ELKO — The calendar may say it’s golfing season, but mother nature is making the sport difficult at Ruby View Golf Course.
The course is battling lingering effects of severe winter kill — the worst case experienced at Ruby View in more than 20 years.
“We’re hearing quite a few comments from golfers,” said Brian Mickels, golf maintenance superintendent. “We’re doing everything we can to get the course up and back to good shape.”
Desiccation hit much of Ruby View Golf Course’s fairways and tees — drying out dormant plants during the winter and freezing grass roots until plants died due to a lack of moisture.
“The whole golf course is affected in some way or another,” said Elko Recreation Director James Wiley.
The extensive damage sustained in this year’s unique winter is an amount Mickels has not seen in his 24 years as superintendent at Ruby View. This damage is not unique to Ruby View, as golf courses across the West are reporting similar damage due to the dry winter.
“The most severe problems are isolated mainly to the fairways and the tee boxes with the shorter cut grasses,” said Wiley.
Thirty acres of turf shows significant stress or damage — one quarter of total green space at the course. Wiley said every fairway and tee will need to be re-seeded.
With such an extensive amount of the playable course impacted by winter kill, Elko City Manager Curtis Calder approved an emergency purchase not to exceed $20,000 for the seed, fertilizer and other additives needed to revive the course.
Calder said he and staff believe the purchase to be a “critical item,” adding “the seed needs to be applied as soon as possible.”
There is still money in the budget for the golf course, and it has been allocated toward this purchase.
Winter kill is a concern each winter, but when snow is scarce, as it was last winter, the potential for winter kill becomes more serious.
“Any time you mix dry winters with cold winters, it’s a concern for any type of plant life,” said Wiley.
Most of the winter kill damage impacted the short cut grasses on the fairways and tees, with longer grass at the golf course and parks in the area not receiving as much damage.
The grasses on the fairways and tees are a mixture of perennial ryegrass and annual bluegrass. Due to their location on the course, these grasses are cut at half an inch, which is “very, very low for most grasses (and) is pretty much unique to golf courses,” Mickels said.
The higher the height of the cut, the deeper the roots are, and the more moisture can be held going into a dry winter.
Mickels and Wiley expect to see recovery of the grass once soil temperatures warm up and the re-seeding takes affect. Mickels estimated 90 percent total recovery by mid-June.
The course uses many methods to cure winter kill, including fertilizing, aerating and re-seeding.
“We’re going to take a pretty aggressive re-seeding approach,” said Wiley.
The tee-box areas have been aerated and seeded, and this week areas around the greens are the focus of work. Next week Mickels expects to begin seeding on the fairways.
“By the end of May, mid-May, you should see a dramatic difference in the fairways up there,” said Wiley. “The people up there have the expertise, the skill, the know-how and the budget to make it right, so it will be made right.”