Spring greetings from the Golf Course as April passes by. As ever I will start with the weather, the main driving force behind everything happening out there. Spring usually throws a curve-ball at us, some years it is hot and dry like 2020, others we have ferocious winter storms like ‘The Beast from the East’ in 2018. This year we have had a cold, dry spell running for the entire month.
The monthly rainfall total was sitting on 1mm until 28 April when we had 14mm overnight before a further 9mm later in the day giving us a month total of 24mm, under half our expected figures for the month. In addition to this, the predominant wind direction was either easterly or northerly which always brings dry, cold air to us from beyond Scandinavia. The result of these systems was an unprecedented run of frosty mornings, a total of 22 out of the 30 days of April. The BBC reported that 2021 was the frostiest April for 60 years.
Now, these conditions are not really conducive to growing most plants, so it has been a challenging spell particularly on surfaces that we have been trying to push a bit of growth into for recovery from winter. The good news is that regular inputs of basic nutrition have been facilitating some slow growth and decent recovery from both winter damage and current traffic as the afternoon temperatures start rising. The positive point about the weather conditions of April has been the amount of high-quality sunlight available to the plants, benefitting both plant metabolism and soil temperatures in the pm hours.
We have left the greens height of cut at 5mm for the month to keep any further stress on the turf to a minimum but as overnight temperatures start to rise we will reduce this by half a mm at a time before settling in at 4mm for the season. Our main challenge at the moment is growing out the moss that has been treated and is currently sitting quite stressed. As growth picks up the existing turf plants will push through and fill in these patches with strong turf colonies. All fertility so far has been through liquid feeds but as soon as soil temperatures rise, we will be applying a granular feed which will give them a push along.
To a lesser degree, poa seedhead season is almost upon us but as our bentgrass proportions have risen this is becoming less of an issue than a few years ago. The greens will look patchy as the poa produces white seeds and it will lose some of its foliage colour as this process follows through.
Culturally we will continue regular grooming with the verticutting units, twice-weekly rolling for smoothing and maintaining our height of cut. Until then we have no option but to have patience and wait for the weather to work in our favour.
April has presented us with a golden opportunity to undertake some other work while growth has been slow and the team have renovated three of the Academy bunkers by renewing the drainage, rebuilding the edging and renewing the sand. Our bunker sand supply has been very unreliable with supply disrupted by heavy rainfall flooding quarries in October and December and then by equipment failure at the quarry subsequently. In response to these issues, I have sourced an alternative sand to trial, and this has been used in the Academy bunkers.
The 3rd greenside bunker on the Academy has had a major re-shape to accommodate teaching with both more flat base for shot making and more sand face to catch sand splash and reduce the impact on the banking and the green surface.
Finally, please keep an eye on your pitchmarks and repair as many as you can, we have had very high levels of pitchmark damage over the last month. Great to see everyone out on the course again, fingers crossed for a positive future.
Yours in sport,