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11.12.2018 08:08

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  • Greens Report - February/March 2018

    bigpicChristmas and New Year have been and gone and as we are currently moving quickly through February it means Spring is only around the corner.
    January/February is always a tricky time for the course. After wet spells at the end of the previous year there is always the tendency for the soil to reach “field capacity” during these months. This is where the soil can no longer absorb any more water and it therefore stays on the surface. This means that it can take less and less rainfall to result in hole or course closures. There is also less chance for the course to dry out as there is less evapotranspiration due to less sunlight and less uptake from the roots due to there being less growth. Compaction from continued traffic in certain areas can also lead to localised puddles forming.
    The decision to close holes, use temporary greens or close the course is not one taken lightly. However, this is done with the best long-term interests of the course at heart.
    It has been proven in the previous years that the continuous use of summer tees leaves the tee and the area around it looking very worn by the end of the winter, which can take until mid-summer to recover.
    Keeping white lines and ropes further from the greens also takes wear away from these areas prior to the summer.
    The use of temporary greens is also two-fold. Initially to protect the green itself should it become soft, but also to protect the approach and area surrounding the green that can get very wet. The positioning of these temporary greens is difficult as it needs to be in an area that stays dry and away from wet areas, as well as being as flat as possible and ideally in an area that is maintained all year round.


    The greens are currently in excellent condition for the time of the year. There is a good healthy grass coverage on every green and they are generally remaining firm, despite everything the weather has thrown at them. There are no disease scars or thin areas that need growing out and this should mean they progress nicely into the spring.
    There have been several changes to the way the greens have been managed throughout the winter and this has certainly benefitted in a positive way.


    Whilst the bug bear of many, it is now that the benefits of regular correct aeration at the right times is seen. In previous years, tractor mounted aeration has been carried out constantly through the winter. The theory behind this being the creation of air holes allowing moisture to penetrate the surface and keep compaction minimal. However, it was always noticed that the greens got generally softer as winter progressed, so even more holes were put in the ground. Nowhere was this more evident in the problems it caused than the 7th green last winter.
    After extensive research and discussions with other greenkeepers and industry experts, it became clear that all this aeration during winter may actually be damaging the soil structure. The soil structure is made up of micro and macro pores, with the macro pores being slightly larger and allowing water to flow through the soil and roots to penetrate it. When using large heavy tractor mounted aeration machines on wet clay soil these macro pores are squashed down to nothing. This means that whilst air and water may flow freely through the hole created, it s not possible in the areas between the holes. The edge of the hole is also smeared, which results in it acting like a clay pot, that once full of water, remains wet. The same problems do not occur during the summer on dry soils.
    This winter the decision was made not to use these tractor mounted machines at all. The last major aeration work was the verti-drain in October. This was carried out at greater depth and heave than previous years. Despite causing some disruption to the surfaces, it was undertaken at just the right time to help benefit the soil structure due to the ground being dry. Following this with the Air 2 G 2 machine further aided this improvement by cracking open the soil between the verti-drain holes.
    Since then the greens have had a weekly double pass of the sarrell rollers which are attached to the greensmower and put a half inch deep hole in the surface to open up the thatch layer allowing water an air to penetrate. Along with this a penetrant wetting agent has been applied to help break down the surface tension of the soil, to enable moisture to penetrate more evenly.

    Height of cut and turf iron

    As autumn and winter progresses the height of cut on the greens is raised up. This helps to ease the stress on the grass and provide more leaf to photosynthesise with during the months of low sunlight.
    Currently the greens are being cut at 6mm. This is the height of cut that the machine is set at in the workshop and allows the actual height of cut to be nearer 5mm due to the weight of the mower when the greens are soft. Greens mowing is carried out on seldom occasions due to the lack of grass growth. Also, there are times when it is difficult to get the mower around the course due to it being too wet.
    During winter rolling is carried out on a frequent basis. The lightweight roller has less weight impact on the greens compared to the tyres of the greensmower. This has been proven to not cause compaction to the greens. The roller is used following the sarrell roller to smooth out the surface and also to remove the dew from the grass a couple of times a week. This regular rolling has also been proved to lessen the instance of disease on the greens by stimulating growth hormones in order to fight it off.

    Tees, approaches, fairways

    As with the greens, the decision was taken not to run the verti-drain constantly across the course during the winter. Whilst there are wet areas on fairways and approaches they certainly would not have been any drier had they been aerated. The fairways and approaches have had the large slitter run over them on several occasions just to open up the surface slightly.
    The tees have had small half inch solid tines run over them on a couple of occasions just to ease any compaction that may be occurring on them.
    Some cutting of these areas has been carried out during the winter when the weather and ground conditions allowed.


    The winter began with the intention of re-surfacing and tidying up many of the pathways on the course. However, a problem with the sourcing of material from our supplier, plus the poor ground conditions, meant this had to stop. One of the new bridges over the ditch on the 7th was completed, along with the extension and widening of the ends of the pathways near the 8th green, 9th and 17th tees. These have all been very successful and look much tidier than in previous years. Fresh pathway material has now been sourced and once the course dries out we plan to do the other bridge on the 7th, along with the bridge on the 5th, the path from 14th green to 15th tee and 16th tee path over the ditch.


    The bunkers are always difficult to manage during the winter, especially during periods of continued rainfall. They are raked twice a week as long as they are not frozen and heavy rain is not expected. Some of the bunkers hold on to water for longer than others due to lack of drainage or sitting below the water table. These bunkers are pumped out on a regular basis, however due to the time taken and other work ongoing, it is not possible to pump them out every single time it rains. The bunker bases have also been raked over with the bunker mantis machine to fluff up the bases. Once again this is carried out when a decent dry spell is forecast to get the maximum benefit from the work. Unfortunately, the last time it was done there was half an inch of rain two days after we had finished the job which is soul destroying after all the hard work.
    Two bunkers have been filled in during the winter. The bunker on the right of the 10th fairway had a large amount of stones in it and it was felt would involve to much expense to be tidied up properly. To continue the theme of gorse running down the side of the hole from the green the filled in bunker will be planted with gorse and broom plants once the weather begins to warm up. The small pot bunker at the back of the 15th green has been ear marked for filling in for a couple of years. This is because it is difficult for many golfers to get out of when the ball is near the back of it. It will be filled in leaving a slope from the front to back. In future years the area to the left of the green and down the slope towards the 14th tee will be planted up with new gorse plants.


    The most extensive project of tree work for the last few years is currently being undertaken. The majority of trees are being crown lifted to allow the ease and safe passage of mowing machinery to cut underneath and around them. Many of the remaining conifers that have foliage to the ground are having it raised up higher. The trees between the 7th and 8th holes have been well trimmed to allow an improvement in visibility for people playing both holes.


    Once again there will be some work done on the greens during Spring to set them up for the forthcoming season. After the success of the start of the 2017 season in dispelling the myth that the greens are not good until June, the aim is to continue with this and make any work as minimal but beneficial as possible.
    Greens heights of cut will slowly be reduced combining this with brushing and light verti-cutting to stand up some grass that has laid flat through the winter. They will be solid tined in March along with an application of lawn sand to kick start in some early season growth. Light topdressings will also be applied.
    The greens will be overseeded in April, again using dwarf ryegrass after the excellent success we had using it last year. This seed will germinate in the cooler spring temperatures. The seed will once again be disc seeded into the ground which will leave some short-term disruption to the surface as it settles down. Light topdressings will be applied after this to help fill in the grooves created and the new seed should germinate and establish well.

    Many thanks
    Steve Beverly
    Head Greenkeeper.