As we head into March, ever so slowly there are signs of growth out there. Turf standing up and filling in areas that have been flattened and walked in, clippings are filling the boxes when we mow and there is definition coming back between mown areas.

Our rainfall has been sympathetic so far in the new year with virtually all our 2023 rainfall falling in the first ten days of the year, a welcome relief after the close of 2022. Between October 2022 and the first week of January 2023 we saw almost 500mm falling, substantial when comparing to our annual average of around 850mm.

Winter is a tough time for the course. Growth is slow or non-existent and surfaces lose the ability to grow through wear, and the results are obvious. As our membership numbers have grown so have our round numbers and the impact of this increase in daily play is most apparent now, at the end of winter.

First and foremost, the impact that trolleys have on the course has been highlighted. I am sure that it is obvious to everyone that the condition of the course improved dramatically during the period of carry-only when there were no trolleys on the course. This one point alone demonstrates how much impact daily play affects the golf course during winter.

With this in mind, here are a few things to think about that will help us all keep the course in better condition.

Pitch Marks

Take the first green as a snapshot; I would suggest there are hundreds of unrepaired pitchmarks on the front of the green. The situation is the same on ten, fourteen, four, eleven and sixteen and so on. The left picture below shows damage found two Sunday mornings ago on the eighteenth green when I was setting up for play. The right picture shows a repaired pitchmark which took 5 seconds to repair this morning.

Image: 18th Green.

Repairing a pitchmark is quick and easy, it is a great habit to get into. Repairing pitchmarks will improve your greens which will ultimately improve your putting performance.

Image: A repaired pitchmark on the 12th Green.

Swipe Divots on Greens

For the first decade of my greenkeeping career I didn’t even realise that a golfer would swipe their putter against a putting surface and cut a divot from the turf. That is ten years of never seeing a single swipe divot. Now at Bowood I unfortunately see one every fortnight.

Image: Typical divot damage to a green, 4th February.

Fine Turf Traffic

Please keep trolleys off the short grass – greens, approaches and tees. When walking through the hole, avoid taking the shortcut across approaches or greens; these areas are fine turf playing surfaces. When teeing off, leave your bag or trolley at the tee surround or path and walk over to the markers.

Image: Struggling to recall when it became acceptable to take a trolley over a green. 16th Green, 24th February.

Ropes, Stakes & Hoops

We place ropes, stakes and hoops in strategic locations during the winter to direct foot traffic away from or around high traffic areas. Walking around or through these will cause damage to the areas roped off.

Image: Hoops on 4th Green

Bunker Faces

Stepping up a steep turf bunker face will inevitably lead to the edge breaking away. Best practice is to enter the bunker from the rear edge, which is usually the flattest and usually the location of the bunker rake. Pick up the rake enroute to your ball and take it with you, play your shot and then rake your footprints as you walk back out of the bunker via the shallow edge.

Image: A broken bunker edge on the steep face of first greenside bunker.

Walking on newly installed turf repairs on bunker faces will only undo the repair work that the greenkeeping team have undertaken on that bunker. When this work is damaged by foot traffic the team will need to revisit the same job to repair for a second time.

Image: Please do not step up on the new turf areas.

This spring, our renovation programme involves applying a granular treatment for moss, scarifying, topdressing and finally micro-tining with solid tines. Overall, the process is much less disruptive than a heavy hollow tine operation so recovery should be much quicker as long as temperatures remain above zero.

Thank you for your assistance and see you on the course.

Jaey Goodchild
Head Greenkeeper