New courts complete stern test
After the tournament last year we decided to invest in a Koro machine, albeit a smaller version so that it would work snugly on our courts. We Koro'd off five of the courts to a depth of 6mm, which removed all of the visible vegetation but still left intact the rye grass basal nodes. The nodes regenerated and we then over sowed with 100% rye mix into the courts. There was great germination last summer and we were pleased with the progress that the courts made after stripping the surface.
There is always a little bit of danger that the courts will wear a little bit more the following year with new grasses, but they have all performed very well this year and everybody was happy with their performance.
By stripping the surface we were able to top dress to improve the levels on the court. The levels were of course, already very good, but this remedial work enabled us to further improve them. On each court we used three to four tonnes of dressing.
Once the new grasses were established we actually top-dressed them again as part of our autumn renovation in the September. The biggest bonus though was the removal of the Poa from the surface. Poa was reduced from around 50% to about 2% on the Koro'd courts.
We then followed our more normal regime of maintenance. We did find that with the reduction of Poa, the sward was more open and we didn't have to perform our rolling operations quite as frequently because the courts hardened very quickly.
It would be fair to say that the courts appeared to wear more this year, but the wear was consistent across all of the courts, not just the five that were Koro'd. The reasons for this were the amount of play, the court usage has increased from previous years and the weather was hot for the first week. It is impossible to get any water on during the day and therefore the grasses were put under stress. In fact by the end of the first day of the tournament, the grasses were badly bruised and in desperate need of a pick me up.
This year we are stripping off another five courts with our Koro. Three have already been done and the other two should be started on Monday. We will follow the same procedures as we did with the five last year, to ensure these courts improve on level and grass species.
Since the tournament, we have embarked on our renovation program. The main courts have now been, scarified, aerated, top dressed and over seeded. We have four more match courts to do over the next few days-possibly even this weekend.
We still have members playing here at Wimbledon, so there are twelve courts (practice courts for the tournament) still in use for another week.
The courts are solid tined to a depth of 100mm at 50mm centres.
There are 39 courts in total, so I always try to get the new grasses germinated and then established as quickly as possible, we can then improve the levels more so at our leisure. The worst-case scenario is that the weather turns colder, early, and the new grasses don't have time to establish before the winter. Two years ago the weather was appalling and we were unable to do the dressings, however we had already over sown, so I was happy that we had the grass already in place.
The press made a big thing about the speed of the courts. Ball bounce this year on all the courts was a little higher, due to the courts being harder, but there was no noticeable slowing of the ball. Inevitably, because of the bounce, the tennis was played at the base lines, increasing the wear on the grass behind the lines. The fact that more base line tennis was played because the courts were slower meant that the rallies were longer-perhaps a better spectacle for the public to watch!
Ultimately the courts may have lost a little more grass this year, but the courts performance in terms of hardness and trueness was excellent.
We were blessed with a great first week of weather, the second week was a little showery, but didn't cause us too many problems. The only difficulty was trying to make a decision on whether to water the courts at night during the second week. With cooler and damper days I didn't want the courts to be struggling to dry out in time for start of play.
I wish you all well with your renovations.