Course Manager Blog – December 2022
My final course blog of 2022, time certainly flies by – I hope you have found this year’s quarterly blogs informative.
I would like to thank members for your positive feedback throughout the year. The greenkeeping team and I are really looking forward to 2023 – we will continue to strive for high course standards and course improvements.
To maintain tradition, let’s begin by taking a look back at the weather in 2022
With records broken during most seasons in 2022, a wet winter (with the exception of January 2022), a cold and dry Spring that extended into May, high temperatures with minimal rain in the summer and most recently a very cold ‘snap’ which was followed by plenty of rain, all of which provided varying challenges for the course.
Dry and cold Springs do seem to be ‘the norm’ in recent years, the Spring of 2022 was slightly different as it continued well into May which is something that we haven’t experienced for quite some time.
We certainly hope for a more traditional Spring in 2023 that brings us ‘April showers’ on a warm(ish) wind.
We were very lucky to have such a great summer, I think it was deserved after the past 2 years – June to September were extremely dry and very warm with minimal rainfall, we were very grateful for our full course irrigation system.
This caused some areas to suffer from a little drought damage, these were localised areas that our irrigation system does not reach, it was contained to mainly bunker and selected green surrounds.
This past Autumn began mild and wet, especially November, this is consistent with recent Autumns. The mild and damp conditions aided recovery on tees and the areas we overseeded following drought damage.
Something we haven’t experienced for some time was the recent cold snap this December, cold spells are often experienced between January and March.
During the cold period in December, daytime temperatures struggled to get above freezing, meaning that the very small amount of snow that fell wasn’t able to melt and clear for just over 7 days, this did unfortunately mean that we had to close the course.
The cold spell caused a widespread ground frost, without the snow cover I expect we would’ve been able to stay open for play. Prolonged cold spells mean that we do have to take care on greens, especially if we are unable to rotate and move pin positions.
After approximately 5 to 7 days of continued play on frozen greens (to the same pin) we would begin to use temporary greens. Localised foot traffic would cause irreversible damage to the playing surface.
An example of this can sometimes be seen on our putting greens where practice putting takes place.
Following the freeze, the thaw begins, this is a critical period, and frustratingly, is when we will always position flags onto our temporary greens (if they haven’t already been used) until greens have fully thawed.
We have to protect greens during the thaw to avoid severe and lasting damage, play/foot traffic would cause something called root break or root sheer – this is explained in the image below and is called sudden thaw dynamics.
Root break/sheer is very detrimental to the putting surface in particular and will cause loss of turf.
Once the green has thawed entirely, we will return to main greens.
In 2022 there were 4 months that were equally as dry as one another, our driest months were January (very welcome), April, June, and July with just 72mm (or 3 inches in old money) falling across all 4 months.
25% of the years rain (154mm or 6 inches) fell in November making it challenging to provide a full golf course without restriction (buggies). December will record similar volumes of rainfall I would expect. To date we have received over 4 inches of rain.
During the summer season greens are mowed, rolled, or both daily so we can achieve a true and speedy putting surface. This over time causes compaction, if left this can cause agronomic issues such as poor turf quality and poor drainage.
We carried out 3 deep tined aeration passes on the greens and collars in 2022; we follow up with roll to level the putting surface. Additionally, we aerate greens monthly with our shallow aeration machine (Procore).
Deep and shallow tining helps relieve greens of any compaction built up following mowing, rolling, play and tournament preparation.
Deep tining in the winter has an added benefit of assisting with keeping playing surfaces as dry as possible allowing water to percolate through the profile efficiently.
Our next deep tine pass over greens is planned for the week commencing 16th January.
A view from the tractor cab whilst verti-draining – can you tell which green?
Tee’s & approaches received a deep tine aeration in the Autumn, we completed this work in house. We will shallow tine greens, approaches, and tees throughout the winter.
We hired contractors in early October to verti-drain our fairways. The process was completed in just over 3 days and was very well timed as the heavy rainfall began soon after this work was completed.
As with the greens, verti-draining of tee’s, approaches and fairways helps relieve compaction following the main playing season, this in turn assists with rainwater flow through the soil profile.
I would like to thank you for your patience whilst this process was carried out.
We began our in-house winter works on the right-hand 14th greenside bunkers. Turf has been stripped from the area and we have re-graded the surrounds ready for new turf. Unfortunately, due to the ground frost turfing has been postponed until the new year.
We will be re-turfing bunker surrounds that suffered damage as a result of drought stress from the summer, these include bunkers on holes 5, 7, and 16.
We will check every bunker for sand levels and top up where needed in the coming months.
During the cold spell we continued with our tree management; we canopy lifted trees between the 6th and 7th holes. Our hope is that this will help improve the grass coverage under each tree by allowing increased light and air into these areas.
Our ‘mow over’ tee stone trial on the 1st tee was a great success, with great feedback from members. We have begun installing these on each tee. This will create a cleaner less cluttered looking tee complex throughout the course.
I am pleased to report that in the in the Spring we will be making course improvements/upgrades on the 2nd, 3rd & 18th holes.
The work will be completed by our contractors, Profusion. The detail of works can be viewed on our five-year vision. Works will include;
- Construct new pond with sleeper wall
- Construct new greenside bunker
- Produce approach and add drainage
- Renovate the greenside path
- Construct and redesign 3 new bunkers in slightly altered position
- Construct new fairway bunker (RHS) and renovate existing fairways bunker, form mounding to link the bunkers
- Construct 2 new approach bunkers, left hand side bunker to be filled and placed near greenside and renovate right hand side bunker
- Construct new tees on the 5th, 9th & 15th holes
We do not have a date for these works to begin yet, we will communicate this as soon as it is scheduled – we are waiting for confirmation from Profusion. We are hopeful for works to begin in late March, early April.
These works will improve each of these holes, we are very much looking forward for this to begin.
* 2nd pond is subject to obtaining a licence from Natural England because of great crested newts that are present.
Pleasingly our 2nd brand new all electric greens mower has been delivered… only 9 months late!!
Both electric greens mowers will now be used after our March course maintenance as we hand mow greens throughout the winter.
This is a fantastic investment and one that reduces our carbon footprint. These next generation mowers have no oils or fuels meaning no more damaging hydraulic oil leaks, no more emissions and no more pollution.
A fully charged mower can mow all our greens (1.5 hectares) with 40 – 50% charge remaining.
We are currently waiting for a delivery date for our new Toro 4000 rough mower and Toro Procore (shallow) aeration machine.
Having spoken to our Toro representative – the backlog from Covid delays have started to alleviate so we are hopeful to see these machines very soon… Fingers crossed.
Our newest team members Steve and Michael have really settled in these last few months.
Both Steve and Michael begin their level 2 greenkeeping courses in the new year, continued education is very important to us and the industry as a whole.
Our deputy course manager, Luke, began his level 3 greenkeeping course in October too.
We are working to complete the team by employing a new mechanic, if you know of anyone that would be interested, please contact myself via email using the following address [email protected]
From all the Greenkeeping team (Stuart, Luke, Niki, Richard, Steve, Michael, Jordan, Aaron, Mike, and Ollie) here at Sand Martins Golf Club we wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year – we are very excited for 2023 and what it brings.
Here is a reminder of what is to come in 2023 having just passed the shortest day!!