Thursday, March 1, 2018

Management of Free Water on Springtime Turf..

There is no question that early spring can be a nervous time of year for golf course management teams. Finding out what the ravages of winter has done to the golf course can make or break the upcoming season. One management technique I believe is sometimes overlooked in late-winter/early-spring is the management of free water on the turf surface. With soils still frozen, water doesn't infiltrate into the soil profile, so it just sits or pools on the surface. Positive drainage is much more limited this time of year due to frost formation, snow/ice dams, even turf species and height of cut can cause issues. Through my career I have seen turf damage on multiply occasions that happens during this time of year.

The soil around sand based greens can heave significantly more than the green surface, causing a slow surface drainage situation. This is where attention to remove water is needed.

Here you can see how height of cut and/or turf species can pool water, even with positive surface drainage.

Managing this free water is something everyone should be in tune with. How is it done? It's primarily about knowing the temperature and sun intensity of the day to predict the melt. If the forecast tells you it could be a melt/runoff day, then you should be prepared. You also should alert your staff that it might take working longer hours during this period. Most of this free water doesn't start accumulating until mid-afternoon. It also accumulates at once on all turf surfaces. So with these situations, it's all hands on deck, or should it be, all squeezes in the carts.

Another example of how height of cut can slow water movement.

The use of squeegees to remove the meltwater off the turf surface is the best option.

I always felt better heading home knowing we had removed all the free water possible off the turf that day. So, keep an eye towards the weather, and get those squeegees ready!

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