Expected weather for this month:

High pressure expected and warmer than average temperatures

I am sure there will be plenty of greenkeepers hoping for some warmer weather in June, compared to last month’s, that tended to fluctuate too much, between being warm one day and much cooler the next, resulting in a lack of consistency in grass growth.

The cold weather has also impeded the performance of applied fertiliser products, resulting in a slow take up by the plant. The consequence of both the poor weather and inconsistent temperatures has effectively put us back a month.

It will be a case of clubs getting up to speed with their daily maintenance regimes; greens, tees, fairways and bunker hazards should be at their best, both in a visual and performance perspective.

As we move into the summer months and temperatures start to rise, we will need to be ensuring consistency across our putting surfaces. Reducing the cutting height and ensuring the cutting units are sharp should therefore be a priority.

Remember; do not bring the cutting heights down to more than a third of the total height of the plant at any one time. As the cutting units are to become used more regularly, the sharpness of the blade is of paramount importance to reduce the incidence of pressure from disease. If disease does occur, a judgement call will need to be made as to whether it will ‘grow out’ with good growing conditions, or the situation is not likely to improve.

Height of cut, will have a major influence on the performance of your green, however, care should be taken not to stress the grass plant out by going too low.

Also be mindful that playing surfaces, will easily dry our during periods of hot warm weather, therefore ensure your watering systems are working and you are applying the correct amount of water to replace what is lost by evaportranspiration. 

Key Tasks for June

As cutting frequencies increase, alter cutting directions and patterns to reduce the amount of stress from turning circles and the problem of grass ‘napping’. Remember to make large turning circles where possible, or to make three-point turns.

Tees, fairways and surrounds will require heavy divoting as volumes of play start to increase. The warmer weather and sporadic showers should allow for quicker germination and establishment. Similarly, any bare areas should also be renovated to try and reduce potential levels of weed/poa invasion as we move through the growing season.

The increased temperatures and sunshine hours will, hopefully, bring with it increased volumes of play. Whilst pressures to produce the highest levels of playing surface will be high, with many competitions and social events occurring, remember the importance of little and often aeration and topdressing. During warmer, drier periods, do not use tines that will leave large holes (e.g. slit tines) as the ability of the hole to fully recover will be lessened in these conditions.

With expected drier weather, irrigation systems will begin to be used more often. Ensure that all pop-ups and central systems are in good working order. Cleaning the system and ensuring the sprinkler arcs are in the correct positions should be major objectives. Trimming around the pop-ups and valve boxes will aid presentation and increase the speed of work during busy morning periods. Try to use the pop-ups when the surfaces need moisture, as this is better practice than applying water at set intervals or when there are few signs of stress.

Lastly, the subject of hole changing will start to become more important again as we move through the summer. Holes should now be in their summer positions, ensuring average players can hold the ball on the green, whilst still providing a putting challenge. Steer clear of uneven/banked areas, areas of high wear and with fairy rings for positioning and change positions at least once or twice a week, depending on volume of play.

Mowing frequencies can vary from daily to twice weekly operations dependent 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 and Semi rough grass areas - Mow and tidy up these areas.

Changing of hole positions 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.

Light topdressings of sand/rootzones are essential for maintaining surface levels preparation and again, 'little and often' being the ideal practice. Aeration should also continue, using a mix of micro, needle or star tines which give maximum effect and almost zero turf disturbance. Sarel rollers are another alternative; the main objectives being to 'vent' the rootzone and to allow water to move quickly from the surface and into the rootzone, thus encouraging the turf to root deeper.

Also, check your water quality, what pH is it? Is it suitable for your green? Check filters on recycled water systems. Poor water quality will affect plant growth and sustainability.

There are still some clubs that do not have an automated watering system and hand water only when really necessary.

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 groundstaff 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 9+7+7 NPK fertiliser. Many greenkeepers are also resorting to using a programme of base feeds topped up with liquid fertilisers.
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 seaweed 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.

We have also seen, in recent years, some greenkeepers going down the route of applying compost tea formulations with a top up of tonics and seaweed extracts. However, whichever route you take, the key is to apply a balanced feeding programme to maintain plant health.

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

Irrigation

The combination of drying winds and higher air temperatures will increase the rate of evapotranspiration. If soil profiles, particularly sandy soils, are allowed to dry out too much they often become water repellent (hydrophobic), a state when soils can become difficult to re-wet. Often, the first areas to suffer are the high, exposed grass areas on greens, tees and fairways. You may need to spend more time hand watering these problem areas.

The long term affect of drying greens could be the deterioration of surface playability. The surface could begin to break up, particularly on sand predominant greens. Sand becomes unstable when in a dry state and the surface can become bumpy. Different grass species will respond differently under drought conditions, growth rates will vary depending on habitat and root structure, thus promoting an uneven surface. Once the soil goes beyond a certain drying stage, you are likely to encounter dry patch symptoms, whereby the soil becomes hydrophobic, being unable to absorb water.

The water simply runs off instead of soaking into the soil profile.

Water will also always wash off from the high spots into the low areas, so the low spots tend to remain green and lush. This variation of dry and wet areas will affect surface playability. Once soils become hydrophobic, they can deny adequate water movement to other areas of the rootzone - often resulting in water deficit stress, with symptoms that include a general decline in the biological health of the plant which, in turn, affects shoot and root growth. You may need to consider using wetting agents to aid recovery or help prevent these problems occurring in the first place. Many Greenkeepers now utilise wetting agents on a monthly basis to keep the rootzone in good condition.

The movement of nutrients in the soil is also dependent on the moisture state of the soil; dry rootzones will slow down or even prevent nutrients being accessible to the plant. This, again, will result in plant health decline.
If you do not have adequate watering facilities, it may be beneficial to raise the height of cut by 1mm to keep a little more grass on the greens during these dry periods. It may slow the game down a bit, but will help sustain your greens through these difficult times.

It is important to water correctly; under or over watering will have a detrimental affect on plant health. You need only apply enough water to replace what has been lost by evapotranspiration. Depending on the aspect of your green, soil type and herbage cover, you could be losing anything between 3-5 mm of water per day. This will need to be replaced by watering. It is important to water evenly and to depth, you want to ensure the water gets down beyond the rooting profile, at least between 100-150mm. This will encourage deeper rooting as the green dries and the roots go in search of the descending water.

Hole Changing

This is a subject that provokes a lot of debate, especially when the greenkeeper chooses a demanding hole position on the green which does not please everybody!

It is not until you look into the art of hole changing that you realise the amount of skill, knowledge and experience required to undertake this task.

Back in the 1970s, during my time working as a greenkeeper, I remember the difficulty we had choosing hole positions on our small soil pushed up greens, especially during the winter months when the greens were often waterlogged for long periods of time.

How times have changed? The demand for consistent firm, free draining, smooth playing surfaces has led to much improved maintenance regimes being implemented in terms of controlling thatch, improving surface drainage and sward density.

This has been achieved by increased frequencies of maintenance inputs in terms of aeration, top dressing, grooming, verticutting, feeding and mowing practices, coupled with greater investment in greens drainage systems on soil pushed up greens.

Another significant change has been the development of USGA greens and the fact that nearly all new golf courses are now constructed with these free draining surfaces.

Therefore, it is now a much easier task to find suitable hole positions, due to the excellent drainage capabilities of both USGA and soil pushed up greens.

Please read the rest of my article on the Art of Hole Changing on the following link :- https://www.pitchcare.com/magazine/the-art-of-hole-changing.html

As we head into June, the levels of grass growth should be at a peak for the year. This means a lot of mowing for greenkeepers, but more importantly a greater requirement for essential nutrients. Playing surfaces should be monitored closely for signs of nutrient stress, and, allied with soil sample results taken in the spring, fertiliser choices can be made to suit the conditions and type of grass/soil present. The increased growth rate will lead to accelerated thatch accumulation. Utilising the various ways of reducing this is of paramount importance to reduce the occurrence of disease and other problems further down the line.

Moisture management could also potentially be a key feature of the month. Many greenkeepers have invested in weather stations to inform of potential evapotranspiration rates within their sward. Remember not to let the soil dry out too much, but keep irrigation practices as natural as possible. Soaking the playing surface every few days is better than religiously watering at set schedules. Moisture meters are available to help you have a greater understanding of the situation beneath your putting surfaces.

Lastly, keep tabs on playing qualities (PQS) as well as aesthetic qualities within the sward. A whole host of factors could conspire to reduce either within the putting/playing surfaces. Monitoring them closely, and on a regular basis, will provide you with a better understanding of your course. Recording findings gives an ability to compare results from previous years. Checking practical elements such as consistency and height of cut using macroscopes and prisms will also provide insight during a busy period.

Weed growth is very active during June, requiring the use of selective herbicides. These are more effective when the plant is actively promoting growth. Always follow manufacturers' guidelines.

Moles and rabbit damage repairs can be undertaken as and when required.

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 lead up to important competitions or matches.

Machinery (Repairs & Maintenance)/ Daily:- Inspect and clean machinery after use, service and repair damaged machinery.

Materials/ Monthly:- Estimate and order seed, loams and fertilisers, fuels and other consumables.

Pitchcare provide a range of courses suitable for golf courses. In most cases, the courses can be held on site using the club's own equipment and machinery.

Some of the courses available are:

Chainsaws - CS30 and CS31

H&S Refresher Training on Combined Turf Care Equipment; Tractors and Trailers; All Mowers (Ride-on and Pedestrian)

Machinery Courses on ATVs; Tractors: Brushcutters/Strimmers; Mowers (ride-on and Pedestrian)

Pesticide Application (PA courses)

Stem Injection of Invasive Species (Japanese Knotweed etc.)

Basic Trees Survey and Inspection

More details about all the courses can be found here, or you can email Chris Johnson for information.

Bunkers / Daily:- Inspect, weed and rake bunkers.

Course Inspection / Daily:- Inspect greens, tees, flags and hole positions for damage or vandalism.

Ponds, lakes and streams /Weekly:- Inspect all water features on course, cleaning out any unwanted debris and litter.

Seed bare and 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 and 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 and 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.

Machinery (Repairs & Maintenance)/ Daily:- 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.