After a miserable wet April, May has seen very little rain and we went from one extreme to another with the course becoming very dry and irrigation being required on the greens. This though is certainly more manageable and we’d always rather be applying water to the course instead of looking to improve its drainage!
Almost all of our work is now focused on turf maintenance. Greens have been top dressed with sand, treated with wetting agent as part of our seasonal program and also have received a little more nitrogen and seaweed.
All of these are key operations in maintaining the turf health and playing performance to which we are now starting to become accustomed to. Top dressing with sand keeps them firm and rolling true and the wetting agent maintains soil moisture distribution. This helps to ensure consistent playing conditions across the greens but also reduces irrigation use. The nitrogen is applied in very small amounts just to prevent the turf from weakening. The seaweed supports the plant too but in addition, and perhaps more importantly, to aid soil health.
The short film at the bottom shows some of the work that has been undertaken in May, but to give an insight into what the future holds the next part of the blog is about further improvement to the playing areas.
Greens – We will continue to promote fine perennial grasses through minimal inputs of fertiliser, water and chemicals, consistent aeration and sand top dressings throughout the year and keeping cutting heights around 5 mm. This then creates an environment which favours the bents and fescues and discourages the weaker weed grasses that are unable to survive in these conditions.
Approaches & collars – We are now treating these areas the same as the greens. The main differences being height of cut which is 9 mm and the aeration which is less frequent. This will see further improvement in turf quality in the short and long term.
Fairways – Are mown at 15 mm, aerated in the winter months through deep spiking and occasional slitting. Each season they are treated for turf grass weeds such as clover and daisy and may again receive spot treatments to reduce some of the remaining coarser grasses such as ryegrass and yorkshire fog. Although the improvement in the fairways has been significant in the last couple of years, further improvements will be more gradual, with turf density and species composition improving every year.
Semi-rough – Except for being mown at 28 mm, these are treated identically to the fairways. Some areas around the greens suffer with heavy wear and we have only just begun to address these areas this year. Extra aeration, through deep spiking, coupled with applications of fertiliser will see an improvement in the short term but long term we are looking at a system to prevent bottle necking of buggies and trolleys near to the greens themselves.
Intermediate rough and ecological long rough – These areas are now mown with 2 separate machines, both set at a mowing height of 50 mm. Until this year the vast majority of this rough was mown with a rotary mower every week and we had to do this to ensure wayward golf shots didn’t result in lost balls. This was by far the biggest task for the greenkeeping team here at Hunley, with around 125 acres to mow each week in these areas alone. It also ditracted from the look of the course, giving a quite bland and open feel to the holes.
The new machine cuts the grass but also collects it. By removing the cuttings we are removing the only nutrients provided to the soil other than what is already there. Over time the grasses will use up the nutrients available within the soil as they grow, which will result in the rough becoming thinner and thinner. Eventually we will be in a situation where these areas may only require to be mown once or twice a year. This will then provide a beautiful natural look to the courses with better definition to the holes, it will significantly reduce our carbon footprint while allowing us more time to focus on the areas of closely mown turf, but most of all there will be little to no problem in finding a ball after a wayward shot.
In the short term areas are still going to be mown with the rotary mower immediately off the fairway, but we have now allowed quite a number of areas to grow up this year that weren’t in the past. As they become thick at the base we will be out cutting and collecting these areas to minimise the chance of losing balls at the same time as beginning the process of thinning the roughs down.
This is very much a process though and will take a number of years before the whole course will have ‘perfect’ rough. The new machine will certainly speed that process up and in the short term will keep the course playable. In addition to the cutting and collecting we will be treating specific weeds with herbicide and also the coarser grasses. The combination of all this work will leave thinner, wispier rough made up of the desired grass species.