As the calendar turns to November and the irrigation system blowout has been completed, we turn our attention to an unusual, but incredible, stretch of weather.
Weather, Turf Health and Course Conditions
With the recent colder weather, the soil temperatures have gotten quite low. This has nearly stopped growth altogether, with soil temps dropping below 10 degrees Celsius. Although it will be warmer later this week, the days are substantially shorter in November and the effect on soil temperatures will not increase enough to reinitiate growth this season.
Growth is imperative for turf health and course conditions. The turf utilizes growth to recover from damage caused by cart and foot traffic. The ability to recover is no longer possible given these conditions and all efforts are made to reduce stress to the turf.
This year is even more crucial with the volume of cart traffic and play that the 2020 season has brought. The turf conditions that we head into winter with will not be able to improve again until soil temperatures increase in the spring. Because of this, over the next few weeks you will notice an increase in cart arrows, stakes and roping off of areas to avoid traffic. Please follow all of these directional indicators to minimize further turf damage.
The sun is much lower on the horizon at this time of year. The lower sun levels on the horizon also play a significant role in changing areas of the golf course. Below is a photo of the 16th hole taken on November 2 at 10:00 am.
By this time of year, the left side of the hole, and most of the green, does not see any sunlight until early in the spring again, making recovery more difficult from traffic and other potential damage. Other areas on the golf course that are impacted by this include 13 green, 14 tee and 16 tee.
At this time of year, we can experience better green speeds and conditions. Now that we are nearly recovered from aerification, the greens have improved with ball roll quality. This can also be attributed to how low the moisture levels can be at this time of year. A great benefit for all to enjoy.
Course Playability, Setup and the Future
The fall is an opportunity to reduce traffic and wear on some of our more frequently played tee decks. Some examples of these are on 1, 6, 7 and 15. This season we will be moving back onto some of the tees that were previously closed given the volume of play on the adjusted decks. With the great weather, we are expecting over 200 rounds of golf per day for the next week in the first week of November!
Typically, by the start of November we are completing course setup less frequently and are able to focus our efforts on other projects and responsibilities. For the next week we will be setting the golf course up with our fall staff, as though it is the middle of the summer! This includes changing hole locations and tee block setups daily. These tasks are required to spread out wear and traffic patterns throughout the course.
With these adjustments to our daily schedule we will be putting a pause on fall projects and winter preparation tasks. This includes tree work, sodding, applying winter protection products to the turf and additional topdressing. These practices will be resumed immediately following the favourable weather, in an effort to complete as many as possible prior to the onset of winter.
Each year the closing of the golf course is determined by a few key factors. This season will be no different. All factors are entirely dependent on mother nature and the weather that we experience through the next few weeks.
As temperatures begin to dip further, the ground will begin to have the frost set in for the winter. Once the frost begins to set into the ground, and is unlikely to come out, the course will close for the season.
Another possibility is snow accumulation that is not expected to melt for an extended period of time. In this situation the course may close a few days prior to the event to give the Greens department ample time to install all of the tarps on the required greens for the winter and complete any other practices required prior to the snowfall.
It is important to note that neither of these situations are imminent currently, but as weather patterns change, all decisions are made with the protection of the golf course for the 2021 season at the forefront. This decision will be communicated as soon as information becomes available given the ever-changing weather conditions.