Woodhall Hills GC is going organic
by David Markham
The parkland course at Calverley is halfway between Leeds and Bradford. The Head Greenkeeper is Brian Carr and in the coming months and years he is planning to are phase out the use of fungicides in favour of organic materials.
Brian said, "We want to be eco-friendly and keep nitrogen levels down. We are trying an organic approach by using more organic feeds and this is helping to make greens stress free.
We use an organic fertiliser and that is helping to contain fusarium. Fusarium spores are always there, but it takes damp, warm conditions to bring them out. You can never beat fusarium totally, but you can minimise it. Whereas we might have sprayed four or five times a year, now we spray just twice a year."
Brian uses organic Vitax - a vitaliser - an organic chicken manure which is applied two or three times a year, "We get a nice green, constant colour. I am not saying it would help every golf club, but it is working well for us. I believe that in ten years time fungicides will be phased out and replaced by organic materials. A few of the greens are scarred but, when we get a bit of growth, the scarring will disappear."
In the next few weeks fertiliser will be going on. Brian is using Vitax products mini-gram 2 which will be left on for four weeks and then, about mid-May, he will start grooming.
Brian continued, "We normally groom a minimum of twice a week. When we get to the end of June we set the height of the cut on the greens to three eighths of an inch or four and a half millimetres. We have scarified a couple of greens because we had a build-up of thatch and fibre - all dead material. We had to go deeper than we wanted but I am happy with the outcome. We can only benefit by getting rid of thatch."
In a couple of weeks Brian is planning to start hollow tining with top dressing on the greens, "We go about seven millimetres or half an inch down with our hollow tining. When we do hollow tining there will be a bit more growth. At the end of July or August we normally use micro tines, depending on the fixture list and, after that, the next time we do any tining will be in the autumn."
Brian and his staff have also embarked on a tree planting programme this spring. He said, "We've put in horse chestnuts, rowans mountain ash and sycamores - only about 30 in all - but they are big trees, 15 to 20 feet high. We don't want to plant sycamores near the greens because of their big leaves. We already have a lot of problems with leaf collection."
Recently, the club bought a Robin Dagger which injects compressed air into the greens. "It has been marvellous," said Brian. "We loaned one from Cleckheaton, another club in the Bradford Golf Union, and used it on two of the bad greens and the club were so impressed that they bought us one. We spike to a depth of 21 inches and then fire. This injects compressed air into the green. The ground lifts up and it shatters compaction
The machine cost just over £4,000 but you get your money back in the long term."
To relieve soil compaction Brian hires an earthquaker, going down one and a half feet. "We get a much better finish with the earthquaker than we used to do with a verti-drainer. The ground becomes lumpy after we use a verti drainer. We find the earthquaker leaves only a little line on the ground."