Rainfall has been on the lean side with the annual total currently sitting at around 230mm which is over 50mm short on where we were at this time last year.
May is guaranteed to bring us trouble on the greens, every year we are challenged to produce a smooth surface through the spell of Poa annua seeding. As the season progresses and the growth starts to increase the annual varieties of turf across the course move into a seeding period.
There are two botanical consequences to this period, first the plants are producing seed heads which follow a different growth habit to leaves and this habit disturbs ball roll by taking an upright stance on stems in comparison to regular leaf tissue. Second, while the plant is committed to seedhead production the use of energy within the plant is diverted from leaf growth to seed production and there the plant responds less than usual to fertiliser applications giving the plants a hungry appearance, less than pretty you could say. Now you could ask why don’t we just use more fertiliser?
One reason is that if we simply feed more the plants that are not seeding they will grow faster thus exacerbating the problem of differential growth across the two species. The other reason is that we have been increasing the population of “non-seeding” perennial bentgrasses and reducing the population of “seeding” annual Poa annua. As the trend of population change continues we will see less and less seeding as the seasons continue. The prime example of species conversion is the ninth green where we have seen a green with roughly 90% Poa annua five years ago swing around to contain only around 20% currently.
This rough period is an annual, historical occurrence that we address every May and as the seeding period subsides we will see a vast improvement to the greens performance. Our management processes to reduce the impact are regular brushing before mowing, regular topdressing and maintaining our regime of rolling. We have reduced the height of cut on the greens to 4mm which will be our season’s height in line with the previous two seasons.
As I mentioned in weather round up, the deluge that we experienced on 19th May caused us significant problems with every single bunker on the golf course. The entire greenkeeping team spent more than two full days shovelling, raking and pushing up washed out bunker faces and bases to get these back into play as soon as possible. It was a great effort by the team having to man handle literally tonnes of sand back into position, firm it all back in and then hand rake for a playable finish. Thanks for your patience while the work was being done as I am sure you experienced less than ideal playing conditions if you were unlucky enough to end up in a bunker.
May I also take this opportunity to remind all of our golfers that raking a bunker to remove your footprints once you have played from it is your responsibility. Leaving footprints or grooves from club swiping instead of raking leaves a less than desirable surface to play from for the golfers following you around the course but also shows little regard for the hard work that our greenkeeping team put into keeping your course to a high standard.
Our fairways are keeping their year round height of cut at 15mm, a fair length for shot playing but also just long enough to withstand a bit of stress caused by foot traffic and summer conditions. We have commenced a programme of light feeding combined with a growth regulator that reduces the amount of clippings produced when we mow. Using the regulator we also see an increase in colour and strip appearance because of an increase in chlorophyll concentrations in the leaf, this product really acts to increase the stress tolerance of the plant with the reduction of leaf growth being a pleasant side effect.
Now the aforementioned seedhead problem is also something to watch out for on fairways, particularly on the twelfth. The ryegrass population there will start to produce very woody stems which will not be mown off with the cylinder type fairway cutting units. In previous years we have taken our rotary rough mowers over the fairway to knock these seed stems off before we mow at fairway height. This is a pretty effective measure but does mean that we need to enlist the help of another team member to the fairway prep operation.
I suppose I have never considered it like this but spring really does present some unique challenges to greenkeeping and course presentation, equally so it brings us a time of real change to the course and an opportunity to present some fantastic vistas across our site, particularly at dawn and dusk.
Thanks for reading