With cooler temperatures and varying amounts of rain in May, albeit largely in the north and west of the UK, there was at least some respite from the continued dry conditions. For many Course Managers in the drier areas, the early part of this season continues to be a challenge, with little respite from daily watering and ensuring that irrigation coverage is effective. The unusually high winds, experienced by many over the past week or so, have added to the difficulties faced in preventing areas of the course suffering from drought stress.
Where rainfall has been sufficient, growth and subsequent mowing have been the main priorities. The opposite has occurred in eastern and southern Britain, where very dry conditions exist and already some courses have growing concerns over diminishing water supplies.
However, most clubs have reported increased revenue from green fees and membership play, while at the same time, fuel usage has been lower since there is less grass to cut. So, will it be a 'flaming' June or another month without much rain? It is 20 years since we experienced a cool June, but more recently in 2007, much of the UK suffered a deluge. In the last 3 years however, June has been relatively dry with above average temperatures. Hours of sunlight are generally at or about the highest for the year and, on the basis that rainfall will be sufficient, growing conditions will be at their peak.
Members and visitors expect courses to be at their best in mid-season and, with daylight at or close to maximum, playing surfaces should be at a premium. Playing levels are almost certain to be very high in June, therefore the key challenge is to deliver good quality and presentation while still carrying out necessary cultural and routine maintenance tasks and, at the same time. guarding against drought stress.
Laurence Pithie MG
The main emphasis will be on quality, smoothness and consistency of the putting surface in June. Mowing is likely to be 'daily' and the HOC will vary depending upon what grass species is present and what the current objectives are. However, most courses will be mowing at 4mm with a triplex mower, supported by a mix of regular brushing, grooming and verti-cutting to help reduce lateral growth and prevent further thatch accumulation.
Rolling the greens, using a turfing iron or vibrating rollers will negate the use of the mower for 2 days per week, thus saving on fuel and triplex wear. Rolling will give increased pace and smoothness to the putting surface without having to further stress the turf from mowing at too low a height of cut. A very useful ploy! Applying light and frequent topdressings of around 5 tons per 19 greens every 2 to 3 weeks will help to provide good playing surfaces and without any real interference to play.
It also helps to prevent thatch build-up, since the surface layer is continually being diluted. Aeration can be carried out more towards the start of the week using needle, micro or star tines, perhaps followed by one of the regular light rolls. The use of sarrel rollers is also beneficial in preventing any 'capping' of the surface. With regards to feeding and watering, the former should only be via a foliar tank mix containing a low amount of Nitrogen, a slightly higher amount of Potassium and various amendments such as seaweed, amino and humic acids.
These are helpful in combating any drought or heat stress that may arise during the month. Wetting agent should be applied as required, possibly as part of the tank mix, and supplemented by hand watering to any high and exposed areas on the green: this in addition to lightly aerifying the surface to ensure maximum water penetration.
The use of a PGR, Plant Growth Regulator, such as Primo-Maxx applied at no more than 400ml per Ha and tank mixed with a small amount of feed, will give the turf added density and may even reduce the amount of water required. Before applying any such mix, it is best to check on application rates as well as compatibility for all proposed tank mixes.
There are a few products now on the market containing silicon, and they help the leaves to grow more upright, thus giving a cleaner cut and improved ball roll. Again, this can be applied as part of the tank mix. It must be noted, however, that these products are an aid to turf quality and do not replace the basic principles in turfgrass management.
Useful Information for Greens
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Tees:- With playing quality and presentation being at the forefront this month, mowing should be at least twice per week at a HOC between 10 and 15mm, but tournament venues and resort style courses will be lower. Most courses now tend to mow at around 12mm using tee triples with boxes but, as always, there are variations.
Apart from regular mowing and clipping removal, the main requirement is to ensure that divot filling takes place as often as possible and that tee markers are moved daily, with surfaces blown clear, especially on the par 3 holes. A good clean surface is essential, and attention to detail for bins, ball washers and signage is part of the presentation process. Smaller tees may require on-going overseeding, either using non rye or rye based mixes, followed by a compost based dressing to aid germination.
Fertiliser and watering should be as required, but both applied sparingly to encourage good root depth. The former is most likely to have been applied in April with good longevity, while irrigation should be applied deeply, infrequently and evenly (the DIE principle of watering turf). Using a PGR will also lead to a denser turf quality and should reduce the amount of damage from divots, since the plant's energy is more directed to the roots.
If doing so, then best to add a small amount of Nitrogen to give improved turf density as well as maintaining good colour. If dry patch or drought stress becomes an issue on sand based tees, then apply a wetting agent and treat as per greens.
Surrounds:- Regular mowing, usually at a height of about 37mm (1.5ins) will ensure good playing quality. Courses on heavier or more fertile sites may have to mow twice per week. Ride-on rotaries are generally preferred, but cylinder reels are just as effective; more so if the grass species present is non-rye. Some selective weed control may be necessary, so use a product with different active ingredients to give a broad spectrum control ie clover, daisies and dandelion.
Only use traffic control measures if necessary at this time of year and, if so, there are good examples of discreet turf protection using post and rope or other devices. If any bare or weak areas still exist, then overseed and dress, but ensure the seed has good seed to soil contact and is kept moist where possible.
Useful Information for Tees and Surrounds
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Fairways:- With definition and presentation being key requirements at this time of year, mowing is likely to be twice per week for most courses but this will vary upon grass type, rate of growth and desired standard of presentation. Stripe mowing using ride-on machines is probably the most favourable, but 'block' mowing is just as effective and costs less in terms of fuel usage and machine wear.
Fairways are generally mown at between 14 to 17mm but, again, this will be lower on the high end properties or those who have the benefit of fescue dominated swards. Those using gang mowers are just as effective, but care needs to be taken when turning at either end of the fairway. Apart from selective weed control and divot filling, only a minority of courses will require further work such as irrigation, solid tining and over-seeding etc. For courses with yardage posts, ensure that they remain upright and clearly visible.
Roughs:- Since growth is likely to be at a peak in June, mowing is likely to be an ongoing requirement for many courses, unless on fine fescue links or heathland. Most roughs are mowed with rotary mowers, either trailed or ride-on, the latter being the most popular. Many courses now grade the rough with a narrow 5 metre band of intermediate rough cut at around 25mm, then standard semi at 50mm.
Out of play roughs are often left uncut, but this will depend upon individual course policy. This is also the month best suited for controlling unwanted weeds. However, this should be limited to the main playing areas and every attempt should be made to designate areas of the course for natural grassland. Depending on the amount of growth present, the extent of the rough should always be under review and a careful watch for areas regularly subject to lost ball searches. In such circumstances, 'easing' back the rough will help to speed up play and be appreciated by the golfers.
Useful Information for Fairways & Rough
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Regular raking, edging and trimming to ensure good presentation will be an ongoing requirement, along with the re-distribution of sand to ensure an adequate and consistent depth.
Some topping up of sand is likely and, to some extent, will depend upon individual requirements. Where wash-outs are common on high sand faced bunkers, then removal and replacement of sand is more likely. Grass faces require regular brushing, especially those close to the front of the green. Stone removal and possible glyphosate treatment for weed encroachment to sand faces are also to be considered as part of the monthly routine.
The need for strimming and general tidiness is paramount on ditches. Some algae control via the use of pre-arranged barley straw may be required; an alternative being the use of a bio-product such as Scotts ProCrystal.
If weed persists, best to seek advice from the Environment Agency on species and method of control, since these areas are likely to fall under environmental regulations and most, if not all aquatic herbicide,s are no longer available.
Useful Information for Lakes, Ponds and Ditches
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Equipment and Irrigation: Since mowers and other turf maintenance vehicles will be in maximum demand during June, it is essential that regular servicing and checks on hydraulic pipes, guards, mowing units and so on are carried out by a qualified member of staff. Irrigation, even if not in regular use, should be checked for leaks, performance and coverage and adjusted accordingly. Hand watering should supplement automatic usage to ensure all areas are targeted accordingly. The importance of record keeping is also a must, with equipment servicing carried out as per recommended guidelines and a log of water usage maintained to satisfy EA requirements.
Disease: June should be free of any real disease pressure, but best to keep a watch for any signs of Take-All Patch, especially if pH levels are high or the water supply is more alkaline. Any sudden increases in alkalinity can have a negative impact on turf, since the desirable grasses benefit from lightly acidic conditions. Corticium Red Thread could also be present, especially if heavy rain has leached out nutrients. A light application of Nitrogen will quickly restore the balance. Dollar Spot could be present in June, but unlikely as long as high temperatures, surface dampness and high humidity doesn't prevail. There is, however, always the risk of fairy rings. The fungal group Basidiomycetes may be present in the soil and, if considered to be a nuisance in fine turf areas, then some relief may be achieved using a mix of Tricure wetting agent and Azoxystrobin fungicide.
Turf Disorders: With unpredictable weather patterns, nothing can be ruled out. Drought stress and dry patch are the more likely problems to overcome at this time of year, but it is largely down to each course and knowing its strengths and weaknesses. Where these turf conditions exist, fairy ring disease may precede or succeed these turf disorders.
Weeds: As mentioned above, this is the best time for selective weed control, with daisies, plantains, buttercup and dandelion likely to being the main targets in 'managed' rough. Out of play roughs may suffer from thistle and dock, and this too can be treated just as effectively. There are numerous products on the market from the main suppliers, but best to apply a mix of active ingredients to give different modes of action for best control.
Mowing: Avoid cutting when wet and, if necessary, revert to afternoon mowing by alternating staff start times. Ensure that there is always two staff on duty to minimise any risks of lone working. If faced with continuous wet weather and strong growth, then following behind with a tractor mounted blower may be the better option, but obviously more labour intensive.
Stock Control: Keep a check on fast moving machine parts, irrigation joints, wetting agent, turf conditioners and so on, replacing those that have been used.