The Rugged Mountain Spring

The golf course has turned the corner and is back on track. The variable weather during April in the mountains takes its toll on turfgrass. The long winters with extended ice and snow cover has depleted all of the reserves in the grass plant and it just wants to wake up, start drinking water and soak up some nutrients. The challenge in the mountain environment is that spring is slow to come and can be quite harsh at times, delaying "normal" spring conditions.
Snow blowing 13th green in late March

The big push for us started in late March when we began to snow blow greens. As the weather permitted, Mark Finch, assistant superintendent, would walk the snow blower out on the course and remove as much snow off of putting greens as possible. We make this effort because history has taught us that the quicker the snow and ice get off of putting greens the better. If we left it up to Mother Nature to melt the ice and snow, we would have a considerable amount of damaged turf. By April 9th we had cleared as much snow as possible off all the greens with a walk behind snow blower. The following weeks in April consisted of shoveling the remaining snow off of greens and breaking up ice pockets that had formed on the greens surface. This work is slow at this time of year. The snow changes its form from day to day and throughout the day. If the temperatures drop at night, the snow is rock hard and is very hard to move. If the sun comes out and the temperature rises, the snow becomes like wet cement and is equally hard to move.

Breaking ice on 7 green in mid April

During late April we rent a tractor with a snow blower attachment. This is done to clear all of the cart paths so that we can drive utility carts around the course without having to drive on squishy spring turf. All cart paths were clear by April 19th. Check out this video of the snow blowers in action.
During this same week we took sledge hammers and broke up the remaining ice that was on the greens. Now, it was time to focus on the remaining snow and ice on fairways. We pushed as much snow as we could off of fairways to assist in the melting.

The big worry at this point is turf damage due to crown hydration. Crown hydration is caused by the turf breaking it's dormant state, absorbing some water, then freezing at night due to the low temperatures. The plant is so tender as it comes out of dormancy that this extreme freeze/thaw cycle will explode the plant cells at the growing points, causing instant death. Most of the turf damage that occurs takes place during a few days during this late April time period when all the harsh conditions combine to trick the plant into waking up but then hitting it hard at night with below freezing temperatures.

Due to our work, the greens made it through just fine. The 10th green received some damage towards the front. With some TLC it will be just fine. A few fairways did get stung by the harsh conditions. The 12th, 14th, and 15th received the worst damage. The "corner" I spoke of  involved sodding and seeding these fairway spots. In a couple weeks we will be back to normal with the exception of the 14th fairway. This area will need a little more time to heal. I ask for your patience as we grow in a few areas on this hole.