November 10, 2011

Snow Control

Snow fence went up the last two days on all the greens that I anticipate having the snow blow off the "turtlebacks" on them this winter.  Fence was strategically positioned to try keep the snow drifted onto the greens surface from a north/northwest wind.  All of our 1960's eras greens are built with a high, rolling back that is going to be the first spot the wind will strip the snow off.  Snow cover during the winter acts like a protective blanket; insulating the turf from extremely cold temperatures as well as protecting it from the harsh, drying effects of the winter wind.  Furthermore, the insulating effect of the snow will keep the ground from freezing quite as deep as it would if it were blown bare.  The shallower the frost, the quicker the soil thaws out in the spring, and therefore the faster the turf greens up and starts growing.  Ever notice how long the turf stays brown in the spring at Kings Walk?  I would guess they experience a little bit of wind  there during the winter months; the snow blows off, the turf dries out, and the frost goes about a mile deep.  On the flip side of that, there were years in Montana we would get a heavy snow in October before the ground froze, and then subsequent snows would bury the turf with 3-5 feet of snow.  It was not uncommon to dig a snow pit in the middle of February in a fairway, stick a soil thermometer in the ground, and find that it was 38 degrees.  The ground would never freeze all winter underneath such a thick snow blanket.

fence behind 3 green
Fence went up on every green but 1, 10, 6, 7, 8, 16, and 17.  Those greens in particular have enough of a windbreak to the north side of them that I don't anticipate too much snow blowing off of them.  I snowfenced the greens extensively at my course in Montana, and it was definitely a trial and error process that I finally perfected after 5 years to get the snow to hold on the greens in the right spots, but not to drift in too deep either.  It will definitely take a couple of winters here also of making notes of how the wind blows, what areas strip off, and what areas drift, in order to tweak the snow fencing program in coming years. 

back of 3 green this spring
My hope is that we can significantly limit the amount of turf on the greens and collars that look like the above picture I took this previous spring when I got here.  Those areas that had the snow blow off of them over the winter were very slow to green up and fill in this spring, and most of the turf that came back in there was all poa annua, which in turn is more likely to die over the winter in those spots anyway.  It becomes a vicious cycle....

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