One of the great things about Hunley is the extended season that we get due to the nature and setting of the course. August is another prime month for us, but as it spells the end of summer for many we can still look forward to another couple of months without any real drop off in course condition, with the weather usually still warm and fair well into October.
There is always plenty to keep us on ours toes though and through August the team have continued to keep the course in fine shape while also working on areas that will benefit the course in the future.
Here’s the main highlights from August:
- Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI) visit
- Further course development
Although the greens have been playing consistently well throughout the season, the extremes in weather this year have made it a real challenge to keep them like that.
The prolonged hot and dry summer has resulted in lots of fungal activity, with courses across the UK faced with a variety of issues. We are no different but more specifically, like most of the coastal links courses, we suffer from fairy ring fungi. In such extreme conditions it becomes impossible to prevent, leaving us simply left to minimise its impact on play.
So what issues are we dealing with?
- Fairy ring activity.
Fairy ring fungi come from the basidiomycete family, with over 60 species of fungi having been associated with fairy ring symptoms in turfgrasses.
There are typically 3 main types (Type 1, Type 2 and Type 3) that affect turf, however we are mostly experiencing issues with a fungi that isn’t one of the 3 main types.
Thatch collapse disease has become more prevalent in recent years and the fungal pathogen causing this issue is Sphaerobolus stellatus.
We are seeing slightly depressed areas of green turfgrass, anywhere from several inches to up to two feet in diameter, with longer, wider leaves in the depressed area. This causes the turf in the depressed area to be mowed at a higher height than the surrounding turf, making it noticeably greener and easier to see. As it eats away at the organic material the fungi leaves behind a waxy residue which causes the soil to become hydrophobic. The sunken patches then become very dry and difficult to re-wet and the picture here shows this on Rawcliffe green.
The fungi eats the dead material within the turf known as thatch and while in some ways this is actually helping us control the thatch, it has some unhelpful side effects.
The sunken areas are random, which can create an uneven surface and this is the last thing we want on a putting green. It also leaves the affected patches of turf with little to no organic humus to retain both moisture and nutrients. This makes it much more difficult for us to maintain consistency across the green.
A good example of this can be seen when using the moisture probe, with affected patches showing as much as 20% less moisture content.
So what can we do?
We have top dressed to fill in the depressions and even up the surface.
Spiking has been carried out to help water penetrate the patches that have become dry and wetting agent has been used in an attempt to even out moisture distribution.
Ultimately soil is a very complex medium full of various living organisms, some good and some bad. We cannot expect to ever create perfection as nature doesn’t work in that way, however we do manage things as best we can with all the resources available to us. Equally we all have to be able to tolerate the imperfections that continually evolve over the seasons, with our aim to keep them to an acceptable level.
Adam Newton returned to carry out performance testing on the greens in August with a general audit made of the rest of the course too.
Performance testing again showed improvement with results bettering all previous years, confirming excellent playing performance. Equally important though, it also highlights areas where our attention can be focused towards over the next year.
Assessing the course as a whole and playing a few holes completed Adam’s visit. It is always important to use our professional judgement as well as factual data when managing the course. The data is an excellent way of measuring but the look and feel of the course as a golfer is as good a way of getting real perspective and then prioritising the main areas for improvement. For example, while the speed of the greens was still a little below target in the numbers, when actually putting on them it was hard to be unhappy with the performance of the turf.
Results of testing and his report is available to view and for anyone wanting to see it, please ask a member of the golf team or myself and we can forward over a copy.
Progress on Rawcliffe green
There wasn’t a huge amount of time spare to work on the new green at Rawcliffe, but progress has continued all the same.
The gravel layer has been installed with grading carried out to the correct levels. The gravel layer is used to give optimum drainage characteristics while also creating a perched water table effect to maintain sufficient moisture within the rootzone.
The first of the 2 bunkers has been constructed with initial landscaping around the bunker being carried out.
In September we will be looking to intensify work on the green in an attempt to have it completed with good growing conditions still available for its establishment.
It’s looking like September may well be our busiest month of the season so far as potential rounds played with lots of visiting golf breaks as well as the regular golf played by our membership.
We will need to do our best to carry out our work as best we can keeping clear of golfers on the course. On the whole we do this very well and it is rare that we interfere with golf being played, however sometimes this is unavoidable.
When carrying out particular tasks and the fact we have 27 holes to maintain, sometimes we have had to hold up golf briefly to complete the job. Please be patient with us if this is the case, as we only do so if it is absolutely necessary and will never be for more than a couple of minutes.