Friday, 8 June 2018

Oak before Ash

Firstly, apologies for the lapse in blogging. Things are busy at home. Terrible twos have taken away our lovely daughter. Please can we have her back instead of the TANTRUM child??!!!!

So here we are in June, it's summer and it is getting fast, firm and dry.  At the end of April, we still had areas on the golf course that were wet, soft and to be avoided. From one extreme to another in under a month.

As the old saying goes, "Oak before Ash - Splash. Ash before Oak - Soak". True enough, the Oak trees were first out in leaf this year. So let us expect a dry summer. Look on the bright side though, all members will be bombing drives 300 yards (like Dustin Johnson) with all the run on the ball. Handicaps will tumble. Guaranteed no one will complain about having to wear waterproofs or about course drainage issues or course closed. It's a WIN-WIN for everybody. Or is it???

A familiar sight to golfers and greenkeepers at present is the seeding poa. The greens look good but unfortunately the poa takes to seeding in the spring. It is an annual species and as such completes its life cycle in 1 year. The reason it produces seed heads is in readiness for dying. At the end of summer, the plant will die and the seeds that it drops will become next years plant. And thus the cycle continues again...

So, it tends to be a real bind for greenskeepers as the seed heads interfere with a true ball roll, giving golfers a less than ideal surface to putt on. We use a plant growth regulator (PGR) to help with this issue. The PGR prevents vertical growth taking place and instead allows the plant to grow horizontally. As such, the poa seed heads sit that bit tighter to the surface. In the long term, we aim to overseed the greens annually with bent grass. This will compete with the poa and is a far finer grass species - more tolerant of dry conditions, more disease resistant, less demanding of irrigation and fertiliser. An all round better grass species. 

Otherwise, the greens are looking fairly decent. We have applied a wetting agent recently and this helps to maximise irrigation water application (and rainfall - if we get it!!) in the soil profile. The idea is that the wetting agent assists water in penetrating the surface much easier and is held around the soil particles for uptake by the roots. However, it is important to ensure that the moisture is there so that the surfaces remain consistent. Hence why I have been out doing a lot of hand watering with a hose recently. In dry periods, growth slows down and the plant is focused on staying alive rather than growing. Therefore we must help it out with water if the rain does not arrive.

The fairway bunker on the left side of the 3rd hole has been a challenge to say the least. We are still working on it, determined to get it right and, more importantly, to ensure that should the wet weather come, it drains effectively. I had James working on it this week and he took out a bit more clay from well under the base. Guess what - there was still water sitting there from winter! Despite a month of dry weather, the water table had still not dropped! So what we did was to dig a large hole down into the subsoil and place a pipe vertically into it. So James dug down about a metre. And the water that was sitting there just drained immediately!!! So now we are in the process of back filling the soak away with clean gravel. It will get sorted soon.

One thing that we have been addressing recently is the growth on fairways and roughs. Actually, the fairways are doling really well. 4 years of removing grass clippings has helped considerably. We are regularly running the scarifier through them to continue to stress the broad leaf grasses and to stand up grasses for a better quality of cut. But we are also doing something similar with the rough. The idea is the same in that we are trying to thin out the rough, removing material and blowing away the clippings before and after mowing. It is a long process but very worthwhile.

The 8th fairway bunker has bedded in really well and is a much better shape than what it used to be. Given, it is a bit more challenging for golfers but I suppose it is the same for everyone. In the end, all golfers have a choice - either knock your drive over it or lay up. If you knock it in from the tee shot, remember not to do it again!!

It is of course the club's 40th anniversary year in 2018 and we hope all members are enjoying their golf. The really positive news concerns the club's commitment to investing further in terms of golf course improvements over the next few years. This winter, we will re-build the 8th and 9th greens and this will allow us to provide members and visitors with 9 playable golf greens - year round. It is fantastic news and I will provide further updates as we continue the process of selecting contractors. The planning and execution of this project work is so important. We must get it absolutely right without compromise and the intention is to do just that, providing members with 2 stunning greens complexes to finish out their rounds.

In the meantime, please enjoy your golf!