February usually continues to be cold and wet, not one of the best times for working out doors. However, there is always plenty of work to be done on a golf course this month.
It is likely that you are still working on winter construction projects, revamping tees, bunkers or cleaning out ditches/ponds. It generally starts to become a rush to complete these works before the onslaught of spring renovation which are only a few weeks away.
It is best to reduce vehicle movement around the course, especially when ground conditions are wet and saturated. Working on and in wet conditions will and can do untold damage to grass surfaces. You may also need to control the amount of golf buggy and trolley movement, or restrict them to designated paths to reduce unwanted wear and tear.
February is also a good time to complete any tree/woodland works, with the added bonus of having fires to burn the debris (keeping you warm at the same time). 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.
Its often best to complete tree and woodland works before the trees and woodland begin to flourish with growth at the end of February/early March, so that you do not damage the flora and fauna which generally make a good show in spring.
Remember to ensure that all your machinery has been serviced and ready for the new season. Once soil and air temperatures begin to rise grass growth will begin in earnest.
Finally February, still gives you some 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.
February maintenance tasks for Golf
Aeration / 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.
Amenity areas / Weekly :-
- 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.
Tidy up any flower and shrub borders around the club house and entrance. Spring flowering materials (pansies, bellis, polyanthus and wall flowers) can still be planted but don't delay.
Brushing/Sweeping/ Caning / 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 / 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. February is a good month to carry out the final topping up of bunker materials, before the onslaught of the spring renovation programmes.
Course Inspection / Daily :-
Inspect greens, tees, flags and hole positions for damage or vandalism. Vandalism often increases during the winter months.
Diseases / Daily/weekly :-
Greens , Tees , Fairways. Keep an eye on fungal disease attack. Cool, moist and even mild conditions can still be experienced in February. The fluctuation in air temperatures may increase the likelihood of disease attack. 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.
If you have or need to rectify any drainage problems, February is usually a good time for organising and preparing and planning the works, especially if you intend to employ specialist contractors to undertake the work. You will need to identify a suitable working window for the contractors to perform. Book early to avoid disappointment.
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.
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. However, with spring around the corner, it will pay to organise and plan your feeding programme early, ensuring that suppliers are able to deliver in time for your use.
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 / 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 time 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 :- 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 / 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) / Daily/weekly :-
Inspect and clean machinery after use; service and repair damaged machinery.
There is always new machinery coming onto the market, most dealerships will be glad to demonstrate their machinery to you. Take the opportunity to see and try out new bits of kit, especially as you can see it working on your own site.
If you cannot afford new, there are many companies who specialise in second hand machinery. The reputable ones will allow you to trial before committing to a purchase.
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 :-
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.
Pest control / As required :-
- 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.
The opportunity to control weed growth by using chemicals products is not viable due to the lower light levels and fluctuations of air and soil temperatures in February. 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.
Badgers, once active, can cause a lot of damage (see photo left). They can be very destructive when searching for food. In this case they were feeding on chafer grubs. Because Badgers are a protected species, it is important you contact the local badger society for advice. They can help you find a solution to your problems. In this case the greenkeeper had to set up some feeding trails to entice the badger from feeding near or on the greens. This was achieved by laying dog food underneath a piece of wood, which over a period was gradually moved away from the green.
Birds feeding on grubs and insect larvae can cause severe surface damage. Chlorpyrifos is the only chemical now available to give you some control of chafer grubs. There are a number of products on the market, Lorsban T by Rigby Taylor, Maraund from Scotts and Crossfire 480 by Bayer Environmental Science. All these products are generally applied in November when the larvae are small and susceptible. Early treatment is recommended.
Ponds, lakes and streams / Weekly :-I
nspect 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.
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. Ensure all tee boxes and pegs are cleaned/repainted for the forthcoming summer season. Inspect signs especially warning signs remember to check that they are still valid and lawful.
Top dressing / As required :-
Greens & Tees. Ensure you have enough top dressing material for any renovation or repair works carried out. Spring renovations are less than 4-6 weeks away, ensure you have ordered enough material to complete your renovations.
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. Remember to service and calibrate your weather station, check with suppliers for any upgrades or services.
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 deeper down 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 / 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. replace any worn or damaged mats.