October Golf Diary
By Laurence Gale MSc
October is a very busy month for most greenkeepers with the last opportunity to complete a number of autumn renovations on greens tees and fairways before the colder weather sets in. Various aeration programmes will also be commencing, using a whole range of solid, slit and hollow tines. The size of tines used will also range from large 300mm deep x 25mm vertidrain tines, down to 100mm pencil micro tines. However ,the weather will be the deciding factor for when these operations will be started.
Greens.A key month for greens aeration, as it forms part of the autumn renovation programme. A wide range of aerators are put to use, ranging from star tines, vertidrain tines to hollow tines; the choice or combination of tines will be dependant on the outcomes required. Hollow tines are used to remove a core of soil from the green which then allows the opportunity to topdress with some new materials, a process that offers a good soil, air and gas exchange in the soil profile.
Tees. Aeration of tees will continue with solid or hollow tines, in line with autumn maintenance. Aeration works continuing throughout the winter when weather conditions allow.
Fairways. When the ground is fit, aerate with solid rather than slit tines to reduce chances of surface cracking.
With air temperatures still averaging around 10 °C in most parts of the country, seeding is still a viable option. The opportunity to over seed worn areas and reintroduce new cultivars must be taken whilst these temperatures remain favourable for germination. Areas to consider are tees, green surrounds and fairways. Most courses would have oversown their greens in August when the air temperatures were higher, more suitable to the sowing of bent/fescue grasses.
However, this recent spell of mild weather will have no doubt influenced some disease attacks with red thread, fusarium, leaf spot and fairy rings being quite common.
Greens , Tees , Fairways: Keep an eye on fungal disease attack. October 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.
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.
Day to Day Maintenance
These warm temperatures will also be promoting plenty of grass growth, resulting in the need to continue the regular mowing regimes on the course.
After autumn renovations most course managers/greenkeepers will be looking to increase mowing heights on greens and tees by 1mm-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 year.
Greens. Mowing height should be maintained at around 4mm-8mm.
Tees. Mowing height should be maintained at around 10mm-15mm.
Fairways. Mowing height should be maintained at around 15mm-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.
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 times per week during wet periods.
All tee boxes, tee pegs and competition markers should be inspected daily, cleaned and moved to new positions as required.
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.
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.
As part of the autumn renovations most groundstaff will be applying their Autumn fertilisers to maintain some vigour and colour, aiming to cut back on the (N) nitrogen input and increasing (P) phosphorous elements to encourage root growth. Generally USGA sand based greens tend to be more hungry for fertilisers compared to the pushed up soil greens. See link for autumn fertilisers.
The choice of materials and how well they work can be dependant on factors such as soil type and weather, with moisture and air temperatures being the catalyst for growth.
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 October. 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 October. 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.
Water features: Inspect all water features on course, cleaning out any unwanted debris and litter. In regard to streams and brooks it is important to keep them clean and free of unwanted debris, Autumn leaves and twigs are generally the biggest problem.
Irrigation: 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.
Trees & Woodlands: 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.