June Golf Diary

By Laurence Gale MSc

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What a change in the weather. April and May were pretty awful months, very wet and cold with temperatures failing to rise above 10oC, thus stimulating very little grass growth. However, the weather in June has changed beyond belief. Most of the country has been basking in very hot balmy weather with temperatures rising well into the high twenties. This rise in temperature has increased Evaportranspiration (ET) rates to somewhere between 4-6mm a day, equating to around 28mm per week. Rainfall on average has been less than 1mm per day, thus we have a water deficit of about 3-5mm per day.

This deficit needs to be made up by irrigation. Most golf courses now have efficient watering systems. It will be important to work out your needs and water accordingly to maintain your balance.

Check the irrigation system is working correctly, you do not want to be wasting your water or finding you are not putting enough on uniformly. Put a number of catch cans out on your greens/tees and then operate your system, running for a set time. Measure the amount of water collected in the catch cans. This will give you a good indication of how much water is being applied, and if it is being applied evenly.

However, if you are in an area covered by the recent Drought Orders you may find yourself not being allowed to water

The 3 water boards below applied for Drought Orders in March '06 and were granted them by DEFRA in May. Only Sutton & East Surrey have implemented their ban so far (total ban of mains water for irrigation started 27th May for 6 months). The other companies are hanging back as more rain has fallen, but it is likely they will implement a ban later in the summer.

Sutton and East Surrey Water (Tel: 01737 772000, Website: www.waterplc.com

Southern Water (Tel: 0845 278 0845, Website: www.southernwater.co.uk

Mid-Kent Water (Tel: 01634 873033, Website: www.midkentwater.co.uk

In addition, Thames Water has, as of last week, applied to DEFRA for a Drought Order for their London regions- see this link for areas affected - www.thames-water.com/UK/region/en_gb/content/FAQ/FAQ_000055.jsp?SECT=FAQ_000055. This will entail a public hearing in the next month or so to allow objections to be heard and will take approx 2 months to go through the government system. If DEFRA award it, then it is likely that water restrictions will come into force sometime from August.

Soils are now relatively dry with some grass beginning to show signs of drought stress. First signs of drought stress are seen in colour and texture changes, the grass becomes duller and turns a bluish colour, with leaf blades narrowing and folding. These changes are the plants way of closing down its cell functions which, over time, eventually leads to the plant wilting (loss of plant turgor). If conditions do not improve or adequate water cannot be made available, the plant will continue to decline until death occurs.

The degree of drought stress/wilting is affected by factors such as grass type, soil type and management practices. Some grass species, such as fescues, have the ability to withstand dry conditions as they are natively found in sandy soils and have adapted to these condition producing narrow thin leaves.

The best way to control drought stress is by plant management. Increase the height of cut during dry periods, reduce grooming and verticutting activities. Do not feed during dry conditions unless you have adequate watering resources.

You do need to ensure the plant is getting sufficient moisture to its roots by effective irrigation practices. However, poor use and application of water resources also affects plant stress, this is usually associated with over and under watering practices.

Most golf clubs now have automated watering systems which, in the main, are provided for greens maintenance. More and more clubs are extending their systems to cover tees, aprons and fairways.

However, even with the most sophisticated irrigation systems, there still needs to be an input by the course manager/greenkeeper to decide when, how much and how often to irrigate.

It is essential to ensure the water is uniformly applied to prevent any dry patches forming.

Frequent watering often encourages shallow rooting, which can and will lead to grass problems, increased disease and greater susceptibility to stress injury. Watering deeply and less frequently provides for improved turf growth.

When irrigation becomes necessary, wet the soil to a minimum depth of 100mm-150mm. This amount of water varies with soil texture, but approximately 25mm applied uniformly should thoroughly wet most soils to a depth 150mm. Use a probe to check depth of watering.

Irrigation can be applied at any time during the day or night. Both day and night watering have advantages and disadvantages. Midday watering cools the turf and reduces heat stress on hot summer days. Daytime watering can sometimes be inefficient due to substantial evaporation losses. Night watering helps to conserve water because of minimal evaporation, however, it can encourage or aggravate disease problems.

June Maintenance Tasks for Golf Courses

Natural Gras

Task

Frequency

Reason

Aeration

When conditions allow

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 June.

Fairways. Generally no aeration on fairways during June.

Amenity areas

Weekly

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

Brushing / Sweeping

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

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 of the bunker face.

Course Inspection

Daily

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

Diseases including Moss & Algae

Daily / Weekly

Greens , Tees , Fairways. Keep an eye on fungal disease attack, and use approved fungicides to treat infected areas. Scarring of the playing surface is normally reduced as grass growth is usually dominant and vigorous in June, reducing the need to use fungicide treatments. However, there may be a need to apply a preventative fungicide treatment in the event of important competitions or matches, thus reducing the damage or effects of this disease.

Divoting

As required

Greens, Tees and Fairways. Repair any divots and scars.

Drainage

Weekly

Inspect drainage outfalls, channels and ditches. Ensure that they are working.

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.

Most grounds staff will be applying their summer fertiliser 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 NPK fertiliser. Generally 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 sea weed products prior to competitions and tournaments. Many course managers like to use straight compound fertilisers that act instantly to the conditions, rather than use slow release products that can initiate or stimulate growth when you don't want it.

The choice of materials and how well they work can be dependant on factors such as soil type and weather, with moisture and and air temperatures being the catalyst for growth.

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 keep surfaces open.

Hole changing

As required

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. Wear is more apparent if the green has thatch problems.

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

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.

Soil and air temperatures during June are likely to increase affecting the rate of evapotranspiration ET (water loss from both the soil and grass plants) increasing the likelihood of the ground and surfaces drying out.

It is very important that water 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

Most golf courses have formal garden/ornamental areas that require watering especially when new summer bedding schemes have been planted.

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

June sees the mowing operations in full swing with the aim of reducing the height of cut of the greens, so that by the end of June the greens will be 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 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.

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.

Pest control

As required

Weed growth is very active during June enabling course managers the opportunity to use and apply selective herbicides.These are more effective when the plant is actively promoting growth.

Moles and rabbit damage; repairs as required.

Ponds, lakes and streams

Weekly

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

Seed bare & worn areas

When conditions allow

Greens, Tees and Fairways. Over seeding of sparse or bare areas can be continued, the rise in temperature will help germination. Use germination sheets to aid this process but remove the sheets regularly to check for diseases. Remember that without good seed to soil contact the operation is useless.

Ensure you use new seed as old material may not give you the required germination rates. Remember, bents and fescue grasses require higher soil temperatures for successful germination.

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.

Wetting agents

As required

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

Woodland & conservation areas.

As required

High and strong winds can damage trees on golf courses. Inspect and repair or remove damaged trees. It is important to inspect trees regularly (heath & safety) to reduce the likelihood of a golfer being struck by tree debris.

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 Tee Mats

As required

Keep clean.