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Coldest Winter in a Long Time

The temperatures continue to remain cold in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast, but it is the cold temperatures in the UK that is a creating a cause for concern for our friends across the pond.  In the past few months, I have been included on some emails from select golf courses in Scotland where unusually cold temperatures and accumulations of snow and/or ice on greens is worrying a few greenkeepers.

From a recent article in the Telegraph (image from
They predicted no let up in the freezing snap until at least mid-January, with snow, ice and severe frosts dominating.

And the likelihood is that the second half of the month will be even colder.

Weather patterns were more like those in the late 1970s, experts said, while Met Office figures released on Monday are expected to show that the country is experiencing the coldest winter for up to 25 years. 
Read full story here...

Pictured below is one of the greens at Loch Lomond (home of the Scottish Open) just a few weeks back.  David Cole (Head Greenkeeper) was happy with the look of his greens when he left for the BTME Conference in Harrogate, England but was unpleasantly surprised by their color when he returned at the end of the week. In a matter of a few day (once the ice melted), the greens turned from green to brown and the alerts were up.  After sending samples out to Kate Entwhistle of The Turf Disease Centre, it appears that the damage is likely superficial and the crowns of the plant appear to be healthy...for now it is just a waiting game.

Prior to the emails from Mr. Cole, snow and ice covered many other greens throughout Northern Scotland including the likes of St. Andrews and other surrounding golf courses. Another course that had experienced some snow cover and accumulated ice was Lough Erne in Northern Ireland. Director of Golf Course Operations Andy Campbell offered some suggestions to his Greenkeepers for removing the ice. Since granulated seaweed products are so prevalent in the region, he recommended their application over the ice and within a few hours the ice was melted.  This is a similar technique used by some in the US in which an organic fertilizer (Milorganite or similar) or black sand has been used to melt ice on putting greens.

Aside from the worries about winter injury to green dominated by Poa annua (annual meadowgrass or annual bluegrass), others worry about the decreased income from the lack of golf. Despite the region's weather being unpredictable at this time of year, many golf outing and bookings were made well in advance of the current weather.  Decreased income in an already slow economy will only add insult to injury.

For those of you in a similar predicament OR for any of you from the Northeastern US who can offer any bits of advice for dealing with this weather, please leave your comments below.  Our friends from across the pond would be very appreciative!

For your reading pleasure, I have compiled a series of links that may be useful on the topic:

Northeast Winter Injury Initiative
Winter Injury on Annual Bluegrass (from Turfgrass Trends)
Sports Turf Q&A on Winter Injury
Ice Damage/Freeze Smothering (Ohio State podcast)

And just to leave you with something to watch, I included this video of Billy McMillam who I met at the BTME Conference last month.  Billy talks about his family of greenkeepers (literally). It was great to meet him and talk turf, pints, and just the business. (Video from GlobalTurfNetwork)

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