The golf season is in full swing at the Niagara Parks courses. The historic Whirlpool Golf Course is open for play and in healthy shape. The Battlefield course, practice range, and 9-hole Chippawa course at Legends on the Niagara all opened in good condition thanks to favourable winter conditions. The Ussher’s Creek course at Legends, which is in top shape, will be open Friday April 21st.
Greens on all of the courses are being cut daily to a medium length for the early season to encourage a strong foundation and healthy putting surfaces before the warmer months arrive. All of the bunkers have been raked and edged, tee boxes are in excellent shape, and the courses have generally dried out quickly after heavy rains in April.
If you are thinking about your own lawn care, your first task should be to rake your lawn out using a sturdy leaf rake, not only to remove leaves, but to control thatch and dead grass blades that are waiting to become thatch. This is also the time to give your lawnmower a good tune-up, sharpen the blade, change the oil, install new spark plug(s) and clean or replace the filters. In the early spring you should be mowing your lawn at a height of 6 to 8 centimetres or 2.5 to 3 inches. And go easy on the fertilizer in the spring. Too much of a good thing will cause a flush of growth but at the expense of the roots. A light application around Victoria Day will keep the turf grass plants healthy and give them a nice green colour blast.
If you’ve noticed a lot of tree removal in your neighbourhood it is probably the Ash trees that are coming down. Throughout the winter months our golf course crews continued to remove Ash trees infested with the Emerald Ash Borer pest that has killed millions of Ash trees across southern Ontario and North America. The surprising result is that it has opened up new sightlines on many holes which have created interesting new vistas and opened many green surfaces to critical sunlight. At the same time, new tree plantings will continue throughout the golf properties and the entire Niagara Parks system.
Both Legends and Whirlpool are now heavily involved with Audubon Certification efforts. Legends received international recognition for environmental and wildlife habitat stewardship in 2014 and achieved designation as a “Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary”. Whirlpool is now going through the same process in which a course has to demonstrate that they are maintaining a high degree of environmental quality in Environmental Planning, Wildlife & Habitat Management, Chemical Use Reduction and Safety, Water Conservation, and Water Quality Management.
Finally, although the long-range forecast is calling for warmer days, frost delays in the early spring are still a possibility. It can be frustrating but it is important to understand why we need to wait. When turf is frosted, walking or riding on it can cause significant damage and potential death to the grass plant. As the sun rises, so do the atmospheric and surface temperatures, and the frost will eventually melt. In the early season the best thing to do is call ahead to the pro shop to confirm if there will be a delay in the start of play, and then grab a hot coffee, and enjoy the sunrise.