A key to good greens in the summer -- patience now
It has been a long winter and golfers are battling cabin fever. They are anxious to play their first rounds of the year. Despite the yearnings of golfers to play and the calendar showing March, the snow on the ground and the weather tell us winter is not over. Early spring play has the potential to damage greens and put you in a position of playing "catch-up" all spring when trying to provide good putting surfaces.
Traffic on greens from early spring golf can cause the putting surface to become uneven due to footprints. The first few days of warm temperatures thaw the upper two inches of the soil profile while the soil below remains frozen. This means there is no place for the water to move that melted in the upper two inches of soil. Under these conditions, when golfers walk across the greens their steps displace the water and soil forcing the turfgrass to move, resulting in footprints and a bumpy putting surface. It is possible to shear roots when the soil and turfgrass is displaced further damaging the turfgrass. Restricting play is the only way to prevent this type of damage. Wait until the soil profile has thawed, water has percolated through the soil, and the surface is dry before allowing play.
Be patient with the first mowing of the year. Creeping bentgrass is notoriously slow to start growing in spring so don't force it to perform until temperatures warm up and the creeping bentgrass starts to green up and grow on its own. If you need to smooth the putting surface to appease golfers, consider rolling once or twice a week for the first couple of weeks of nice weather to buy the creeping bentgrass time to get growing. The rolling will smooth the surface and increase ball roll while protecting the creeping bentgrass.
-- Clark Throssell, Ph.D.