Harsh Winter Could 430This winter Mother Nature has blanketed numerous golf courses across southern Ontario with mass amounts of snow and ice, now with spring approaching course operators are concerned.

Two problems can occur with the amount of snow and ice on the ground: courses will likely open late, which affects revenue; and should everything melt quickly, rather than gradually, low-lying areas could become flooded.

In a report by the Guelph Mercury, Rob Witherspoon, director of the Guelph Turfgrass Institute, part of the University of Guelph which conducts research and disseminates information on turfgrass production and management, said the biggest issue most golf course superintendents are concerned about is the ice cover beneath the snow.

“Turf generates gases even during the winter,” he added. “Prolonged ice cover can prevent those gases from escaping, and can kill grass within as little as 45 days.

“One benefit we’ve had so far this winter is it’s been so cold the ground is pretty frozen right now, and there’s not a lot of biological activity and not a lot of gas accumulation. The danger will be when things start to warm up.”

David DeCorso, superintendent and co-owner of Victoria Park East Golf Club in Guelph, Ont., told the Guelph Mercury there can be positives and negatives to deep snow cover.

“My first thought is it is good for the water table. (Guelph’s water supply is highly sensitive to water-taking activities and needs constant replenishing) therefore, a lot of snow and a good snow melt would help.”

On the negative side, major damage to putting surfaces, especially older greens, can occur. Snow mould, a fungal turf disease is another problem.

One of the most dangerous things moving forward is how the snow and ice melts, Witherspoon added.

“If we get a lot of freeze-thaw cycles that’s what can really cause damage to the grass,” he said. “As things warm up in the spring, as temperatures start to rise, the grass will start to come out of dormancy. If we get melts and then hard freezes again, that’s when the damage can really occur.”