The unseasonably mild weather in Central Oregon now may be beneficial for the golf course next spring
Josh Knapp remembers distinctly what the weather was like last October when Aspen Lakes hosted the annual meeting of the Oregon Golf Course Owners Association. The high was in the low 40s and the golf course was swamped with fog, a cold but not altogether surprising fall day.
Fast forward a year to Wednesday, Oct. 14, and the story was far different when Aspen Lakes hosted the Owners Association meeting. The temperature topped out in the high 70s and not a single cloud was in the sky.
Such a day has been the norm this fall. Temperatures have consistently hovered above the average for this time of year, and hardly a drop of rain has fallen.
The conditions have been so summer-like that the greens that were recently aerified are already returning to top-notch condition well ahead of schedule.
“Those holes that we have, they are pretty much healed up,” Knapp says. “They have healed pretty quick. And the warm weather has a lot to do with it.”
That is great news for any golfer who wants to extend the golf season.
Great weather, great conditions
Perhaps the most shocking byproduct of the warm weather: Aspen Lakes has experienced just two frost delays so far this fall. That is just a fraction of what would be considered ordinary during the fall.
Naturally, a stretch of warm weather like this is bound to have a positive effect on the golf course.
“These are the best course conditions I’ve seen,” Knapp says. “I would say the conditions right now are just as good as they were in the summer time, which for this late in October in Central Oregon is pretty rare.”
Typically this time of year the turf is beginning to brown from dormancy. The ground has usually already hardened from icy overnight temperatures. And the irrigation system has already been shut down.
Instead, this year the turf is still almost uniformly green, even if Knapp and his staff are only irrigating sporadically. (Morning dew has acted like a natural irrigator, Knapp says.)
The key is that the bentgrass turf actually thrives in mild conditions like Central Oregon has been experiencing.
“It’s loving this warmer weather,” Knapp says of the bentgrass. “Yet it is still cool enough to where it doesn’t need a lot of water to keep it green.”
Even a little rain, which is forecasted for Saturday, should not slow the grass down as long as the highs are still moderate and lows still above freezing.
“With bentgrass, it will keep growing a little bit as long as we don’t get one of those really hard frosts for consecutive days,” Knapp says. “If you get those four or five days of hard frost (where temperatures drop into the mid-20s), you’ll see bentgrass start to change color and get a little shaggier as it tries to harden up for winter.”
Good news for next year
All this sets the stage for a great spring in 2016. The warmer weather has allowed the bentgrass to strengthen its roots ahead of winter.
Knapp took a core sample earlier this week and discovered that the roots are some 4.5 to 5 inches deep, significantly longer than expected. Stronger roots will help the grass handle the cold temperatures that are inevitable this winter.
In addition, Knapp and his crew will likely be able to apply fungicide later, which will help extend its usefulness into February instead of the more typical January. That should ease disease pressure in February and March, Knapp adds.
“Right now in this warm weather it is really good to try to get the grass to push more roots before it shuts itself off,” Knapp explains. “It is going to help us harden up for winter a lot better. And it is actually going to push the disease period back.”
“I feel like our turf will just take off in spring like it was summer time again.
Of course, in Central Oregon all this can change with one dose of winter.
Until that happens, though, Knapp will try to make the best use of the weather to get Aspen Lakes in the top condition possible for the rest of this season and into next spring.
“There is no real playbook on it,” Knapp says. “It can switch on you in a matter of a couple of days.”