The latest from our Head Greenkeepers from both courses.
The Downs Course
It’s been another tough month with the weather with regards to rainfall. We have had 180mm this month making it 274.mm this year. However, with all this harsh weather we have been making good progress with the winter projects and by the end of the month will hopefully have the bunkers on the 9th and 10th complete, ready to grow in. These will be the last bunkers we will be doing now until the autumn. We have now sprayed off the 13th and 14th, therefore they will be ready for sand soon. We will then be doing the same for the 12th. With the 12th we will need to put 16a in play as we will be spraying total weed killer and do not want anyone retrieving their ball from the bunker, walking it onto the green, and leaving dead footprints. Apologies in advance, but it is a rather be safe than sorry situation.
We have decided not to do greens maintenance on the 10th green, as we have been struggling with the weather, therefore we will now do this green in the autumn. This month we have completed greens maintenance on greens 2 and 15. These greens were verti drained to a depth of 200mm and hollow cored to a depth of 75mm. The cores were then recycled into the 16th path by the green and behind the 18th green. The greens then had root zone amendment applied and were top dressed by hand with two tonnes of kiln dried sand per green. It was nice to see our two apprentices Joe Healy and James Lynch doing the complete process from start to finish under our guidance and learning new techniques as part of their college courses.
We have had a few trees come down last month with the strong winds and they were cleared quite quickly. Unfortunately during the winter, we have not been able to do much woodland work, as we have had minimal frosts and cold weather. We have however raised a few canopies on the 8th and 16th holes which improved the holes’ aesthetics. With this wet weather our feeds for the greens get flushed through quite quickly, sometimes the greens may not look as green in colour as normal. However, we try not to over feed with fertiliser, as this will cause excess thatch and the green will become spongy. This month we will look to apply our first spring fertiliser to encourage the grass to start growing and aid recovery for any disease scars which have been caused throughout the winter.
We have had contractors in to landscape the left side of the 11th carry and clear up the left side of the 13th woodland. This will be seeded in the near future. Once the grass is established on the 11th we will fill in any humps and bumps on the main carry. The three dips on the right side of the carry are ancient flint mines and are a protected site. Therefore, we can’t touch these as they are of archaeological interest. As is most of the 11th to 14th Holes, as it has an ancient monument under it.
In February we have had a serious amount of bird damage on the 11th, 14th and 15th playing surfaces. The birds are digging up the turf looking for grubs and insects to eat. It started on the fairway, but has now moved to the green. We will repair the green each day, plus the fairway and apron will get blown off however, there will still be small holes in the playing surfaces. All insecticides have now been banned in the sports turf industry, so whereas in the past we could kill off all the insects and grubs in the soil and eradicate the food source, we are unable to do this now. Therefore, we will now look into ways of deterring the birds. We have put up a kite which is a fake bird next to the dew pond on the 14th. This seems to have worked quite well so far and the damage is now minimal, albeit some damage is still happening. The problem we have now is recovering the damaged areas, especially on the greens. The 11th and 14th green have been hit extremely hard. We smoothed out the greens with top dressing and will be over seeding these areas to recover them. Some areas will need to be plugged therefore if these greens look patchy, this is why.
Badger damage has been average this month, with the 11th and 15th fairway getting dug up on a few occasions.
As we know the 18th fairway has been suffering with the damp conditions this winter, as communicated previously we have been hoping to get some sand dressing onto the fairway to improve the drainage. Unfortunately, as of yet we have been unsuccessful in doing so, as it has simply been far too wet to take our top-dressing machine over it. We did try in January, however with it being a particularly heavy machine we got stuck - this will unfortunately only make things worse. As said, we have had 254mm of rain so far this year and it remains a very wet area. We will start dressing the fairway when the ground conditions improve, which should start improving the surface ready for next winter, however it will take some time to firm up over the next couple of winters. We will aim to top dress throughout the growing season as well to continue to improve the area.
For now, the local rule which allows you to tee your ball up on the fairway during social golf will remain in play.
Next month we will finish off our bunker renovation works and spend more time on course repair, which will include aerating, over seeding, turfing and divoting. We have been struggling with tee divoting over the winter as once we have divoted a tee, as soon as it rains heavy, which it has done a lot over the past four months, it just washes the seed and mix out. Also growing temperatures are not quite adequate for full recovery yet. Therefore, the tees look extremely worn with the amount of golf being played on them. This month we will fertilise the tees and aprons to help aid recovery and give the plants some needed nutrient to aid recovery.
Look forward to seeing you on the course!
Rob Dyer, Head Greenkeeper, The Downs Course
The Park Course
It would be nice to discuss something that is not rain, flooding and course closure but the last six months have been exactly that. Another poor month weather wise with 180mm of rain falling in February. We have managed, between the down poor’s cut areas, to work on our bunker project and other winter jobs. Despite all the rain the greens are in amazing condition, with our aeration programme consisting of spiking three times a week to a 1” depth and 10mm tine once a month to 4” depth has allowed air through the profile to keep preferred aerobic conditions rather than anaerobic which causes nothing to grow. Our organic fertiliser programme and soil feeds has created an ideal environment for our more desirable bent grasses to thrive moving up to about a 70% bent coverage, which is more disease and draught tolerant than other grass species.
Hopefully in the coming days, the course will dry out enough for us to put some character and definition through our various cutting reschemes. So please be patient.