We have had a great month for growth through August with generous rainfall and mild temperatures, a far cry from the heat that we experienced at the end of July. Rainfall has been just above average at 70mm as I write this, with little prospect of any significant amount before the end of the month.
Our work during the course renovation week went well despite pushing back to a late start on Monday afternoon. Greens hollowing coring ran seamlessly with no damage or pull-ups after roughly 3.5 million cores being pulled from the surfaces. Our core size this year was 12mm diameter which gave us ample space to allow our topdressing sand to be brushed into the holes without bridging.
In addition to the sand topdressing, we introduced a heavy drop of bentgrass seed to the greens. The seed was dropped onto the topdressing before we brushed, brushing and dragging then pulled both sand and seed into the core holes giving 3.5 million pots for the seed to germinate and establish in. I have found that giving the seed some space when using this method leads to better long-term establishment than the slot seeding that we have done in the past. As expected at this time of year, we saw germination of the bentgrass after about 7 days and by 10 days every core hole was brimming with new plants.
Our approaches were topdressed and solid tined with 12mm tines to a depth of around 100mm – ample depth to encourage healthy rooting and significant aeration of the rooting zone of these areas.
Topdressing of the fairways was a long, slow job. Even with a large 4 tonne topdresser, it still took 5 days of creep speed to spread the sand across the five targeted fairways and driving range. All in all, 350 tonnes of sand was applied to these areas with the tractor moving at a lightening speed of 2 miles per hour. Sand topdressing will accumulate over time and develop to form a free-draining surface on the fairways; our strategy is to continue this programme long term.
The sheep are back for their spell of grazing and we will be moving them around the course for the next four months focusing on the thickest of areas. The rough has been particularly thick in the base this year which is a result of our wet spell back in May. In April, I was checking the rough areas while we were establishing our cut lines and the rough areas were looking great. They were thin in the base and looking like they were going to settle in to provide an almost fair shot (should a shot stray off-fairway) and then came the rain! A few weeks of wet weather through the prime growing period saw these areas thicken up significantly and produce a dense base – challenging for playing, equally so to manage.
Long term, our programme of grazing and thinning has significantly reduced the density of the rough and we will continue to push on with this strategy of rough thinning improvement. Our goal is to have all areas in play thin enough to find balls and play from.
We are seeing a wide range of wildlife in these areas as we settle into a management programme that benefits plant biodiversity, the greenkeeping team have seen numerous grass snakes while they have been working on ragwort management. Also, as the summer ends and autumn progresses, we will start to see flocks of finches coming in to feed on the knapweed seedheads.
As forecast, last month there was a glut of pitchmarks left unrepaired on the surfaces following greens hollow coring, the worst being 4th, 5th and 14th greens. Every pitch mark is a potential putt spoiler and most certainly an opportunity for weed establishment or Poa annua ingress, contrary to our goals. Do the right thing, they are your greens after all.
Thanks to everyone that is taking the time to rake bunkers following a bunker shot. I’m sure the golfers behind appreciate your efforts now that COVID-19 regulations allow rakes to be out on the course.
As our meagre summer slips away, the winter work schedule is coming together. Although the key aspects of the winter follow the same theme each year, there are always some new projects to complete. In addition to leaf collection, we will be undertaking some bunker refurbishment and addressing some localised drainage issues. Stay tuned for details.
Yours in sport.