The recent avalanche of snow in most parts of the country is certainly putting golf on the back burner, with many clubs having to close their courses due to the prolonged snow cover. Not a good time in the current economic climate; the last thing clubs want is a loss of revenue.
The snow will also restrict access around the course by the greenkeeping staff. Driving vehicles around the course can be detrimental to its recovery and could be deemed unsafe.
Once the snow begins to thaw you will have to keep an eye on the condition of the course with regard to flooding/saturated playing surfaces, keeping play off flooded surfaces until they are again playable.
However, there is still plenty of work that can be completed, especially with regard to tree and woodland work. Nothing quite like having a fire to burn your rubbish and debris, and at the same time keeping warm.
Once the snow has gone and the course is accessible to vehicles again, it's back to finishing off 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 renovations that 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 a good time to complete any tree/woodland works. Any tree works must be undertaken by qualified, trained personnel. If your staff are not suitably qualified in tree surgery and/or operating chainsaw machinery, you must employ specialist contractors to carry out these works.
It is 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.
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.
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.
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 February, particularly after snow cover. It is important to keep dew off grass surfaces. Allowing the sward to dry out helps prevent disease attacks. The use of switching canes and brushes can be used to remove these dew deposits.
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 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.
February 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.
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.
Aeration: Of greens, tees and fairways is ongoing when conditions allow. A wide range of solid , hollow or slit aerators are put to use on the playing surfaces. It is essential to keep the greens aerated to maintain air and gas exchange and alleviate compaction.
Brushing: 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: 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.
Course Inspections: Inspect greens, tees, flags and hole positions for damage or vandalism. Vandalism often increases during the winter months.
Diseases: 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.
Drainage: Inspect drainage outfalls, channels and ditches. Ensure that they are working.
Fertiliser: 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.
Hole Changing: 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 times per week during wet periods.
Water features: 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.
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