Ask Thad: How do you handle winter play in the snowy Northeast?

By |  April 24, 2023 0 Comments
(Graphic: Golfdom Staff)

(Graphic: Golfdom Staff)

How do you handle winter play in the snowy Northeast?

— Scott Winkleman, Greenskeeper, Foxfire GC, Baldwinsville, N.Y.

Terry Hills is a public course with ties to our community, but make no mistake, we are a business and a business exists to make money. If there’s no snow on the ground, we are open for play.

The Buffalo area is known for snow, but we probably don’t get as much as you might think. We’ve had a few significant storms this season, but they melted off quickly. Still, winter can be a challenge. The days are shorter and the low sun angles make for a different experience than in the summer for the player and superintendent alike.

We pull all our tee markers and let our golfers choose what tee they want to use to start the hole. I left one set of tees out for winter and everyone used them. If you want concentrated wear instead of distributed wear, leave a few out.

We use our normal greens. Crazy right? We have a full set of winter flags and flagsticks. I cut the pin on the very front of every green for several reasons: it reduces traffic on the green; shortens the length of the course and reduces ball marks.

Our golfers play on frost. There, I said it! Early fall and late spring frosts, when the grass is succulent and actively growing are a concern, but after 15 years here, I’ve never seen any major damage.

This goes against everything I’ve learned. I know there is the potential of root shear with the top inch unfreezing and the rest of the playing surface remaining frozen but once again, I’ve never seen any evidence that this has ever occurred.

The course will never be confused with what it looks like in the peak summer months. The No. 1 comment we get is, “I’m just glad to be out!”

Got a question for Thad? Tweet to @TerryHillsMaint and @Golfdom or email Thad at

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