The latest from both courses from our Head Greenkeepers.
The Downs Course
I updated the membership at the beginning of April on Intelligent Golf surrounding the green recovery after the maintenance in March. You may have seen this on Intelligent Golf but if you haven't here is my update:
The recovery from the greens maintenance in March has been slow due to the below average temperatures we have had in the last month. We have seen a considerable amount of frequent frosts, which we would not normally expect for this time of year. This last week we have had a frost every day, with the temperatures when we arrive to work being around -2 degrees Celsius. The soil temperatures are around 6 degrees Celsius at the warmest part of the day, and 2 degrees Celsius on the valley holes, which recovery is about a week behind the higher greens on the course. Obviously this is not ideal growing conditions for the grass plant, which needs a soil temperature of between 8-10 degrees Celsius to produce adequate growth for recovery. Also natural rain is a big factor for plant health and it has been a considerably dry month so far with very little rainfall. We have subsidised this with irrigation water.
However we have seen improvements in the last week with the greens after they received a sand dusting to improve the surface trueness. As the temperatures rise, the greens will improve in performance, as the grass grows and covers over the aeration holes. We will look to apply more sand dustings in the next few weeks to keep improving the trueness and speeds whilst also continuing to apply our liquid feeds which will aid in the grass plants recovery.
I would like to reiterate the reason why we did such a hard maintenance when we did. With the course being shut, it enabled us to use a larger hollow core than we would normally do, removing about 8-9% of the surface compared to about 4% we would have normally done in late March. This therefore removes more of the problematic thatch which is in our soil profile, which in-turn improves the end result of what we aimed for this year, reducing the timescale to improving our greens.
It is a year that has got colder the further we moved into it, with Mid-Feb to Mid-March warmer than Mid-March to Mid-April, which has made it a strange year. Since I wrote the news item I thought I would give you a summary of April so far:
18 frosts in the first 21 days.
A total of 15 GDD (Growth Degree Days) in the month (Bear in mind 4-6 GDD per day represents good growth, so that’s a total of three days growth in the last 21 days). Growth Degree Days is a formula we use in greenkeeping to aid us in our decision making, for example how long a fertiliser or growth regulator will remain in the grass plant.
55mm of moisture lost to evapotranspiration – This needs to be put back by our irrigation water.
With all the dry weather the new bunkers are taking slightly longer to settle and the sand seems to be more unstable than usual. Once a few rain showers arrive, these should compact nicely, because of this we have been smooth raking the bunkers instead of normal tine raking to allow the bunkers to be more consistent around the course.
The fairways have been brushed and rotary cut to remove the build-up of lateral growth, which will improve the playability of the surface. Also the cutting direction has been changed on all surfaces to stop the grass lying flat, therefore improving the fairway surface. Definition will return after a few cuts to become aesthetically pleasing again. The 18th fairway has started to thicken up after the previous granular fertiliser application, which is pleasing to see.
On ecology we have started to see a lot more bird activity, especially on the hedge lines and woodland edges. We have also spotted a Barn Owl, which is the first sighting we have had of this species in a long time. Next month we will be adding bird and bat boxes to the course as part of our on-going ecology plan. With growth predicted to increase in the next few weeks, it will be nice to see the wild flowers start to flower in our natural rough areas.
Danny Carter from our team has taken the opportunity to gain knowledge and experience by working in Switzerland over the playing season. He will be working at Links Leuk Golf Resort and we look forward to his return in December, where he will share his experiences and new ideas with the team. We welcome Ruaridh to our team who will be filling Danny’s position.
See you on the course!
Rob Dyer, Head Greenkeeper, The Downs Course
The Park Course
These two pictures of the 15th tell the story of what the situation is on the course at the moment. The first picture on the left was taken April 2021, showing very dull colours with minimal growth/germination for recovery. The poor grass is struggling to pull its self-up due to the cold temperatures with regular frosts. The second picture on the right was taken in April 2019, showing deep green colours, the leaves are showing on the trees and it was a lot wormer with higher temperatures and consistent showers which is optimum conditions for growth, recovery and presentation.
Sadly, it’s been the coldest April since 2013 with temperatures 4 degrees below the average and especially cold at night with frequent frosts. It has also been an exceptional dry month with minimal rain for seven weeks so far. It’s been tough but we are getting there!
In the last week the greens have stepped up a notch with our foliar feeding doing the trick for trying to stimulate the leaf and encourage growth. We have applied another light top dressing to the greens to aid trueness and speed and will continue do this every fortnight.
They have all been devoted with a soil and seed mix on any imperfections. The tees also have been fertilised with a granular to help with recovery, enhance sward density and promote growth and root development.
Have been brushed to stand the plant up for a cleaner cut. We have sprayed a liquid fertiliser to speed up recovery and try to promote growth.
Have all been edged and had the fly-mo go over it.
One of the best things about being up so early is the sunrise!
See you on the course and please remember to repair ALL pitch marks.
Simon Berry, Head Greenkeeper, The Park Course
The Park Course
The Park Course winds effortlessly around the beautiful 18th Century parkland surrounding Goodwood House.