Course Matters #42

Firstly, on behalf of the greens staff, I would like to wish you all a Happy New Year. December was a challenging month for the greens staff in more ways than one. Weather-wise we recorded 136mm of rainfall, making it the wettest December in my 4 years here. This was coupled with higher than average temperatures, reaching double figures during the day and still remaining relatively warm during the night. This, coupled with a lack of wind led to heavy dew forming on the greens on a regular basis.

These factors increased the disease pressure across the course, but on the greens particularly, resulting in a further outbreak of Michrodochium nivale (Fusarium). As a result we made a further application of fungicide in the middle of the month to see us through the Christmas period. The higher than normal temperatures have kept the soil temperature also into double figures meaning that growth rates have been above average for this time of year. This is a double edged sword, in a good way it has helped with recovery from the disease, on the flip side the healthy growth rates means that whereas you would normally expect 4-5 weeks of protection from the fungicide, this can be reduced by having to cut more often.

The reduction in chemicals available for the treatment of turf diseases has been compounded further with the news that another active ingredient (Propocanazole) is going to be removed from the market in June of next year. Over the past few years a variety of products have been removed from the market reducing the armoury available to the greenkeeping industry and in doing so making the job harder and more stressful. These have included; Chlorpyrifos (Insecticide for control of leatherjackets), Iprodione (Contact fungicide for the control of Fusarium) and Carbendazim (Formerly used as a fungicide it also displayed a side effect to deter casting worms).

This leads me onto the next issue, that of Casting Worms. We have always suffered to an extent with worm casts, particularly on tees and fairways, however they have become more apparent on the putting surfaces over recent weeks. This means we have to cane them off to prevent them smearing into the surface and then becoming a host site for weeds. This can be a relatively labour intensive operation and significantly increases the time it takes to cut each area on the course. Unfortunately I think this is the shape of things to come. Various companies are working on a cost effective product and I have been given a sample to trial on the course. This will cover 1 Ha, so we will be using it on the greens and if weather allows we will be spraying it next week.

On the staffing front we were once again reduced to 3, with Nick Carroll leaving the team at the end of November. This was further compounded with Scott being taken ill during December, meaning in conjunction with annual leave, we were at times reduced to either myself, or Tom, being on site on our own. This was obviously far from ideal and significantly reduced the amount of course prep we were able to achieve. The search has begun for more staff and we are hoping to fill the position as soon as possible. At present the greenkeeping industry appears to be going through a rough patch. Many clubs are struggling to recruit and retain qualified and experienced staff. I attended a seminar at Minchinhampton Golf Club in December and this was one of the major issues highlighted by the Head Greenkeepers/Course Managers who attended the day.

The Winter work programme has resumed and we have made a start on the new path and buggy/trolley park between the 11th green and 12th tee area. I plan to have this completed by the end of the week commencing 7th January. This will hopefully have the desired effect of reducing the wear in that area.

Within the next couple of weeks we will have a digger on site to carry out various jobs on the Winter programme, including installing drainage on some of the pathways, tidying the GUR area right of the 15th fairway and some of the reshaping work on the 12th and 10th holes.

Towards the end of the month and into February we will be hitting the bunkers hard to restore sand levels and also to break up compaction in some of the others. It is possible we will be looking for help with this and any other jobs such as weeding pathways and steps, if any members are willing to offer some time. Please keep an eye on notice boards and also e-mails for updates on this.

It is very disappointing to see the amount of pitchmarks on the greens. It is again becoming a major issue, accentuated by the wetter weather we have had making the surfaces softer. A pitchmark that is repaired correctly straight away will heal within 24 hours. A pitchmark that has been left for more than 2 hours can take up to 2 months to heal. An unrepaired or badly repaired pitchmark will also foster disease and infection as well as creating a site for the ingress of Annual Meadow Grass (Poa), a weaker and undesriable species. We hope to have a video on the website next week showing you the correct way to repair a pitchmark.

Can I please ask that all buggies and trolleys are kept well away from greens/aprons and tees. The amount of damage they can cause (particularly buggies) is high, particularly at this time of year. Over the past few weeks I have seen buggies being driven across tees and within a couple of feet to the putting surfaces. We put white directional lines on the fairways, these should apply to both users of buggies AND trolleys.

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