By using the technique of koro-ing, which is common in sports pitch renovation, but still rarely used on golf courses, Course Manager Richard (Richie) McGlynn of Blumisberg Golf Can Country Club, Fribourg, Switzerland, has kept the course fully open, during extensive changes.
Richie joined the club in 2011. He found that the fairways in particular had severe problems relating to compaction, excessive thatch and a dominant poa sward, resulting in issues like, dry-patch, die-back and chafer grub infestation.
And so began the first stage of an ambitious ten year project to renovate all the fairways without closing any of the holes. Various renovation practices were considered to achieve this, culminating in the decision to strip the existing turf off the worst areas, de-compact the ground and re-seed with a new grass mixture.
Ritchie looked to other sports for inspiration. Knowing how professional groundsmen in other sports achieved rapid pitch renovation, he wanted to know if the same method could be applied to golf fairways.
The Koro Field Top Maker is a heavy-duty fraise mower and is a primary tool in the pitch renovation process. It removes unwanted surface matter such as poa-annua, thatch, weeds or the entire surface to a depth of 50mm. www.campeyturfcare.com
Richie purchased a Koro Field TopMaker 1500 complete with digging rotor, an Imants Shockwave 220 and a Dakota 550 trailer. The FTM 1500 Modular is for mid - range tractors for around 50 -60 hp. It has a side arm elevator to remove debris directly into the trailer. All supplied through Campey Turf Care System's Swiss distributor Gemac.
In October 2012, after using the Shockwave 220 to de-compact the fairways down to a maximum of 38cm, the worst part of a fairway was stripped with the Koro.
The area was then over-seeded with a Vredo Compact seeder, using a mix of 60% Fescue, 20% Ryegrass & 20% Kentucky bluegrass.
Some growth and re-generation was evident before the course went into winter dormancy, but by the time the course re-opened in the springtime, the results were outstanding.
"We are now into the second stage of our ten year fairway renovation project," said Richie "And I believe we are winning the argument for the decision not to close any of the holes during the renovations."
He explained further "We are taking out sections of fairways one by one. When we tackled the third fairway for instance, last July, we removed a 1/3 of the section in question and the golfers could play towards the left of the hole.
We then made 3 dropping zones for those that were just that bit too far right. Within 5 weeks we had it open again, first with teeing up their shots and a few weeks later they were able to play normally."
There was some initial opposition from members, but the difference between the untreated fairways and the newly renovated areas soon became very apparent during the barren months of July and August.
"The difference was so striking," said Richie "That when we came to work on the other side of the fairway, there was far more support this time. In fact two members actually took the trouble to go to the office and remark at the huge difference it had made. So thankfully we seem to be winning the support of the players - which is half the battle!"
The effectiveness of Koro-ing and the fast recovery period is the secret of Richie's approach. Over time he will completely renovate the whole course with minimum disruption and maximum improvement for the future quality of golf played at Blumisberg GC.