By Mike Jiggens
It’s May 1 as I write this, and several golf courses in southern Ontario (and likely elsewhere in Canada) have yet to open for the season. Chalk it up to the winter which, according to most reports, was the worst we’ve experienced in 40 years.
Courses which hadn’t yet opened during the month of April either suffered extensive winter injury or had yet to see spring arrive.
It was the winter which didn’t want to let up or end, for that matter, in some parts of the country.
Essentially, the golf industry was getting kicked when it was already down. It’s no secret that golf has been hurting the past number of years, and the past winter has only served to rub more salt into the wound.
Public golf courses lost three to four weeks of badly-needed revenue as they remained closed for some much-required recovery time or to wait until snow cover finally disappeared.
When the snow finally melted on several of these golf courses—both public and private—many superintendents were horrified to see what Old Man Winter had done to them. It wasn’t a pretty sight in many places.
Putting greens that were either entirely or predominantly poa annua took a beating. The injury was extensive and death was realized in many cases. These were the courses whose seasons’ starts were put off.
In mid-April, the USGA Green Section’s Adam Moeller visited London, Ont.’s Sunningdale Golf & Country Club to reflect upon the past winter and offer suggestions for at least lessening winter’s impact on turfgrass for future years. Organized by the Greater London Association of Golf Superintendents (GLAGS), the forum was also attended by golf course general managers, owners and greens committee members who learned, in layman’s terms, what had happened and what could be done to turn things around.
Opening the session to the non-superintendents was an inspired decision. Many of these individuals are not well versed in the science behind turfgrass management, so here was an opportunity to get answers to their questions.
Some hard choices must be made this spring to get the most out of the 2014 golf season. It may mean the use of temporary greens for the first little while as damaged greens are regrassed. It might mean a temporary ban on golf cart use so that fairways can have time to recover.
Rarely do we see destructive winters such as this past one occur in consecutive years, so next year should be more typical with an opening spring date that will likely remain on schedule. In the meantime, it’s a rather rude start to the year for many superintendents.