It may have seemed more like October than July, however everything is going well in the daily setup of the course. For several weeks now we have been on top of maintenance and managing things in a way that we haven’t ever been able to previously.
Over the last decade the course has pretty much been in a constant stage of development, even during the main playing season, such has been the scale of improvements required.
This season started in similar fashion, with the start of irrigation upgrades, but for several weeks now things have been much more routine. This has allowed us to develop a routine that focuses more on turf refinement, which has mostly just been more regular mowing, and also on improved daily course conditions.
The result has seen the condition of the course reach a higher level than ever before, with much more consistency too. This is obviously great for the enjoyment of golf, but it’s also worth adding that this is a much more enjoyable environment for the team of Greenkeepers to work in and certainly less stressful!
July is when most of the major events take place at Hunley and whilst almost all went well, the 2nd day of Club Championship never even started such was the severity of the rainfall!
July has been the wettest month this year so far with 142 mm falling. It has also been quite cool, with average temperatures several degrees lower than normal and it’s felt very autumnal for the most part.
It’s not all negative though and the extra rain has certainly helped turf condition across the course, with fairways in particular in excellent health and displaying good, uniform turf density.
However, the cooler damp conditions can be a catalyst for disease and sure enough, we had an outbreak of Dollar Spot crop up the day before the Club Championship.
Dollar spot disease is not a particularly common fungal disease in the UK that affects golf greens, as it mainly affects fescue grasses. It is caused by the pathogen Sclerotinia homoeocarpa and thrives under certain environmental conditions, infecting the fescue as its host plant.
Warm soil, high humidity and leaf dampness are the main factors and we can be susceptible during the summer months at Hunley, but have also seen it develop well into autumn as well.
Preventative measures are taken every day with reducing leaf moisture crucial. This is either by removing dew asap on a morning, irrigating in the morning instead of evenings to reduce surface dampness and rolling the turf all help reduce the risk. Keeping soil moisture from becoming too dry helps as well as keeping turf healthy to promote resilience, although this is a fine balancing act with nutritional inputs, where both too little or too much can be detrimental.
Even despite all this though we can still get caught out anyway, with the disease developing rapidly, showing symptoms in just a few hours.
Fortunately, with the application of Iron Sulphate, the fungal pathogen can be halted and allow for the turf to recover. There is another saving grace as well with Dollar Spot from our experience, and that is the damage is only superficial and we have yet to see it effect playing performance. It can though be unsightly, especially if left to develop over large areas and the bleached spots tend to remain for many weeks after as well.
We shouldn’t expect to see reinfection in the short term, however it is still possible and perhaps even likely for Dollar Spot to return later in the summer or in the autumn.
Antoher issue we have had to manage through July is being caused by coarse Ryegrass in the short turf.
Its high levels of silicone and coarse leaf blades make it difficult to cut and with it looking to produce seed, long stems grow quickly and evade the blades of our cylinder mowers.
To deal with this, we use rotary mowers to knock the stems off and even have to use strimmers in more difficult to reach areas. This can be time consuming but once under control, the cylinder mowers are again able to mow surfaces more evenly.
Being able to mow more regularly will help and with irrigation now being introduced across all tees and approaches moving forward, we will be able to maintain a more consistent surface on these areas as the turf blends better when moisture is plentiful.
The Invisible Work
As perhaps with many lines of work, much of Course Management isn’t seen by the end user and much of that is by design as we try to avoid disturbing golf in play. Although we do try to be as proactive as possible, sometimes we can’t avoid some small amounts of disruption, particularly as we have had a consistent flow of golf each day but also as we deal with unexpected problems that arise.
On that, please can we remind all of you as golfers to remian patient with us while we are carrying out our duties. I appreciate this isn’t the case for the vast majority of you and although this is rare, we have had a couple of near misses recently with balls being hit towards Greenkeepers dangerously. This is completely unnacceptable and anyone seen to be endangering anyone in this way again will be dealt with severely in accordance to Club rules.
Recently machinery maintenance has been carried out at regular intervals, which has kept things running smoothly and also helped with keeping blades sharp on all mowers. That said we have had a couple of breakdowns and in particular our 2nd tractor is now waiting on some rather major repairs required internally.
As already discussed, we have had issues on the greens and with all the rainfall we have been out aerating surfaces to aid percolation rates, increase air in the soil and maintain uniform moisture distribution. Using narrow tines at depth, we can gain maximum benefit with minimal impact on playing conditions. In fact disruption is pretty much non existent.
We have also been preparing for the months ahead, with another busy winter of work in front of us. Although it might seem strange to be spending time on such things now, it will soon be upon us and many things that we will require need to be arranged well in advance.
A full design of the new irrigation system is currently being drawn up and once we have that we will be able to begin planning the next phase of the project. We have already ordered tools to help us with the installation but a full bill of quantities can’t be prepared until the design is ready. That said we have made a series of plans that give us options when the time comes.
We have also being preparing for potential course upgrades too and have been exploring options in advance. So far we have had approval for another wetland to be created on the course working with the Tees Valley Wildlife, which is scheduled for October and could incorporate an extention to the green on Morgan’s Mound.
We are also currently collecting tenders for the potential creation of new teeing areas on the course for the 2024 season, with thoughts on increasing their size and position to cope with increasing demand being placed upon the course.
We will have more details on all of these in due course and hopefully be able to bring you clarification in time for my next update at the end of August.
It looks like the wetter weather is set to continue but hopefully there will still be plenty of opportunity to get the clubs out. Our plans are to continue with daily set up offering the same consistency and standards as in recent weeks and as such there isn’t much more information to bring you at this time.
As always though please direct any questions to my email which is [email protected] as we’re always interested to hear feedback.