So far, we’ve spotted some swelling of buds, the odd insect that you really only see later in the year, but most apparent to me is the growth of bentgrass on our surfaces. From daily observation and keeping an eye on our clippings when we mow, the bentgrass is really showing growth as we go through this mild spell. This is great news given that our Poa populations will most certainly be sitting still for some time to come yet. Competitive advantage at work!
Rainfall-wise, we have a had a dry start to the year with February rainfall (and of course snow for that matter!). We’re currently sitting at not much over 50mm (2 inches) on top of the totals of January which really only hit half of average, at 35mm. Drier soil conditions have given us a great opportunity for fairway and semi-rough aeration which is most effective when the soil can crumble.
Our three main bunker renovation projects have included the greenside bunkers on holes 1, 5 and 12. As I write, the team are wrapping up the fifth and twelfth hole projects which have seen minor adjustments to their shape. The focus has been on the reconstruction of the edges and removal of any accumulated sand splash. In some cases, this was approaching 300mm depth as noted last month. The first bunker has been re-shaped on the front right, which at times gave quite a restricted backswing.
As we assess and undertake the work to these bunkers, we are trying to design sand faces and edging that will allow the ball to roll back away from the front faces. This will both reduce sand splash forward and provide fair ball lies but also stay in keeping with the original design. With all, comes compromise but we are looking at all perspectives.
Spring green renovations are upon us again. As required through all renovation and improvement operations, we tailored the techniques we used to match the conditions with which we’ve been dealing with. This spring, our operation had a primary focus on scarifying followed by micro-tining and sand topdressing to finish off the work.
The summer of 2018 threw challenging conditions for all of our turf surfaces and the consequences of these conditions are being seen now, six months on. Heat and absence of natural rainfall created stressful conditions for plants outside the normal tolerances of cool-season grasses through this period. These conditions reduced the vigour of growth and the overall health of our grasses. This has provided an opportunity for mosses to get a foot in the door where turf density was reduced.
Pre-treatment of green surfaces the week before our work with specific fertilisers stressed moss populations before mechanical operations were undertaken, the first of which was scarifying. Similar to verti-cutting, scarifying is effectively like power raking where both moss and organic matter are removed from the turf sward and collected for composting.
Following on from this, we applied pure sand topdressing which was brushed into the surface to reduce the density of organic matter and introduce structural stability back into the surface to aid recovery and smooth surfaces. Topdressing with sand is integral to our fine turf management programmes and we undertake this process throughout the year at varying rates of application from very light dustings hardly noticeable to heavy, hollow core filling applications that are apparent on the surface for a number of days after.
After topdressing was applied and brushed in solid micro-tining was undertaken which aided the smoothing and levelling of the surface and also, very importantly, provided an aerating effect to the soil that offers an opportunity for oxygenation of the soil and promotion of root development that is so crucial in the early days of the growing season. Root growth is at its highest in spring as soon as soil temperatures begin to rise. Healthy root growth provides the plant with an opportunity to access more groundwater, more soil nutrition and subsequently acquires an inherent ability to manage stress more effectively.
Aeration of soils should really be considered a fundamental part of turf management.
As is always the case with early season work, recovery is wholly governed by the weather conditions following the work. Cold overnight temperatures will maintain cold soil temperatures and therefore reduce or even stop plant growth. Our fertility programme following this work will be tailored to match the weather conditions always with a view to minimising recovery time and restoring play promptly.
Carrying over from my points on ground conditions, the team have been mowing regularly and shaping areas for the coming season. Fairways have had minor tweaks and approaches are blending in to match these. As our temperatures begin to rise, we will be addressing more of the shortcomings from last summer. This including scarifying and overseeding selected areas including tees and high traffic rough areas. Make sure you keep an eye out for the work and watch how long seed sowing takes to germinate.
Following a call from the greenkeeping team to help with improving bunker, playability we have changed our greenkeeping bunker rakes from the traditional landscape style rake to one with a tooth pattern that matches the on-course rakes. The teeth are shorter and much more closely spaced than the previous rakes but given the consistency across all of these tools, we have been seeing a real improvement in sand preparation since this change was made. The sand firms up more but the short teeth still provide a fluffy, shallow tilth for improved ball lie.
Remember last month – our rakes work best when you push them!! Get the word out, please!
Thanks for your time reading and as ever don’t hesitate to collar me and ask about anything that may be on your mind regarding the golf course.