March has been far from the straightforward month that we had been hoping for, that said, we are going into April in an excellent position with the course in good condition and with new improvements to the course from the winter ready for play.
Although March has been very wet,it has also been milder, which is the opposite to the recent norm of cold, dry springs.
This has helped produce some growth which is helping to bring the course from it’s winter sleep and more significantly is helping the turf cope with pest damage, that has been particularly problematic in the last 2 years on greens.
It’s been an extra challenge to prepare for the season whilst also installing irrigation and with so much happening, I will try my best to summarise the work in this update.
With the season upon us, preparation for the season has consisted of:
- Mowing all surfaces
- Bringing winter projects into play such as new bunkers and tees
- All winter restrictions have been removed, such as ropes and winter tee mats
- White, yellow and red tees are now at full length
- New flags, pins and hole cups rolled out on all holes
Preferred lies are still in operation as ground conditions are still leading to mud balls and the local rule for irrigation work is still in place as well.
The greens have remained smooth and true throughout winter and are looking good as the season starts. As mentioned, pest damage so far is minimal, but we have applied a small amount of nitrogen to help push a little growth.
Pitch marks are still a big problem and I must say it is frustrating to see. With the greens being so true, it only takes a tiny effort to repair a ball mark and keep them that way. Here’s a video I made a few years ago on how to repair a mark properly.
On a more positive note, one of the most satisfying things about our greens now is that we have reduced the need for disruptive maintenance. Due to the dominance of fine perennial grasses on the greens, maintenance requirements have greatly reduced.
The slower growing grass species, combined with low applications of fertiliser, mean that organic matter (often called ‘thatch’) build up is minimal, which allows us to manage it in a holistic manner.
Natural biological breakdown is encouraged, careful management of irrigation and the use of infrequent light top dressings are adopted as management techniques.
Obviously there is no silver bullet and our approach comes with it’s own set of problems. Much like life, everything is a trade off and for example our grass species and approach lead to higher than ideal organic matter statistics. However, our approach suits our desire to allow our golfers year round play on smooth greens at the same time as keeping our membership fees low.
Fairways & surrounds
We still aren’t at summer height of cut yet on the fairways due to the wet weather, but we will get the cylinder mowers out early in April to get the surfaces up to speed.
Aprons and surrounds are in good shape, with winter management using ropes helping to reduce wear and tear.
Tees are now all in play and although wormcasts have been an issue, their condition is acceptable. New tees aren’t quite at the required level as height of cut is still up on the new turf. Once we can get some top dressing onto the new turf though, heights can be reduced.
All bunkers have been tidied up with strim trimming and weeding carried out. New bunkers have been brought into play and almost every one has had new sand added.
Despite a mostly successful installation, it hasn’t all been plain sailing. Wet weather has made the clean up difficult and repairing all excavation work has taken quite a lot of our time and effort in March.
We also had a few issues with the old system when we came to test out the new section of pipework and sprinklers. This was down to a rather peculiar routing of pipework and the fact that there are no plans for the old system to guide us.
After a few times locating pipework to either reroute or cap off, we did eventually get new work tested and the whole system up and running.
We also have the new controller setup, with all electric cable connected and decoders programmed so that automatic irrigation is now possible.
Many thanks to everyone for their patience during this work, which while essential has reduced our ability to present the course to a standard that would otherwise have been possible.
We will finally be able to allocate all of our time to turf maintenance in April and it is hoped we can achieve even greater standards than ever before.
Top dressing new turf as well as greens and surrounds will help to fine tune surfaces and bring an even greater level of smoothness.
Aeration will be carried out in many areas to alleviate compaction from play and from recent work around the course.
Wetting agents will be applied to help the turf’s resilience to dry spells as well as achieving greater consistency of water distribution.
Penalty areas have also been reviewed recently, thanks to Steve Swales and Johnny Norton for this and our job is now to add greater definition to the areas with replacement or additional marker posts, which we aim to complete asap.
Let’s hope for a great season and I do hope that you all continue to enjoy the facilities here at Hunley.
Greg and team.