A wet start to the year as most will recognise. Our annual rainfall to date is almost at an average 6-month level so quite extraordinary. The forecast ahead is showing further bouts of rainfall over the next ten days but given a few slots of windy, dry weather we have seen the course dry out quickly and this has given us the opportunity to get trolleys and buggies back out onto the course.
I have mentioned this once or twice in the past but it needs to be stressed, we have come out of the winter in what could be argued as the best condition for many years, despite extraordinary rainfall since December. We need to look at two aspects here; first is the negative impact that trolleys have on winter ground conditions, this has been clearly demonstrated of late with stringent restrictions applied to trolley use when appropriate to reduce the impact of traffic. Second, after four years of fairway topdressing, increased fairway and carry aeration including hollow tining and gypsum/calcium/wetter inputs we are seeing tangible improvements in winter ground conditions. There are still areas that need improvement but with an ongoing programme integrated into our course management these will be addressed in time.
Height of cut has been reduced to 4.5mm following winter HOC at 5.5mm. We will be reducing the height to 4mm in the next week. By keeping the height a little longer we increase the amount of leaf tissue therefore allowing each plant more of a chance to manage and grow through stress and traffic.
Poa is not yet growing steadily but once it does start we will see the development of seedheads as is usual in spring. Seedheads will influence ball roll and may lead to some surface movement when putting. We manage seedheads by brushing the surface with a mower-mounted brush, standing up the seedheads for the mower to pass and remove more effectively. Also, encouraging lower populations of Poa annua and stronger populations of bentgrass will ultimately lead to less disruption from poa seedheads in spring, bentgrass is very useful.
Winter usually sees the course take a fair amount of traffic and consequent damage, particularly on areas of heavy use like tees and walk through points. Keeping the markers forward on yellow tees where we could save the white tees and these are in play now without any need to recover from winter. Low temperatures for months on end effectively stop growth and remove any opportunity for turf areas to grow out wear and tear from play.
To bring these areas back and regain turf cover we apply an early season fertiliser once the soil temperatures are high enough to prompt growth, then we overseed areas with either thin or no grass coverage.
Overseeding has been carried out on yellow tees, areas of bird damage, walk-throughs and selected other areas. We expect germination to be clear in two weeks and establishment from there . You may see the grooves that the seed has been drilled into now and certainly once the seed germinates you will see the grass in rows.
You will see the new sand in greenside bunkers on a few holes, we will be gradually replacing all of the bunker sand across the course prioritising greenside bunkers before moving onto fairway bunkers once these are complete. We have a further 60 tonnes arriving over the next 5 weeks.
Over the last three seasons we have allowed the high turf faces on bunkers to naturalise and grow long giving the course a greater variation of terrain and hole-framing. This has had a dramatic impact on the labour involved in managing bunkers but equally so has had quite an impact on shot-making if a ball does land uphill from the bunker. Moving into the new season we will be mowing much further up these faces and giving a more sympathetic shot for those unfortunate enough to stray from the fairway.
Keep up with pitchmark repairs, it is noticeable that the rate of repair is higher and will certainly improve putting conditions for you.
See you on the course.