With the end of summer renovations now completed, most golf Course Managers and Greenkeepers are preparing their courses for the winter period. Daily maintenance is ongoing with the added burden of leaf clearing. Most tree-lined courses have deciduous trees that lose their leaves in the autumn.
Strong winds can damage trees on golf courses. Inspect and repair or remove damaged trees and/or limbs. Take note of any fuller tree branches which may need pruning to reduce weight. 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.
Key Tasks for November
After autumn renovations, most course managers and greenkeepers will be looking to increase mowing heights on greens and tees by 1-2mm.
Other tasks that complement this work involve the use of grooming and verticutting units to remove unwanted thatch and side shoot growth. The frequency of grooming is fortnightly and verticutting monthly.
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 season.
- Greens- Mowing height should be maintained at around 4-6mm.
- 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.
Fertiliser programmes are not generally carried out after November due to the change in air and soil temperatures, as most turf grasses usually start to become 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.
Overseeding of sparse or bare areas can be continued in November, particularly when using rye grasses. Use germination sheets to aid this process but remove the sheets regularly to check for diseases.
Aeration is the key to keeping the golf course open throughout the winter periods, especially on heavy soil courses. Various aeration programmes will continue when conditions allow, using a whole range of tines, solid, slit and hollow tines. 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.
Aeration of tees will continue throughout the winter when weather conditions allow.
When the ground conditions are favourable, aerate fairways with solid tines to increase air and gas exchanges in the soil profile. Encouraging deeper rooting of fairway grasses is important. Deeper rooted grasses are more likely to overcome stresses in the following year.
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. Bunker construction works may start in November to make use of the good ground conditions for transporting materials around.
Changing of holes should be carried out regularly. You may be looking to change the hole positions more than three time per week during wet periods.
The works are generally centred on drainage work, bunkers / tees refurbishments, ditch clearance, pathway construction and tree work.
Soil sampling is an important part of groundmanship. The results will enable the manager to have a better understanding of the current status of his soil and turf.
There are many tests that can be undertaken, but usually the main three tests to consider are:
Particle Size Distribution (PSD): this will give you accurate information on the soil type and its particle make up, enabling you to match up with appropriate top dressing materials and ensuring you are able to maintain a consistent hydraulic conductivity (drainage rate) of your soil profile.
Soil pH: It is important to keep the soil at a pH of 5.5-6.5, a suitable level for most grass plants, and a balanced level of organic matter content in the soil profile.
N:P:K: Keeping a balance of N P K nutrients within the soil profile is essential for healthy plant growth.
The combination of early morning dews, warm and wet weather and diminishing daylight hours increases the risk of fungal disease outbreaks. The right conditions to trigger these disease attacks are weakened or susceptible plants, a disease-producing organism (pathogen usually fungi) and weather conditions which favour the formation of fruiting bodies and spores (moist, mild wet conditions).
The first step in turfgrass disease management is identifying the true nature of the problem. Diseases are only one cause of turf loss, and disease control measures will do nothing to alleviate damage from other causes such as management, wear or plant stress. It is therefore essential to determine whether the problem is disease, and if so, which disease. Early identification of the symptoms is essential for good disease management, however the best form of management is using preventive, cultural turf maintenance methods that reduce the ideal environmental factors that these diseases require for development, e.g. regular brushing/switching of the grass to remove excess moisture, regular aeration to allow gaseous exchange and water percolation.
Cultural methods to help reduce disease pressure would be removal of thatch, which harbours pathogens, by verti-cutting and end of season renovations, as well as checking mower blades are sharp to provide a precise cut of the leaf blade and reduce the potential for disease.
Identification of these diseases can sometimes be difficult in the early stages of attack. It’s often only possible to recognise the type of disease when the fruiting bodies of the disease produce structures such as spores, mushrooms, or mycelium (small, thread-like filaments produced by fungi) that can be seen without the aid of a microscope.
Common diseases that can be active and cause concerns at this time of the year are: Red Thread, Fusarium and Dollar Spot. Click on the following link :- Disease Watch to see information about these diseases.
One of the biggest investments made by any golf club is in thier machinery portfolio, with high levels of expenditure made on their mowing fleet. A ride on triple cylinder mower can now cost in excess of £25,000, so when you concider most clubs have several of them in their fleet, you can soon build up a hefty machinery investment running into hundreds of thousands of pounds.
So, it is important we look after and maintain these valuable machines, carrying out regular servicing and repairs.
It is also important to get yor staff trained to use specific machinery/equipment.
Most clubs do have wash down facilities, it is important to inspect and clean machinery after use.
Maintain a stock of consumables for your machiery, replace worn and damaaged parts when necessary.
Provide adequate storage space for machinery, secure machinery with good locks, and record make and models or, better still, take pictures of your equipment.
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
It will be also important to begin planning your winter works, arranging the delivery of materials and resources to ensure they arrive on time for your planned works.
Many course managers are now implementing and carrying out much of the winter work themselves, particularly course drainage and tree works. The advent of small affordable plant such as diggers, trailers and trenchers, and a variety of chainsaws, has made this option possible, thus saving clubs money.
I believe it important to plant additional trees each year to keep the course evolving. November is an ideal time for moving large trees; the use of a hydraulic tree spade allows you the opportunity to safely replant large trees up to 35ft in height or with rootballs up to 5 tons. November will be the only time that courses could withstand the movement of these trees without damage to fairways and access paths using the large machinery involved.
Also, in recent years many course managers have implemented a tree survey and set up a long term maintenance programme for the upkeep and management of their trees and tree plantations.
Bunker construction works may start in November to make use of the good ground conditions for transporting materials around.
Inspect all water features on course, cleaning out any unwanted debris and litter. With regard to streams and brooks it is important to keep them clean and free of unwanted debris, autumn leaves and twigs are generally the biggest problem.
Irrigation: 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.
Trees and Woodlands: Strong winds can damage trees on golf courses. Inspect and repair or remove damaged trees and/or limbs. Take note of any fuller tree branches, which may need autumn pruning to reduce weight. 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.
Inspect and remove debris from playing surfaces. Litter, twigs and leaves. Regularly empty litter bins/tee boxes.
Daily Inspect and clean machinery after use; service and repair damaged machinery.
Mark out trolley areas, out of bound site areas and range markings.
Estimate and order seed, loams and fertilisers, fuels and other consumables.
Inspect all water features on the course, cleaning out any unwanted debris and litter.
Keep artificial surfaces clean, with 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,