Jay Long, Golf Course Superintendent for four courses operated by the Mercer County (N.J.) Park Commission, ruled out resodding after seeing favorable results from turf plugs that he kept incubated in his office. “The winter didn’t hurt. If anything, it helped,” Long said.
Even as winter extended its cold grip on central New Jersey during the first days of “official spring,” Jay Long, Golf Course Superintendent for the Mercer County (N.J.) Park Commission, was able to watch grass grow and feel confident about the conditions that would emerge on the four golf courses that he oversees once warm weather finally arrives, The Trenton Times reported.
Long had actually been watching grass grow since early March, the Times reported—in the form of a half-dozen, 4½-by-4-inch plugs that he removed from putting greens at Mountain View Golf Course in Trenton, N.J. and the two Commision’s two Mercer Oaks courses in West Windsor, N.J., and then positioned on a windowsill in his office.
The plugs went from a straw-like brown in color to traces of green, Long reported to the Times, and that, he feels, is great news for local golfers, as a sign that no permanent damage will come from having the four county-operated courses, which also include Princeton Country Club in West Windsor, sit snow-covered and unplayable for 39 consecutive days in January and February.
“It looks like we don’t have any damage to our greens,” Long, who has been in his position since 1996, told the Times. “All the grass is coming out of its dormant period and it should be greening up over the next couple of weeks. The courses are in great shape.”
Some of the golfers who will play an estimated 100,000 rounds on the four county courses in 2014 have already been out to play now that the snow has melted, Long added, “and they were very complimentary of the greens. They said putts were rolling smooth.”
Long admitted that he wasn’t sure what to expect after such an extended winter of extreme cold and copious amounts of snow. But seeing the results of his simple “incubation test” convinced him that the turf would survive and he wouldn’t need to re-sod the mixture of bentgrass and Kentucky bluegrass that forms the greens at all four Mercer County courses, the Times reported.
“The winter didn’t hurt. If anything, it helped,” Long said. “We didn’t have as much winter play as we normally do. There was far less wear and tear on the courses.”
While the county paid the price with a reduced number of greens fees during the heart of the winter, the result will be healthy, plush courses for the start of the local golf season around Easter weekend, the Times reported.
“It was a double-edged sword,” Long said of the winter. “But the payoff will be in the spring. Everything out there is just ready to explode. I can see things getting greener every day.”
County crews gave the greens their first cut of the season earlier this week, the Times reported. “This winter it got cold, snowed and stayed cold,” Long said. “Snow acts as an insulator. The grass plants can breathe through snow.”
Long said ice is far more damaging to a golf course.
“One of the worst things is the thaw-freeze process,” Long said. “If it’s a mild winter and the ground thaws, the grass begins to grow. When it grows it absorbs water. If the weather turns cold again, that water freezes and damages the cells of the grass plant. But the consistently cold temperatures prevented winter freeze and the snow prevented desiccation [extreme dryness].”
An ice storm in February did do damage to trees lining the fairways at both the Mountain View and Princeton courses, Long told the Times.
“[Those courses] are each 50 years old, so our older pine trees took a beating,” he said. “But we sent crews out to clean up even in the snow. Everything is ready for the season.”
All four county courses had undergone a complete thaw and Mercer Oaks East and West, as well as Mountain View, were open for play as March entered its last full week, Long told the Times. Princeton Country Club remained closed as renovations to its clubhouse and paving of its parking lots were completed.
“We came out of the summer in great shape, had a great fall and the winter reduced some of the play so we expect a great season,” Long said. During the last week of March, he added, “We will begin to aerate our courses and begin the feeding program.
“I think the golfers are going to be very pleased,” he concluded.