U of M Golf Course Winter Injury Update (May 10th, 2013)

By Sam Bauer

2012-13 has been a year for the record books with extreme heat and droughts across the state in the summer and a winter that never seemed to end. Consider: 

  • April 20th record cold, 21°F (previous record 26°F in 1888)
  • Average date for first 60°F occurrence is March 29th.   We reached 60 on April 26.
  • 3rd snowiest April on record (17.6 inches)
  • April was the snowiest month of the 2012-13 winter

We do not see a uniform pattern of winter injury across MN. Low lying areas that accumulated ice experienced death, as did annual bluegrass (Poa) that was covered with ice for an extended period. Poa can survive 60 days under ice and bentgrass can last 90+ days under ice. Most golf courses are a mixed stand of grasses, which is why you don’t see complete death or a course that experiences no problems.

Especially hard hit was perennial ryegrass. You can see this in your collars, fairways, tee boxes and driving ranges. Perennial ryegrass has the lowest cold tolerance of the grasses we grow in MN. We use it because it germinates rapidly and has moderate wear tolerance. We don’t recommend its’ use because of winter.

One more item we observed on a few golf courses was some sort of chemical burn to fairways from fall-applied fungicides. In the fall, fungicides are sprayed to golf courses (tees, greens and fariways) to protect the plants from snow molds. We are not sure why or all the specifics yet, but we have seen golf course fairways with turf that is noticeably burned from chemicals sprayed last fall. We are working with manufacturers and scientists to determine what happened.

For those with significant turf death, expect this year to be about growing grass to make sure it is mature going into winter. For those with small random spots of dead turf, expect GUR and reduced pinning locations while the turf recovers and seedlings mature. Regardless, be supportive of your superintendent’s efforts to give you the best playing conditions possible.