Expected weather for this month:

Unsettled in the north, with drier, sunnier periods in the south

With all outdoor sports, and golf in particular, the weather is the dictating factor when it comes to what can or cannot be done out on the course. By now, we would have expected everything to be in full swing, with all the spring work completed and the grass growing nicely. These latest cold snaps, with lower than expected temperatures, have really held up grass growth.

And, we're not too sure if this month is going to get much better. The weather for May continues to look rather uncertain, although the most likely scenario is for areas of low pressure to move in from the Atlantic, generally to the northwest of the UK. This means that the most unsettled and windiest weather is likely in the north and northwest with showers, or longer spells of rain, interspersed by shorter, drier and sunnier periods. The south and southeast, however, should see longer, drier, sunnier periods with shorter spells of rain or showers. After a cold start, temperatures should become nearer average through this period, so snow and overnight frost will become increasingly unlikely and confined only to the hills of the far north.

Key Tasks for May

Maintenance Regimes

May (Mother Nature permitting) should see mowing operations in full swing with the aim of reducing the height of cut of the greens; by the end of month, the greens should be at their summer height (3.5-6mm). Other tasks that complement this work involve the use of grooming and verti-cutting units to remove unwanted thatch and side shoot growths. The frequency of grooming is fortnightly, with verti-cutting monthly.

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.

Other General Work

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.

Monitoring the performance of your playing surfaces is a key skill that should be adopted by all Groundsmen and Greenkeepers. With the aid of modern technologies, tools and a camera, you can now monitor the performance and the condition of your sward in many ways.

For many years, the turf industry has promoted the use of Performance Quality Standards PQS to ascertain the standard of sport pitch maintenance.

It is important to survey and measure the performance of your facilities; with modern technologies we can now measure all manner of aspects of the pitch/golf green or artificial pitch to ensure it meets any stated guidelines by the sports governing bodies.

These can include measuring sward height, composition of grass species, soil temperature, weed content, levels over a 3m level, hardness and infiltration rates (porosity) of the soil rootzone.

In recent years, we have seen the development of GPS mapping devices that can measure, chlorophyll , moisture content and deviation in levels. Soil tests will also help determine soil type, nutrient status of the soil, organic matter content, CEC capacity and soil pH.

Keeping a record of these parameters will help you have a better understanding of what is going on within your playing surface and enable you to make better decisions on what maintenance inputs you will need to undertake to maintain surface playability.

Fertiliser

Feed wise, the cold night-time temperatures have resulted in a slow spring and sluggish growth. On surfaces requiring an injection of growth, a nitrogen source such as nitrate or ammonium will be readily available to the plant. Something such as Advanced Generate 12-3-9 +2Mg +2Fe has the benefit of the whole 12% nitrogen source being ammonium which is readily available to the plant in cooler conditions. It also contains a big hit of sulphate at 34% which is an essential element for plant metabolism and amino acid production in the spring. On top of that it also contains magnesium and iron, which will increase chlorophyll production to maximise the efficiency of photosynthesis as well as harden the leaf cell walls against disease and cold weather stress.

For the higher end facilities looking to have more control, then soluble fertilisers such as Maxwell SolControl 24-8-12 and 26-0-26 or liquids such as Green Solutions 15-06 and 18-9-9 allow finer control of application rates and frequency. The SolControls both contain nitrate which is very plant available when things are cooler.

Leather jackets and chafers are fairly prevalent at the moment. Merit can still be applied if people have it in stock but it can be tricky to get a good kill when the grubs are at this stage of development. Biological controls can be considered but again control at this time of the year is something we are awaiting more detail on –as I understand it.

As soils warm up there may be some symptoms of plant parasitic nematode activity. There are two categories of nematode which will infect grass plants; Ectoparasitic which migrate along the outside of roots and feed accordingly on root cells and Endoparasitic nematodes which enter the root tissue and feed on the plants in these areas.

Be vigilant for the following symptoms:

• Yellowing and thinning of the turf

• Reduced turf vigour

• Premature wilt

• Turfgrass that is slow to recover from stress

• Turfgrass that does not respond to fertilisation

Biomass Sugar will assist in returning balance to the soil and reducing plant stress associated from parasitic nematode attack.

Microdochium patch may also pop up as temperatures increase, particularly if the warmth occurs in conjunction with humidity and moisture on the leaf for prolonged periods. Systemic fungicides can be considered but only as a last option. IF grass is growing well and then the disease may well just bubble under the surface and the grass will outgrow it.

Please note: More information on these and many others can be found here: https://www.pitchcare.com/useful/diseases.php

At this time of the year, keeping machinery up and running is the priority. Having a good wash down facility is an essential tool for keeping equipment clean, and to comply with current legislation.

Golf clubs with their own mechanic are at a distinct advantage, and with the cost of machinery nowadays, it surprises me that more clubs don't invest in on-site maintenance and repairs to keep downtime to a minimum.

New courses for 2016:

The Maintenance, History and Ecological Principles of Wildflower Meadows

Basic Management & Maintenance of Ponds and Wetland Areas

Toolbox Training Refresher Course

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.