Frost Budgets And Balance
Golf in our area has slowed significantly over the past week, as frost delays are getting longer and darkness hits earlier each day. It’s tough on anyone hoping to get in a few more rounds before the New Year. Traffic on frost-covered turf can be damaging; although the delays may be frustrating, they are necessary to preserve the long-term health of the grass.
Turf is starting to go dormant (i.e. stopped growing) at most courses in the region, so it’s a great time to close the greens and direct play onto temporary surfaces. Traffic and subsequent thinning on dormant greens will not recover until growth resumes in the spring, which can ultimately impact spring and summer conditions. Playing conditions on the greens at this point are sure to be bumpy and inconsistent and often don’t play much better than quality temporary greens anyway. Although the decision may be unpopular, directing play to temporary surfaces will lead to better putting green turf next year.
Daily maintenance programs have scaled back significantly, and in many cases, replaced by course improvement projects, equipment repair, and/or tree pruning/removal. Courses that take advantage of the offseason to install drainage, remove trees that block sunlight and air movement, and many other course improvement projects increase their ability to produce good golf conditions and healthy turf for the upcoming season, so take advantage of the dry weather and frozen soils when you can.
Many golf course superintendents have recently finalized their operating budgets for next season. The economy has affected every course differently, but it’s safe to say that only a small proportion of courses have seen increases in operating budgets over the past few seasons. Golfers should be aware that the overall budget, particularly resources allocated towards labor, is the most influential factor in producing a well-conditioned golf course. If golf conditions have fallen short of your expectations, realize that changes in the operating budget may be a major underlying factor.
Another winter project can be taking inventory of your whole maintenance facility, making it easier when planning your early order in the future. If you ordered, for example, 160 bags of fertilizer and have 8 left every year, then order 152 the following year. Keeping a spreadsheet of all products is also useful for insurance purposes as well.
Most of you probably have a few bags/jugs of product laying around that you tried and haven’t used in 3-4 seasons. Look around your community and inquire about donating the product that has been there and you have no intention of using. I’m sure a local baseball, football or soccer association would gladly take the product, and there might even be a tax deduction for the Club if the entity is a non-profit organization.
Finally, enjoy some down time away from the golf course with friends and family. Superintendents should use the offseason to reflect back on the tough year and try to re-energize for next season. The work/life balance is usually challenging for everyone, and the holiday season provides a great opportunity to regain some stability and take a breath.
ATS Sales Representative