Although March had been a wet month, April saw even more with an increase of 25% on the previous month bringing a total of 9 inches in the 2 months. Despite the constant wet weather, we are making progress still with course conditioning.
Having to complete the irrigation work later than hoped, combined with high levels of rainfall have made getting the course up to the desired level more difficult though. However we are now getting caught up and the conditions on the course are more than acceptable for the time of year.
Fairways have now all been cut down to normal height (13mm) and in fact this is one area where the rain has helped, with most of the fairways displaying very good grass coverage.
Greens continue to perform well and as such we have held off top dressing until we get stronger growth.
On the greens, we have begun to see evidence of pest damage now as well as finding some rather ‘fat’ looking leatherjackets.
We may cover the greens overnight again with sheeting, but only to get an idea of the current numbers of leatherjackets, which will help us to compare with the last 2 years where this technique has been used. As this is very time consuming though and because damage is less severe than the last 2 years we hope that this won’t become necessary across the course.
The pest damage in recent years has also led us to reduce aeration on greens, with the larvae eating around the edges of aeration holes. Since then we have seen a reduction in percolation rates (the speed water drains away) as a result, so in April we micro-tined the greens to improve on that as well as aid better rooting for stronger turf. Despite golfers dread at seeing the ‘spiker’ out on the course, using narrow 8mm tines means we can achieve our aims without affecting the roll of the ball across the surface. This is another benefit of a low disturbance turf maintenance regime.
With weakening turf evident on some greens, we are having to apply some nutrition to strengthen and help the turf recover, which wasn’t planned and is unfortunate because applying fertiliser brings its own consequences.
This is a good example of how what may seem a small decision, still needs to be thought through. Every action we take has to take into account both the pros and cons of such a decision with each action we take having a reaction.
Below were the key factors considered in deciding wether or not to apply fertiliser to the greens:
- Encourage growth to repair thinning sward due to pest damage
- Prevent uneven surface developing
- Require an increase to mowing regimes
- Encourage the undesirable Annual Meadow grass to spread
- Increase organic matter (thatch) content
As you can see, even such a small decision isn’t straightforward and every decision is merely only a trade off. Sometimes though the best we can do is take the least bad option!
Approaches and surrounds are presenting well, as are tees now that regular mowing has been possible. The new tees are bedding in nicely and have been fertilised to help the new turf sustain the rigours of regular play. Overall definition is good and the course is playing well despite the wet start to the season.
Bunkers have taken up a fair amount of time lately with constant washouts being caused by heavy and regular rainfall. This has also caused some of the bunkers to become contaminated from fine silt and clay particles washing into them. Reinstating them is time consuming with the silt needing to be removed, before redistributing sand and fluffing up again as much as possible. Some of the worst affected may even need the old sand removing and replacing with fresh uncontaminated sand in time.
Work on the bunkers design and construction in recent years has certainly reduced the problem with washouts, however it is impossible to eliminate disruption from bad weather entirely. Where it has made considerable difference though, is with the speed of recovery from such disruption meaning the impact on playing conditions has been greatly reduced.
Ironically after having just installed a new section of irrigation, all the rain has meant we have yet to use it! We also have a blockage at the tank which needs to be explored and rectified, however such has been the weather we have been prioritising other work. This will need to be sorted out though and we will look to do so in the near future to ensure irrigation is available when it is required.
We still haven’t been able to update all penalty areas with idetification posts as planned, but we have managed to make some new posts ready to go out. Again we will do so ASAP.
Having got through the initial period of cutting this season we do now need to carry out some maintenance on mower blades. Tees and fairway mowers have quickly dulled having had to go out in less than ideal conditions so far. Grinding and back lapping will be carried out to ensure a clean cut is achieved moving forwards.
Another set of challenges to overcome has been on the driving range. The wet weather has meant we have still been seeing most balls plugging on the field, which requires us to hand pick balls with the machine unable to collect them.
It has also been close to impossible to keep the grass mown. The wet ground and the fact that the range is dominated by lush, vigorous growing Ryegrass makes mowing much more diffiuclt than elsewhere on the course. We try to carry out all maintenance on the range early morning so that we don’t interfere with users, but this isn’t always possible.
Ryegrass is notoriously difficult to cut cleanly and even more so when wet. It’s vigorous growing also means lots of loose grass ends up on the field after mowing which looks unsightly. Ryegrass also produces minimal thatch which would give some protection from the underlying soil, it also deters wormcasting, so areas where Ryegrass dominate are far more prone to being muddy and full of wormcasts. These combinations end up making it more difficult to keep the range balls clean, with ball washing times often doubled.
At the end of the month we took the decision to spray low rate total weed killer to stunt growth on the range. This is far from ideal as it will make the grass turn yellow for several weeks but it will at least give us some respite in it’s maintenance.
Unfortunatley there isn’t much we can do about this situation long term, so we just try to muddle through best we can when the weather is against us. Apologies if we caused any disruption during your time on the range.
As well as the few things mentioned so far still needing attention, weeds are starting to show up in the usual places. Daisies on some fairways and clover in areas of semi roungh are typical in spring. We aim to treat these with selective herbicide fairly soon before they have a chance to spread seed.
By the end of the month it is likely that fringing rough will begin to thicken. As it does we will be out with the flail collector to thin out these areas and prevent issues with lost balls in playing zones. Please do get in touch if you think an area of the course needs our attention.
After we have fertilised the greens and growth is stronger, we will also apply top dressing. This will fill any imperfections in the surface and ensure smooth surfaces throughout the season.
To finish on a positive note, I must say it has been nice to receive some excellent feedback regarding the course and credit goes to the team, who have been working consistently hard to provide the best facilities possible. Hearing that our work is paying dividends does keep spirits up and help keep us all motivated, so thanks to everyone who has passed on positive comments. Fingers crossed for some more favourable conditions in May!