October Golf Diary 2011

Laurence Pithie MGin Golf

FulfordGC-Autumn2.jpgOverview :- After a stormy start to September, much of the month was a typical mix of sun, cloud and rain before ending in a heat wave and record temperatures for many in the south and east. From a revenue perspective, this meant that golf courses were particularly busy towards the end of the month when roundage is usually starting to decline.

Early ground frosts were largely absent, save for a few isolated and more northern areas. While many parts of the UK recorded above average rainfall figures, other regions continued to be very dry and irrigation was frequently in use to avoid turf and latterly heat stress.

To date, drought conditions remain in force for parts of southern and eastern England. This diversity of rainfall has been a feature of weather conditions in the UK throughout this year, posing a challenge for the future planning of work programmes.

Turf Managers who carried out major end of season renovation work on greens were generally satisfied with results, albeit the process may have taken slightly longer due to the level of rain which may or may not have fallen. However, good growing conditions continued and recovery to playing surfaces has been fairly quick as soil temperatures remained favourable.

With few calm days and some distinctly 'Autumnal' weather, disease pressure was generally low, but debris from trees was much in evidence at various times throughout the month. This necessitated an early clean-up with blowers. An early presence of earthworms has also been evident on courses where rainfall levels have been high, but the level of growth has helped to keep surface disruption to a minimum.

FulfordView3.jpgOctober is often characterised by mild or even warm day time temperatures, but cold nights, sometimes accompanied by early morning ground frosts, which can bring any recent late growth to a sudden halt. A number of recent Octobers have been very wet, with well above average rainfall recorded in 2004, 2005 and 2006.

However, the last two years' rainfall has been near normal. From a golfing perspective, the start of the month is often very good but as daylight steadily reduces, even a mid afternoon tee time becomes too late for a full round to be completed.

The main competition season usually ends on the first weekend of the month, and that generally signifies the start of end of season renovation work if it has not been completed earlier. As the level of night time and early morning dampness increases and temperatures fall, there is an increasing risk from disease attack and for the remainder of the year, pressure from disease will be at its peak.

This poses the biggest challenge for turf managers and one which requires constant vigilance.

Laurence Pithie MG
Turf Master One Ltd

Early in the Month 1st - 15th October

General maintenance regimes are ongoing, accommodating for some final club competitions.

Current soil / air temperatures are favourable for sowing seed, good opportunity to carry out some repairs.

Later in the Month 16th October - onwards

Continue to carry on with dew brushing activities, early morning brushing will reduce the incidence of disease on playing surfaces.

October is a good time to plan and organise winter work programmes. For example, clearing out ditches and ponds while ground conditions are still favourable.

Key Tasks for October
1E Early morning dew removal from 8th green

For many courses, October is still the main month of the year when major renovation work to the greens is completed. This is largely a result of a full and busy playing season and, with it, the risk that recovery from coring, tining and especially scarifying will be slow.

As soil temperatures decrease, growth is also in decline and it may take some time for the surfaces to recover, especially if overnight ground frosts occur. However, that is a choice for individual clubs/courses to make, and all concerned need to accept the reality of a late season renovation programme. It is a balance between revenue, agronomics and the quality of putting surfaces during early Autumn.

Late deep scarifying should be avoided unless absolutely necessary although a light pass at less than 12mm depth should still recover fairly quickly. Coring with traditional 13mm tines is the norm and unless rootzone conditions are wet, then this operation should be completed within a couple of days with a clean surface remaining.

Topdressing with a straight sand mix or with a 10 to 20% addition of organic material will follow immediately, and well over 1 ton of material will be required per green. This must be thoroughly brushed/matted/blown into the core holes. A further light dressing will be needed to smoothe the surface and fill the remaining holes, but care must be taken not to smother the surface and increase the risk of disease attack. Any amendments such as Axis can be added to the mix or applied afterwards; this being especially beneficial in shaded areas or in hollows that tend to gather moisture.

The benefit here is the increase in pore space which improves drainage and air circulation within the rootzone. For those opting for deep tining, much the same criteria applies, but even more material may be necessary but, again, there is a need for caution to prevent smothering. In all cases, periodic rolling will help to restore surface smoothness. Mowing frequency will steadily decrease and by the end of October the HOC should be at or close to 5mm, but there are of course exceptions depending on the standard of course and grass species present.

There will be a need to maintain a balanced nutrient level within the turfgrass, more so if the greens are to be renovated since this will aid recovery. However, too much Nitrogen and succulent growth, leads to an increased threat of disease. Any feeding programme should contain a mix of low N, high K plus a small amount of Sulphate of Iron.

Other small additions of Calcium, Magnesium and Seaweed extracts can help to form part of the overall feeding programme which gives the plant sufficient nutrient and helps to strengthen the plant cell wall; this being a key aspect for disease prevention. Another useful addition to any mix is phosphite as mentioned in last month's article; this acting as a mild fungicide.

The same applies to using a dew dispersal product but these products are merely an aid, not a replacement for sound turf management.

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1B Leaf blowing on 18th tee

Mowing requirement is likely to remain at twice per week to start with but probably reducing to a single cut by the end of the month. Once the last main 'summer' competition is over, the teeing areas should be scarified or tined (possibly both) and then topdressed afterwards.

Where dwarf rye is the dominant or preferred choice of grass for wear tolerance, then overseeding can still be contemplated; perhaps more so in southern England. Once any renovation work is complete, then the HOC can be raised by 1 or 2mm to give greater protection from wear. An Autumn feed may be required, but this will be based purely upon the needs of the turf and largely dependent on when the tees were last fed.

The standard requirements of low N and high K should continue. Where earthworms are a problem, the first application of Carbendazim may be necessary, although generally this is not usually required until the following month.

An application of Sulphate of Iron, similar to greens may give temporary relief as well as enhanced colour. A common issue on small tees is the damage caused by the inside wheel of a triple mower. Operators need to avoid any tight turning and where damage has occurred, these areas should be re-turfed as soon as renovation work is complete.

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1C Deep tining green surrounds

Collars and front approaches or 'aprons' may require end of season aerifying and topdressing and, if so, this should be similar to that carried out on the greens. In general, this work is limited to key areas but where summer drought stress occurred on high ridges, shoulders etc, then the importance of such work will be much higher on the agenda.

Care must be taken around sprinkler heads and the depth of tining must not be at risk to underground irrigation pipe. The main area of greens surrounds may require some limited tining and dressing, more so in worn areas or where traffic flow is restricted. In heavily worn areas, over-seeding should follow once the initial work is complete. Similar to tees and banks, worm control may be required if the course has a high presence of earthworms.

The application of a sulphur based fertiliser may suffice but this must be part of a planned program to avoid over acidifying the surface, albeit unlikely on greens surrounds. The use of sharp sand in key areas is another alternative, especially if ground conditions tend to be heavy and wet during the winter months.

October may also see the start of using traffic control measures for controlling wear around greens and bunkers. The use of post and rope must be discreet and fortunately there are good product examples on the market which are unobtrusive to the golfer but give the desired effect.

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1A Good early Autumn presentation

Mowing requirement is now likely to be a weekly task unless growth dictates otherwise, with the HOC remaining at between 14mm and 17mm for the majority of courses. Much will depend upon individual circumstances, current moisture levels and soil temperatures. With the pressure on mowing reduced, it should be less of an issue to choose a dry time for mowing and possibly spread over two days. A cleanly presented playing surface should be the priority at all times. Scarifying in October remains an option for those courses where a build-up of fibre has occurred, although this task is better carried out earlier due to a faster recovery period. However, the same criteria applies re depth and cleaning up debris as mentioned in the previous article.

October is usually the month where deep tining or slitting can commence but again, this will depend upon individual course conditions and requirements. Leaves will start to fall in greater amounts as the month progresses, therefore periodic use of a blower will be needed to keep the main playing areas clear.

With regards to feeding, a few courses may benefit from an Autumn/Winter feed but this is likely to be limited to either high end properties or those on particularly weak or stoney soils and where grass cover is poor. Worm control could be required before the month ends but generally this is held back until November unless conditions dictate an earlier control. Bearing in mind a full course treatment costs around 1k, a second application can prove a costly hit to many clubs. The use of a wide multi-brush unit can be used when conditions are dry to disperse any wormcasts although this is no substitute for effective control.


The mowing requirement will be reduced and many clubs may only need to cut the rough a couple of times during October. Management of deep or out of play rough should continue when time permits with a view to 'cleaning' and 'topping' all areas before the season draws to a close. Blowing leaves and debris clear will possibly gain in importance unless the course is largely devoid of trees. Any remaining weed will now have to wait until the following year but for most courses this should no longer be an issue.

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1D Blowing out sand from bunker face

Maintenance will continue with regular edging and trimming but with growth fast reducing, there should be less routine work to complete other than raking and blowing sand clear from the surrounding banks or faces.

As the month progresses and the main renovation work to greens and tees are completed, then a start can be made to any bunker renovations that are planned for the winter season. Such work will have been planned and costed in advance and should be part of a rolling capital improvement.

This work is usually carried out in-house unless on a large scale project. With drainage, erosion and wash-out the likely key challenges to overcome, it is important that any planned changes are effective in over-coming such problems. There are many different methods of renovating and 'lining' bunkers so choose one that is relevant to the objective intended, within the agreed cost and with future maintenance taken into consideration.

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Other Tasks for the Month
  • Lakes/Ponds/Ditches: In October the main task will be a general trimming and tidying of water edges and ditch lines. This is also the last month where water levels are likely to remain low, therefore planned excavation work should be completed before the month ends. See previous comments in September regarding this type of work.

  • Trees: Continue to remove any overhanging branches that pose a nuisance to both golfers and equipment along with any unwanted growth around the base. With leaves starting to fall, the need to clear these up will gain in importance therefore ensure that all blowers are ready for use. Where hedgerows are present and an integral part of the course, trim only straggly growth since these are important habitats for a multitude of small creatures and insects and should remain largely untouched unless causing a nuisance to play and only when absolutely necessary.

  • Disease: During October, the main threat of disease is likely to be Fusarium although if temperatures remain mild, Anthracnose may also prove troublesome if the turf has previously been under stress. With regards to Fusarium, this is the most common disease that affects turf in the UK and was covered in reasonable detail in last month's article. Apart from the necessary cultural and environmental practices that need to be in place as part of an IPM strategy, preventative action will include applying a mix of products containing the chemicals Tebuconazole (systemic) and Prochloraz (Translaminar) along with a Strobilurin, tank mixed with an adjuvant for better product performance. The more recently introduced active ingredient containing Fludioxonil has also sown to give good preventative control. While temperatures remain reasonably good at this time of year, the systemic or preventative route is the one to take if chemical control is necessary. Attention should also centre on any nutrient input listed earlier under 'Greens'.

  • Pests: The risk of turf damage from any pests during October continues to be relatively low. However, as ground conditions become increasingly moist or even wet, then earthworms may start to pose problems on soils which are heavier in nature or are alkaline based. Low pH soils and those on sand are less likely to be affected. Only badly affected areas should be treated with Carbendazim this early in the season due to the cost of the product required.

  • Turf Disorders: Any drought stress or dry patch issues should be coming to an end by this time of year although some renovation work to putting surfaces may be required as a result. If Black Layer exists in the green then this should be treated as a matter of urgency with the key aim of oxygenating the soil by frequent aerifying and thatch removal. Applying activated charcoal will help to neutralise the hydrogen sulphide but the BL will return if the root zone conditions are not improved. It is important to treat the cause, rather than just the symptom.

  • Equipment: Servicing and checking of equipment to continue on a daily basis, with the emphasis continuing on preventing oil damage from leaking or damaged pipes, motors and valves etc. Safety switches and cutting units should also be checked each week and any damage recorded & reported for urgent repair. Sharpness of cylinder reels needs to be checked since cutting with blunt blades can add to the risk of disease pressure.

  • Irrigation:The system should no longer be in use and next month, it should be scheduled to be drained down for the winter. Any repairs to leaking valves, pipes, cable breaks and so on should be completed before being shut down, in order that the system is fully up to speed as best as can be assessed and to limit any down time at the start of the next season.

  • Compound: As in previous months take any opportunity to tidy up external areas of the compound and to check on supplies of sands, gravel, fungicide and wormicide which are likely to be required over the coming months.

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