The main event for us last month was the aeration and coring work we carried out on the greens, which after much deliberation and weather watching was moved forward a week to give us the best opportunity to carry out the work to a high standard and in turn get the best possible results. The weather forecast we were looking at was pretty grim, especially the week we planned to carry out the graden work (this work is simply not feasible to do in poor weather) so we felt we had no choice but to bring all the work a week forward. The decision was not made lightly and we would like to thank everyone for their understanding during this period. A turn of events however, outwith our control then occurred that put paid to our planned graden work which I will explain later on in this blog, along with a few other things we got up to in the month of February.
We hired in a machine called a RoboCut for a week to help us with clearing gorse and whins on hard to reach areas. The machine works by remote control with a spinning disc at the front, and as long as there are no rocks near the surface and the gorse stems are not too thick, it will pretty much go through anything. We got it in as it does the job much quicker and does a better job than we can do. Also, it is much safer letting the machine do all the hard work on steep slopes rather than us working with a chainsaw on uneven and dangerous underfoot conditions.
Click on the photo above to view video of the RoboCut in action at the 16th
The end product was fantastic and it has greatly improved the areas worked on. A big shout out must go to Colin, who used the machine all the time it was with us. Having never seen the machine before it arrived, Colin quickly became an expert with its controls and its capabilities and the quality results were largely down to him.
The areas we worked on were on holes 2, 8, 10, 16, 17, 18 and the practice area. The reasons for carrying out work there was down to the gorse and whins basically becoming out of hand and encroaching and tightening the holes. This had led to issues with golfer’s safety and playability and it was felt it had to be acted on before the issues had got any worse.
We have also finished off clearing the area along the 18th path, widening the path and raking away all the old gorse needles, exposing the soil. We hope with the addition of soil and grass seed on this area, it will result in grass coverage in the future. When we were working in the area we also managed to put some much needed work into the path at the 2nd. We cleared away vegetation from the hand rail and edged, levelled, weeded, widened, fixed ruts and put a whacker plate over the whole area. This resulted in the path being less of a trip hazard and much better to look at.
Sudden Thaw Dynamics
You might have noticed on the noticeboard an article I made up to explain why Temporary Greens remain in place even though at times the main greens appear to be frost free. I’ve included it in this blog just in case you missed it and I hope it helps you understand why we need to protect the greens after times of prolonged frost.
Traffic damage on frozen turf areas usually occurs during periods of freezing or thawing. With the most devastating situation being when the grass blades and the upper 25 – 40 mm of soil has thawed, but with the ground beneath remaining frozen. Foot traffic will create a shearing action to the roots, rhizomes and crown tissue at this time. This is comparable to cutting the plant tissue from its underlying root system with a turf cutter. There is a high probability of a complete kill of leaves, crowns and rhizomes occurring if the temperatures soon then drop below freezing. We check for these conditions, usually by sticking a screwdriver into the greens surface. if it come into contact with frozen soil within 40mm of the surface, temporary greens will be used. Although I understand that this is a little inconvenient when you just want to play golf to the big greens, our main aim is to provide healthy turf all year round and this can only be done by protecting the surfaces that are at most risk of being damaged during these conditions.
You will have noticed we have been digging trenches at holes 1,6 and 16 and the reason for this is we are putting in new irrigation pipes on these parts of the course. The work needed to be done as some irrigation pipes were damaged during the bunker work (no matter how much planning went into the bunker work it was inevitable that some pipes were going to be damaged with the amount of digger work that was happening). Another reason for new irrigation pipes is that we need to re-route some around the newly positioned bunkers. After excavating and exposing the pipes, irrigation contractors came in to fix and install new sections and we then followed them by back filling the trenches, firming in and putting the turf back. When our irrigation contractor was in he turned the water system back on after its winter shutdown. The system is now ready and in full working order for the coming season.
Ladies Winter Tees
After requests from members we repositioned the Ladies winter tees on holes 5, 8, 9, and 12 and introduced new mats to protect the tees and improve the golfing experience. We understand that the previous areas where they were situated had become a bit muddy and not ideal to be playing from so hopefully this will improve the situation. Once the bunker project is finished we will return to our usual strategy of reviewing and renovating all types of tees on a priority basis to improve playability as part of our winter projects schedule.
Aeration and Coring Work
We have carried out our normal spring maintenance procedures, such as verti draining, hollow coring and top dressing. The verti draining is done first to relieve compaction, which causes poor soil conditions, flooding after heavy rainfall and poor root growth. The compaction is created by everyday activity on the course, mainly traffic from golfers and cutting machinery. We use the verti drain machine to punch holes in the surface to a depth of 12” which opens up the compacted soil allowing water and air flow. The benefit of using this machinery is mainly improving drainage, but it also helps with deeper rooting, better intake of nutrients, moisture and healthier rootzones.
Verti Drain (For Compaction) ProCore (For Thatch Removal)
We follow this with the hollow coring operation. The cores go to a depth of 3” and we do this solely to target our problem thatch layer. The greater the thatch level means the greater the soil moisture retention and this in turn results in a poorer firmness measurement (all this could result in a lack of consistency, with uneven and slower greens, more disease outbreak, poor growth and softer surfaces). Thatch is a layer of dead vegetation that sits between the greens surface and the soil and is caused when the grass is growing and being cut faster than it can decompose.
Top Dressing and The Final Clean Up
Top dressing with sand is the key part to thatch control and reduction. After we have taken out the core we then fill with straight sand. This dilutes the thatch (basically we are swapping the spongey water holding thatch and replacing it with free draining sand). We put down around 30 tonnes during this process and we are delighted with how these renovations went.
As you will be well aware of by now, we didn’t start the graden work that was scheduled to begin on Monday 25th February. As already mentioned, we brought this procedure forward so we could have optimum conditions (no rain or frost) to undertake this work and in turn get the best results possible. Unfortunately for us, the quarry we were getting the dry, bagged sand from had a major breakdown with its bagging depot, which led to them being unable to bag the sand we needed to carry out the work. The sand we want to use has a specification which is designed exactly to our requirements, so we can’t just get any kind of sand to use as it is simply not right for what we want to achieve. Also, the sand we use must be bagged and sealed (the procedure only works well when the sand going in the machine is completely dry). Sadly, this situation has left us with little option but to wait until we get the sand delivered. This has been extremely frustrating for us as the weather on the planned week was absolutely perfect, with no rain, low temperatures or heavy dews.
We have been assured by the disritubutors that the machinery will be fixed soon and the sand will be delivered to us by Tuesday 5th March, and we will start work on the greens the following day. The weather forecast for the week looks to be ok so we will work the graden machine and clear any debris until the weather says otherwise. If we are held up with any rain, the plan is continue work at the earliest opportunity.
In the meantime, I will give you a little insight in to why we are undertaking this new procedure on the greens and show a quick video to illustrate how the machine works.
Click on photo above to see how the Graden works
The reasoning for the extra greens maintenance this year is because of the results we received from our annual STRI Agronomist’s Report, raising concerns about the levels of thatch below our putting surfaces (especially 0 – 20 mm depth). If this issue is not adressed, the thatch levels will only lead to deteroration of the greens, with increased disease outbreak, higher moisture levels, poor growth and inconsistent surfaces. The graden machine is perfect for targeting the top 20mm of the soil profile as it takes a much greater percentage of thatch out of the soil than hollow coring (coring is still the answer however to thatch reduction on the 20 – 40 mm depth). Its process works by cutting and removing unwanted thatch, and also has the ability to inject sand into the slits that it creates. By removing more thatch we can in turn apply more sand into the profile. We feel this is the best approach to take to get our thatch levels down to a manageable percentage and within our target range, so we can produce consistent, firmer and healthier surfaces.
This process will be done over 3 whole days and we will use 1,440 bags (25kg) of dry sand to complete all the greens. This will add up to 36,000 kg or 36 tonnes in old money of sand that will be applied manually (I am not looking forward to lifting all those bags but at least I will be burning off 1000’s of calories in the process). At the moment we cannot predict how long the greens will be on temporaries as it is our first time using this method but the greens will be back in play sooner than they would be when we core them as we don’t need to top dress them afterwards.
The new bunkers are pretty much finished, with only the odd top up of sand here and there when nescessary. We will continue to assess the sand depths and how the bunkers are reacting to high winds and other weather extremes, as well as us raking them reguarly.
In next month’s blog I will have an in depth piece on the bunker project to coincide with the launch of the new bunkering and the introduction of a full 18 hole course again. Hopefully I will have some interesting video clips, information and education for you to have a look at. It has been quite a journey since work started in September, but the stunning results are now there for all to see. We are in the final furlong and don’t need to wait long before we can cut the ribbons, crack open the champagne and get to playing the full course on 1st April.
By Shaun Cunningham