Taking care of our golf course fairways

By Lydell Mack

There have been much discussion and questions lately about the fairways; here are some answers you might find helpful. 

Since going dormant after the first frosts in November, our bermudagrass fairways and rough have shown quite a bit of wear patterns from cart traffic. I believe the traffic wear is worse this year because we have more carts in use due to the pandemic restrictions which include single riders on each cart. We have seen an increase in rounds played ever since the pandemic took hold and with that has come an increase in cart rentals – now four carts per foursome instead of two. While the turf was actively growing, it was able to withstand the extra wear and tear but now that it’s dormant the turf canopy continues to be beaten down with no recuperative ability in the plants.  

That lack of recovery in the dormant grass has lead to thin areas that have been mistaken by some as Golf Maintenance lowering the height of cut on the mowers. We do not mow during dormancy, in fact we try to time our last mowing to finish about two weeks before the first frost so the turf grows up a little more than normal height. We plan for the dormancy period by allowing more leaf tissue to grow before it shuts down for the winter as a way to provide a protective cushion against cart traffic in the winter months. All this promotes a quicker green-up in the spring without having to spend money on new sod in dead areas.

I have proposed a solution to combat the extra cart wear by suggesting we stay “cart path only” until spring when the turf regains its recuperative ability. This suggestion has caused debate because “cart path only” is not a popular scenario from a customer service standpoint. I understand a few golfers in Big Canoe have physical disabilities that prevent them from playing if they can’t drive out to their ball and for those folks I propose an exception. However, I hope all others can be open-minded to the rule and see it for what it is – a practice giving us the best chance of having great course conditions to start off the league season in the spring.  

Another cultural practice is the pigment application to the fairways. As we have for the past two years, we again applied the green pigment which not only improves the aesthetic appearance of the golf courses, it also helps spring green-up by warming the soil temperature earlier. Like all our golf maintenance practices, this process is done for a specific reason and will have a lasting impact throughout the year.

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