January Golf Diary

By Laurence Gale Msc

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Happy new year to you all. I hope you all enjoyed your festive break, that's if you managed to get one. With golf now firmly an all year round sport the Christmas break often sees an increase in golf traffic on the course, which can often result in additional wear and tear. It is important to keep a check on pin placements as wear around the hole position can increase during wet weather periods.

The use of golf trolleys can also increase wear on areas of the course, particularly along the pathways from greens to tees. Restricting the use of trolleys or providing designated trolley paths can minimise damage.jan-2006-greensweep.jpg

The use of artificial winter tee mats can also help control wear and damage on tees. Many golf courses try and maintain play on their greens all the year round, however, this is not always possible. The opportunity to have a temporary green or enlarged apron area can often be taken to accommodate play during inclement weather.

Diseases can still occur in January, particularly after snow cover. It is important to keep dew off grass surfaces. Allowing the sward to dry out helps prevent disease attacks. The use of switching canes and brushes can be used to remove these dew deposits.

There is still a lot of leaf debris around on most courses, high winds can often blow this debris onto the greens. Daily brushing will help keep the greens free of debris. Sweepfast have introduced a couple of sweeping devices, Cleensweep and Greensweep that are very good for picking up debris and at the same time brushing up the green. (See Pitchcare shop for details)

High winds in January can often cause structure and tree damage. It is imperative to inspect, record and make the site safe. Any structure or tree debris that has fallen down and can be considered a hazard must be fenced off or removed in the interests of public safety.

Any tree works must be undertaken by qualified trained personnel. If your staff are not suitably qualified in tree surgery and operating chainsaw machinery, you must employ specialist contractors to carry out these works.

Some clubs will have started their winter construction/repair works. This is often associated with drainage improvements around the course or may include refurbishment, new build or extensions to bunkers, tees and greens. January is also a good time to carry out repairs and maintenance to fence lines, seating and other structures around the course. You may get some favourable weather for painting and repairing these structures.

January is a also good time, whilst it is quiet, to plan and get yourself organised. What are your targets for this year? What do you want to achieve? Have you organised your spring renovation works? Have you ordered materials and machinery for the forthcoming season?

Most of the tasks detailed can be undertaken within a limited budget. Local conditions and circumstances will need to be taken into account. If any members are undertaking any specific work not detailed, please let us know by adding a comment in the section below the diary.

January Maintenance Tasks for Golf

Natural Grass

Task

Frequency

Reason

Aeration

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When conditions allow

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

Amenity areas

Weekly

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

Brushing/Sweeping/ Caning

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Daily / Weekly

Greens & Tees. Prior to mowing, the surface should be thoroughly brushed or switched. Continue to brush/switch 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


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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 experience flash floods during heavy rain, leaving many bunkers in a poor state (washing out sand from bunker faces). Repair works may be necessary.

Continue or undertake bunker construction works, subject to ground conditions allowing for transport of materials.

Course Inspection

Daily

Inspect greens, tees, flags and hole positions for damage or vandalism.
Vandalism often increases during the winter months.

Diseases

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Daily / Weekly

Greens , Tees , Fairways. Keep an eye on fungal disease attack. Cool, moist and even mild conditions can still be experienced in January, favourable conditions for an outbreak of disease. 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.

It is during the winter months that most golf course managers / greenkeepers can evaluate the condition and performance of their drainage systems.

Fertiliser programme

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

Fertiliser programmes are not generally carried out after at this time due to the change in air and soil temperatures. Most turf grasses are 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

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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 times per week during wet periods.


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.

Winter months are generally a good time for general repairs and maintenance of course structures and features, summer furniture (wooden seating / benches) can be collected in from the course, and repaired stained or painted.

Irrigation

Daily and weekly

Although the winter wet weather has set in, there may be the need to utilise the sprinkler system during January if using wetting agents. 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.

Ensure the whole irrigation system is inspected and serviced prior to the new season starting, do not leave it too late to arrange your service requirements.

Leaf collection

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As required

The recent strong winds should have helped blow the leaves off the course or into the woods well away from playing surfaces, however these strong winds will have battered the trees about, breaking off branches and twig debris that may fall on to greens and tees.

It will be necessary to clean up this debris, by sweeping or caning the playing surfaces. Daily inspections should be made to check on tree debris during stormy weather.

Most golf courses have a range of sweepers and blowers that can be used for leaf and debris 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)

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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

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As required

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 coming 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

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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 January. 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 January. See the following articles on moles and rabbits.

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

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Weekly

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

Recent stormy wet weather will have contributed a lot of surface water into drains, ditches and water courses. However, when large amounts of water are running into these outlets in a short period of time, it can often result in flooding parts of the course which may in turn make the course unplayable.

Check all ditches and brooks, make sure the water is running easily, remove any debris that may affect the flow of the streams, brooks or ditches.


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.

Weather Stations

Daily

It is important to keep daily records of information collected. Keeping a diary of air temperatures, sunlight hours,wind speed and rainfall are essential. This information is a valuable resource for making important management decisions.

Wetting agents

As required

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

Wetting Agents do help water infiltration, it is important that these wetting agents are watered into the surface to help move the agent down deeper into the soil profile.

Woodland & conservation areas.

As required

Strong winds can damage trees on golf courses. Inspect and repair or remove damaged trees and/or limbs. 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

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Weekly

Some golf clubs will be using winter tee mats. It is important to keep them clean and free of debris. 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 Tee Mats

As required

Keep clean.