July Golf Diary
By Laurence Gale MSc
June has been a particularly dry month in most parts of the country. In fact Colin Robinson, Course Manager at the John O'Gaunt GC in Bedfordshire, only recorded 6mm of rainfall in the entire month. And that came during three days of rain. Colin, like many course managers/greenkeepers has been working flat out to keep their facilities watered. The John O'Gaunt is currently permitted to use water, which it abstracts from a stream that runs through the course.
However, there are a number of courses that are operating under the recently implemented water bans/drought orders, which has severely reduced the amount of water they can use. One course affected is restricted to 100 cubic metres a week which it uses to keep its greens alive.
Many course managers are re evaluating their water needs and only watering the essential parts of the course, mainly the greens.
To help minimise water usage, many managers have reset sprinkler heads to target greens only and not surrounds. Hand watering is a key task for troublesome areas such as slopes and high spots. Watering should be done in the evening or throughout the night when evaportranspiration is at its lowest.
It may be a good idea to split your watering cycles applying in two doses, around 3mm per cycle. This will minimise surface run off, when the second dose is applied the green will be more susceptible to taking in the water.
However, with air temperatures reaching 30 degrees centigrade or more around midday it is essential you syringe your turf to cool it down and prevent scorching. Syringing the turf involves applying a fine spray of water to cool down the grass plant.
Many greenkeepers have raised their height of cut to help the plant overcome heat stress. cutting between 4-5mm.
Some courses, particularly links courses, already have a policy not to water and remain totally reliant on the weather. At one such course, Delamere Forest, they do not water at all.
Mowing and course preparation will be the priority in July, particularly with the additional influx of golf competitions usually planned for this time of the year.
With air and soil temperatures on the increase the need for irrigation is likely to be a priority to keep the course in a playable condition. Evapotranspiration (ET), the combined water loss from both the plant and soil surfaces, will now be rising due to the warmer weather. When irrigating it is essential to ensure the water is uniformly applied to prevent any dry patches forming.
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.
Maintain the greens at their summer height (3-6mm). Other tasks that complement this work involve the use of grooming and verticutting units to remove unwanted thatch and side shoot growths. The frequency of grooming is fortnightly and verticutting monthly.
Mowing frequencies varying 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 the 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 3-6mm ( raise by 1mm if grass under stress)
Tees. Mowing height should be maintained at around 10-15mm.
Fairways. Mowing height should be maintained at around 15-20mm.
Rough, Semi rough grass areas. Mow and tidy up these areas.
Inspect, weed and rake bunkers. Most courses tend to rake their bunkers every other day to keep the sand well presented and on the face of the bunker. Repair any damage from rabbits or other animals, maintain sand up the face of the bunkers to prevent erosion.
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.
It is very important that irrigation is uniformly applied to keep the grass plant alive and healthy and to prevent dry patch occurring. Further information about Irrigation of sports surfaces can be see on link. Irrigation
Many golf courses have formal garden/ornamental areas that require watering, especially when new summer bedding schemes have been planted.
Greens , Tees , Fairways
Keep an eye on fungal disease attack, and use approved fungicides to treat infected areas. With the hot, humid conditions some golf courses are experiencing outbreaks of fusarium particularly on their greens.
Fertiliser treatment and turf tonic can be continued in accordance with your annual programme. If you don't have a fertiliser programme, have your soil tested; try an independent soil analysis company for an impartial set of results.
Most greens staff will be applying their summer fertilisers to maintain vigour and colour, aiming to cut back on the (N) nitrogen input and (P) phosphate elements, and apply something like a 8/0/6 or similar NPK fertilisers. Straight compound fertilisers that act instantly to the conditions are generally used, rather than slow release products that can initiate or stimulate growth when you don't want it. USGA sand based greens tend to be more hungry for fertilisers compared to the pushed up soil greens. Most course managers would then look to colour up the greens with an application of iron and seaweed products prior to competitions and tournaments,
Changing of holes should be carried out regularly, however frequency will be dependant on a number of factors, green size, greens 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 effect 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.
Aeration & Top dressing
Aeration and top dressing operations will continue on the course. Many are now adopting a little and often approach to top dressing greens, applying smaller quantities of dressings through out the year, less than 0.5 tons per green. This has several advantages - it ensures there is no build up of layers of rootzone materials which can lead to rootbreaks in the soil profile, it avoids smothering of the grass plant and also creates minimal disruption to play.
Greens - Generally from May through to September any aeration completed on greens is done with micro tines only, so as not to disturb the playing surfaces.
Tees. Generally no aeration carried out on tees during July.
Fairways. Generally no aeration on fairways during July.