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Craig Simpson: Putting the golf course to bed for the winter

Golf courses in Canada, with the exception of Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland, must start to prepare their shutdown for the season which is relatively the same time each year — mid October or Thanksgiving Day weekend.
winter golf

Golf courses in Canada, with the exception of Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland, must start to prepare their shutdown for the season which is relatively the same time each year — mid October or Thanksgiving Day weekend.

Some might think it’s as simple as shutting the doors, grabbing the tee blocks and pins and calling it a year. In reality though, there’s a little more to it than that.

One of the most important things golf courses do towards the end of the season is blow the water out of the irrigation system. This process is done so the pipes and components of the system do not crack or break due to frozen water in the system. Water that is left in the pipes can expand and crack thus causing expensive and time consuming repair. Heavy duty air compressor is needed to blow the system and can take two to three days to complete.

Most courses will aerate their greens in the latter half of August or beginning of September. Doing this process while the weather is still warmer will result in the recovery of the greens to be quicker. After this process, the course superintendent will start the process of raising the height of cut on the greens. Golfers will usually notice when the speed of the green gets slower.

As the summer winds down, superintendents start to apply their fall fertilizer applications and really start to keep an eye on weather patterns, soil temperature and air temperature. As the days get shorter and the night’s cooler, the growing cycle of the turf slows down.

Putting greens, tees and closely mown turf can become susceptible to disease with cool moist temperatures. Turf managers must now determine the best time to apply their chemical fungicide applications. This application is crucial in preventing snow mold disease throughout the winter.

The timing of this process involves not applying too early as fall rains can decrease the efficacy of the chemical dramatically thus not getting the full protection throughout the winter. The perfect timing is to get the application down in dry conditions and to get a good snow fall to follow. A good thick snow cover in the winter can provide a good insulating layer from the extreme cold temperatures we endure here in the north.

Finally, there are all the little things like removing all the course accessories like tee blocks, flags and cups, yardage stakes and so on. Most courses will want to fence off certain areas of the course that they don’t want anyone entering, usually green complexes. If you’re lucky enough to have good weather in the late fall golf courses will generally tackle any kind of projects that are difficult when there are golfers present.

That’s a little insight to what happens at the end of a season. I hope everyone has a safe winter and if you’re lucky you’ll get a few rounds in down south! 

— Craig Simpson