Play the video above to see us aerating the ice on the 11th green.
The warm spell last weekend was not quite warm enough or sunny enough to melt all the ice. We had applied black sand (which attracts heat and enhances melting) in anticipation of the warm temperatures but they never got as high as forecasted. So we decided to remove the remaining ice by aeration. It worked very well. At this point it doesn't look like there is any damage but we have a long way to go and the ice cover concerns me. Our tees and fairways are completely ice covered and have been since December 26th.
In a nutshell, we have a real mixed bag of conditions out there: 10 greens with solid plastic covers and varying amounts of ice cover on top of that. 4 greens with no winter covers which after applying the black sand cleared of ice and snow completely. 5 greens with no winter covers which after applying black sand, melted partially and then were aerated to remove the remaining ice. It will be interesting to see which treatment works the best. Winter is a real crap shoot and what we do (or don't do) will only be successful if the weather cooperates. We can try and influence conditions (as we did) but mother nature has the final say.
The question I am most often asked is, "Why do you cover some of the greens but not all?" This question implies that covering all of the greens will be the silver bullet that guarantees perfect condtions in the spring. This is simply not true. It depends on the weather and we don't know what the winter weather will be when we put the covers down. If there is a long period of ice cover, then covers will certainly help but are not a guarantee. If there is a warm spell in the winter, the covers will hurt because the plants can break dormancy under the greenhouse-like cover and lose their cold tolerance resulting in injury when the temperatures drop. That is why we cover the shadier greens and leave the more exposed greens uncovered. We are trying to hit the middle ground of what will work in the majority of years realizing that nothing will work every year.