Sometimes no news is good news. This years' minimal winter news reports fall into that category. When winter finally arrived in February, it did so with one heavy dumping of wet snow. A thick layer of snow is beneficial, acting as a layer of insulation for protection of the cold northern winds that often blow across the property.
Yesterday, March 25th, the golf course was still approximately 85% covered in snow and ice. Having formed only a few weeks ago, the ice is unlikely to cause us any problems. The long term forecast is calling for a slow warming trend, and our current condition of ice and snow is actually ideal for the turf to slowly break dormancy.
This photo was taken March 25th looking east from the putting green across the 1st Fwy.
Tuesday's forecasted high of 8 degrees with sunshine, ensured this would be the first significant melt of the season. Knowing we still had between 3 and 6 inches of snow on top of an ice layer on most greens, lead me to remove as much snow as possible to help the ice begin melting off the green surfaces. A layer of snow reflects much of the sun’s rays and slows the melt process. The same sunshine will melt through ice faster than snow as there are dark particles of dust, dirt, sand and fertilizer in the ice which speeds up the process significantly.
Using heavy equipment to remove this snow is a very delicate process and can cause more problems than good if done at the wrong time, and should only be attempted by seasoned staff. It is a process that can cause damage to the green and collar if not done cautiously, also trying to get the equipment from green site to green site can cause extreme damage if done with inexperienced operators. Yesterday, I trusted no one but Kyle and I to execute this operation.
In this photo you can clearly see six inches of snow being removed from the fifth green.
Below the layer of snow is approximately 3 inches of ice.
I would anticipate that by mid weekend all greens will be 100% free of ice and snow cover. We are not yet fully out of the woods on possible turf damage, as warm days and cold nights can still cause hydration damage. Rest assured we are doing all we can to win the battle with Mother Nature. As a foot note, not since 2008 have we had snow covering the golf course this late in the season. It's quite the contrast to 2012.
This is the before picture of the 2nd green covered in snow, which also hides the ice layer
About 30 minutes later the loader has removed most of the snow cover, the ice
below actually protecting the turf from the heavy equipment. This photo was taken March 26th at noon and by four o'clock ice had melted enough that I was able to kick through the ice with my boot. By the end of the day approximately 20% of the green had completely melted off.
And finally, less than 24 hours later we have approximately 50% of the ice melted off and turf showing.
I know the question you keep asking at this point is “what does this mean for opening day”? We plan on sticking to the April 19th date we have on the calendar for spring opening. I firmly believe that opening the golf course in the best possible condition is paramount for a successful spring opening and subsequent healthy season. It is clear at this point the golf course will not be as well-prepared for opening in April as I would like it to be. Members can expect greens, tees and fairways to be clear of all debris, freshly mowed and in great shape, however the rough and the bunkers take significant man hours to clean up and properly prepare for play.
I will prioritize crews to areas as required, but members can expect ongoing cleanup and spring restoration around play early this spring. It is too early to tell whether we will be able to get all greens side bunkers perfect for opening day but they will be our priority over fairway bunkers and over getting the rough cleaned up of sticks, branches and pine cones. I'm sure most of you will see nothing but green striped turf as you hit it straight down the middle and enjoy par after par. In a few weeks a clean, green golf course will await your arrival. We'll be ready for you.
In the mean time, I hope you all have a fantastic Easter.