Conditions became more favourable in May, with some rainfall and warmer temperatures creating better growth across the course but most importantly on the greens.
The issues caused by leatherjackets is now well documented and has become the biggest problem for us when trying to produce the high class surfaces that have become expected.
Rather than talk more about the grubs though, I thought I’d give an insight to the knock on effect this issue is having.
Up until recent years, we had reached what I felt was pretty much the optimum strategy for sustainable management of golf greens.
The transition to low maintenance fine turf has helped us produce fantastic playing surfaces with the least amount of interference from maintenance.
The following was all that was required:
- Mowing at 5mm, 5 days a week peak season.
- 2 applications of Nitrogen during the growing season totalling 15kgs per hectare applied.
- 6 monthly applications of wetting agent March – August
- 24 tons of sand applied annually per hectare
- Solid tining 3-4 times per year at varied depths.
As you can see the time and resources required had become so minimal.
This regime led to next to no disruption to golf, huge economic benefits to the club and as close to zero impact on the environment as you could imagine.
The leatherjacket problem has forced a change to this regime already, with:
- 4 fertiliser applications in 5 months in 2022, totalling 35kgs Nitrogen per hectare and 22kgs per hectare of Potassium
- Mowing at 4.5mm, 7 days per week
- All other procedures have remained the same though
So far the biggest difference has been increased product inputs and labour, which has contributed to an increase in Poa annua across the greens. Poa Annua is a vigorous growing plant which takes a lot of maintenance and prior to this year we had all but eradicated it in the greens. In the below picture you can see the Poa Annua producing seed within the fine grasses that dominate our greens now.
Also not included has been the extra labour required to cover the greens with sheets throughout April and May in order to remove some of the grubs. This seems only to be a short term remedy, however, without a viable alternative it is all we have. Thanks again to those that volunteered to help with the removal of the grubs.
There has been emergency authorisation of a chemical treatment in recent years, but there isn’t a guarantee of success and it has also been out of reach for us financially. Because of this, the strain on resources is likely to continue to increase as we try to deal with the consequences. So far this isn’t particularly extreme, but fertiliser applications have already forced an increase in mowing frequency and a reduction in the height of cut. The increase in poa annua as a direct result of more fertiliser will likely require further action too, such as brushing and verti-cutting to maintain a smooth surface.
It’s a very tricky business managing golf greens and every action we take has a consequence, often both good and bad, as you can see already from this blog.
To end the subject a little more positively though, and also with some hope, we are trialling a couple of products that have been used with some success at another club.
The theory is that they work by entering the plant and supplying a physical defence against feeding grubs. It sounds promising but I’ll bring more from this later in the year, as we won’t see any immediate effect.
Also having more natural growth has seen good recovery and the greens are now playing well.
Other fine turf areas
Elsewhere things are very pleasing.
Fairways are as good as they’ve ever been with density improving year on year with more frequent mowing at lower cutting heights helping to encourage tillering.
Selective herbicide has been used via spot treatments and aside from isolated areas the turf is very clean.
Tees are also improving since we altered the management of the tee surrounds. Previously tee banks were mown extensively, but we have now allowed the areas to naturalise.
This has freed time for more frequent mowing of the tees and more regular divot repair. The areas are also much more attractive and more beneficial to ecology and the environment.
As we still haven’t taken delivery of the new tractor, we took the decision to start cutting fringing rough earlier than normal.
With more rain, these areas would have begun to thicken and as extra growth will need more maintenance across the course, we felt that we didn’t want to chance getting behind without the extra tractor to keep all areas in order.
We do lose some of the attractive fine grasses as a result and the benefit of the cut and collect won’t be optimum due to the timing, but it will give us a little extra insurance until the new tractor arrives.
After 7 years of cut and collect, we are seeing the benefits of this approach every year, even if it may not seem so obvious, such is the gradual change over time.
However, the changing species and reduced density of growth are excellent indicators. Below shows fringing rough yet to be cut this year, with no issue at all in finding a wayward ball.
It has been great to hear the overwhelmingly positive feedback on the course, which does help the team to remain positive and motivated despite the difficulties.
Greens have got a substantial amount of weeds in the turf currently with mostly pearlwort and lesser trefoil building as a result of gaps in the turf caused by pest damage. Although the nature of these weeds doesn’t particularly affect ball roll, we will look to spot treat them soon.
Finally, after impressing on his 6 months kickstart scheme, Dan Briggs will join the team full time.
The Kickstart scheme has been a great initiative and I must say it’s a shame it has come to an end.
Having had 8 individuals over the last year, we have been able to give some much needed experience and skill to young people who haven’t been able to find work.
So much so that Dan and Jonathan Fawcett have gone from being unable to hold down work, to achieving a permanent position with us.
I think both would be the first to admit that at the start of the scheme they weren’t anywhere near what was required, but given the chance to learn they have both gained some excellent characteristics and the willingness to learn. This bodes well for their future and ours!
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