Greener golf days ahead

Fallen trees cause some cleanup expense, but the grass is intact

The pro golf season opened in Hawaii last week, with the PGA Tour teeing off on Maui as trade winds greeted the golfers and sunshine tanned their arms and faces.

Meanwhile, in the Portland area, course operators were saying thank goodness for the snow.

Without snow coming first, last week's ice storm and freezing temperatures would have hit the fairways and greens. And the extended cold could have caused lasting damage to the grass.

The snow provided insulation. When play resumes Ñ some courses say they'll be open this weekend Ñthe ground will be soggy and muddy, but the grass will still be healthy.

The snow 'serves as a blanket and keeps the ground underneath warm,' says Scott Krieger, head pro and general manager at Broadmoor Golf Course. 'The week before, when it got down to 20, you could start to see the grass turn. Then it snowed' and stopped the freeze damage.

'The worst that can happen is what happened back in 1989 Ñan extended period of cold weather and no snow cover,' says George Walker, Glendoveer's golf course superintendent. 'It dries out the greens, and they get desiccated and they die, which isn't good in the dead of winter because it doesn't grow back.'

It didn't happen, 'but when you get a snow blanket, you're susceptible to a moss problem,' says Tom Maletis, co-owner of Langdon Farms. 'Whenever the natural light gets blocked out, it gets spongy and all sorts of things can grow once it dries up. Fortunately, we had applied a big moss treatment only two days before' the storm hit.

The most damage suffered at courses seems to be from falling limbs, which detached from trees under the weight of freezing rain or from wicked winds. At Columbia Edgewater Country Club, course superintendent Gordon Kiyokawa says the damage will be manageable Ñ three or four fallen trees and many limbs.

It'll cost around $15,000, to clean up, but nothing compared to the $50,000 spent after the storms and flooding of 1996-97, Kiyokawa says.

Rose City Golf Course got 6 inches of snow and 2 inches of ice, and the course and clubhouse sat vacant Ñ workers won't assess damage until this week.

Krieger says that because Broadmoor's clubhouse sits on a hill above the course, nobody had trekked to assess the damage until after the storm. Too icy. The only people on the course were riding sleds.

'One guy went down the hill in his truck and put a nice rut in the first fairway,' Krieger says.

Damage? 'We're always going to get trees and branches down,' he says. 'The big ice storm a couple of years ago was actually a natural pruning of the trees.'

One thing is for sure, Maletis says: 'I can get you a tee time.'

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