August has been slightly less severe in regards to the continued drought, with 36 mm of rain falling in the month. However, there were still 20 out of the 31 days that didn’t see any rain fall at all and only 3 days where more than 1 mm fell.
The vast majority of the UK has been affected by the drought and we are by no means the worst hit and have been fortunate enough to catch the occasional cloudburst.
In this month’s blog, with 1 eye already on the autumn/winter, I thought I’d mix a review of August with thoughts on improvements to be made in the off season.
With the weather having the biggest impact on turf management, August has been very similar to all months this season, with minimal rainfall putting turf under constant drought stress.
Overall this has been well mitigated by our integrated management, which involves a variety of different techniques which help to maintain the balance between playing performance and turf health. The following are some of the most important:
- Wetting agent is applied to the greens on a monthly basis. We use a product called Trismart, which is designed for quality turf areas, using a triple-active formulation that provides great control of moisture management. Containing three technologies, it improves water penetration, evens the spread of water and improves the water holding capacity of the soil.
- Irrigation is used very specifically, with each green receiving heavy doses of water approximately every 7 days. This gets water down into the rootzone where our deep rooting fine grasses can access it for longer, as the soil dries from the top down.
- Cutting height is altered frequently to adapt to conditions and have ranged from 4.25mm – 5 mm throughout August.
- Deep spiking with thin, 8mm tines was carried out to help get water to depth more easily and also help encourage more rooting in the spaces left from the tines breaking up the soil beneath the surface.
Whilst the drought was our main concern, it wasn’t the only one. For several days we had sea frets which not only cause disruption to golf, but also bring on ideal conditions for fungal turf disease.
The warmth of summer, mixed with the constant dampness and high humidity make for ideal conditions for most diseases.
Dollar Spot is the main threat to our turf due to the combination of the climatic conditions and the high percentage of fescue grasses within our turf, which is the host plant for the pathogen that causes Dollar Spot.
We have seen a reduction in disease incidence of all types over the years and we have been able to keep even Dollar Spot under relative control this year.
It’s no easy task though as the rusty coloured lesions (the size & shape of a dollar coin, hence the name) can develop in a matter of hours when conditions are prevalent.
Maintenance looks to prevent outbreaks, such as dew removal, frugal quantities of nutrition applied to keep turf strong, rather than weak or too lush and maintaining adequate soil moisture are the most important.
However we still see outbreaks and in response we use an application of Iron Sulphate to hold up the spread of the pathogen.
The high acidity of the Iron stops the disease in its tracks and is usually enough to last long enough for conditions to improve and for the turf to remain healthy. Timing is crucial though and the sooner the application after the onset of Dollar Spot the quicker the turf recovers.
We have had less issues during August thankfully, with only 3 repairs required, although there are now several smaller leaks which you may have noticed as you walk down the right of the hole Pennington’s.
One real positive we have is the 9 holes under the bridge have more modern polyethylene pipe, which is a more durable material and as such doesn’t result in any leaks. Unfortunately where the main pipework joins into the valves, PVC pipe has been used as connections. Leaks do still occur here as pictured below.
In August we managed to at least upgrade 1 of these with modern pipework, which will future proof it against leaks and is something we will look to do wherever possible.
With the recent dry summers and the well documented issues with our irrigation system, it will come as no surprise that our priorities this winter will be focused on it.
For several years now we have been contemplating what might be the best way forward in replacing the old system. Some items have been upgraded in recent years, most notably the pump which was installed last year and we now have a pretty solid grasp on what is needed.
Our aim this winter will be to:
- Have a professional design put together for our long term requirements, which will include water source, pump location, pipework sizes, sprinkler types and positioning as well as the system controller.
- Begin a staged installation with most of the work carried out in house, helped by guidance from the system designer and technical support from Dinsdale Irrigation who have been assisting us over the last 6 months.
The priority area for work is the section of the course from the first tee on Pennington’s down to the green on Reddings Apron. This section of old PVC pipe is under the most pressure due to its proximity to the pump and its topography, with pressure building as it goes downhill (1 bar increase per 10 meters of fall).
We need to be able to install new pipework to this section as soon as possible, due to the number of bursts experienced on this section.
As this section encompasses 6 holes, we hope to add new sprinklers to all greens, but also add sprinklers to tees and approaches. The holes are Pennington’s, Davy’s, Cottage Corner, Brownies Bough, Fox Covert Tees, Morgan’s Mound Green, Wetlands Tees and Redding’s Apron green.
This would then tie into the existing system in the short term so that irrigating could resume in spring 2023. We would also install valves at both connections, which will allow us to isolate sections of the system in the event of a burst on a section of the old pipework in the future, keeping water on to the rest of the course. Currently, any leak requires at least 50% of the course to be shut down, but in most cases the whole system.
The cost is the most prohibitive part of installing a new system, but we feel that doing the work largely in house will make it more realistic to achieve.
To give an idea of cost, an 18 hole course in the North East had a new system installed 2 years ago at a cost of £850,000. There are numerous factors that influence the cost though but it does give an idea to the scale of the problem we are faced with.
We are still exploring various possibilities, but I hope this gives some insight and also reassurance that we are working to find solutions to even the most difficult problems.
Tees have suffered the most this summer as a result of the dry weather. With no irrigation, lack of rainfall and increasing numbers of golfers, keeping turf in good condition on the tees has been extremely difficult.
Most have coped, but the turf is wilting on many. Added to that, effective divot repair is impossible, with seed simply not germinating without available moisture.
In order to keep up with the growing number of golfers on the course, Irrigation on the tees is now a necessity.
Many of you will also agree that both our first teeing areas on Pennington’s and Jaws are not up to the standard of the rest of the course.
Their position has made it difficult to find a straightforward solution, but having had time to research and consider possibilities we now have a plan to give them the same wow factor that you experience on the rest of the course.
This autumn, starting with Pennington’s, we intend to create a new raised platform that you can access straight from the road nearer the clubhouse. This will shorten the walk to the tee and allow a clear view down the hole on all tees, whereas at the moment the white tee is semi blind.
It will be tiered from back to front, dropping down several levels as you work towards the fairway. The size of the tee will increase dramatically too, meaning the area for tee placements will be much larger solving the issue of excessive damage from wear and divots.
With irrigation also to be introduced to the tee, implementing similar maintenance to that of the greens, will produce a tee of the highest quality.
Initially we had looked into accepting some landfill, in order to be able to build up the tee sufficiently to achieve enough elevation for the desired outcome. However this is not possible due to the access into the golf club not being suitable.
Therefore, after the success of the wetland created on Davy’s last year, we are going to hire a large 15 ton excavator and create two more wetlands besides the tee. This will provide large quantities of material to help create the platform that is needed.
This will be a large project, but one I know many of you will agree, has become a priority.
September is again set to be extremely busy with golf and therefore it will be business as usual for the team.
Some good news too is that we’ve reached agreement again with the local Pastoral farmer to come and cut and bale the longer grass around the course, just as he did last year.
With him struggling to find sufficient winter feed for his 170 cattle, the grass he can obtain from the course is very helpful to him. For us it contiues the process of improving the grasslands, creating a more diverse array of plants and grasses, as well as thinning out the growth.
There will be more details published at the end of September in regards to plans for a winter program, but the irrigation and Pennington’s Tee will form a large part of it. Some of this work is likely to begin at the start of October, so I thought it worth brining up in this month’s blog to at least gives advanced notice.
Finally, a quick thankyou to Brian Cullen for volunteerring time to tidy up the short game area. We always struggle to spend much time with this part of our facilities and Brian’s efforts have made a huge difference!
Many thanks for reading and for the overwhelmingly positive feedback that continues to come in, but if you have any specific feedback please direct it to my email, which is [email protected]
Also, why not take a look at this excellent blog from Deputy Course Manager Gavin Kitching!