Greenkeepers have an essential role to help their Clubs to make the most of National Golf Month in May. There is huge industry investment in positive publicity and exciting initiatives to get more people onto the golf course, but it will depend on a great looking course and an attractive environment to keep them coming back.
Syngenta Business Manager, Daniel Lightfoot, former Course Manager and Master Greenkeeper, offers these Top Tips to help greenkeepers to prepare turf for the busy period, and keep the presentation looking great for all players throughout the season:
1. Firm up
2. Cover up
3. Cut down
4. Sharpen up
5. Sign up
Ensuring turf has appropriate nutrition through the spring growth period will be crucial to maintain colour and visually attractive healthy turf. "Syngenta Player Survey research has consistently reported that turf quality and the aesthetic aspects of playing in a green outdoor environment are primary attractions of golf.
"The first impression of a green and attractive course will be vital for new visitors, or lapsed players encouraged back by the National Golf Month activities," he said. "Getting the right balance of controlled release nutrients and feeds will get the best recovery and appearance with spring growth."
Dan highlighted that firm greens are the underlying foundation for all-important putting consistency and managing speed. "Reducing surface thatch content through renovation is key," he advised. "Then effective use of wetting agent technology can ensure water moves away from the surface to maintain the firmness, especially if it turns out to be a wet week when the course is busy."
In previous seasons, greenkeepers have found that starting a Qualibra wetting agent programme in early spring has proven most effective in managing water movement from the surface, enhancing turf health through retaining moisture and nutrition in the root zone and minimising the damaging effects of dry patch.
Bare patches from disease, stress and winter wear adversely affect playing quality and look unsightly. Hopefully work from spring renovation would now have restored most areas, but in good growing conditions there is still time for successful over seeding to fill gaps and even-up cover.
Research has consistently demonstrated that regulating growth of existing turf with a well-timed Primo Maxx programme can help new seedlings to establish faster and stronger, and encourage greater tillering to develop a more consistent and attractive even surface.
In addition to improving turf playing surface quality, the Primo Maxx programme also offers practical time and cost saving advantages, from reducing mowing requirement by up to 40% during the spring growth period - especially over the busy May Bank Holiday weekends.
"Greens perform far more consistently all day when turf is in regulation," reported Dan. "It can enable alternating mowing one day and turf iron the next, which saves time and significantly reduces stress on the turf. Furthermore, reducing the frequency of cut on Primo regulated fairways releases greenkeepers' time, which can be better spent on preparing the detail presentation of the course that players appreciate more."
Dan also emphasised the importance of equipment maintenance and particularly mowers through the intensive spring cutting regime. "A clean cut undoubtedly helps with preparing consistent ball roll and green speed. It also reduces stress on the turf plant, avoids unsightly browning of bruised ragged tears, and minimises the risk of disease entry through damaged leaf tips," he advised.
Mowers ground and sharpened over the winter could have lost their edge from picking up early spring debris, worm casts and renovation sand topdressing; regular checking, adjustment and, if necessary, a quick sharpen, will make a significant difference.
With many potential new players being welcomed onto the course for National Golf Month, there is a great opportunity to show people the positive action golf courses are contributing for the environment. Operation Pollinator, for example, clearly demonstrates that providing valuable new habitats can be incredibly attractive for both wildlife and golfers, and is entirely at home alongside intensively managed greens and fairways. Bee hotels, bird boxes and water features are further features to extend the ecological attraction.
"Golf courses have a great story to tell. And they need to make sure that visitors and players are aware of what they are doing," he advocated, "Now is the ideal time to put up signs and information boards to let people know and increase support. Most golfers want to be part of a club that cares for the environment.
"Providing consistently great quality turf playing surfaces a more attractive place to play will make the most of National Golf Month and signing up more players for the future."
National Golf Month will also be a great chance to greenkeepers to celebrate and support what they and their clubs are doing to get more people into golf. Share experiences, ideas and pictures on Twitter, using the hashtag: #NationalGolfMonthoncourse