May Golf Diary

By Laurence Gale MSc

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May will be an extremely busy time for most greenkeeping staff this year, due to the poor weather experienced in March and April. Soil and air temperatures rarely reached above 12 degrees C, and meant that grass growth was slow and any nutrients applied were not taken up by the plant. The combination of these two factors also prevented an early start to spring renovations with some courses being at least 2-3 weeks behind schedule. Most clubs are now trying to catch up and complete their spring renovations (aeration, topdressing and oversowing), whilst at the same time trying to get on top of their mowing regimes.may2006-delemere.jpg

With some warmer weather forecast, the greenkeepers will be faced with a flush of grass growth that will need to be controlled. Increasing the frequency of cut and reducing the height of cut will be the order of the month, gradually reducing the height of cut on greens, tees and fairways.

The issue of water restrictions in some parts of the country will no doubt affect many clubs this year. Clubs who come under these areas must keep abreast of the current restrictions and check whether they apply to you. See link for further information (Water restrictions).

There are still some clubs that do not have an automated watering system and hand water only when really necessary. One such club is the Delamere Forest Golf Club in Cheshire that, for many years now, has not watered its greens, tees or fairways during the summer months and allows nature to take its course.

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.

May Maintenance Tasks for Golf Courses

Natural Grass

Task Frequency Reason
Aerationjohn-o-gaunt-bent-grass-017.jpg 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 May.
Fairways. Generally no aeration on fairways during May.
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

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Daily / weekly

Inspect, weed and rake bunkers.

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. With the recent spells of wet weather many golf courses are experiencing outbreaks of Fusarium particularly on their greens. Scarring of the playing surface is normally reduced as grass growth is usually dominant and vigorous in May, 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 would have applied a spring fertiliser dressing back in March and ,depending on weather conditions and type of greens, will have already applied or considered applying another dressing of fertiliser to balance growth. 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 Changingjan2006-hole.jpg 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. 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 golfers' feet.

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

Ensure that automatic watering systems have been serviced and repaired ready for the new season. 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 May are likely to increase affecting the rate of evapotranspiration (water loss from both the soil and grass plants) increasing the likelihood of the ground and surfaces drying out.

Its very important that irrigation is uniformly applied, to keep the grass plant alive and healthy and to prevent dry patch occurring.

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

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As required May 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 May the greens will be at their summer height (3.5-6mm). Other tasks that compliment 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 3.5-6mm.
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 May 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

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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. You may need to wait for favourable temperatures later in the year.

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 works that may still be carried out in May.
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, all temporary winter mats to be cleaned and stored away.