Area Golf Courses Still Dealing With Harsh Winter

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By Nick Hausen

CARTERVILLE --  This year, the fairways at Crab Orchard Golf Course don't quite look the same.

"We probably lost between five and seven acres of warm-season turf," explained Crab Orchard Golf Course superintendent Shannon Watson.

An unusually cold winter with sub-zero nights, strong winds, and ice was too much for grasses that thrive in warm, humid climates.

"Mostly Bermuda was affected, due to its growing points being above ground," said Watson. "Where it tacks down, it grows by stoloniferous growth. So it was more or less open to the elements."

Watson and his crew have been hard at work sodding Zoysia grass around the greens and using a process called sprigging to revitalize the fairways.

"We're actually taking vegetative stems out and stolons and some rye zones, and basically, we collect those, and then we go out and spread it out over prepared areas, like we were strawing," explained Watson. "Then we take a straw crimper and we run over it and knit it into the ground."

Nearly all golf courses in southern Illinois are seeing the same result from the harsh conditions.

"Round numbers look down, but it's all across the area," said Kokopelli Golf Course superintendent Josh Gaebee.

Kokopelli hopes golfers will remain patient as they begin the repairs over the next few weeks. The process may take the rest of the summer.

"Bermuda can be anywhere from 30 to 45 days and you can have full coverage," explained Gaebee. "Zoysia take a little bit longer."

Time that's usually spent simply keeping up with basic maintenance must now be focused solving this problem.

"There will be a light at the end of the tunnel, probably sometime in the middle of August," said Watson.

Courses outside southern Illinois are seeing similar problems. Watson says some Chicago courses lost significant amounts of bent grass after the brutal winter.

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