The start of the season is now upon us with the first Ladies and Gents competitions already been and gone. The course is starting to get some much needed definition onto its surfaces due to the upturn in growth from the consistent humidity and much higher temperatures we have experienced lately (I know this cause I am currently typing this up in my back garden with a pair of shorts and shades on). This all has resulted in us now needing to mow all the playing surfaces regularly and hopefully with some added rainfall and improved recovery rates, the course will be back to its usual high standard very soon. This month’s report is mainly updates on the course and bunker conditions with a few other things thrown in, hopefully you find it interesting and a worthwhile read.
After the aggressive work we carried out on the greens during our spring maintenance, the greens are recovering slowly but surely (could have done with more regular rainfall and slightly higher temperatures during the weeks that followed). I must admit, we would rather the greens be a touch smoother and a little quicker, giving you more consistent putting, but they are still uneven in parts which we will concentrate on fixing in the coming weeks. The coring and graden work has recovered very well, but the main problem with greens smoothness levels is the scaring from the fusarium patch disease we suffered badly from at the end of last season (you need good growth for these scars to recover and the growth is simply not present through the colder months) and the grass growth we are having lately has accentuated the problem further. To fix this problem we have hand spiked, seeded and dressed all the problem areas over the whole course and the seed we sowed on these areas takes between 2-3 weeks to germinate given the ideal conditions (daily average of 8 degrees), so hopefully you will see the signs of little greens shoots coming through shortly and in turn spreading to fill the scar holes and level out the surfaces.
We have put down another granular fertiliser recently to give the grass coverage and growth a boost to encourage surface recovery which has worked nicely, and we followed this a week later with 4 tonnes of top dressing to improve smoothness, firmness and dilute our thatch layer. We will continue to verti cut, mow and roll greens regularly over the coming weeks to improve their consistency and green speed, which I am sure will be the case.
Photos highlight how we repair disease scars and how surfaces are recovering
The new bunkers and the surrounding areas have now been in play for a month now and hopefully you are finding them to your liking. For us their appearance and playability is still second to none and we continue to get high praise and envious looks from other greenkeepers when we talk about them. However with many new things, teething problems come with them and our new bunkers aren’t any different, which I will describe and hopefully explain what we plan to do to improve each situation.
- Balls coming to rest or plugging on edges and faces of bunkers
- Lack of rain has resulted in bunkers being too dry
- Sand movement due to high winds, lowering depths and exposing concrete
- Surrounding turf drying out due to prolonged dry spell
Most of these problems are all due to the lack of rain (what happened to April showers), making the sand very dry and dust like. This has resulted in the faces of the bunkers being susceptible to sand movement from wind, golfers play and difficultly in raking. We plan to apply wetting agents to the bunker faces in the foreseeable future to hopefully help them retain more moisture and in turn not dry so quickly. We are also planning to apply wetting agent to the surrounding turf which was starting to dry out (wetting agents explained below).
When soils and sands become too dry, they become hydrophobic (water repellent) as it is so dry and firm, the water will just run off it and won’t be able to break the surface. A wetting agent is a substance that lowers surface tension and increases penetrating qualities and helps absorb the water and hold onto it (meaning every drop of water the area gets after a wetting agent is applied it holds onto it and uses).
We have also added 1 – 2 inches of sand to the faces of the new bunkers to limit the chances of concrete being exposed and chances of coming into contact with the concrete with your club on the problem holes (3, 6, 7, 17 and 18) which are the holes most exposed to wind. Before we topped up the sand on the faces we watered the faces heavily and will continue to do so if necessary, to try and get some moisture into the concrete for better water holding capacity. Hopefully this helps the problem in the future while we wait patiently for a bit of prolonged rain.
Every time we rake bunkers we take a depth measuring device to monitor the depths on the bases and edges of the bunkers, which we act on if not correct by moving or adding sand around the bunker if required (two – three inches on the face and four inches on the base is the desired depth).
The time we take to prepare the bunkers for the days play will be wasted however if a golfer doesn’t rake the bunker after they have used it, properly. I understand that the way we want you to rake a bunker may feel a bit unnatural, but could you please have a look at the YouTube link below again, memorise it and put it into practise the next time you play, as a poorly raked bunker will only result in bad lies and uneven stances for the golfers behind you.
Since I have been doing a college course lately that has involved me researching SWOT and STEEPLE Analysis, it made me think it could be a good idea to come up with an acronym that could help you remember the main points ofhow the club wants you to rake a bunker. So the next time you go in a bunker, please remember the main points below of HELP and you will be on the right track.
H Hands usetwo hands on the rake at all times
E Enter enter and exit at the lowest point of the bunker, not the face
L Level level edges of the bunkers with the back of the rake
P Push push the sand away from you, not pull
If you have any further queries on the raking method, please feel free to stop one of the greenstaff during your round and we will gladly give you a quick demonstration and a few useful tips on how we want them raked.
On Wednesday 17th April we welcomed 21 volunteers to help us with divotting the fairways and tees, without help this task is very time consuming for us and takes us away from other work. We managed to finish all the fairways and tees, so a big thank you must go out to the Gents and Ladies that came along to help us, who all did a brilliant job. Hopefully this sort of thing will be a regular occurrence and possibly lead to other volunteering parties helping us with further divotting days, pond clearing, litter picking, course walks etc. Members coming in to help us is much appreciated but also proves beneficial, with us greenkeepers getting the opportunity to meet the golfers, have a chat, explain a few things about the course and get the chance to develop a better relationship with our members. All in all the divotting day was a massive success.
Team Divot after a hard day’s work
Since I am going on about divotting, the divot bags are now back in use. You can pick them up from the stand at first tee or pro shop and initial signs show that you are using them regularly, with the bags emptying off the hooks every day. Thanks for your support with this initiative and it shows us you care about your golf course.
The reduced rain we had last year began to effect the water levels in the pond at the 2nd, with the depths being nowhere near what we are accustomed to. Normally over the winter period the pond would be at full capacity and we would need to open the outlet pipe and drain to stop the fairway from flooding but this winter it has not been the case. The water got to a level that was becoming a problem, so much so we invested in a proper gate valve on the outlet pipe and a measuring device to keep an eye on the depth. We now seem to going the right way now as the water level has risen 15cm since we installed the gate valve and measuring stick in early March.
Our pond life has returned
Thankfully the water has risen just in time for some return visitors. Our resident heron has returned along with an array of ducks, frogs, toads, newts and a family of moorhens. The pond is clearly a perfect environment for them as this aquatic wildlife keep returning year on year. The best sight lately has definitely been the new addition of ducklings, as it is always nice to see them develop and grow through the season, I have tried not to count them this year as it’s heartbreaking to watch their numbers dwindling due mainly to the heron’s appetite for them. By the way there are 9 ducklings (I couldn’t help myself).
By Shaun Cunningham