A Work In Progress

    Golf courses are in a perpetual state of decline. It is no different from any other manmade object. A house, a car, or a road will eventually need some type of maintenance activity to keep it performing and looking good. Additionally, due to the fact that golf courses are a living and breathing (respiring actually) thing they can also be compared to human health. When neglected, the body and mind will decline at a faster rate than one that has had preventive health care and proper nutrition. Providing the golf course with proper nutrition, preventive treatments to ward off pests, removal of excess thatch, repair of failed infrastructure, and proper tree management ensures its long term health.
    While the term "a work in progress" often refers to a situation that needs work to become good, in the golf course world, it refers to the concept that the act of continual work is paramount to the future health and playability of the course. The simplest example of such work is aeration. The Mountain and Village course greens are two to three weeks out from a hollow core aeration. While the greens are a bit bumpy in the immediate days following aeration it is the long term health and performance of the greens that need focus. The removal of thatch and organic matter through hollow core aeration prevents soft greens that footprint easily and become bumpy, stay wet for extended periods, are more prone to disease, and become more susceptible to winter injury.
   The more complex work is the revitalization and repair of golf course features. Such work includes drainage repair and installation, repairing damaged cart paths, tee top leveling, re-contouring of bunker edges, and tree work. Some of this work occurred this Spring while other work will occur this Fall.

Stowe Mountain Club
  • Continued aeration. Fairway aeration is ongoing. We are currently half way through this process. With
    Fairway aeration and clean up
    good weather this process will be complete by next week. Tees and approaches will follow and only take a couple days to complete.
  • Drainage on the right side of eleven fairway. This hillside is crucial to the playability of this hole. Tee shots that hit the hill stand a good chance of rolling back to the fairway. Due to some groundwater springs, this hillside is often soft and impedes the ball from rolling to the fairway. 
  • Extend drainage in fourteen fairway. Last Fall, a main drain line was installed near the landing area. The main purpose of this line is to alleviate chronic winterkill caused by excessive wet turf during snow melt. The installation of this drain line was successful in limiting the amount of winterkill this Spring. This line will be extended and laterals will be installed to further eliminate the potential for winterkill.
  • Fairway drainage on fifteen fairway. As with fourteen, this fairway succumbs to winterkill due to wet conditions during snow melt. Drainage will be installed to assist with winter survival.
  • An ongoing project is the repair of a ground water spring above the first landing area on the eighth fairway. Due to the proximity to the dam, this project has been a slow and deliberate process. The design to alleviate this chronic wet spot has been highly engineered and managed. A subcontractor is currently being secured to finish the project. 
  • New forward tees have been built on the third hole and eighth hole. The third hole tee is now open. The eighth tee was constructed from the spoils of the previously discussed wet spot on eight. This tee has been seeded and will open Spring of 2015. 
  • Fescue has been planted along the stone collar on the ninth hole.

    Collar extension on #9
    This work also used the spoils from the drainage project on the eighth hole. Planting fescue along the edge of Peregrine Lake softens the look of the stone and allows for additional playability to mis-hit tee shots.  
  • The collar on the right side of the ninth hole has been extended. This collar extension was done to aid in the approach shot bouncing to the left and landing on the green. Collar extensions similar to this work have been installed on the sixth, eighth, eleventh, and thirteenth. These creeping bentgrass collar extensions are done to assist with better playability around the greens. 
Stowe Country Club
  • Tee aeration is complete. Fairways and approaches will be aerated after Stowe Mountain Club is complete. All of the aeration equipment is shared between both courses. Aeration at Stowe Country Club is very important because of the heavy clay soils that exist under all the features. Alleviating soil compaction and increasing surface drainage is part of the ongoing work that promotes healthy turf and good playability in all weather conditions.
  • A new culvert pipe was installed at the practice facility field. This pipe transfers water from a stream that enters the field on the west side. The existing pipe was an old metal pipe that had completely rusted and caved in. Prior to the installation of the new pipe being, water would flow onto the field and pool up for extended periods of time.
  • A new culvert pipe was installed on the thirteenth hole. This pipe had completely failed like the one on
    Silted bunker on #13
    the practice field. During the Winter melt, the pipe collapsed and silted in the greenside bunker. The pipe was replaced and the bunker was also repaired. New drainage was installed in the bunker along with all new sand being added. 
  • New forward tees have been constructed on the sixth and ninth holes. The ninth tee opened recently and the sixth tee may open in a few weeks if the weather provides good growing conditions. 
  • The final step in drying up the seventh hole was completed this Spring. The wetland to the left of the landing area was leaching water through the soil creating chronic wetness in the fairway. An interceptor drain was installed to divert this water away from the fairway. 
    Repaired #13 bunker with drainage
  • The new upper practice tee was opened during Kirkwood week. We doubled the size of the tee surface, moved the ball machine away from the road, eliminated a small practice green and bunker that had gone into disrepair, and provides a new staging area for carts during tournaments and outings.
  • This Fall, we plan on repairing multiple bunkers and fairways. These projects will commence immediately. The order of completion is as listed below.  
    • Multiple laterals will be installed on the eighteenth fairway. This work was started last Fall by installing a drainage mainline. We will connect multiple laterals to this mainline in the coming weeks.
    • The fairway bunker on the right of eighteen will be re-contoured and drainage will be installed. This bunker has grown in over the years and pools up after rain events.
    • A mulch bed will be installed underneath the spruce grove on the left of eighteenth hole. This work will be done to provide definition to the landing area and to protect the future health of these trees.
    • The greenside bunker on the first hole will be repaired. Currently, water leaches out of the bunker and settles near the approach. This area has turned into a chronic wet area that is very difficult to play out of. Additionally, the general appearance of this area is very poor and should be corrected because it sets the tone for the entire golf course. Internal drainage in the bunker will be installed to transfer the water away from the playing area and new sand will be added.
    • The second half of the ninth fairway will be drained and the greenside bunker will be repaired. This fairway does not drain after rain events. A main line will be installed with multiple laterals. The bunker will be re-contoured to divert surface drainage away from entering the bunker, internal drainage will be installed, and new sand will be added. 
    All of this work is being done with an eye on the future. The short term disruption to play is done for the long term goal of the continued enjoyment of both golf courses by the members and players. This continued enjoyment is based soundly on the hard work of the maintenance team and the commitment of Stowe Mountain Resort to provide great conditions.  We thank you for your patience and understanding while all of this work is in progress. 


Fescue Revitilization Project

    Approximately ten years ago Stowe Country Club created a plan to stop mowing selected rough areas to reduce operational costs associated with mowing. These areas were previously mowed at the rough height of 2.5 inches. The savings were created by less fuel from the reduced acreage and in the reduction of man hours it took to mow. Additionally, there was less wear on the mowing equipment. A second aspect of this plan was to add a new aesthetic to the golf holes. 
    This new aesthetic aspect for the golf course is where the plan fell short. While the idea was good, the execution lacked follow through. As time progressed, the high rough areas were overrun with field grasses and weeds which resembled an unkempt pasture. From a golfing aspect, finding a golf ball in the weeds and thick pasture grass was almost impossible. The other negative aspect is that the look of weedy high grass areas presented the impression of neglect. Playing a golf course that has clean visual lines is a pleasant and inspirational experience. The opposite feels chaotic and distracting. 
    Earlier this year, a plan was initiated to revitalize these high grass areas to add a positive aesthetic to the course in addition to making them more playable. The plan is centered to promote the growth and establishment of fescue grasses. Fescue is a thin bladed grass that predominates on golf courses throughout Scotland, England, Ireland, and Wales. In these regions, fescue is a definitive characteristic of a links golf course. The actual playing surfaces, greens, tees, and fairways, are fescue on these European courses. However, the true charm and beauty of a links course is the un-mown fescue that surrounds a golf hole. The wispy seed stalks of fescue that turn a golden brown starting in mid-summer create the true beauty of a links course. Of course, fescue is not just on links courses. Many golf courses, wherever the region, have fescue in the outer rough areas to provide that beautiful flowing golden look.  The 2015 US Open will be played at Chambers Bay in Washington. This golf course is built on an abandoned quarry and was planted to fescue. Greens, tees, fairways, and rough are pure fescue stands. From it's inception, Stowe Mountain Club focused on maintaining expansive stands of fescue that frame many of the golf holes. The aesthetic created by the fescue during this time of year is beautiful. Besides the aesthetics, the other important aspect of fescue is the ease to find your golf ball and to successfully advance it. This is accomplished by planting fescue on low quality soil, never irrigating, and never fertilizing the grass. The thinner the better. 
Elimination of non-desirable grass surrounding thriving fescue
Between the 6th green and 7th tee
    The challenge at Stowe Country Club is that the fescue areas are overgrown with weeds and non-fescue grass and the soil has high water retention and nutrient holding capacity. Elimination of the weeds and field grasses is being executed with products that will eliminate all the undesirable plants but the fescue. Multiple applications are needed since many weeds and non-fescue grasses can be very persistent. Multiple mowing is another aspect of the revitalization of the fescue. Multiple mowing throughout the year will eliminate the ability for weeds to seed out, and will cause the depletion of the carbohydrate reserve of the plant that will eventually lead to the plants decline. The mowing will conversely help the fescue thrive and spread. Check out the recent USGA article on this topic. USGA ARTICLE
    This process takes time. Expansive stands of fescue at Stowe Country Club will take three to five years. As these areas are denuded of undesirable plants, new fescue will be sown. Maturation of fescue after establishment is slow taking three to four years. We appreciate your patience during this conversion. The end product will be worth the time and effort. Once established, the fescue will provide a beautiful aesthetic to a round of golf and it may even lower your score. For more information on fescue, visit a prior blog titled "Fescue".


Bentgrass is the preferred turfgrass on fairways and greens in the northeast. The ability to tolerate low cutting heights, aggresive lateral growth habit, dense canopy, and stress tolerance make it a suitable playing surface for the game of golf. The predominant species of bentgrass is creeping bentgrass. Within this species there are hundreds of cultivars. The breeding of creeping bentgrass is a very competitive business due to the golf course industry. The other type of bentgrass is velvet bentgrass. This bentgrass had its hayday in the 1950's and 60's on golf courses. It is an old variety of bentgrass and existed before many creeping bentgrasses were bred for golf turf. Since that time creeping bentgrass has surpassed velvet bentgrass as the preferred golf course turf.
Graden cultivation
We manage both courses in a manner that promotes bentgrass. We do not simply grow "grass". Our mission is to promote bentgrass growth and overtime increases its population on greens and fairways. Stowe Mountain Club has A4 creeping bentgrass on the greens and L93 creeping bentgrass on the fairways. These two grasses were chosen by Billy Fuller from Bob Cupp Design, the golf course architect. Billy was the Agronomist for Bob Cupp during the construction of the course. The interesting story behind A4 is that Billy worked with Dr. Joe Duitch from Penn State to breed this specific cultivar. While the superintendent at Augusta National in the early 1980's, Billy showed Dr. Duitch a patch of bentgrass on the par 3 course that exhibited a very tight and smooth growth habit. From that patch the A4 bentgrass was bred to be what it is today. It is one of the premier bentgrasses for putting greens in the world. The "A" stands for Augusta. The L93 bentgrass in the fairways is also a newer cultivar. It is considered a workhorse in the golf industry. It is a very versatile turf that can also be used for tees and greens. The tees at the Mountain Course are not bentgrass but rather a blend of chewing fescue and dwarf Kentucky bluegrass.
Core aeration cultivation
Stowe Country Club has a much more diverse mix of turf species. The greens are a mixture creeping bentgrass, velvet bentgrass, and annual bluegrass. Many of you know annual bluegrasss by its scientific name, Poa annua. This mixture of grasses creates a very challenging scenario for reaching the goal of smoothness. You can identify velvet bentgrass by it's very fine leaf blade, dense growth habit (looks like moss) and it's soft puffy feeling under foot. It is also visible on the greens due to its round patchy growth. In between these velvet patches is Penncross creeping bentgrass. Unlike A4 and L93, Penncross is a very old cultivar. In fact, it is considered one of the first cultivars of creeping bentgrass. Pencross has been around for many decades and can still be purchased to this day. Pencross is known for its aggressive creeping or lateral growth habit. This can be viewed as a positive aspect due to its ability to creep laterally to fill in any damaged area or divot. However, on greens it is a negative attribute because it produces very long leaf blades that makes for slower and grainy greens.

In The History of Stowe Country Club author Lynn Altadonna, explained that the greens were sodded to velvet bentgrass when the 18 hole course was built in 1962/63. The sod came from a defunct golf course called Kearsarge Golf Club in New Hampshire. The Village Course architect, William Mitchell, was known throughout New England for using and promoting the use of velvet bentgrass. There is no doubt that he had a role in this procurement of sod. The problem with sodding greens, especially velvet, as opposed to seeding greens is the existing thatch layer. Thatch is the layer of old stem material that builds up below the turf surface. Bentgrasses as a whole are prolific thatch producers. While thatch is simply the by-product of producing quality playing surfaces, proper thatch management of is the difference between good and bad turf. The basis of proper thatch management is to mechanically remove the thatch through core aeration and vertical mowing. The USGA recommends the removal of 15-20% of thatch surface annually for quality playing surfaces. This chart explains how to get to those percentages Surface Impact. The strategy at Stowe Country Club is to complete two 1/2 inch core aerations at 1 x 2 inch spacing with an additional Graden verticut. All three methods of cultivation equate to an 18% surface impact. At Stowe Mountain Club a less aggressive management is effective due to the young age of the greens to where the frequency of aerification will impact 10% of the surface.

As stated earlier, velvet bentgrass has fallen out of favor in the golf course industry. The main reason for this is that it is the most prolific thatch producer out of all the cool season grasses. If aggressive aeration and vertical mowing is not done on a regular basis the velvet will become puffy, bumpy, and play poorly. Since velvet at Stowe Country Club was initially installed and was not aggressively cultivated over the years, it has aggressively produced a determinate layer of thatch. Moving forward, proper agronomic practices will be initiated such as aggressive aeration and verticutting to regain the quality of the putting surface. In addition to controlling thatch levels, the cultivation of the greens will assist in conditioning the Penncross to be much smoother and less grainy.

It is our goal at Stowe Golf to produce excellent playing conditions through the production of quality bentgrass. Thank you for your patience during these periodic maintenance procedures to restore the turf. We hope that players will appreciate the  high quality playing surfaces that will grow in based on sound management practices.

Stowe Country Club Trees

The following bullet points are the foundation of our tree management program at Stowe Country Club. The strategy is to keep maintenance costs down, maintain good turf quality, maintain healthy trees, create and maintain the wonderful vistas, and eliminate obstructed tee shots.
  • Tree plantings predominated by white pine, red pine, and spruce trees (all conifers).
  • These trees were used due to their cheap cost and quick growth.
  • The over reliance of pine and spruce species has lead to an increase in disease potential. Many trees are showing damage from Diplodia blight.
  • A more diversified tree population reduces concerns of catastrophic tree loss due to pathogens or insect pests.
  • Where existing tree stands provide crucial strategic importance or screens, a diversified tree replacement program will be considered using deciduous species.
  • Pine and spruce trees create a large amount of ground litter from branch, cone and needle shedding. This leads to direct maintenance costs due to the need to remove such litter for playability. Removal of certain trees will keep maintenance costs down.
  • Root extrusion from soil surface has caused a major playability and safety issue.
  • The most effective and sustainable way to maintain trees next to golf turf is to create mulch beds. These beds will hide tree litter and cover exposed roots. High priority tree beds will be identified and maintained.
  • Current maintenance program is to trim the grass below trees. This requires many man hours. Installation of tree beds will assist in keeping maintenance costs down.
  • Absence of tree beds has negatively impacted health of trees due to lack of soil nutrients available.
  • Conifers grown in open or “pasture” settings produce prolific branching. This branching weakens over time and is prone to failure when impacted by wind or ice storms. This loss of limbs after storm events creates excessive maintenance costs due to cleanup.
  • Trees and golf course turf do not coexist very well due to the competition for water and nutrients.
  • Trees use more water than turf. This leads to browned out turf on the edges of golf holes in midsummer due to trees out-competing turf for water. Our current center row irrigation does not provide sufficient irrigation to the edges of golf holes to help the turf compete with the trees for water.
  • Coniferous trees are shallow rooted. This shallow rooting disrupts the turf surface with exposed roots. These shallow roots steal water and nutrients from turf. A root pruning program will be implemented to control root encroachment.
  • These fast growing softwood trees have begun to impact play due to size and improper placement. These overgrown trees now create “forced draws or fades”. Most impact is on tee shots. 
  • Unnecessary tree plantings of these fast growing coniferous trees have blocked beautiful vistas. These views are a very important design aspect of Stowe Country Club and they should not be lost to trees.
  • The thought that tree removal will make the course easier is untrue.  USGA Article

Winterkill 2014

In previous posts it was predicated that the weather leading into winter was potentially harmful to golf course turf. Unfortunately, that prediction came true. The turf loss on golf courses in the northeast and beyond is of epic proportions. Veteran golf course superintendents are proclaiming that this is the worst winterkill they have experienced in their careers. The widespread area and level of damage are the main reasons this is news worthy topic. The damage consists of dinner table sized dead spots on greens to complete loss of multiple putting greens. The area of concern covers New England (seacoast to the mountains), Quebec & Ontario regions, and North Central region (Michigan and Chicago area).

What happened? Simply, too much rain in January. The abundance of winter rain led to copious amounts of ice. The nail in the coffin for turf was the dramatic, almost overnight, switch from generally moderate temperatures in the early winter to a chilling continuous freeze mid winter. After the last rain event in mid January the temperatures plummeted and did not rise until April. This flash freeze scenario was a main cause of the widespread damage, especially in northern Vermont. The two other scenarios that led to turf loss were anoxia (extended ice cover) and crown hydration (spring freeze/thaw cycle). Review prior posts and "post categories" for more information on these environmental conditions.

Course Updates:
Fortunately extensive turf loss was avoided, but both courses did receive isolated damage. Areas where water was unable to flow freely subsequently pooled up causing ice and turf damage. This winter emphasizes the importance of effective drainage (subsurface and surface) on golf courses. Drainage is key to creating conditions conducive to winter survival which then leads to quality conditions during the playing season.

Stowe Country Club
16th approach "Birdbaths"
The three historically wet greens received the most damage (3, 12, & 13). These greens have poor subsurface drainage and more importantly have very poor surface drainage. #12 is the worst of all greens. The entire lower shelf was damaged. Once the water drained to the green it pooled and froze solid. The other two greens were damaged in low spots, or "birdbaths" as I call them. Any other such birdbaths on the course were also damaged such as; 18 fairway, 16 & 17 approach and areas near drainage culverts, i.e 3 & 5 fairway. The 4th, 9th, and 10th green also received some damage. The damage on these greens was due to the freeze/thaw cycle in the spring.

14th fairway drain. Notice no winterkill below drain.
Stowe Mountain Club
The good news is that the fairways did well this year. SMC did receive some damage in areas that historically pool and subsequently experience winter kill. Every year drainage is added in these areas to better winter survival  to create firm playing conditions. This is an unfortunate ongoing challenge. A drain installed on hole 14 last Fall proved very successful. The bad news is that the damage to greens is more than we have seen since opening in 2007. The worst greens are 4, 7, and 13. These greens are bowl shaped and were unable to shed water fast enough when the January rains came. Other greens have smaller areas of damage at the water exit points. These areas were damaged due to what is called "collar dams". The small change in the height of cut between the green surface and the collar is enough to slow the winter rains down to form pools of water that causes ice formation. Collar dams become worse over time due to the turf maturing and forming a thick thatch. These areas will be corrected by cutting the sod out and lowering the sub-grade to make a smooth transition for water to flow freely.

Moving Forward:
The damaged greens on both courses were seeded earlier this week and covered. A limiting factor for good turf germination and growth are soil temperatures. A warm stretch of weather is greatly needed at this time to hasten seed germination. The covers are used to assist in warming the soil. Fairway and tee damage will be seeded this coming week. Selected areas in fairways will be sodded to speed up the recovery process. Sodding greens is not preferred due to the difficulty of feathering the new sod to the existing turf. This feathering process is much easier with fairways due to the higher height of cut.

The recovery process from winterkill is one of the most difficult tasks superintendents face. Maintaining healthy turf (mowing & grooming) directly adjacent to new seedlings takes skillfulness. Additionally, restricting golfers on these recovering areas may interfere with play, which is not popular. These are challenges that can be resolved on a short and long term basis. The turf maintenance team will work diligently to grow in the newly seeded areas and continue to add drainage to prevent future damage. This is not the first time we have seen winterkill and it will certainly not be the last. Your patience with the recovery during the ensuing weeks will help us with the task ahead. I will update you on a regular basis during. You can follow me on Twitter for daily updates @kevinkomer.

More information on Winterkill 2014 can be found below:
Club & Business
CBS Boston
WMUR Manchester, NH
Press Herald, Maine
Superintendents Association of New England
Michigan Superintendents Association
Ontario, Canada Damage Report
USGA Northeast Region
Chicago Damage

The Power of 36

6th Hole Stowe Mountain Club
Stowe Mountain Resort and Stowe Mountain Club have combined efforts to present a 36-hole golfing experience for members and guests to enjoy. The ultimate alpine golf course experience of Stowe Mountain Club will be presented alongside the New England charm of Stowe Country Club. These two golf courses provide players with a wide range of thrilling golf options.

It is now my job to provide the leadership for both maintenance operations as the Head of Golf Course Maintenance at Stowe Mountain Resort. I am humbled and honored to be given the opportunity to take care of these two unique properties. To be part of such an endeavor is thrilling. I am additionally excited to work with Ron Philo, PGA Professional, in his role as Golf Operations Director. While the work involved in bringing this concept to fruition is great, both Ron and I are excited and energetic about what lies ahead.
3rd Hole at Stowe Country Club

Assembling the team to tend the two courses is a crucial element to our success. Mark Finch, former assistant superintendent at SMC, has been promoted to superintendent. Mark, using his local knowledge of SMC and talents, will continue to provide excellent conditions to bring SMC forward. Scott Rossi will remain superintendent at Stowe Country Club to provide insight on the inner workings of SCC so that we can progress steadfast into the future. Please view the "Our Staff" page to learn more about the team.

This blog will be the source of information as it relates to golf course maintenance at Stowe Mountain Resort. Posts will include topics on course conditions, construction projects, agronomy, weather events, and more. For questions or concerns please contact me at kkomer@stowe.com or better yet I look forward to chatting with you on one of the great 36 holes.

Thank You Cupid

We woke up on Valentine's day to a foot of fresh snow. For skiers and riders this storm has turned around a winter that has been far from epic. The snow stake on top of Mt. Mansfield reached 60 inches indicating that making turns in the trees is free and clear. The skiing and riding has been outstanding on and off trail all week. I am sure the snow-machine riders have been loving the deep snow pack as well. A good snow pack is much more preferred on the golf course during the winter compared to bare ground or ice. The snow provides a buffer to the extreme cold temperatures and the harsh winter winds. Snow is very porous and allows for gases to escape from the ground and allow oxygen in. In essence, snow allows the turf canopy to be protected and breathe in the winter.
Patchy ice on the 12th green, January 14, 2014

Yesterday brought everyone back to the realities of our fickle New England weather. A rapid warm up made the precipitation that fell all afternoon be of the liquid state. I hate to even udder the word during February in northern Vermont. However, the reality is that .64 inches of rain fell yesterday. That is a lot of rain to fall in mid-winter. The snow pack is now much more dense allowing less of a protective buffer and more in the way of a barrier. This sealing off or barrier effect is compounded by the potential for more ice accumulation. The existing snow will absorb much of the rain but there is also a good chance that slush will form at the base. This slush will then form into ice as the temperature drops back to normal.
Nature's Concept

In my last post I described a not so good scenario for golf course turf leading into mid-winter. To follow up, the subsequent days after that post stayed above freezing and rainy. Due to this continued abnormal weather, the ice accumulation on the golf course went from really bad to just bad. The rain kept falling and the ice kept melting. When the rains finally stopped in mid-January the ice coverage was half of what it had been. The total for winter rain, after this last event, is at 7.7 inches. There are still pockets of ice all over the golf course. The maintenance team is preparing to remove the snow from greens beginning in March to reveal these ice pockets. Once the snow is removed we will begin to carefully remove the ice.Removing the snow too soon exposes the tender turf to harsh conditions. Mid-March through Mid-April is always a tricky time when it comes to golf course turf survival in Northern New England. The extended ice cover and freeze-thaw cycles play havoc with the turfgrass plant as it slowly breaks out of winter dormancy.
Vertical black drainage pipe over catch basin
13th green December 13, 2013

To ensure the removal of water off the turf surface during the spring thaw and winter rain events like we just had, we protect the catch basins from freezing over. Keeping the catch basins open so that water does not pool up and sit on the turf is of critical importance to winter turf survival. To assist in this we took a trick from nature. The idea came from the observation that the base of trees tended to have less snow than adjacent areas. The heat from the tree trunk warming up in the sun along with the wind swirling around them reduced the snow pack at the base of the tree. To mimic this phenomenon the maintenance team places a vertical drainage pipe directly over the catch basin. The pipe acts as a tree to help reduce the ice and snow from accumulating over the basin. These pipes also help us locate the basins in the snow so that we can be sure that the free water is moving into the basin. This practice is one of many that is done to keep the turf alive in our beautiful, yet harsh, mountain environment. 

Winter Rain

Shoveling water exit points on greens during 1/6 rain event
It is raining, again. Currently, it is 44 degrees and a steady rain is falling on frozen ground. Today's rain is the third rain event this winter. Our weather station has recorded 4.5 inches of rain since mid-December. While winter rains are not uncommon, the multiple rain events coupled with extremely cold temperatures in a short time period is uncommon. The result of this weather pattern is the accumulation of copious amounts of ice everywhere. Back roads, driveways, and sidewalks are pure ice. Walking through parking lots is treacherous. These uncommon winter rains and ensuing ice build are dreadful for many outdoor activities. The skiing on maintained trails is marginal. The snow-making and grooming teams are in high gear trying to keep the slopes in good condition. Skiing back country is simply horrible and non-existent. The wildlife even struggles with this weather. The raptors i.e., owls, hawks, and eagles, struggle mightily with these uncommon events as well. Raptor's feathers get wet and are unable to dry before the temperature plummet essentially causing a disability for flight. Additionally, when a crust forms over the snow, raptors struggle or are unable to break through the snow to get their food of voles and mice. There's just too much ice and not enough snow.
Block of ice on the same green 24 hours after 1/6 rain event

The survival of golf course turf when conditions like this occur is also a struggle. If I was asked to script the weather scenario that would be most destructive to golf course turf, I would have described the weather we had on December 22, January 6, or today. The scenarios include a significant rain event occurring when there is snow accumulation on frozen ground. The falling rain and subsequent water accumulation backs up in low areas. The snow slows the movement of water and the ground is unable to absorb the water. When the temperature drastically drops to below freezing a solid block of ice is formed. The weather that occurred on January 6th was the worst of the three storms. The rain started in the early morning and increased in intensity through the morning. Check out the video 1/6 Rain at Stowe Country Club in the village of Stowe. At noon the rain turned to snow and the temperatures plummeted to the single digits later that night. The result was that many areas of the course turned into skating rinks. A massive amount of 4-6 inch ice was formed throughout the course. The problem with ice on turf is that if the ice stays solid for more than 60-90 days the turf will begin to decline because of the reduction in oxygen and the accumulation of harmful gases. The key to turf survival under ice is reducing the total accumulative days of ice cover.

As a superintendent, I mitigate these adverse conditions in anyway possible. During these uncommon rain events, the maintenance team ensures the drains stay open to move the water. Snow or ice is removed if the drain has been blocked. Low drainage points on greens can be shoveled to make sure the water keeps moving off the green and is not backed up. In some cases however, this task can become overwhelming and fruitless. Unfortunately, the January 6th rain event was such the case.

The multiple rain events and subsequent cold temperatures during the early part of the winter season is of concern for the survival of many outdoor activities including golf course turf. The maintenance team will continue to monitor ice levels and cumulative days under ice. Hopefully the conditions for turf, as well as skiing, and raptor survival will improve. In the next posts I'll provide updates on subsequent actions relating to turf survival for the various weather Mother Nature provides.