With beautiful changing fall colors and comfortable temperatures, fall can be one of the more magical times to get out on the golf course. However, if you’re in the Midwest, it also signals the beginning of the end of the season.
So, when should you start winterizing your course and shut the doors?
Here’s your guide to help you prepare for the winter months, time out your end-of-season tasks to maximize the playing season, and set yourself up for success when you reopen in the spring.
Your Weather Window
Predicting winter weather across the Midwest isn’t always easy. Snow and cold can arrive as soon as early October, or hold off until mid-November. Plus, one day can be nearly 80 degrees and then swing to freezing temperatures the next day. Keeping an eye on the weather each season is key to knowing when to start prepping your course for the winter.
And if a surprise snowstorm hits, it helps to be prepared with emergency coverings and a plan, ensuring your course isn’t compromised or damaged.
While the weather can be unpredictable, most golf courses across the Midwest close their doors near the end of October, maximizing the playing season for golfers while protecting the greens and fairways from cold weather damage.
However, you don’t want to wait until the end of October to start prepping your course for the winter months.
Winterizing Your Course
As early as September typically marks the beginning of when you should start winterizing your course. The cooler temperatures and shorter daylight hours impact your greens and the ability of your turf and grass to grow and recover from general usage and any cold snaps or frost.
Preparing your course for winter can take anywhere from four to six weeks. From fertilizing and aerating to prepping your irrigation system and covering the greens, you’ll want to take an inventory of all the tasks you need to complete for the winter months. Then, you'll be able to better time your end-of-season projects with the weather.
To help you plan, here are a few best practices for keeping your course healthy throughout the winter. So come opening day in spring, you won’t have to deal with as much damage control and can get your course up and running for players.
Early fall is ideal to start prepping your turf with nitrogen fertilizer. As the days become shorter and cooler, your grass begins to slow growth, preparing itself for dormancy during winter. Nitrogen fertilizer supports your turf, giving it the right components to survive winter and promote regrowth during spring.
Best done in the early or late fall, aerate turf areas that receive heavy foot traffic and usage. Aerification enables root systems to grow stronger, deeper, and more densely. The process also promotes firmness and improves playability.
While you can start the aeration process when the course is open, if you wait until late October or after the course closes, you can take some pressure off of aerating in early spring.
You want to remove as much water as possible from your irrigation system. First, drain the water from the pipes before using an air compressor to clear the lines. With hundreds of sprinkler heads and miles of pipe, this entire process can take a few days.
When the snow starts to melt come spring, you might notice pink or gray spots or simply dead grass. This is snow mold. While your turf can recover, treating your course with fungicide during the fall can help prevent snow mold and keep your greens healthy through the spring.
Protect Your Greens
Protect your greens and tee boxes from frost, snow, and ice, by covering them with a tarp or straw. Frost and ice can cause severe damage. If not protected, your greens and tee boxes can become bruised and muddy, taking far longer to recover in the spring.
Consider also placing sandbags around areas prone to collecting water. Harsh freeze and thaw cycles can cause excess standing water that can harm your turf.
Take Advantage of Winter
While winter is a great time to focus on maintenance projects like repairing golf carts and restocking your pro shop, it’s also an opportunity to clear out old products with end-of-year sales. If your clubhouse remains open during winter, offer players year-round golf with indoor golf simulators and other training tools to keep guests coming in even during the off-season.
Timing out the weather can be a challenge, but with an end-of-season plan in place, you’ll be able to optimize your course, minimizing turf damage, reducing time and money spent on repairs, and getting a jump on the next season.