July Golf Diary 2011

Laurence Pithie MGin Golf

With June being the wettest month of the year to date for much of southern and eastern Britain, it gave most course managers a welcome break from dealing with issues of drought stress, limited growth and a slow recovery from spring renovation work.

Frequent wet and often cool days gave irrigation systems a respite and helped to conserve dwindling supplies of water for some, especially with drought orders now in place for much of eastern England. With soil moisture levels being replenished, at least for the time being, growth has benefitted and, by the end of the month, courses were green once again, less stressed and previously seeded areas on the move.

What a difference a month can make in our topsy-turvy weather pattern, and 2011 is proving once again to be a year of excesses. Some of course may say it is inevitable that rain would fall in June since two major events, namely Wimbledon and Glastonbury have a tendency to be rain affected. The change in conditions allowed many to catch up with selective weed control and, although cooler than normal, weed control should still be achieved as long as the product is not 'washed-off' from the leaf; timing being of great importance.

Preparation of putting surfaces also 'stepped-up' a gear without fear of subjecting the turf to further stress. This is much appreciated by golfers since expectations in June are invariably high. Towards the end of July, growth generally slows down and this is when temperatures tend to be at their peak as previous Met Office figures confirm. We can also expect nearly 170 hours of sunshine, with more likely in the south of England.

However, July 2009 was a complete wash-out for many and in years 2006 and 2007 it wasn't a great deal better. It is therefore more in hope than based on any future data that having two continuous wet months is somewhat unlikely, but who would bet against it? The key, therefore, is to be prepared.

With the Open Championship being fully televised around the middle of the month, golfers will expect their own courses to be in peak playing condition, therefore work in July should focus on surface preparation, course presentation and playing quality.

Laurence Pithie MG
Turf Master One Ltd

Early in the Month 1st - 15th July

Continue to keep the course up to speed, keep on top of your mowing regimes and ensure the course is looking its best.

July is a busy time for golf clubs with so many club competitions and society days going on.

Later in the Month 16th July - onwards

Plan for your end of season renovations, many clubs carry out their end of season renovations in August, whilst air and ground temperatures are favourable for seed germination.

Also you should be planning your winter works schedule and ordering materials or contractors.

Key Tasks for July
2. Hand watering 6th green

Maintaining smoothness and consistency of putting surfaces with good pace will again be the main criteria as the golfing season reaches mid-way.

Irrespective of prevailing conditions, golfers expect to be playing on perfectly prepared surfaces with good and consistent ball roll. Routine practices will largely continue as before with mowing carried out 6 to 7 days per week at around the typical 4mm HOC.

With the emphasis on putting quality while guarding against drought stress, a number of practices will have to be 'juggled' as to the needs of both golfer and turfgrass. High soil temperatures, ie above 18° Celsius will start to reduce the plant's ability to photosynthesise, which in turn can lead to additional turf stress.

Therefore, physical practices such as grooming and verti-cutting may have to be curtailed while brushing, sarrel rolling and hand watering are increased. The use of seaweed extracts which are full of cytokinins (plant hormones) help the plant through periods of stress by restoring the balance in chlorophyll content.

The use of wetting agents, following light aerifying of the surface, will help to cool the surface as well as supplying adequate moisture to the roots. Ridges and higher 'shoulders' around the perimeter of many greens are particularly prone to drought stress and, as such, will require more intensive management. During hot periods, there can also be a build-up of carbon dioxide in the root-zone and needle, star or micro-tining will effectively 'vent' the soil, allowing oxygen to reach the roots.

Applying a plant growth regulator (PGR) such as Primo Maxx will help divert the plant's energy towards the roots, thus reducing the amount of water that is required as well as improving turf density. A small amount of nutrient added to the tank mix is generally regarded as 'best practice'. Should conditions be less stressful, then work to the greens in July will largely be a continuation from that carried out previously.

Additional rolling may negate the need for daily mowing and, should temperatures remain high, then raising the HOC by 0.5mm may be required. Where putting surfaces are composed largely of Poa Annua, then anthracnose foliar blight may develop. High soil temperatures and damp surfaces can exacerbate the situation and, if greens are prone to such attacks, then it is important to reduce the risk of this stress related disease.

Cultural control methods include maintaining adequate fertility, avoiding dry patch or drought stress and alleviating compaction. If chemical prevention is required, then applying a mix of the active ingredients Strobilurin and Chlorothalonil along with an adjuvant will help to protect the plant. The use of Phosphite added to a foliar feed tank mix can also be beneficial since this can act as a mild fungicide.

Useful Information for Greens

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Tees and Surrounds
4. Excellent conditioned Pot bunkers

When growing conditions are good, mowing 2 or 3 times per week with a ride-on triple at around 12mm will be the norm for most courses. Few courses cut tees using pedestrian mowers, since this is more time consuming but on raised, smaller tees, there may be little alternative. On tees smaller than 50m2, care should be taken as to turning, since tyre marking can easily develop as there is little scope for varying direction.

With playing levels high, daily movement of tee markers and the playing areas regularly divoted will be the other main criteria. Any additional watering should be sufficient to aid recovery and maintain turf vigour, but largely aimed at developing a good root structure. Presentation should be high on the agenda and this will include blowing debris and broken tees clear of the playing surface, emptying litter bins, filling ball washers and maintaining all accessories in clean condition. A good practice is to use a small spray cleaner to clean hard surfaces before being wiped clean.

It is a small 'attention to detail' routine but it can make a difference. By mid summer, nutrient levels may be on the low side, therefore applying a foliar mix of low N, high K mixed with a PGR, will give turf the required mid-season boost.

Tees composed of a high sand rootzone may require a higher level feed and, if no irrigation is available for tees, then consider using a wetting agent on a monthly basis. Should drought conditions prevail then raise the HOC, topdress with a compost mix, apply a wetting agent and irrigate as best as possible.

Surrounds:- Other than mowing once or twice each week, it is unlikely that any additional work will be required this month. Greens surrounds nowadays are largely mown with lightweight triples which can negotiate banks and mow close to bunker edges without any risk from 'scalping' or tyre damage.

HOC should remain at around 35mm unless there is a need to mow closer to accentuate swales that may form part of the greens surround. Weaker areas should be dressed or 'divoted' and nutrient levels sufficient for adequate growth.

Any remaining weeds, such as clover, can be controlled using a broad spectrum selective herbicide, but only if the turf is not drought stressed. For those courses with no automatic irrigation to front approaches, the use of hose pipe and sprinkler may be required but usage in this area will remain a question of priority.

Useful Information for Tees and Surrounds

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3. High quality presentation on fairways

Under normal conditions, definition and presentation should still remain very good in July but, if dry conditions return, then the effect will be reduced. Mowing is normally slightly less frequent than in June but the HOC will remain the same with most courses settling for between 14mm and 17mm.

A minor 'nuisance' sometimes encountered is long stalks of grass that tend to get folded over instead of being cut. A monthly pass with a rotary mower set at about 30mm height will eliminate these unsightly stalks. If time permits, the worst affected areas for divots should be tackled, ie lay up holes or where a short iron is played uphill or over a water feature.

Divoting parties involving juniors or other members often works well, and the lure of a pizza and a beer afterwards usually guarantees sufficient numbers. If further weed control is required, then this can be carried out, although by July it is more likely to be limited to selected areas only and as part of the drive to use less pesticides. For those courses with irrigation, again it is a case of adding sufficient water for the benefit of the turf and not the golfer.

Useful Information for Fairways

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Grass Seed
1. A well presented golf hole

By the end of July, the frequency of mowing should have eased, particularly in areas of the main semi which should continue to be cut at the standard 50mm HOC.

The narrow band of intermediate rough should still be cut weekly, unless there is insufficient growth. Areas of deeper rough may now be ready for cutting with a flail type unit. Ideally, this should be collected, especially if a selective herbicide has been applied the previous month.

Removing the clippings will help to lower the nutrient level within these areas, thus giving the finer leaved grasses more chance of survival at the expense of many coarser agricultural style grasses. By 'thinning' out the sward, there may ultimately be less likelihood of lost ball searches. July is also a good month for controlling clover in the rough, this weed being more common on nutrient hungry and on alkaline soils, but again this work may be weather dependent.

Useful Information for Rough

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Handheld Sprinklers
4. Excellent conditioned Pot bunkers

During mid summer, raking either via machine or by hand, should be carried out on most days, although this will depend upon staffing levels and the number of bunkers present. Edging, trimming and removal of stone will be an on-going requirement, along with the re-distribution of sand to ensure an adequate and consistent depth of sand.

If prolonged dry weather persists, steep sand faces may become exposed and as such weed and stone may emerge. This will require constant pushing of sand back up the face and, in some cases, it may be necessary to water the sand if connection points are nearby.

The reverse, of course, could also happen if short bursts of heavy rain cause wash-outs. Mixing a PGR with both a low N feed and selective herbicide may be a good exercise for some if the bankings are both weedy and lacking in nutrient.

Yellow suckling clover can be a troublesome weed around bunkers and is fairly common throughout courses in the south of England, especially on higher pH soils. Removing sand from grass faces or from revetted turf on links courses via a hand held blower is also likely to feature high on the weekly routine.

Useful Information for Bunkers

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Sand Rakes
Other Tasks for the Month
  • 5.  Anthracnose foliar blight following line of fairy ring  Lakes/Ponds/Ditches: General strimming and tidiness will be an ongoing requirement during July, along with further control of algae if deemed necessary in ponds and lakes. Manual removal of weed and algae may be appropriate if this can be tackled safely and the water features in question are fairly small. With water levels likely to be low and temperatures on the increase, oxygen may be in limited supply, therefore the risk of weed and algae is increased.

  • Paths: Control of weeds via an application of glyphosate may be required along with areas of steps and around ball washers, bins, signage etc. Again, this is largely an 'attention to detail' issue. Top up pot-holes as required with the appropriate path dressing and consolidate after using either a roller or more likely a 'wacker plate'.

  • Disease: Three diseases, Red Thread, Take-All Patch and Anthracnose Foliar Blight may be apparent in July. The former is more a sign of nitrogen levels being too low and can easily be corrected by applying a foliar feed with a small amount of Nitrogen. Take all Patch may be a problem if there is a sudden change in pH of the rootzone. Check water quality and sand dressings as a first stage and acidify the surface if necessary. If the problem persists, or the risk is high, then apply a fungicide containing Azoxystrobin or Trifloxystrobin. Anthracnose Foliar Blight is listed under 'greens' and potentially the most damaging of those mentioned but, just to re-iterate, it is a condition that is largely due to plant stress, therefore address the underlying problem.

  • 6.  Chafer beetles  Pests: On the increase in the UK is the presence of the chafer beetle. It is the larvae however that tend to be the problem and, as it emerges from its pupae stage, it feeds on the roots of the grass, thus weakening the plant. Crows and badgers regard the chafer grub as a delicacy and large areas of turf can effectively be ripped up since there is little root depth left to anchor the grass. Control can be made via Merit Turf containing Imidacloprid, which is currently the only approved product on the market for controlling this unwelcome pest. Being available only in powder form at present, it is not the easiest product to apply if large areas need to be treated. The best time for application is generally early summer, therefore a July application needs to be as soon as possible. Much has been written recently on Nematodes and the effect varying species are having on turf. Nematode damage needs firstly to be verified that it is in fact present before working out what to do to reduce the damage being inflicted. It is generally a sign that the plant is under stress and less able to ward-off attacks. Therefore, and is often the case, the overall management of the turf needs to be reviewed to limit further attacks. Some turf managers have gained success by using garlic spray or bio-mass sugar but, as yet, there is no clear answer. Maintaining healthy turf should therefore be at the forefront of maintenance strategy.

  • Turf Disorders: Drought stress and dry patch are likely to be the main concerns as high soil temperatures can cause stress to the turf. Applying wetting agent must be in conjunction with other practices such as micro-tining, raising the HOC and thoroughly watering the affected areas on a regular basis. A check should also be made on fertiliser applications since those containing a high salt index such as Sulphate of Ammonia will further reduce moisture content, therefore should be avoided at this time of year.

  • Weed control: Another good month for controlling unwanted weeds, this time more likely to be targeted in areas of semi and deep rough. As before, it is best to apply a mix of active ingredients to give different modes of action; clover, dandelion and thistle likely to be the main targets.

  • Equipment: Servicing and checking of equipment to continue, with an emphasis placed on hydraulic pipes, valves, safety switches and cutting units. Ensure that a check out and check in procedure is in place to minimise the risk of machine failure and hydraulic leaks, and that machinery is cleaned and re-fuelled after use.

  • Irrigation: With the system likely to be at peak usage, regular checks on performance and even coverage are essential, therefore all sprinkler heads and valves need to be checked on a regular basis and any dry or 'missed' areas acted upon immediately to prevent drought stress and eventual dry patch from forming. The system also needs to be checked both automatically and manually every so often. Any leaks should be noted and, if not urgent, left until a day when the system is not in use. Mid-summer is also a useful time to review the performance of ageing systems.

  • Stock Control: Continue to keep a check on machine parts, irrigation joints, wetting agent, turf conditioners and so on, replacing those that have been used.

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