West Hills


/ Greenside blog

Pre-Season Update

Hey folks,

For those returning, welcome back to the golf course. For those who have just joined welcome to West Hills!! 

This post will be about the current conditions on the golf course and some the changes that have occurred on the golf course over the winter. The 2022/2023 winter has been tough one on the golf course. The early ice development followed by record breaking rain and low temperature periods have created situations that are problematic.  When the ice sits on the surface of the turf for prolonged periods it can cause the turf suffocate and result in poor spring conditions. This is that type of winter. Of our 20 greens (including the two practice greens) all but two have suffered some form of scarring from the winter. While its still early in the spring, the trees have yet to bud, we can tell that there will need to be some repairs before the greens can be opened fully.   

Number 11, 12, 13, 17,7 and 3 really took it on the chin this winter, with a loss of about 60 percent of the turf on the green surfaces. Each of the these greens had a significant amount ice on the green when I took the snow off in the end of February. Here’s a photo of the ice. 

Roughly 2 to 3 inches of solid black ice on each green.
Roughly 2 to 3 inches of solid black ice on each green. This photo is from 16 on February 20.

A common factor with these greens is that they all have a north facing slopes. Because the sun is so low in the winter sky, and north slopes basically face away from it, the sun can’t fully melt the ice or snow on the surface. This results in re-freezing at night and thickening the of ice layers. Add rain to the situation and ice layers continue to thicken. To help remove the ice from the surfaces we removed the snow in late February and spread organic deicers to break up the ice. Right afterwards, we break through the ice and pull core samples from the greens. Those are placed in water in the shop and warmed up to see what’s going on. Most of the samples were weak and thin.

During the second week of April, right after the Masters (which by the way is awful timing) most of the two feet of snow that was on the course melted. The unseasonably warm temps that week went a long way to waking up the turf and breaking the winter dormancy period. This really gave us an idea of what was going on and what we had to deal with.  

A number 12 green with water damage and ATV tracks.
Number 12 April 17.  Pretty clear the low spots held water, also you can see the damage from an ATV that traveled the course late fall.
The number 13 green coming out of dormancy.
Number 13, not quite out of dormancy but the damage is evident already.
The number 7 green showing signs of damage.
Number 7, low areas showing signs of damage.

So on these greens there is a significant amount of winter damage. Once we are able to see the extent we put a plan in place to begin the repair process. The rest of the golf course faired better but was still touched by the long winter. 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 1, 15, 10, and 14 greens have very small areas of damage and will recover quickly. 16 and 18 are a little more severe and as a result are we are following out recover steps to return the condition to normal. 

The obvious question is how long will the recovery process take. That depends on a few factors, the weather being the most important. We have seeded, fertilized and topdressed the weak greens and have placed breathable tarps over those areas to increase temperatures. Aside from our efforts we also need a helping hand from mother nature. Seed begins to germinate at around ten degree, but doesn’t really effectively take off until the upper teens. The up and down temperatures we’ve been experiencing aren’t  helpful, but doesn’t cause issues with the efficacy of the seed. However it will slow its gemination rate. Warmer consistent temps are what we are after, and we haven’t seen this yet. 

Once the temperatures do get to where we want, things will move quickly and in short order the course will return to normal conditions.  

Here are some photos of the slightly damaged greens:

The number 15 green with small areas of damage.
Number 15 April 28th
The number 1 green with small areas of damage.
Number 1, April 28th
The number 8 green with small areas of damage.
Number 8, April 27
The number 9 green showing areas of slight damage.
Number 9, April 28
A tarped number 18 green.
Number 18, Tarped and waiting better weather.

On the subject of opening day, we haven’t been able to solidify a date as of yet. Please stay tuned to see how the course develops over the next few weeks.