October has been a wet month with 151mm recorded on the course. Although the course is coping well with the weather conditions, a few pinch points have started to see heavy wear already. Areas such as the walk off on the right side of the upper fairway on the 2nd, the 11th left upper fairway to the 12th Tee and left side of the 15th tee. Please avoid these areas as much as possible and follow any traffic management signs and abide by on-screen buggy instructions.
Greens this month have been healthy and the disease Microdochium nivale (Fusarium patch) has been minimal. A preventive fungicide has been applied at the end of the month and another preventive fungicide will be applied around three weeks depending on grass growth. We will be using a 10mm solid tine at the start of the month as part as our aeration program, this is to de-compact areas and to add air into the soil profile for vital gas exchange. This will be followed up by our winter feed, which will be in the form of an organic granular fertiliser.
As a golf course we would like to be as organic and sustainable as possible, therefore we will be using a new fertiliser starting next week. The Park course have been using this fertiliser for a few years now which has been very successful and has seen the decrease in disease activity compared to previous years.
Next year we are aiming to put more of this granular fertiliser down rather than foliar feeding. The fertiliser contains Mycorrhizal fungi which adds protection to the plants defences to fight off turf grass diseases. The only drawback is that the fertiliser is slightly stickier than the synthetic ones we currently use and takes a few more days to work its way through the surface. Please be patient when we apply this, as we will not cut the greens the following day as it will pick up on the rollers, cutting will take place the following day to allow for a dry cut. In the long term this should reduce our fungicide input and as most of the fungicide products are going off the market, this will help in the long run. Doing this will create a healthy sward for the plant, which in the long term will create truer greens, which will perform better throughout the year.
With all the rain we have had the greens have become a little softer and slower. We have seen a significant increase in pitch marks on the greens. Please help us and the golf course by repairing any pitch marks whilst waiting for your playing partners to putt. Always push in from around it and never lever it up.
The majority of the natural rough areas have been cut and collected this month. This will help with the thinning of the long rough, which has become more wispy in the last few years with the increase in wild flowers noticeable this year. A treatment will be sprayed onto these areas to discourage the courser grasses for next year and hopefully produce some nice wispy wild flower areas like we have had this year. Some of the smaller areas will be cut and collected in house within the upcoming months.
We have started to look at our winter projects. The main areas of focus will be around the bunker renovation. We will be looking to renovate all the bunkers on holes, 9-15. The renovations will include removing the old sand, adjusting the banks and bases where necessary, install new drainage runs, turfing the base, killing the base after grow in and install new china clay sand. These bunkers will be out of play for a few months whilst we grow in the bases.
We will also be working with the forestry department to remove some of the Ash trees around the course and crown raise a few areas to increase playability and to enhance the ascetics of the woodland. We have already started on thinning out the left bank on the 5th Tee, this is to increase light and airflow to the area, as we have struggled to grow grass on these tees due to its micro climate. It also gets a lot of wear being such a small tee and not many tee positions to move the playing area too whilst the divot mix seed is trying to establish. Therefore we will thin the area as much as we can and re-turf the Silver, Middle and Winter tee before the new year.
Also we aim to verti-drain and Hollow core three of the wettest greens before 2020, which will be the 3rd, 6th and 13th. Cores will be removed and recycled around the course mainly on path edges. This worked well on areas last year which we trailed it on. Then RZA (Root Zone Amendment) will be worked into the soil profile, this will help with water movement through the soil and also increase the CEC in the soil profile which increases the nutrient availability to the plant. Then we will top dress the green by hand and brush the dressing down the holes using soft brooms. This is a slow process, but is the most efficient and causes less damage to the surface. The green will then be brought back into play after a few days. Temporary greens or 16a will be in use whilst we do this vital maintenance.
The tees will also be hollow cored throughout the winter and again the excess cores used a tiny grass pots to establish a neater path edge.
We have levelled out the damage on the 16th fairway caused by badgers using a more compost divot mix than we usually use. Mainly because of the lack of soil on the top of the hill and this soil will hold on to a bit more moisture and nutrient for the seed to establish. Whilst on repairing damage most of the fairway scaring from last years drought is starting to recover. With all the rainfall we have had in the past two months, plus applications of a good wetting agent and double rate liquid feed they have really come on in the last month which is extremely pleasing to see.
Look forward to seeing you on the course!
Rob Dyer, Head Greenkeeper, The Downs Course
The Park Course
What is disease on our greens?
Fusarium patch disease is the most common and one of the most damaging lawn and turf diseases in Europe and mainly occurs in the autumn and winter month. However, it can strike at any time of the year especially if the conditions are favourable.
The disease attacks closely mown areas that contain a percentage of annual meadow grass, which is another reason we are committed to changing the grass species on our greens to the more favourable bent grass.
Identifying fusarium disease
Fusarium disease initially appears on the green or in areas of turf as small patches. The leaves turn an orangey - brown colour. Sometimes during early morning dews, white fungal threads appear this is called mycelium.
As the disease quickly spreads the patches increase in size into larger patches. As the severity of the attack increases, these patches can join together causing widespread damage to the green.
Conditions that favour fusarium disease
Fusarium patch disease is most active during the damp weather conditions typically associated with the autumn and winter months.
Excess levels of nitrogen caused by late nitrogen feeds will encourage fusarium patch.
Greens that suffer from shade lack sunlight and air movement, encourage fusarium patch.
A green that contains a percentage of annual meadow grass will always be at risk from an attack of fusarium, as this grass species is very susceptible.
How is it being Treated?
We have both cultural and chemical controls in trying to reduce the risk of disease. Removing dew and keeping the surface dry and having sufficient air movement helps. Apply sulphate of iron - this will help acidify the surface of the green which will help discourage the disease. Improve the surface drainage with aeration. Improve any sheltered areas by cutting back or pruning any vegetation which is causing a problem.
As part of our on-going conservation/habitat management plan all the long natural rough areas around the course have been cut and collected. Although the course does look a little bare at the moment, the benefits of carrying out this task are:
Thins out and removes unwanted weeds and course grasses
Allows the natural fescue grasses a chance to grow by not being over powered by courser species
Gives the course definition whilst still maintaining its playability
Carried out this time of year it doesn't affect nesting birds or wildlife.
Sadly, the past two months have been somewhat of a wash out, rainfall stats for September and October are far higher than last year.
2018 September = 30mm of rain
2018 October = 49mm of rain
2019 September=154mm of rain
2019 October = 151mm of rain
We have been recently forced to ban buggy's on numerous occasions due to soft ground conditions, but the greens have performed well this is thanks to our on-going maintenance and aeration programme.
Unfortunately, there is no effective way of managing worm casts. We ask for patience as we seek to reduce the impact as much as possible. Our only options for dealing with worms are lowering the ph. in the soil. We are currently spraying sulphate of iron on greens, aprons, tees and fairways. This is a slow process but due to all chemicals being taken off the market for the negative impact they have on our environment, this is our only hope.