Expected weather for this month:

Similar to December, with warmer periods followed by cold snaps

Key Tasks for January

The advice below is very much dependent on the weather and the course conditions. With any frost forecast, the advice is, wherever possible, keep off the surfaces. In the event of any milder conditions, the following can be considered:

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. 

Mowing frequencies will vary considerably at this time of year. 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.

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. 

Inspect greens, tees, flags and hole positions for damage or vandalism. Vandalism often increases during the winter months.

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 the current weather conditions, 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/frosty periods.

January, in many respects, is likely to model December fairly closely with warmer periods giving way to cold snaps, particularly as we head into the second half of the month.

Once again, let’s consider the pros and cons of each:

Warmer Period

Pros: If soil temperatures rise above 10 degrees Celsius, then good growth will promote recovery on disease scars and worn areas, as well as push along seeded areas following renovation events during early autumn.

Cons: Warmer conditions which promote growth can encourage fungal diseases, especially when they occur alongside high relative humidity and low air movement.

Colder Period

Pros: Once temperatures drop to zero or below, fungal diseases will also draw to a halt.

Cons: Grass growth stops once soil temperatures hit low single figures, thus reducing recovery and establishment growth. In addition, cold conditions place an abiotic stress demand on the plant leaf tissues.

January represents the ideal time to engage in planning and education. Along with all other land-based industries the Sports Turf sector faces a number of challenges, both in the present here and now, as well as on the horizon for the next 5–10 years.

Primarily, those challenges can be categorised into the following:

·         Climatological

·         Legislative

·         Technological

Engaging in continued professional development at events such as BIGGA’s excellent British Turf Management Exhibition, over 22nd–24th January, is an excellent way to spend time with other like-minded individuals and engage in discussion and events designed to help transfer and expand the industry’s knowledge base. 2019 represents the first year Pitchcare will be represented at BTME under the Maxwell product brand, and consequently it provides opportunity to meet with the people behind the scenes at the company to give feedback and ask questions on all things sports turf management.

Planning fertiliser inputs via the creation of fertiliser programmes is a long established and accepted practice in the turf management sector. With an increasing emphasis on Integrated Pest Management as both best and most effective practice when tackling a range of turf management factors, transitioning that same thought process and working practice into a number of areas is both wise and necessary.

An annual management plan for the following areas are all as equally valid as a fertiliser plan:

Ø  Water management plan – surfactant wetting agents for intensive drought and wet periods, programmed application timings.

Ø  Disease management plan – cultural operations to improve grass species composition, soil ecosystem diversity, non-pesticidal disease management, chemical controls.

Ø  Worm management plan – identification of pressure points, reduction of surface organic matter, top dressing with sand, surface acidification.

Ø  Insect pest management plan – identification of pest species, monitoring of life cycle, treatment protocols.

Underpinning the success of all of the examples set out above are; communication, knowledge and education, planning, monitoring and recording.

2018 was a challenging year for turf managers; so, set about reflecting on those challenges, then go about implement how to position yourself and your organisation with the means to meet any challenges you may encounter in 2019 and beyond.

Times are not changing, they have changed.

Are you ready to meet the challenge?

Servicing, repair and overhaul of mowing equipment should nearly be complete. Sharpening of reels and replacement of bottom blades are a key requirement, therefore it is important that all such replacement parts are in stock and readily available.

The start of the year is also a good time to have an early spring clean, conducting a thorough clean up of mess rooms, toilets and garages. It is good Health & Safety practice to keep garages and working areas clean and tidy.

January is also a time to reflect on the work achieved and what you want to plan for next year. Many golf clubs have their budgets set in January, so it is a good time to prioritise your spending .

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.

Specialist Courses:

Basic Management & Maintenance of Ponds and Wetland Areas

The Maintenance, History and Ecological Principles of Wildflower Meadows

Turf Science and Soil Science

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

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

Inspect drainage outfalls, channels and ditches. Ensure that they are working. It is during the winter months that most golf course managers/greenkeepers can evaluate the condition and performance of their drainage systems.

Inspect, check and empty all litter bins

Time to organise winter servicing of machinery

Keep stock of all materials

Tidy mess rooms and sheds

Current discussion topics on the Pitchcare Forum:

Break ins

Partially sanded Hollowtines