I really should have wrote about this about two months ago. But such is the way of things.
Whether the winter of 2013/2014 was one of below average temperatures or if it was a return to what winter conditions should actually be in the southeast is debatable. What is not debatable however, is the negative impact that the winter had on warm-season turfgrass– especially on golf courses.
Of all the winter kill I have seen on golf courses this spring there is only two factor that jumps out at me with respect to where winter-kill occurred– Shade and low mowing height. Bermudagrass fairway and greens that were in 90 to 100% shade throughout the winter were the areas that were most likely to not green up in the spring, displaying typical winter kill symptoms.
The question remains — was it the winter shade or was it the shade in spring/summer/fall that did not allow the turfgrass stand to develop adequate root system/rhizome-stolon density/carbohydrate pools to survive the winter? Probably a little bit of both. Certainly winter shade areas are going to be colder for longer during the day, preventing the soil from thawing or remaining frozen longer during the day. Shade during the growing season would put the turfgrass in a weakened state with no buffer for survival during the winter.
The low mowing heights on greens and fairways just exacerbates the potential for winter kill because the root/rhizome/stolon system simply does not develop to the extent that higher mowing heights do.
One other note: I have heard a lot of comments out of North Carolina that TifGrand bermudagrass has not faired well following this winter. TifGrand is the best shade tolerant bermudagrass I have ever seen. Thus it has spread rapidly around the southeast and is being planted in shaded or semi-shaded areas. From what I have heard TifGrand planted in North Carolina in shaded areas was wiped out. Perhaps someone has a comment on this? I admit this is only from one source. It may not be the case with all TifGrand in North Carolina.