Well it’s been a very busy but really enjoyable last couple of months since my last report. The build up to the ladies went as planned and not much different to the usual week to week. We sprayed a package on the greens the Friday before the start of the tournament this consisted of Potassium Silicate to aid ball roll and strengthen the plant, Iron for colour and plant health and multi nutrients which helped the plant deal with the stress of the constant cutting and rolling that comes with holding a 5 day tournament.
Ladies County Championship
I thought I would give a little insight to how we maintained the course through the week. It was a very different experience to what we were used to as the course was being played on for most of the daylight hours with the grass growing rapidly.
For us the tournament started at 3:30 on the Saturday which was carried on through the whole week. We cut and rolled the greens and got half of the cutting done across the course. On the Sunday we had all of our flags, hole cups and markers to come in and the England golf flags, cups and markers go out with the holes being changed at the same time. The rest of the course was cut and the first double cut and double roll on the greens. The plan for the week was to double cut and double roll the greens every morning, change holes, blow and rake the bunkers. We also had Jim our mechanic in every morning to set up all of our machinery making sure they were all cutting perfectly. To not interfere with play we came back at 4 o’clock every afternoon and worked well into dark. On the Monday and Wednesday we cut half the rough, fairways and semi rough behind the last group up to the 10th. The tees, collars and aprons were all cut every afternoon. We also had 2 lads from South Petersfield Andy and Dan. They came in every afternoon to help prep the course for the following day they blew, emptied bins, divot tee’s and full rake bunkers. On the Tuesday and Thursday we did our tournament set up and a couple of extra hours cutting from the 18th back, so not to interfere with play and again came back each afternoon to finish off. This meant that we could get 3 cuts in on the whole course without getting in the way and keep the course looking its best. It also allowed us to concentrate on setting the course up for the day’s play in the morning. I must say that I was very proud of the whole team because they all happily went above and beyond what is expected of them. Their attention to detail and passion makes a big difference to what is seen out on the golf course and I am personally proud of what we were able to achieve and continue to achieve as a team.
Due to the ladies tournament being in mid September we had to delay the maintenance on the greens until the Tuesday after the tournament. It’s not an ideal time for maintenance as the day light hours have started to reduce and temperatures start to drop off. This basically means recovery was around a week or so longer than normal.
On Tuesday we started by scarifying and hollow coring the greens which we managed to finish that day. This is done to remove thatch from just under the playing surface and make holes for sand to sit in. Not only does this act as thousands of small grooves and holes for water to penetrate through the thatch layer it also gives the seed somewhere to sit protected under the height of cut and grow. Thatch is a build up of organic layer which consists of dead and decaying grass plants. Every turf surface has a thatch layer, too much thatch causes water to be unable to penetrate though the surface, increasing the risk of disease, and soft playing surfaces. Top dressing through the year also helps by diluting the thatch layer making it more permeable.
Straight after this we solid tined with 20mm wide tines to a depth of 250mm, top dressed with around 25-28 Tonne of sand and brushed in. This again is to allow for more sand, elevate compaction and give the roots a good chance to grow and thrive.
That’s all the heavy work out the way now on to the most important bit, seed. We used a species of grass called Agrostis capillaris (brown top bent). This seed is widely used on golf greens and has all the characteristics that make a perfect putting surface. Currently our greens are Poa annua (annual meadow grass) dominated and I would like to increase the percentage of Bent grass over the next few years. This is very much an ongoing plan and a main focus of ours to take our greens forward and continue their progression.
We used a machine called a Verti-Seed to input our seed. It first opens the turf using oval-shaped discs followed by small chisels. The seed is then fed through the seeding funnel and released just above the slit where the wind cannot blow it away. It is then sealed by the seeding shoe. This is essential as bent seed should be sowed at a depth of 2-4mm below the thatch layer. This protects the seed from foot traffic, mower blades, drying winds and promotes a high percentage of successful establishment.
During, and a few weeks after, the maintenance, the greens were not at their best but all of the work was essential to the improvement of the greens going forward into winter and then into next season. We have raised the height of cut up to 4mm to help with the protection of the plant, as the early stages are when the plant is at its most vulnerable. We have applied a preventative fungicide to the greens, as they were at high risk due to the stress of the work being done, the competition and time of year. This will stop any attack while the Bent has time to establish. We then applied a couple of granular fertilisers, one for plant health and recovery and the other for root development.
The last thing on the list for the greens was the Air2G2 which we used early in the year. The idea behind this is it will blast air in to the soil profile at the depths of 6 and 12 inch and shatter all the previous holes allowing for a better free draining soil and an environment the roots will thrive in.
Tees, collars and aprons
Tees, collars and aprons were done the following week. They were Solid tined with 20mm wide tines to a depth of 250mm. We then hired in another overseeder for the day which was taken across each tee, collar and apron. This machine is similar to the one we used for the greens as it puts the seed under the surface and gives you as close to 100% germination rate as you can get. This can be seen quite clearly at the moment and will thicken out and blend in, in time. A sand soil mix (80/20) was then dressed over the top and brushed in. This also helps to protect the seed from the elements and foot traffic. Lastly a granular fertiliser was applied which will release nutrients over a 6-8 week period and aid establishment.
The week after tee maintenance we hired in another machine called a Verti-Quake. The Verti-Quake is a rotary aerator that decompacts the soil using a set of rotating steel blades. It creates a wave action that shatters compacted areas and opens up the subsoil to a depth of 10 inches. This will create channels for the water to get into the main drains, a little like secondary drainage. This is another tool that will go into the annual aeration program and be used around the same time each year.
Tees and mats
We have recently placed all yellow markers and par 3’s on mats, this is to give the tees the best chance to recover, as all par 3’s take considerable damage and germination rates are too slow at this time of year to keep up, and give all members the option of playing a shorter course through the winter months but still keeping the white markers on grass for as long as possible.
In the coming weeks we will be cutting the mats in half which will allow us to handle and clean them much quicker and give us a spare for each hole which can be rotated when needed. The long term plan is to build bases for them off the tees to the new size which will give much needed space on some of the tees.
Lastly the next 5-6 weeks we will be doing our best to clear the leaves which have now started to fall at quite a rate and we also have some rolls of turf reinforcement to go out in some of the high wear areas.