds Team
A Stowe double rainbow
Cheers to a bright 2018!