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Finding the Griswold Family Christmas Tree, USGA Regional Update

Published on 12/15/2022
Elliott L. Dowling, senior consulting agronomist, Northeast Region

The Sun Seeker app is a great tool to show the path of the sun and identify individual trees for removal. 

Ask just about any superintendent what they plan to do this winter and the number one answer is likely, take some much-needed rest – the second answer is probably tree removal. Thankfully, superintendents aren’t as unprepared or indecisive as Clark Griswold when it comes to cutting down a tree during the holidays either. Winter is the perfect time for tree removal because grass doesn’t grow much, meaning that employees are liberated from their mowing duties and their efforts can be redirected to tree removal or cleanup.

There are several methods to identify trees for removal and create the standards by which they are judged. The easiest is to look at trees on the southern and eastern exposures because they are the trees most likely to block the all-important morning sun. Another criterion is to identify problematic trees near greens, tees and fairways and any with shallow roots.

One tool that I regularly use is the Sun Seeker app on my phone. This app allows the user to see the path of the sun at different times of the year and how trees affect the area of concern. Since most of our Course Consulting Service visits occur during the growing season, how trees block the summer sun is most often the focus. However, this tool allows the user to see how trees affect grass at any time of the year.

Whatever method you use to determine which trees should be removed, now is the time to identify and execute the plan. Removing trees that block the morning sun in spring and summer will help grass grow healthier during the season. Additionally, removing that wall of trees that block the sun during winter will help get frost off more quickly and reduce the risk of winter injury.

For additional resources, visit the USGA digital collection on tree management.

Northeast Region Agronomists:

Adam Moeller, director, Green Section Education –

Darin Bevard, senior director, Championship Agronomy –

Elliott L. Dowling, senior consulting agronomist –

Information on the USGA’s Course Consulting Service

Contact the Green Section Staff


(616) 834-0450