Search results

Winter Damage in Chicago by Brian Thomson

April 13, 2010

Here is a post from Brian Thomson, Superintendent of Biltmore CC, north of Chicago concerning damage from this past winter.

Biltmore CC

Barrington, Ill. (North of Chicago)

Winter of 2009-10

Winter Kill / Ice Damage

Notes by Brian Thomson, Superintendent.

During the winter of 2009-10 we had the longest period of ice cover I have seen in 15 years. In the month of December we received 2.12” of rain, most of which fell Dec 25-26 (1.45”). Soils temps at a 2” depth were frozen starting Dec 19th and did not thaw until March 12th – 85 days later. During that time, ice covered all of our low greens at a depth of 2-4”.

On Feb 18th (~60 days after soils were frozen) we began removing the snow from 9 greens and breaking the ice up on 5 of those greens using a Toro aerifier with solid star tines. The tines did go into the surface of the green and completely broke the ice. The ice was not removed, but left in place to help protect the turf, should the weather turn cold.

A noticeable rotten egg smell came from the greens as they were being aerified. After aerification we did have some sunny, warm days which melted some of the ice. Ice did reform and more snow fell, which lasted until the first week of March.

The greens that had the most ice are push up style greens, in the lowest portion of the course, on peat.

Greens that we removed snow and broke Ice:

Green #1 – Most damage, in low lying areas, all Poa effected (see picture of bent plug). This is a problem green which we have experienced winter kill before in low lying areas, never to this extent. Poor internal drainage and little, to no surface drainage. Green has several “pockets” with no surface drainage. Built on peat (20-30’ thick). Drains were installed to the low areas of the green a few years ago. The grass above these lines survived, however grass just a few feet from the drain lines died.

Green #4- Some damage – surface water flow areas affected. Ice was not as thick as #1, #8, #10, and #13. This green is built on clay (not peat). Have had some areas of damage in the past.

Green #8- very small areas of damage. A newer green (rebuilt ~20 years ago). Does have pretty good internal drainage, however surface drainage is poor. Did have considerable amount of ice. Green is on peat.

Green #10 and #13- Older greens on peat. Both have poor internal drainage and poor surface drainage. Damage was limited to “pockets” on green and areas are recovering quickly. Typically see damage each year on these greens. Did install drainage to the low areas a few years ago.

Removed snow only from the following – all are built on clay, push up greens. Very little ice after snow was removed (less than 1”).

Green #4 and #5- small areas of damage (low areas). Poor internal drainage and fair surface drainage.

Green #9 and #17 – no damage. Good internal drainage and good surface drainage. Greens look very good at this time.



I think good surface and internal drainage is key. I do think some damage is caused by aerification, however in our case I think we could have had more damage if we had not broken the ice and opened the greens up to release the gas accumulation occurring under the ice – no proof of this. All of the damage was in low areas and surface drainage ways, with only Poa affected. Removing snow showed no positive or negative results compared to greens where no snow was removed.

There is a post on youtube of the ice breaking process. It is posted at: