Course Manager Blog – August 2022
Firstly, I would like to apologise for the time since my previous blog (March) – I know how many members enjoy reading my course updates.
How can I not begin my blog by talking about the weather, we saw the highest recorded temperatures in the UK last month with our weather station recording temperatures just shy of 40 degrees on a couple of days.
This certainly makes a change from last year’s wet summer and although this year it has provided golf courses in the UK with new challenges due to the drought, we have experienced a great summer, fantastic for golf, those extra yards of run on the ball coming in handy I imagine.
During the hot spell we have spent many hours hand watering greens, approaches & tees, this is essential to maximise every drop of water applied, this plays a big part in reducing our overall water usage. Hand watering allows us to apply water in areas of need and not just to ‘blanket’ water every green, tee, and approach saving many litres of water.
Pleasingly we came through the heatwave in a reasonably strong position (thanks to our full watering system) with the course a little brown around the edges, just the way we like it – fairways are now receiving a reduced amount of irrigation, our remit is to keep the plant alive rather than emerald, green. This is endorsed by golfs governing body and environment agency.
A very welcome 7mm (up to 20th August) of rain fell recently which allowed the course to green up nicely, there really is no substitute for natural rainfall.
2022 is now one of the driest years on record to date, with just 261mm/10inch of rain this year so far (543mm/21inch in 2021 in comparison for the same time period).
Spring seems a distant memory as we enjoy the summer, the past Spring provided its challenges as we faced playability issues with greens in May (not normally Spring) as the different species of grass within our greens ‘woke up’ at varying times. Causing uneven ball roll and bobbling.
This was a problem faced across many courses, I spoke to many a Course Manager who, like myself, were pulling their hair out with the slow start to the year, we have no fundamental issues with our greens.
To combat the issue of ‘bobbly’ greens we lowered our mowing heights earlier than the condition suited (2.2mm in May), we also increased our rolling frequency to artificially improve the situation, this resulting in adding extra stress to our greens.
To alleviate the stress, we carried out multiple mini aeration passes with our Procore machine and 10mm pencil tines. Followed by a roll behind, you wouldn’t know we had carried out the process (hopefully).
The result of ‘pushing’ greens when nature wasn’t playing ball has meant that some of our greens have a little more moss than normal than we would like – we are managing this out as best we can without detriment to playability. Moss levels have improved since the completion of our summer course maintenance, this is an on-going process.
Throughout the month of June, greens performed fantastically with speeds up to 13ft 3inches but more importantly they were rolling firm and true, this continued through July and. We were able to achieve this with regular light sand dressings, fortnightly foliar feeds, and strict moisture management program, amongst other things.
Our August renovation week went very well, we began the process with a pass over the greens with Dyna Core units (mini hollow core) – the Dyna Core units remove thousands of tiny cores to a depth of approximately 25mm which was our target area for removing fibre/thatch/organic matter.
We followed this by applying just over 60 tonnes of straight sand (Mansfield 35) overall to greens, this was followed by a double pass with our green’s aerators followed, both machines producing holes at different depths. We vary the size and depth of holes so that we can target different areas of the soil profile. The deeper holes assist with drainage whilst the smaller shallower holes help dilute any thatch build up.
Finally, all greens received a double pass with a disc seeder using a Creeping Bent grass called Pure Distinction. This is a continuation of our ‘future proofing’ process as we incorporate more disease and drought tolerant plant into the green composition.
Pure Distinction is used at some of the most prestigious golf courses such as Queenwood, Beaverbrook, and future Ryder cup host, Adare Manor in Ireland.
With the help of some incredible weather, we saw germination in just 7 days and a full recovery within a week and a half.
Achieving recovery in such quick time really highlights the importance of carrying out this process when conditions are perfect, it also highlights the importance that good weather plays in recovery.
A perfect example of this is this year, we carried the exact same process in August as we did in March, but due to unseasonably low temperatures and rainfall (use of cold irrigation water to aid recovery) in March recovery was hampered and took longer than desired.
Whilst we completed renovations and temporary greens were in use, we took the opportunity to clean out the ponds on the 2nd and 17th holes.
Thames Valley Aquatics were on site to assist removing invasive weeds. We left the piles overnight on the pond banks so that any wildlife/invertebrates within the weeds could make their way back into the ponds safely, before we tidied the area up.
Lee Davies, Deputy Course Manager, will be leaving us in October to pursue a career in Australia. Lee has been with us since March 2021 and has been an asset to the team. We wish Lee and his partner the very best in Australia.
I am pleased to announce that Luke Brophy, our 1st Assistant greenkeeper, will be stepping up into the role of Deputy Course Manager. Since Luke began with us in 2021, he has been an asset to the team, and I am excited to see him progress in his new role and career.
We have recently appointed two new greenstaff, Steve and Michaël. Both are very keen to learn and have the drive to succeed.
Steve is a keen golfer and has been with us since the 9th of May. In his short time, he has already been trained on numerous tasks/mowers and has really settled in well.
Michaël joined us this week and is enjoying his new challenge. We will spend time training Michaël and hope that he enjoys his role with us.
Further education is important to us, both Steve and Michaël will be carrying out their NVQ Level 2 via Berkshire College of Agriculture.
The search for a new mechanic/greenkeeper continues. This is very much a niche position, and it is difficult to find the right candidate. In the meantime, our fleet is being maintained by Golf & Turf, who are based very locally and are available should we require an emergency repair at very short notice.
If you know of a mechanic that is looking for a new challenge and plays a little golf, please let Matthew Short know – we would be delighted to be put in contact [email protected]
A explained previously we committed to invest in new golf course machinery – 2 new all electric greens mowers, 1 rough mower and 1 procure aeration machine.
Due to manufacturing issues, delivery times have risen vastly over the last year. We are hopeful that all the machines will be on site by the end of winter.
Our divot trees have been a huge success as we see them being used daily on the fairways and tees, thank you for helping look after your course. We have relocated two of the divot trees to the 7th and 16th tees to help spread the area of repair.
With the help of Ben Emerson, we have created 2 new videos, repairing a pitch-mark and raking a bunker.
We hope you find these videos useful – you can also find these on our Instagram and Twitter pages.
In the coming months our course duties (excluding mowing, agronomical duties and fine detail presentation) will include:
- Topping up bunkers with China clay sand
- Cutting and collecting long rough
- Applying soil conditioner to fairways, tee, and approaches (when ample rainfall is received)
- Collecting leaves due to the drought
- Cleaning pond edges of weeds (9th)
- Raising tree canopies
It certainly has been a busy few months for the team, with lots of duties moving forwards, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.
I will update you with our winter project plans once they have been finalised. Keep up to date with all goings on via our social media pages
twitter – SMGCgreens
Instagram – smgc_greens
Continue to enjoy your golf and let’s hope for a continuation of this fine weather we have been having.