As our extraordinary summer draws to an end and conditions return to normal, we can breathe a little and reflect on the challenges we were presented with.

Both remedial work and regular greenkeeping are the flavour of the moment, and I will run through these further on in the blog. Through June, July and August to date we have received only 58mm of rain against evaporation losses of nearly 260mm, quite a shortfall. Irrigation does go some way to remedy the shortfall but you cannot beat rainwater.

Greens

Renovation went well, the team had the main operational work completed and the flags back on surfaces in time for play by Wednesday lunchtime. An excellent outcome and great effort from everyone involved. The procedures that we undertook were slightly different from previous years, but allowed us to use a different method of overseeding bentgrass into the surface, giving new seedlings more space for establishment. By the close of work, we had spiked the surfaces twice with different methods, applying pure bentgrass seed while the holes were open, finishing off the programme with roughly 45 tonnes of sand topdressing. One of the keys to fast recovery is judging the precise amount of sand to be applied to the greens. Too little and the holes will not be filled and will remain open, while too much can lead to excess sand sitting on the surface that is unable to be incorporated into the sward. Applying multiple, light applications is the best way to achieve the balance.

Germination

Germination was as expected with seedlings becoming visible at seven days after seeding and the way forward from here is to nurse them to establishment through light, regular watering and feeding over the coming weeks.

Challenges

One aspect of the hot spell that has impacted us strongly in places, is the summer decline of Poa annua (or annual meadow grass) on the greens. Anthracnose is a fungal summer blight disease that really takes hold once stress levels are high. Most significantly, when temperatures are reaching 24c or above for consecutive days. We usually suffer from this disease without impact to our bentgrass populations, although it does impact surface performance. Moving to recovery from anthracnose involves frequent light feeding and conservative watering. This is to maintain a slightly dry surface which is counter to the establishment of the new bentgrass seedlings. As always, a fine balance to work within but day-on-day there is an improvement.

"Pitch marks cost putts"

The role that members and visitors can play in contributing to the on-going management and preservation of our putting surfaces is to be vigilant with the repair of pitch marks while playing, both their own and those spotted from previous groups. Unrepaired pitch marks present an ideal opportunity for weeds and disease to establish on the surface plus, most importantly for everyone who plays, they present a potential barrier to a successful putt. Pitch marks cost putts. Approaches were subject to a simple topdress and spike during the week once greens were complete. These areas received 20 tonnes of sand topdressing and are due another topdress in the coming weeks.

Fairways

Renovation week was the perfect opportunity to address problems which occur during the wet spells of winter by undertaking soil improvement work on carries and fairways. Following strong results from the trial of gypsum applications to the second fairway, we applied heavy applications to the following areas:
  • 12 fairway and carry
  • 7 fairway and carry
  • 6 carry
  • 2 carry
  • 9 carry
  • 17 fairway and carry
A total of 225 tonnes of pure sand were applied to these areas in addition to the gypsum and intensive aeration commenced while the dressing was underway. The ideal outcome of the works is to open up pore space within the clay soil through reacting with the gypsum. This creating greater network channels for water to infiltrate into the soil. Secondly, the sand will both dilute thatch accumulation on the surface and create channels from the surface into the soil. Additionally, the driving range landing area was topdressed with 140 tonnes of sand, treated with gypsum and aerated twice. Aerating through the dry soil conditions allows the soil to shatter upon impact from the tines, creating a network of pore space radiating from each tine hole. The combination of these operations is expected to allow surface water to infiltrate the ground. By diluting the surface, it should result in less water being held in the top layer of the soil leading to firmer conditions through the winter. We have a few small drain extensions that we will be installing over the coming weeks that will further contribute to improving these areas.

Other Areas

Following on from the dry spell, the team have begun treating areas where we have lost turf cover with light aeration and overseeding. We cannot treat everywhere so our focus will be on tees, approaches and green collars initially. Long rough management has been continuing through grazing with sheep and topping to tidy up areas once the livestock has moved on. The next areas for grazing are the area central to 10 and 18 and the area adjacent to the first carry. The team has undertaken a programme of harrowing (or raking) on the long rough areas between 4 and 14 plus between 10 and 11. The harrow effect has thinned out the base of the long areas removing the dense undergrowth. As with all of our rough management programmes the aim here is to reduce density to bring benefit to play and ball finding. It also allows less aggressive, more desirable grasses and gives flowers an opportunity to take hold. All the best, Jaey Goodchild