After a wet March and April, May has been the complete opposite with only 11 millimetres of rain and none for the last 3 weeks.
This is obviously much better for golf but just brings a different set of challenges for the Greenkeeping team.
Another theme developing with the weather in recent years has been a change in the prevailing wind direction. The typical westerly or south westerly is becoming increasingly rare, with northerly and easterly now more common. This has kept temperatures lower and also brings a greater risk from sea frets or coastal fog.
The cold dry weather is some of the more difficult conditions during the spring here, as the lack of good growing conditions highlights pest activity and for us that has been particularly so with leatherjackets the larvae of the Crane Fly (Daddy Long Legs).
The wet conditions in early spring had helped keep any damage to a minimum but as the surfaces have dried and growth has slowed, damage has begun to show.
We are benefitting from a functioning irrigation system after this winters upgrade, but with the grubs getting larger their feeding is also greater. Overall though the issue is much less severe than the last 2 years and we also received some welcome news in the industry during May.
The insecticide Acelypren has now received full approval and therefore we will have a weapon against the grubs that will hopefully prevent the damaging problems we have faced in the last few years.
As many of you will know, we are a club that is shaped by our sustainability ethos and using chemicals is not something we take lightly.
However, 1 timely application of an insecticide will actually improve playing surfaces at the same time as having a net positive effect on the environment too, as the recent issues have significantly increased our use of water, fertiliser and fuel as we have attempted to mitigate the problem and produce good playing conditions.
We did get the greens top dressed in May and although the sand has been slow to integrate into the turf due to low levels of growth, they have continued to perform well.
Sea frets/ fog
Those of you used to playing at Hunley, or any course on the coast, will be all too familiar with an offshore wind and how it makes you trade the cap and shorts for under layers and bobble hat!
For us it brings several issues and although in the past these were relatively rare, over the last couple of years these wind directions have become the dominant force and they bring the increased threat of mist and fog.
Aside from the drop in temperature, they bring a couple more issues for us to contend with.
The obvious is course closure, as they can quickly become so thick visibility is lost. Also though the persistent dampness brings on the risk of fungal disease to the turf.
Both are made most challenging because the fog is so unpredictable. Often it can come and go in a matter of minutes whilst other times stay for several days. It almost never is in the forecast, presumably as it is mostly isolated to very small pockets of the coastline.
Currently with the low temperatures disease isn’t of great concern, but we have had a number of days with play being suspended due to a lack of visibility.
Hopefully June will bring some respite, fingers crossed!
This year has seen an exponential increase in clover on the course, which seems to have coincided with the wet spring.
Whilst it’s not a major problem on the short turf, it is a big problem in fringing rough by the sides of the fairways. The pictures below show a ball in 2 places only a meter apart.
Despite the grasses being mostly thin and wispy, due to our management reducing nutrients available within the soil, Clover is able to fix its own Nitrogen from the air, giving it a big advantage when competing for space with other plants. This is because White Clover has a symbiotic relationship with a type of bacteria called Rhizobia, which lives in nodules on its roots. The bacteria take nitrogen from the air and convert it into ammonia, which the clover can use to grow and this makes it extremely problemtaic for us.
With limited options, unfortunately we can only treat the Clover with a selective herbicide, as if we don’t balls are easily lost if they find a patch of the dense growing plant.
This work has already begun and we will continue to try to spot treat the worst areas.
As well as the issue with Clover, the wet period early in spring has also caused many areas of fringing rough to thicken at the bottom which also makes ball locating more difficult.
Throughout May we have been thinning areas with our flail mower and have almost cut back all the holes across the course. This will continue into June, but it’s unlikely to be necessary other than isolated patches that thicken up again.
We may need your help to identify such areas so please feel free to get in touch if you think we might have overlooked somewhere.
After a number of teething issues we have now got the irrigation system fully operational.
There are still a few things to rectify on the old part of the system but we have now been able to run programs during the night and the section with new pipework and sprinklers is very impressive.
We had a visit from the suppliers in the month and they were pleased with the installation. Hunter Irrigation offers a line of products specifically designed for golf courses and we selected their products as the most inline with our needs. Their golf course products are engineered to provide high performance and optimal coverage while ensuring water efficiency and with their sprinklers allowing for precise water distribution and coverage, especially in windy conditions. This is crucial for us on our site where accurate irrigation is more difficult to acheive than normal.
A full design for the remainder of this system is now being produced, including a new larger holding tank being relocated with the pump to the Greenkeeping workshop. There is also a possibility we can utilise our own water source, which if possible will enable us to harvest and reuse rain water in the most sustainable way possible. As resources are becoming more and more limited, being self sufficient is becoming extremely important for the long term survival of each and every golf course.
It’s worth mentioning a rather more positive problem we are facing now, which is with trying to adjust to the growing popularity of the course. With a large facility, it is already a challenge to keep on top of things as I’m sure you can see even from this month’s update, but we are also now finding it very difficult to complete work on the course with less and less gaps in the tee sheet. We are currently assessing our maintenance regime though to adjust to the changing demands, and over the course of the summer we hope to identify different working patterns and techniques that will allow us to keep standards up without impacting on those enjoying the course.
In the short term we are doing our best to avoid interfering with your game, so please be patient if we do have to hold you up on the course. If this is the case it is only because we have no choice and it will never be for more than a couple of moments, so please allow our staff the chance to move to safety before playing in their direction.
Finally, thank you all for your patience and understanding as we work to maintain the course in the face of changing weather patterns and increased demand. We are doing our best to address the issues with leatherjackets, sea frets, clover, and fringing rough, and we appreciate your help in identifying areas that may need attention. We are also excited about the improvements to our irrigation system and the possibility of utilizing our own water source in a more sustainable way in the future. As always, we are committed to our sustainability ethos and will continue to balance the needs of the course with the health of the environment. Thank you for your continued support and we look forward to seeing you on the course.
Before signing off, I would like to take a moment to thank all of our staff for their hard work and dedication in maintaining and improving the course. Their efforts are commendable and they do a fantstic job providing our golfers with a top-notch experience and it’s a pleasure working with them all.