In August, most clubs should be 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. The main tasks will not have changed much, with emphasis still focused on presentation and the playing qualities of the course
For many years, we have seen the use of wetting agents to help improve soil conditions, whilst at the same time feeding regimes are not just reliant on the use of straight NPK fertilisers, with a concoction of bio stimulants / compost teas and other organic products now available..
August also is one of the busiest times of the year for club competitions. Golfers like consistent fast greens; to achieve this, we need to be consistent in the way we manage our greens.
Key Tasks for August
Greens mowing frequencies should remain high, with mowers set at their summer heights. As levels of competitions and societies increase, there will be an emphasis on ensuring that the quality of the playing surface remains high, with many trying to attain good green speeds and consistency of roll as a priority. Dropping the height to reach these speeds is an obvious temptation, but should not generally be used as a tool to achieve this. Instead, look at utilising rollers within your current maintenance programme to ensure good speeds without placing undue stress on your sward.
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 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.
Horizontal growth should be controlled through the use of regular brushing and verti-cutting, with the latter occurring between every two to four weeks depending on your own situation. This should help keep on top of thatch accumulation as we move through the growing season. Grooming and brushing the greens to stand horizontal growth up before mowing will encourage a denser and more attractive sward.
Hole changing should be done once or twice a week depending on golf traffic, wear or competition requirements. The first and most important is good judgement in deciding what will give fair results. Study the design of the hole as the architect intended it to be played. Know the length of the shot to the green and how it may be affected by the probable conditions for the day - i.e. wind and other weather elements, conditions of the turf from which the shot will be played, and holding quality of the green.
There must be enough putting green surface between the hole and the front and the sides of the green to accommodate the required shot. For example, if the hole requires a long iron or wood shot to the green, the hole should be located deeper in the green and further from its sides than should be the case if the hole requires a short pitch shot. In any case, it is recommended that generally the hole be located at least four paces from any edge of the green. If a bunker is close to the edge, or if the ground slopes away from the edge, the distance should be greater, especially if the shot is more than a pitch. Consideration should be given to fair opportunity for recovery after a reasonably good shot that just misses the green.
As we head into August, 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.
Tees - Mowing requirements are unlikely to be more than twice per week unless conditions are damp and growth remains strong. HOC will also remain at around 12mm for most courses but should be raised for non irrigated tees that are suffering from drought stress. Playing levels are likely to remain high, therefore daily movement of tee markers and regular divoting will be the norm to maintain good surface quality and presentation.
Any additional watering should be sufficient to aid recovery and maintain turf vigour, but largely aimed at developing a good root structure. Solid tining with no more than 13mm width tines may be an option to help with moving water quickly from the surface.
Keeping surfaces clean and free of divots and broken tees must be a daily task as well as the need to clean and maintain all course accessories.
Fairways - By August, definition between fairway and light rough can often fade due to the dry conditions. Much will depend on the amount of rain that falls unless of course the fairways are irrigated. Mowing is likely to be less frequent than in June and July but the HOC will remain the same, with most courses cutting at between 14mm and 17mm. At this time of year, divot damage may be slow to recover, therefore divoting of the worst affected areas may be required.
Roughs - Mowing frequency of many areas of rough will be less in August, unless it is a wet month and growth is continuing. As before, the main areas of rough are likely to be rotary cut at 50mm. Any areas of intermediate rough will still be cut weekly, but this is limited to just one or two 'bands' wide. Cutting areas of deeper rough should continue, with the aim of collecting the grass and lowering the nutrient levels to encourage the finer and slower growing grasses to thrive.
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.
Bunker maintenance during August is largely a continuation of regular raking either by hand or via machine. With growth slowing down, any edging and trimming will be slight but the focus needs to remain on stone and weed removal. Regular checks should be made regarding sand depth and distribution. If weed problems persist on sand faces, then these can be spot sprayed with glyphosate, but care needs to be taken to avoid any drift onto the surrounding banks.
The vagaries of the climate drive all factors with regard to turf management, and increasingly we see extremes of rainfall and dryness with the apparent turnaround from one to the other being short and dramatic.
This places increasing pressure on sports turf ecosystems in the form of biotic and abiotic stress. As a result, it is increasingly important that turf managers are seeking alternative strategies and techniques to mitigate against the effects of these stress factors upon the playing surface.
Warmth and humidity will be sure to activate a number of fungal diseases, from take-all patch, microdochium patch, dollar spot, anthracnose, waitea patch, fairy rings, leaf spot and red thread. Successful management of each disease requires knowledge of the contributing factors and considered, planned proactive treatment;
Increasingly, Integrated Turf Management should be applied to all situations. Practically this may look like the following
Monitor - historic site data – disease predictors e.g. Syngenta’s Greencast – five day weather forecast
Identify - correctly identify the disease, learn about the life cycle and contributing factors.
Plan - create disease management plans predict and mark high risk windows using data from monitoring process – hold stock or treatments.
Do - apply calcium, phosphite and silicon ahead of suspected activity periods. Use your data and monitoring to time fungicide treatments BEFORE you see active disease.
Record - periods of susceptibility, outbreaks, details of treatments.
Review - the success rate, how things responded to different treatments, assess how things can be refined. Short examples for each may include:
Controls and Management Techniques:
Take-all patch – check manganese levels and apply as a little and often foliar treatment - target roots with fungicide.
Microdochium patch - remove leaf wetness, do not promote soft growth.
Dollar spot – avoid low fertility, remove dew.
Anthracnose – avoid stress through drought or low fertility, secondary effect from nematode feeding.
Waitea patch – minimise thatch, improve surface drainage.
Fairy rings – assess for hydrophobic areas in the profile by dropping water down soil cores, target with wetting agents.
Leaf spot – remove dews, do not overfeed with nitrogen, plant resistant cultivars.
Red thread – remove dews, feed to grow out, plant resistant cultivars.
Increasingly, August is peak season for golf course renovations with hollow coring, top dressing and scarification being the order of the day. Surface abrasion can facilitate the infection of diseases, so a well-timed systemic fungicide can help to prevent attack.
Nutritionally speaking, maintaining plant vigour without promoting excessive growth is as always the key thing to aim for. It is not too late for a good quality organic based fertiliser which should give consistent results for up to eight weeks. The organic sources will also help to promote and support soil microbiology as we head towards autumn.
Continue wetting agent programmes to facilitate effective moisture management throughout the profile. Seek out evapotranspiration rates during hot spells and irrigate in millimetres not minutes. Your irrigation engineers should be able to provide the relevant information for your sprinklers.
August is peak season for the proactive control of Leatherjackets and chafer grubs with Entomopathogenic nematodes, Considered application as part of an integrated turf management plan, accompanied by a penetrant wetting agent and plenty of available moisture both before and after application will help to get the best out of nature’s practical answer to this problem and prevent issues come spring 2018..
One of the biggest investments made by any golf club is in their machinery portfolio, with high levels of expenditure made on their mowing fleet, so it is important we look after and maintain these valuable machines, carrying out regular servicing and repairs.
It is also important to get your 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 machinery; replace worn and damaged 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 other 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
General housekeeping will continue, and should include:
Empty bins and refill ballwashers
Remove broken tee pegs from tees – can cause damage to surface and to the cutting cylinder/bedknife
Ensure tee markers and other furniture pieces are kept clean and tidy
Hedge trimming/tree inspections
Keep golfers off areas under renovation and maintain further traffic management where appropriate