There are a number of trees that have been tagged throughout the golf course that are being considered for removal. Many of them are large oaks and hickory trees that prevent valuable sunlight from reaching important playing surfaces. The trees were tagged to initiate a discussion so that the Golf Long Range and Green Committees could examine the trees that impact growing environments and playability of the golf course. Once the committees have reviewed the marked trees, we can develop a schedule and a budget for the work.
We have a number of greens that are surrounded by trees, hills and rocks, especially holes 3, 4, 5, and 13. While specimen trees can provide character and strategic interest on a golf course, trees should not be located around greens, tees and near fairways where they will be in direct competition for sunlight, water, and nutrients . Pine Orchard has a few trees that could be considered specimens, but many are lost among less desirable pines and spruces that were planted more for their rapid growth rate rather than for the value of their mature size and form. Many of the hardwood trees surrounding the greens were much smaller when the course was originally carved out of the landscape, and slowly grew without attracting much attention. Over many years they have grown to the point that their negative impacts on the playing surfaces outweigh their value as a mature tree.
I thought I would take a moment to share an explanation of the recommendations, and why certain trees are a higher priority than others. The most important consideration is sunlight. Everyone knows that the energy from the sun provides plants with energy and helps them grow. Few people understand that turf generally requires eight hours of direct sunlight to thrive, and that plants utilize the energy most efficiently in the morning when the when the air temperature falls within an ideal range. Above a certain temperature, chemical reactions that drive the plants’ metabolism begin to slow down, and the turf can not utilize the sun’s energy as well. Morning sun also helps reduce disease pressure by drying the surface, and driving air circulation by warming the air just above the ground, which is displaced by heavier cool air from above. Trees that are located to the northeast and east of playing surfaces block the morning sun, and therefore reduce the ability of the turf to convert the sun rays into energy that can be used for growth and recovery.
After sunlight, the second most important consideration is root competition. The roots that supply trees with water and nutrients are primarily found in the top twelve inches of the soil, and extend approximately twice as far as the drip line of the tree. When trees are located close to greens, their roots often extend half way across the playing surface. As soil temperatures rise due to the heat of the summer, the roots on the turf begin to decline making it more difficult to compete with the much larger trees. Pruning the tree roots provides temporary relief from competition, but over time this process results in a more vigorous root system for the trees, and the benefits are rather short lived. The solution is to remove trees that are located less than twice as far from a green than the width of the canopy.
The majority of the trees that have been tagged this fall are located on holes 3, 5, and 13, our most challenging growing environments. For many years there were many more trees surrounding these greens, and many have already been removed. The condition of the turf has improved as a result of the additional sunlight, so some may feel that there is no reason to take more. After watching these greens struggle through the heat of summer and the rigors of our maintenance programs, it has become clear to me that we need to minimize the amount of shade and root competition so that we realize the maximum benefit of our cultural and fertility programs.
On the 3rd hole, the removal of the trees would eliminate shadows during the mid morning and late afternoon, and would eliminate the significant mess that the trees make in the approach. The fifth hole has so many strikes against it that any additional sunlight and air movement will help, especially since the left side lies in the shadow of the rock formation. The trees surrounding the thirteenth green have roots under close to 50% of the green surface. The left side of the green has three strikes against it; it slopes to the north which affects light intensity, it serves as the walk on/off, and has to compete with roots from mature oak trees on all sides. The trees on the hillside block the morning sun, especially in the spring and fall when the sun angle is much lower.
I am certain that some, if not all of these recommendations will be unpopular, but I assure you they have been well thought out and researched. I have no expectation that all of this work will be completed at once, but we should at least begin the conversation and prioritize which trees should be removed first, and how aggressive we need to be to address these issues. Once we have established priorities we can develop a timeline and a budget for the work.
I understand the emotional attachment that is often associated with mature trees, but I have a better understanding of what it takes to maintain high quality turf and meet the expectations of modern golfers. Trees can provide a lot of character to a golf course, but this usually happens when the tree stands alone adjacent to the landing area in a fairway, and this description fits none of the trees that are tagged.