Golf Diary

Golf, as we know the game today, was invented in Scotland in the 15th Century. It started with players hitting pebbles around natural heath land into a hole. These days the game has become big business and boasts nearly 4000 courses available for play, just in the UK. Golf is an all year round sport (subject to weather and location) played on a wide ranging number of course designs and local topographical course types.

The maintenance routines involved on a golf course will vary from the coarse cutting of the 'rough' to the careful loving care of the fine turf green. Although the game is played throughout the year, most golfing play and therefore wear is concentrated during the growing season from the spring to the autumn.

Primarily the course, whether it is a 9 or 18 hole, will consist of tees, fairways and greens for each of the holes. The fairways will have natural obstacles in the form of bunkers, which are either grassed or sand filled hollows. Each hole will vary in layout and distance ranging from a Par 3 to a Par 5, although some courses are Par 3 whereby the ball can be hit (but not in my case!) from tee to green with one shot. The presentation of the course is paramount, and while there are varying degrees of difficulty the tees, fairways and greens should stand out from the surroundings.

In essence, the tees are where the first shot is played for each hole. There tend to be at least two tees per hole, a ladies/junior tee and the men's tee. Some courses may also provide a competition tee-set further back from the other tees. The tee should be constructed level and even to play the shot from and be free from divots. Divots that will inevitably occur should be replaced regularly and the tee position moved daily to avoid too much wear in one area. Tees are usually maintained at a height of between 3-5mm when in play. During the wet months temporary winter tee mats may be used to avoid excessive wear on the course.

The fairway must be defined as such, with the central area being mown at a height of between 15 and 25mm. The fairway is surrounded by an area of longer grass known as the rough. The rough is commonly maintained from 50mm-200mm but can be longer. The fairway will have bunkers strategically placed to provide playing difficulties for golfers. Bunkers, more often than not, are sand filled and have a higher face towards the direction of play.

The greens are the main area of finishing play, and should therefore be maintained at a high standard. The objective of the green is to provide a challenging slowly undulating surface, on which the ball can be putted into the hole. The surface needs to be smooth and free of undesirable grasses, moss and weeds, be clear of debris and firm to putt on. Many greens are constructed in line with USGA specification. This specification allows for a free draining sand filled green. Pin holes on a green can be moved about on a daily basis, to provide different putting challenges for regular golfers but also to avoid excessive wear on any one part of the green.

Please feel free to e-mail us on with any additional hints or tips that would be of benefit to those reading the diary. It is a huge subject to cover properly, every course will have its own peculiarities and every Greenkeeper his own thoughts.


Generally this is a quiet month in terms of golf played so some of those jobs not normally allocated time may be attempted. These jobs are numerous and can include woodland clearing/tree surgery, land drainage, new tee or green construction, bunker re-shaping and the replacement or topping up of sand and irrigation improvements. January is also the ideal time for course enhancement in the form of landscaping and tree planting.

General duties will depend on the local aspect, weather and soil conditions. Many courses will be closed or will have had lost days due to the recent wet conditions, but some routine work can be carried out on the tees, greens and fairways.

Tees if in use should be brushed daily, divotted and any holes filled with a sand/soil mix. If conditions allow, tip the grass with the mower, and allow for two if not more spiking operations, to encourage gaseous exchange and drainage. It may be possible to put down a light sand dressing to help firm up the ground.

Move the tee markers daily, to avoid players causing unnecessary wear.

Fairways may be cut weekly if conditions allow, daily brushing will maintain presentation, removing dew and worm casts at the same time. Weekly spiking or slitting to make sure that surface water is removed quickly is a must, as well as providing air space for the new spring roots to move into.

Replace divots and fill holes with a sand/soil mix.

This is a great time to spend some time on the bunkers, removing discoloured material, accumulated debris and trimming up the edges. If bunkers are holding water, it is also ideal to improve the drainage by incorporating new sand traps and drainage pipes. With the sand removed re-contour the base ready for the main season.

Greens still require that extra care and attention, as with the rest of the course keep a close eye on disease and treat accordingly. There should be daily brushing or switching to help prevent the spread of disease and a weekly tipping of the grass with the mower, if conditions allow.

To avoid undue criticism, shorten the course by moving the pin hole to a reasonably accessible position on the green. At this time of the year, when the greens are damp, the ball runs slower; the largest number of complaints from golfers is that it has taken them more shots than usual to get round!

Other winter jobs to consider include checking over machinery, making sure that bolts, pipes and cables are secure, that there is anti freeze in the water cooling systems, checking gully traps and drain outlets around the course, course furniture has been dried, rubbed down and painted and then stored securely from the weather. If you're still stuck for something to do, why not clean out the work shops and sheds and give everything a fresh coat of paint. Also worth looking at are the first aid boxes, make sure they are adequately filled with the appropriate plasters/bandages and eye wash.