Winterkill Repairs To Begin

As we slowly move into spring in Northwest Arkansas, we are beginning to see some of the damage to dormant warm season turf areas caused by the colder than normal winter. Most of the “winterkill” damage which we can identify so far is on short cut turf such as tees, collars and approach areas. For more information about winterkill you can reference the February article, “What is Winterkill”, found on this site.

The first areas to be addressed during the next several weeks will be at Bella Vista Country Club. Red tee boxes 1, 3 and 4 and some collar repair around number 17 green will be repaired. In addition, Reed Holly and his staff at Kingswood will be working on the following tee boxes: White numbers 8 and 18 and Red numbers 8, 9, 14 and 15. In addition, areas on collars around 10 and 17 greens will also be repaired.

The work involves removal of the dead sod, incorporation of organic matter into the existing soil, surface releveled and new Latitude 36 sod installed. While the repaired areas are establishing they will be played as Ground Under Repair with tee blocks located either on another tee if available or in the fairway near the tee being repaired.

We had a very chilly winter and now a late spring, so we appreciate your understanding as we correct the damaged areas. We anticipate having additional areas on other courses and once these areas are identified, we will keep everyone informed of any additional work required.

Species Profile: Yellow Grub & Black Spot

Scientific Name:               Clinostomum marginatum & Neascus spp. (Genus)
Common Name(s):         Yellow Grub & Black Spot

Left: Yellow Grub; Right: Black Spot

Yellow grub Clinostomum marginatum is a parasitic flatworm, known as a fluke. It appears yellow when buried in flesh and can develop up to 0.25 inches in the flesh or on the fins of freshwater fish. In its second stage of life, the parasite has 3 eyespots located on the middle of the back in a triangle pattern.  They can look different depending on what type of habitat. Some yellow grub found in herons appeared to be smooth and thick.

Black spot is caused by another flatworm larvae in the Genus Neascus that develops in freshwater fish.  It develops a black cyst around 0.04 inches in diameter on the skin, fins, or flesh of the fish.

Yellow grub and black spot are both found in many freshwater fish, snails, and birds all across North America.

Parasites feed on the host by draining nutrients from blood and fluids or attacking specific organs or body parts for nutrients. These parasites are no exception. No fish are known to be resistant to these parasites, although fish generally tolerate them without issue.

The life cycles of yellow grub and black spot are very similar. The life cycle involves two transitional hosts (snail and fish) and a final host (bird). Eggs are first released by mature parasites living in birds by the mouth of the bird (yellow grub) or by bird droppings (black spot). The eggs hatch and free-swimming larvae pierce the foot of snails for further development. If they cannot find a snail host, death occurs in a few hours. Once they have further developed in the snail, they exit and become free-swimming again in search of a fish host. Once burrowed inside the fish, the parasite grows into yellow grubs, or form a black cyst in black spot. The parasites can live inside the fish for several years until the fish is eaten by a bird. The parasites mature in the final bird host, and the cycle repeats.

In general, infestations of these parasites do slight damage to adult fish, although, heavy infestations around the eyes can cause blindness. Juvenile fish are more susceptible to these parasites. Stress can lead to secondary infections causing death in a small percentage of individuals. These parasites are unable to infect humans and infected fish can be consumed without issue, so control is normally not necessary.

Special Notes:
In Bella Vista, both yellow grub and black spot can be found in fish, but they are relatively rare. Fish taken out of Tanyard Creek were found with black spot, and both parasites have been witnessed in our reservoirs. Many people find an infested fish unappealing to eat, but these parasites are not harmful to humans, and cooking an infested fish will kill any parasites. It is also easy to pick out yellow grub with tweezers or the point of a knife while cleaning.

Snail eating fish effectively break the life cycle of these parasites. Our large and abundant redear sunfish, or “shellcrackers” as they are commonly called, consume our snails and limit these parasites.

Covering the Greens – Scotsdale

Covering the Bermuda greens can be a hassle for both golfers and workers. It can take up to 8 hours and much effort to put covers on to be sure they will stay in place during windy conditions. It also takes a full day to uncover them correctly and properly store them in their protective bag. It is frustrating to see them covered when conditions are nice to play, but, the protection they provide is well worth the effort and wait. Covers protect the crown from severe frost and help keep soil temperatures up on the sand base which is very beneficial.

As spring approaches, we will see some rapid and dramatic changes in weather. As we all know, the weather in Arkansas can be very different from one day to the next. During the spring, as the greens at Scotsdale begin to break dormancy, covering becomes very important and necessary.  Even in the spring we can catch some hard freezes that will bring a heavy frost. A severe frost can slow down the green-up process of the Bermuda greens and lead to the plant being more vulnerable to drying out from sun and wind. It becomes very important to keep the greening-up leaf blades covered and free from hard frost to protect the crowns and live plant cells in the leaf blades. Covers will also keep from overly shocking the green turf further delaying the greening-up process.

As we move into the spring, our covering guidelines will have to be adjusted to protect the health of the greens. When temperatures are forecasted for below 30 degrees with a prolonged cold stretch, (into the next day or more) greens will need to be covered for protection. We will be monitoring the weather closely and providing updates as soon as possible.

Kyle Soller
Scotsdale Superintendent

Species Profile: Great Blue Heron

Scientific Name: Ardea herodias
Common Name(s): Great Blue Heron


Photo by Dustie Meads

The great blue heron (Ardea Herodias) is the largest North American heron. It can easily be distinguished from the tricolored heron (Egretta tricolor) by its larger size and darker belly. The massive size of the great blue heron makes it easily distinguishable from the reddish egret (Egretta rufescens) and the little blue heron (Egretta caerulea). From head to tail, the great blue heron ranges from 36-54 in. Its wingspan is 66-79 in.; height is 45-54 in.; weight is 4-8 lbs; and stride of 9 in. Great blue herons are huge, long-legged, long-necked waders. They usually hold their neck in an “S” shape at rest and at flight, and they have a long, thick, yellow tipped bill. Adults have a white face with black extending from the eye to beyond the back of the head. The neck of adults is brownish with a black-bordered white stripe down the center and can have shaggy feathers. Two of the three front toes are generally closer together, with small talons on both the front and back toes. The yellow bill and grayish legs become orange briefly at the start of breeding season. Young great blue herons lack shaggy neck feathers and black marking that extends from the eye.

The great blue is found throughout much of the United States year-round, and in parts of Canada during the summer months. In winter, great blue herons can be found in most all of Mexico and as far south as the Caribbean to South America. Great blue herons are year-round residents in the southern United States and the lower Pacific coast. However, some individual birds may stay through cold winters in northern areas, if fish-bearing waters do not freeze over.

The great blue heron can adapt to almost any habitat in its range. It can be found in fresh and saltwater marshes, swamps, flooded areas, lakes, or shorelines. It may be seen in urban areas as long as there are water bodies that support fish. They tend to stay near water bodies, although they can sometimes be seen flying over highland areas. Except when breeding, great blue herons defend their feeding territories from other herons with intense displays, approaching intruders with their head thrown back, wings outstretched, and bill pointed upward.

Breeding occurs from December (warmer climates, to March, (colder climates) in colonies that are called a heronry. The size of the colonies can be huge, averaging 160 nests. Great blue herons make nests in trees that are usually close to ideal feeding spots. Any type of tree can be used, but when trees are not available, they may nest on the ground, on artificial platforms, on beaver mounds, or duck blinds. Nests are made out of sticks and are often reused for many years. Great blue herons mate with one partner for a breeding season, but usually choose new mates each year. Males arrive at the colonies before the females, choose a nest, and then court females as they pass through. Females lay 3-6 pale blue eggs at two-day intervals. Eggs are generally laid from March-April and are incubated around one month by both the males and females. They hatch over a period of several days. Both parents feed the young by regurgitating. Parents eat up to 4 times more when they are feeding chicks. At 45 days, the chicks are nearly fully grown. It takes 60 days for chicks to get their flying feathers. After their first flight, the young return to the nest where they are fed by their parents for another 3 weeks. They gradually disperse away from their nests and parents. As with humans, fishing is a learned art. It takes up to two months for the young to approach the fishing efficiency of adults.

Great blue herons consume primarily small fish, though they are also known to feed on shrimp, crabs, aquatic insects, rodents, reptiles, and amphibians. The prey consumed depends on accessibility and quantity. Herons find their food by sight, stalk their prey, and swallow it whole. They normally feed alone, foraging while standing still in water or dropping from flight, or from a perch into water. Sometimes they feed in loose flocks to spot schools of fish easier. Great blue herons prefer shallower waters around 20 in. deep. They feed both night and day, but popular times are around dawn and dusk. The most common feeding method is wading and spearing fish with their sharp bill. Feeding habits can be variable as the great blue heron adapts to different environments easily.

Great blue herons have several calls for different situations. They are most vocal on breeding grounds, giving a “landing call” when they arrive at the nest to greet their partner. They make croaking or honking calls as well that can be a reaction to a disturbance or threat. Chicks will give a call within minutes of hatching and when they are hungry.

Special Notes:
Here in Bella Vista, great blue herons can be seen on all lakes year-round. Many birdwatchers love to watch herons in their natural habitats. The herons are usually by the shoreline and if spooked will probably give a honking or croaking call and fly to a different part of the lake. A local ‘resident’ can be found hanging around the heated fishing dock on Lake Avalon that does not get spooked easily. He is a known thief, so protect your catch. In fact, this bird was observed attempting to consume a 3 pound largemouth bass.

What is Winterkill?

It’s been about 7 years since we have had more than minimal reason for concern about turf injury and loss that can occur because of a severe winter. This year’s early cold snap, intermittent periods of brutally cold for this area (negative numbers for lows) and below normal rainfall resulting in dry conditions in the fall and early winter gives cause to review “winterkill” potential and the wide range of factors involved. I have referenced numerous sources to write this article including the USGA and fellow golf course superintendents.

Winterkill is an easy problem to define, difficult to fully understand and impossible to completely prevent. Simply put, winterkill occurs in both cool and warm season turf when turf dies during winter. However, understanding the mechanisms that cause winterkill, creating effective prevention strategies to minimize damage and formulating effective recovery programs is complex.

What causes winterkill? Winterkill is a catch-all term describing winter injury to turfgrass that occurs through a variety of mechanisms such as ice suffocation, crown hydration, low-temperature injury and desiccation. In addition, soil types also can increase the potential for injury. Sandy soils are more prone to winterkill damage than heavy soils such as loam or clay. Identifying the exact cause of winterkill is difficult because winterkill may be caused by one mechanism or could result from a combination of mechanisms that act simultaneously or occur multiple times during winter. Additionally, turfgrass species have different tolerances to winter injury, even within the same general turf type such as bermudagrass.

Can winterkill be prevented? Although there are numerous maintenance practices that can reduce chances of it happening, no silver bullet has been found. Some of the common strategies we utilized on our courses include proper fall fertilization programs, raising mowing heights in the fall, reducing shade, improving drainage, reducing completion for moisture caused by tree roots, relieving compaction through an aeration program, monitoring and improving moisture retention and penetration utilizing various products.

In addition, USGA research has led to the development of colder tolerant Bermuda varieties such as Latitude 36 Bermuda. This variety was developed at Oklahoma State University and has shown in the field to be the best winter hardy improved bermudagrass type available on the market today. This is the turf variety used in both collar projects completed over the past two years on our courses at Scotsdale and Highlands.

Regarding winterkill concerns on our ultradwarf bermuda greens at Brittany and Scotsdale, it is critical we utilize many of the same programs mentioned above, especially the ones related to good fall fertility and moisture. In addition, we utilize covers based on the protocols recommended by the plant breeder. These procedures are listed on the web site for your convenience. When significant cold is experienced in early winter such as this year, the tendency for winterkill goes up. These early winter freezes are a problem because the mounds and LDS (Localized Dry Spot) areas tend to be less hydrated and thus more susceptible to winter damage. Late hard freezes frequently happen when bermudagrass root and rhizome health is at its worst, again magnified by the lack of hydration. This is the reason we have been on the side of caution when making decisions to cover or uncover our ultradwarf greens. We monitor moisture daily using a moisture meter and water accordingly along with utilizing a wetting agent program a minimum of every 30 days. Adequate moisture in the soil buffers temperature fluxuations and reduces the tendency for temperatures to drop as quickly in profile and reducing risk of winterkill damage.

Winterkill doesn’t occur in our part of the world every winter, but it does occur, and this year’s weather makes it a possibility. Depending on how severe, it can impact playing conditions for weeks. We have a plan of attack to correct winterkill should it happen so let’s hope we get a little cooperation from mother nature to limit the severity and duration or our remaining winter season.

Aeration to Begin on Dogwood and Kingswood Courses

The POA’s golf maintenance crews will begin drill and fill aeration in March on the Dogwood and Kingswood Courses.

The machine enables crews to drill a 10-inch deep hole and simultaneously backfill with sand. The advantage to this process is that, with time, the green will begin to develop the capability to move water through the profile. The process will help increase oxygen in the root zone and eventually create healthier green surfaces.

“This is only part of our management plan, along with continued use of conventional aeration, to improve the green surfaces on these two golf courses,” Golf Maintenance Manager Keith Ihms, CGCS said.

“The drill and fill machine is very slow and will take a number of days to complete an 18-hole course,” Ihms said. “We will close the course that we are working on to complete the task in an efficient and timely manner.”

The greens will be playable after the drill and fill process; however, as with any type of aeration, it will take time to fully recover. For this reason, we have scheduled the drill and fill project several weeks prior to our convention aeration on the other courses, scheduled to begin at Berksdale the 17th of April. This will ensure a minimum of 3 courses available for play that are not impacted by either aeration program.

The schedule for Drill and Fill is:

  • March 5th – 11th – Dogwood Golf Course
  • March 19th – 25th – Kingswood Golf Course

The schedule for conventional green aeration is:

  • April 17th & 18th – Berksdale Golf Course
  • April 23rd & 24th – Bella Vista Country Club Golf Course
  • April 24th & 25th – Highlands Golf Course

Riparian Improvement at Berksdale

We continue to enhance the stewardship of Berksdale’s assets as we progress toward our Audubon International certification.  We took advantage of the fabulous weather on February 15th to expand creek bank stabilization along #2 fairway.  In 2010, the embankment adjacent to the forward tees was graded, rocked, and planted with red twig dogwood cuttings.  This was accomplished with guidance from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.  The planting has thrived and we were able to take new cuttings while rejuvenating it.

We took approximately 400 cuttings and placed them along the mow line adjacent to the creek, from #2 forward tee to #2 approach.  Survival rate for these could be between 10-30%, weather dependent. Red twig dogwood (Cornus sericea) is a North American native with a spreading habit helpful for erosion mitigation; the flowers and fruits attract butterflies and birds.  The stem color is especially noticeable in winter. For more information see,, or contact Assistant Superintendent Wendy Barnes at

Bella Vista CC Tee Time Schedule

With the clubhouse renovations ending soon, we are excited to put the finishing touches on a “restart” to Bella Vista Country Club. One of these touches is to enhance the playability and consistency of the golfing conditions at the Country Club Course. We will be making some changes to the fairways which will enhance the golf experience. Among these changes will be widening some landing zones and contouring around bunkers and knolls, to bring back the architectural design that was originally intended at BVCC. This will not only give BVCC great character, but also, improve playability, fairness, and pace of play.

In 2018, BVCC will primarily have tee times on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays as was voted on by the Golf Joint Advisory Committee on February 14, 2018.  Limiting the number of shotguns on these days will allow the maintenance team the time needed to make changes to restore the course to it’s original and excellent design. This will create consistent and fair playing conditions, while also improving the pace of play.  The course will remain open for various formats of play all other days.

Thank you!

Bella Vista Cart Use Policy

General Annual Golf Green Fee Members are required to purchase an accompanying Seat Lease or register a Private Cart. A property owner can purchase a Seat Lease or register a Private Cart, yet not be an Annual Golf Green Fee Member. A Seat Lease holder or Private Cart Registrant may suspend their lease or registration […]