Unseasonable weather likely to impact golf course conditions in North Texas this spring

Ice and snow is no friend of bermudagrass.

Snow, ice and freezing temperatures in early February wreaked havoc on Super Bowl festivities in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, but chances are the lingering effects will affect the golf industry this spring and summer.

"Bermudagrass in the metroplex and North Texas region is susceptible to damage from the unusual weather we had the first week of February," says Richard White, Ph.D., turfgrass scientist at Texas A&M University. "It is a warm season grass that thrives in the heat, but not in cold temperatures. I believe we could see considerable damage on golf courses, but how much we won’t know for a few weeks."

Golf courses are like snowflakes – no two are alike – and therein lies the uncertainty, according to White. He said that each course has its own microclimate and how they react to extreme conditions is difficult to predict.

"The mistake people make is to compare conditions of golf courses within a region,” White said. “Courses are unique as defined by their elevation, grass varieties, soil conditions, sunlight exposure and other variables. We are likely to see some courses with little to no damage, while we could see some with quite extensive turf loss. The damage is nothing that could have been prevented."

White indicated golf course superintendents in the region knew the instant the poor weather hit that there was potential for damage. He said it is likely areas of damage will have to be resodded once damage is detected or reseeded later this summer when conditions are conducive to growing. Bermudagrass is found primarily on the fairways, roughs and tees in the North Texas region and bermudagrass at these higher heights of cut is usually less sensitive to winter injury than close cut bermudagrass golf greens. Some golf courses have converted to the ultradwarf bermudagrass for putting greens, while others feature bentgrass surfaces. Bentgrass is not as susceptible to the winterkill effects of ice and snow. Any bermudagrass that was overseeded last fall, whether on fairways, tees or greens will be especially challenged by the low temperatures.

"The best tools to address this issue are good two-way communications and patience," White said. "Golf course superintendents are experts in turf management. Turf will be able to recover in time under the management of superintendents. However, management and golfers need to communicate that this is a situation where Mother Nature holds all the cards and recovery is based on her cooperation."

Michael Underwood, GCSAA certified golf course superintendent at Pecan Plantation Country Club in Granbury, Texas, and president of the North Texas Golf Course Superintendents Association, indicated his golf course experienced more than 150 consecutive hours of freezing temperatures in early February. He said the duration of the sub-freezing temperatures is a concern.

Some courses covered their bermudagrass greens and other went so far as to irrigate to prevent desiccation and to attempt to create an insulating ice layer," Underwood said. "But the extended time of the freeze makes damage hard to prevent. Again, we will not know for certain for a few weeks, but superintendents are fearful that the damage could be significant."

The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America is a leading golf organization and has as its focus golf course management. Since 1926, GCSAA has been the top professional association for the men and women who manage golf courses in the United States and worldwide. From its headquarters in Lawrence, Kan., the association provides education, information and representation to 19,000 members in more than 72 countries. GCSAA's mission is to serve its members, advance their profession and enhance the enjoyment, growth and vitality of the game of golf. The association's philanthropic organization, The Environmental Institute for Golf, works to strengthen the compatibility of golf with the natural environment through research grants, support for education programs and outreach efforts. Find GCSAA on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

For more information contact:

Richard White, Ph.D., turfgrass scientist, Texas A&M University, 979-845-1550
Michael Underwood, CGCS, president, North Texas GCSA, 817-573-7583

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