Friday, April 8, 2016

Growth Potential

This post is a little heavier on the science of turf management than normal but some of my fellow turf geeks out there will likely enjoy it...

Obviously the weather lately has not been very good from a golf perspective. The long range forecast looks better and I should be in a position to announce an opening date at the Golf Show on Friday...I look forward to seeing you there.

There are many factors that go into determining when to open the course for play and as I have said before, each course is different and has to decide what is best for their own situation.  In an effort to continue to educate you on why I do, what I do, when I do, please consider the following attachment concerning the growth potential of turf (used with permission from Pace Turf in San Diego, CA)

Growth Potential PDF - click here

We grow cool season turf here in Southern Ontario and you will notice that the optimum temperature for the growth of cool season turf is between 19.4C and 20.6C.  That's average daily temperature - the high temperature plus the low temperature divided by 2. By contrast, the optimum temperature for growth of warm season grasses is between 30.6C and 31.7C - remember that's average daily temperature so that's pretty warm.  This partially explains why it's so difficult to grow bentgrass greens (a cool season turf) in the South.

This concept also explains why I am protective of the course in the Spring and Fall.  You can see that growth potential is extremely limited when the average daily temperatures are below 8.3C. The combination of low growth potential and golf traffic is an invitation for stress and injury to our turf. Throw in shaded turf due to low sun angles in spring and fall and the growth potential is even lower.  This is not to say that once the average temperature gets above 8.3C everything is great.  As temperatures go up, the potential also rises but as stated in the document, when the potential is below 50% the turf becomes progressively more stressed.

When it comes to opening the course, my job is to find the sweet spot between a growth potential of 10% (extremely limited growth) and 50% (when turf growth is considered good). Every day that we are open when the growth potential is below 50% involves a degree of risk. The farther you slide down the scale from 50% the more the risk.  I like to think that in 15 years here, I have found the sweet spot fairly consistently.  We have never suffered in the main part of the season (when the majority of our play takes place) because we opened too early. Some golf courses have decided that it is best to open as soon as possible despite there being no or very limited growth potential. We have never taken that approach in my tenure here at Westmount.  We don't want to risk the condition of the course in the main part of the season to gain a few days in the Spring.

Thanks for reading this far! Hopefully, I have given you a little insight into what goes into opening the course for play.  Please leave a comment or send me an email if you like (or dislike) these more science based posts.

Finally, I'll leave you with a picture of what optimum growth potential looks like here:

#12 at optimum growth potential

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