The Downs Course
Happy New Year! As we come to the end of the year I have looked at what we have achieved and thought I would share with you some of the experiences in my first year of being a Head Greenkeeper.
Starting in December 2017, we came out of the winter having had the wettest period since I have been at Goodwood, which has been 14 years now. After all the rainfall we also had to deal with, the beast from the east and the courses being shut due to snow. However, in this time we managed to hollow core the three worst greens on the course, the 1st, 17th and 18th and apply a root zone amendment. This has had a massive effect on these greens this year, both in plant health and performance. We will be doing this maintenance process again to the same greens, as well as adding the 13th and 3rd green, as these two greens are now the worst performing on the course.
We had a good spring and the course started really taking shape. A few tweaks were made to put more definition in and this has proven to be a success. The performance of the greens in spring was pleasing and going into June for Club Championships the course looked and played extremely well. The feedback from this was really pleasing and we were looking to continue this throughout the main playing season.
We then went into drought conditions and on many days in July and August, the average temperature was over 30 degrees. With this in mind applying water to the greens was a priority and because we work on an estate where we share the water with other departments and the reservoirs are used for drinking water across the site, our water system was turned off for 24 days within the drought period. Therefore we implemented an emergency agronomy plan to keep the greens as healthy as possible. Although the performance and health of the greens suffered, we thought we may have totally lost a few greens, they survived by us using a water bowser with a garden hose attachment. To put this in perspective the bowser pumped out 1500lts every hour and a half. For a green with five sprinklers around it which is typical on The Downs course, this volume of water can be put on the green in three minutes. Therefore you can appreciate the amount of effort the team put in working into the night and 4am starts to try and keep the greens alive. However some benefits came from this, the velvet bentgrass coverage increased due to the roots being deeper which was pleasing to see. Now looking back at the pictures from the summer you can see how hardy the grass plant can be, most areas have recovered. The worst fairways are slowly recovering and we will spray more wetting agent in the spring to encourage re-growth on these areas.
We moved into the autumn looking at disease control and keeping it suppressed at high disease pressure times. We are relieved when we get into the cold period as this helps us disease pressure, unfortunately, we have not seen this weather in November and December. This aided with heavy dew mornings increases the chances of disease. Nearly all the greens are disease free.
We look more into plant health over the winter months, as you can appreciate it takes a lot longer for the grass plant to recover in the winter and with the amount of golf being played, wear on the course increases. Therefore please play off the tees provided and follow any traffic management signs or on-screen instructions on buggies. The most important thing is to repair your pitch marks (and any un-repaired pitch marks) on the greens. The greens are really suffering lately from un-repaired or poorly repaired pitch marks. Please help us in looking after your course and doing your best to repair any during the day.
All in all, it’s been a tough year, however a really enjoyable year. I can quite honestly say I have learnt more this year than my previous 18 years in greenkeeping.
In December we have had 146mm of rain (120mm in 2017). Hopefully, the weather turns cold and dry to help us through the winter months. We are having a few issues with worm casts at the moment. The chemicals we used to control worms have been banned and there is now nothing on the commercial market to help us control the castings. Therefore some of the tees and fairways will have a few more castings on than normal as our cutting frequency slows down due to the growth of the plant slowing down.
We have started our winter projects which include:
- Strimming natural areas and tee banks
- Turfing bunker faces
- Turfing walk-off areas
- Repairing pathway edges
- Pond maintenance
- Irrigation repairs
- Tree and shrub removal
- Tree and hedge planting
- Hollow coring 1st,3rd,13th, 17th & 18th.
The greens which are being hollow cored will have a root zone amendment added to them to improve drainage and nutrient uptake. We are looking to do a green a week, weather dependent, and rest that green for a week, therefore 16a will be in use. Thank you in advance for your patience as this maintenance work needs to be done to improve the playing surfaces in the main playing season. The cores removed from the greens will be used to repair the pathway edges, as this helps recycle material which is good from a sustainability aspect.