November Golf Diary

By Laurence Gale MSc

ND-lilleshall-golfers.jpg

Daily maintenance is ongoing with the added burden of leaf clearing. Most tree lined golf courses have deciduous trees that lose their leaves in the autumn. The job of clearing these leaves is essential for the next 6-8 weeks. Many greenkeepers pray for strong winds to help blow the leaves off the course or into corners for collection.

ND-lilleshall-dew.jpg

Recent mild weather, coupled with the dews, will have provided ideal conditions for disease. Treat accordingly whenever an outbreak is spotted.

Heavy rainfall will have washed and leached out soil nutrients, especially on sandy and free draining sites. The loss of nutrients from the soil profile inevitably puts the sward under stress, decreasing the plants ability to withstand an attack of disease.

Earthworm activity usually increases in November. Earthworms can survive in a wide range of conditions, but most earthworm activity is dependent on the quality of food available. Worms like plenty of Organic Matter (OM), therefore greens with a high thatch problem tend to encourage worm activity. Soil pH also affects where earthworms are found. In strongly acid or alkaline soils earthworms are rarely seen (pH less than 4.5 or greater than 8). The soil texture will also affect the number of earthworms; they prefer clay soils and are less frequently found in sandy soils.

Worm activity inevitability leads to worm casts appearing on the playing surface. These worm casts can be very problematic. Casts tend to smear the surface, which in turn can affect surface water drainage capacity as well as providing a seed bed for weed germination.

ND-lilleshall-golf-worm-cas.jpg

The recent wet weather may have aided the opportunity to carry out some deep aeration on the fairways. Keeping the fairways aerated is essential to combat winter wear and to allow play throughout the winter.

Aeration is the key to keeping the golf course open throughout the winter periods, especially on heavy soils. Various aeration programmes will continue when conditions allow, using a whole range of tines, solid, slit and hollow. The size of tines used will also range from large 300mm deep x 25mm vertidrain tines to 100mm pencil micro tines.

Some clubs will have started their winter construction/repairs works. This is often associated with drainage improvements around the course or may include refurbishment, new build or extensions to bunkers, tees and greens.

November is the month when a number of tasks are undertaken in readiness for the oncoming winter's play - setting up winter tee mat positions, introducing winter greens at some courses and demarcation of winter trolley walk ways.

November Maintenance Tasks for Golf

Natural Grass

Task

Frequency

Reason

Aeration

john-o-gaunt-bent-grass-017.jpg

When conditions allow

Greens. November is a busy month for greens aeration. A wide range of solid or slit aerators are put to use on the greens. It is essential to keep the greens aerated to maintain air and gas exchange in the soil profile, thus improving the drainage capabilities of the greens.

Tees. Aeration of tees will continue throughout the winter when weather conditions allow.

Fairways. When the ground conditions are favourable, aerate with solid tines to increase air and gas exchanges in soil profile. Encouraging deeper rooting of fairway grasses is important. Deeper rooted grasses are more likely to overcome stress in the following year.

Amenity areas

Weekly

Tidy up any flower and shrub borders around the club house and entrance.

Brushing/Sweeping/Caning

ND-lilleshall-golf--brushin.jpg


Daily/Weekly

Greens & Tees. Prior to mowing the surface should be thoroughly brushed. Continue to brush greens and tees daily to remove moisture from the grass surface, stopping the spread of disease and facilitating an improved quality of cut on the dry grass.

Bunkers

ND-lilleshall-golf-bunkers.jpg

Daily/Weekly

Inspect, weed and rake bunkers. Repair any damage from rabbits or other animals, maintain sand up the face of the bunkers to prevent erosion and sand loss. Some golf courses experienced flash floods during heavy rain fall, leaving many bunkers in a poor state (washing out sand from bunker faces). Repair works may be necessary.

When raking bunkers it is important to rake the sand up the front of the bunkers, keeping plenty of sand on the bunker face.

Bunker construction works may start in November to make use of the good ground conditions for transporting materials around.

Course Inspection

Daily

Inspect greens, tees, flags and hole positions for damage or vandalism.

Disease

september-diary-disease-wre.jpg

Daily/Weekly

Greens , Tees , Fairways. Keep an eye on fungal disease attack. November still remains a prolific month for disease due to the onset of heavy dews on the playing surfaces in the mornings. Use approved fungicides to treat infected areas.

Divotting

As required

Greens, Tees and Fairways. Repair any divots and scars. Mix grass seed with a soil/sand rootzone and back fill the divots and scars with soil/seed mix. The seed will still germinate in favourable weather conditions

Drainage


Weekly

Inspect drainage outfalls, channels and ditches. Ensure that they are working. November often sees the start of any drainage refurbishment works, making good use of any firm soil conditions when transporting materials across the course.

Fertiliser programme

If grass shows signs of stress (weak growth, discoloured)

Fertiliser treatment and turf tonic can be continued in accordance with your annual programme. If you haven't got a fertiliser programme, have your soil tested; try an independent soil analysis company for an impartial set of results.

Fertiliser programmes are not generally carried out after November due to the change in air and soil temperatures as most turf grasses usually start to become dormant, slower growing. However, some greenkeepers may apply some liquid iron to keep the turf healthy and strong. USGA greens often do require some top up feeding during the winter to maintain nutrient status of the green.

Footpaths

As required

Keep all footpaths clean and free from debris, check any step details and hand rails ( Health & Safety).

Harrowing/raking

When conditions allow

Fairways. Harrowing/raking helps restore levels and keeps surfaces open.

Hole Changing

ND-lilleshall-golf-hole.jpg

As required

Changing of holes should be carried out regularly, however frequency will be dependant on a number of factors, green size, green construction, tournaments, amount of play and condition of the green. During wet periods it is likely the hole will wear more quickly, resulting in a crowning affect and surface wear. This wear is more apparent if the green has thatch problems. The hole will tend to wear quickly and form a depression caused by the placement of the golfers' feet. You may be looking to change the hole positions more than three time per week during wet periods.

Most golf courses are changing their hole positions at least three times a week.

Inspect Course structures

As required

The Course, Clubhouse, Car parks. Check and repair fences, seating, shelters, bridges, litter bins, shoe and ball cleaners, signs, and tee boxes.

Irrigation

Daily and weekly

Although the winter wet weather has begun to kick in, there may be the need to utilise the sprinkler system during November. Remember to check and monitor all sprinkler head controls/valves to see that they are working, and check the spray patterns and timing of each and every sprinkler head. Also check any manual systems, hose pipes, sprinklers and pumps.

Leaf collection

ND-lilleshall-golf-tees.jpg


As required

November sees the start of the autumn leaf fall. Leaf clearing will become a daily routine for the next 6-8 weeks. Modern machinery, especially the hand held blowers are a valuable tool for moving leaf matter. Most golf courses have a range of sweepers and blowers that can be used for leaf collection.

Litter/debris

Daily/Weekly

Greens , Tees and Fairways. Inspect and remove debris from playing surfaces. Litter, twigs and leaves. Regularly empty litter bins/tee boxes.

Machinery (Repairs & Maintenance)

Daily/Weekly

Inspect and clean machinery after use, service and repair damaged machinery.

Marking out

Weekly

Mark out trolley areas, out of bound site areas and range markings.

Materials

Monthly

Estimate and order seed, loams and fertilisers, fuels and other consumables.

Mowing

As required

After autumn renovations most course managers/greenkeepers will be looking to increase mowing heights on greens and tees by 1-2mm, with many factors dictating the height of cut, soil type, grass species and golf traffic.

Other tasks that complement this work involve the use of grooming and verticutting units to remove unwanted thatch and side shoot growth. The frequency of grooming is fortnightly and verticutting monthly.

Mowing frequencies will vary from daily to twice weekly operations dependant on the growth of the grass and the standards set by the course manager. Mowing heights may vary depending on local conditions, type of course, course expectations, sward type and mower type. The mowing heights are a guide, and will be subject to local weather conditions, but remember not to remove more than 1/3 of total grass height in each cut. The less stress that is placed on the grass at this vital time the better the results further on into the season.

Greens. Mowing height should be maintained at around 6-8mm.

Tees. Mowing height should be maintained at around 10-15mm.

Banks. Mowing height should be maintained at 22-30mm

Fairways. Mowing height should be maintained at around 15-25mm.

Rough, Semi rough grass areas. Mow and tidy up these areas. Reduce build up of clippings by cutting little and often with a rotary or flail. Mowing height will depend on type of course and the standard of play required. Mowing height of cut during the winter between 50-100mm.

Pest control

wrekin-golf-club-badger-dam.jpg


As required

The opportunity to control weed growth by using chemicals products is now not viable due to the lower light levels and fluctuations of air and soil temperatures in November. The efficiency of using systemic products will be greatly reduced and, in most cases, will not work effectively when the plants metabolism has slowed down. Other cultural practices can be undertaken, usually in the form of hand weeding and hoeing (bunker weeds).

Pests scrounging for food can cause a lot of damage on turf surfaces. Foxes have been known to regularly dig up old hole placements, night after night. Moles and rabbits are still very active in November.

Birds feeding on grubs and larvae of insects can cause severe surface damage. Reducing or stopping their food source is a viable control method to reduce pest damage.

Ponds, lakes and streams

Weekly

Inspect all water features on the course, cleaning out any unwanted debris and litter.

Seed bare & worn areas


When conditions allow

Greens, Tees and Fairways. Overseeding of sparse or bare areas can be continued in November particularly when using rye grasses. Use germination sheets to aid this process but remove the sheets regularly to check for disease. Remember that without good seed to soil contact the operation is useless.

Ensure you use new seed as older bagged seed may not give you the required germination rates.

Tee boxes, pegs

As required

All tee boxes, tee pegs and competition markers should be inspected daily, cleaned and moved to new positions as required.

Top dressing

As required

Greens & Tees. Ensure you have enough top dressing material for any renovation or repair works carried out in November.

Wetting agents

As required

If wetting agents are being used they are generally applied monthly throughout the season.

Woodland & conservation areas.

ashridge-Pond-15th-Opened-u.jpg

As required

Strong winds can damage trees on golf courses. Inspect and repair or remove damaged trees and/or limbs. Take note of any fuller tree branches which may need autumn pruning to reduce weight. Check deer and rabbit guards on whips and saplings. Make a thorough check of general shrub and tree health and contact your local arboriculturalist if required.

Artificial Tees and Mats

Artificial Grass Systems

Weekly

Keep surface clean, regular sweeping and brushing. Remove any algae and moss from surface.

Sand filled systems require regular brushing to maintain manufacturer's recommendations for sand levels and pile heights.

Rubber/Artificial Tee Mats

As required

Keep clean.

References: Worm information provided by Mark Bartlett, National Soil Resources Institute, Cranfield University 2005.