The recent very wet weather will certainly have affected the performance of your greens. Many clubs still have the old style soil pushed up greens that were designed to hold water, acting like a basin. These greens will be more susceptible to damage during periods of wet weather, especially if they do not have a drainage scheme installed.
I dare say there may be a few clubs who have had to close their greens during the recent wet spell of weather. Playing on saturated greens will cause damage and wear to your greens.
The ability of the green to dry out will be dependant on many factors:-
* The construction of your green ( topography / levels of your green) and whether it has a primary drainage system.
* Soil type of your green, sandy, loamy or clay type soils.
* Condition of your green (does it have a thatch layer greater than 6mm?).
* What level of maintenance does it receive?
* Adequate resources available - labour and machinery.
The two factors that generally affect the performance of most natural turf facilities are a poor initial construction and the lack of maintenance. And, in some cases, both.
Ideally your green should have an adequate primary drainage system (grid or herringbone system) in place to help with the removal of water. However, there are many club greens that do not have primary drainage systems installed and rely heavily on the ability of the soil profile to deal with the ingress of water.
Whether you have a drainage system or not the efficiency of the green to shed/infiltrate water will depend on a number of factors such as surface levels, soil type, depth of soil.
Poor designs and wrong choice of rootzone materials are often the primary causes of surface drainage problems on natural turf facilities. Often we see very shallow depths of rootzones/soil profiles. Greens that have less than 300 mm depth of rootzone will often drain inefficiently. Once you get greens constructed with less than 150mm of soil, surface water problems are seen, caused by the fact that it is being held in the soil profile and not draining by gravitational forces.
All USGA Specified greens are constructed to have a soil profile of 300 mm, this is an optimum depth of rootzone material to enable the green to perform and control the water infiltration through the green.
A water holding problem can be caused by a combination of factors. There needs to be significant head of water (hydraulic conductivity) to force water through a soil profile. A shallow rootzone will not create enough hydraulic head to move the water, thus it becomes suspended in the soil profile, commonly known as a perched water table.
A perched water table can also be caused by other factors, such as an impermeable layer being present and preventing the water from draining away. Another reason, often not understood, is the fact that the choice of rootzone materials (finer particle size mediums) may be introducing capillary forces on the water that prevents the movement of water, effectively acting like a sponge.
It is also important to use compatible top dressing materials, particle size uniformity is critical. Using different soil mediums that are not compatible will lead to a formation of layers within your soil profile, thus affecting the ability of water to drain efficiently.
Greens that have excessive thatch layers (more than 6mm) will also prevent water infiltration either by acting as a barrier or by acting as a sponge holding on to water.
Soil type will also influence infiltration rates; sandy/sandy loam soils will drain more efficiently than heavier loam/clay loam soils. Also, constant foot traffic will, over time, result in the soil profile becoming compacted, resulting in a lack of air spaces to aid water infiltration.
To help keep the surface free draining and prevent water ponding on the playing surface you should also be looking to carry out some aeration operations, particularly making good use of your sarrel roller.
A programme of solid tine spiking will also be beneficial at this time of the year, obtaining a depth of between 100-150mm will be effective.
There are many jobs you can undertake during January. Firstly, it is important to ensure you are carrying out your daily brushing to keep the surface clean and at the same time removing any early morning dews. Keeping the playing surface clean and dry helps prevent disease and contamination. There are a number of ways you can achieve this, using brushes and dragmats. Also, brushing of the green will help the sward stand upright allowing good air movement around the grass plant.
The Christmas break often sees an increase in golf traffic on the course, which can result in additional wear and tear. It is important to keep a check on pin placements as wear around the holes 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.
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.
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.
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?
Course Inspection: Frequency - daily
Inspect greens, tees, flags and hole positions for damage or vandalism. Vandalism often increases during the winter months.
Aeration: Frequency - when conditions allow.
Greens. Aeration of greens 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.
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.
Brushing and switching: Frequency - daily or as required.
Greens and 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: Frequency - daily
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.
Disease Control - inspect daily
Greens, Tees and 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: Frequency - as required
Greens, Tees and Fairways. Repair any divots and scars. Mix grass seed with a soil /sand rootzone and backfill the divots and scars with a soil /seed mix. The seed will still germinate in favourable weather conditions
Drainage: Frequency - 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: Frequency - when and If grass shows signs of stress, weak growth or discoloured.
Fertiliser programmes are not generally carried out 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: Frequency - daily
Keep all footpaths clean and free from debris, check any step details and hand rails ( Health & Safety).
Harrowing Fairways: Frequency - monthly
Harrowing/raking helps restore levels and keeps surfaces open.
Hole Changing: Frequency - as required
Changing of holes should be carried out regularly, however frequency will be dependant on a number of factors, such as 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: Frequency - as required
The course, clubhouse and 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: Frequency - daily
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/debris collection: Frequency - daily
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. Empty litter bins/tee boxes.
Machinery (Repairs & Maintenance): Frequency - daily or after use
Inspect and clean machinery after use, service and repair damaged machinery.
Mowing: Frequency - 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 and weed control: Frequency - 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.
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 Frequency / 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: Frequency - as required
All tee boxes, tee pegs and competition markers should be inspected daily, cleaned and moved to new positions as required.
Top dressing: Frequency - as required
Greens & Tees. Ensure you have enough top dressing material for any renovation or repair works carried out.
Artificial Grass Systems: Frequency - 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.