With no rain on the golf courses at all since 8th April (3 week dry spell), it’s safe to say we are delighted to have our new irrigation system to 1562 course up and running. As discussed at length in previous newsletters, this was a major investment by MGLL which was absolutely necessary and one which will improve the condition of our greens and approaches for years to come. Consistency and recovery will be a major focus this year and with the new system providing us with even coverage, we are in a far stronger position to improve our putting surfaces.
As mentioned before not only are we hoping to improve our putting surfaces but we have stepped up our refinement into approaches and tees with our top-dressing and (as our budget allows) over-seeding. These maintenance practices have targeted localised areas which were hit particularly bad last year with the drought while also taking in walk-off areas which are traditionally worn out and very unsightly. Last month I discussed our lack of over-seeder and the benefits a lineal disc-seeder would bring especially to our fairways, but this doesn’t mean we can’t over-seed at all. Doing nothing is not an option therefore we improvise and make the best out of what we have in order to improve our golf courses to the best standard possible.
Recovery and improvement
Last year the weather was some of the finest we had seen here in Scotland for decades, great golfing weather which is ultimately good for all golf clubs as this attracts visitors and the more green fees we pull in the more money we can invest on the golf courses. From this standpoint, I would hope for more of the same this year. However, from a purely professional/selfish viewpoint, I would not wish for summer quite as hot. Why? Because keeping grass alive is almost impossible in those conditions!! We only have to look 20 miles down the road at Carnoustie where they were almost as parched as we were while hosting The Open Championship. When the weather is as brutally hot and dry as it was last year then the main focus turns to recovery.
Areas which did not receive enough water during this period (that will be every area except our greens) are put under a great deal of stress. This results in loss of grass coverage in the affected areas which either bare out completely, are invaded by weeds, moss takes over, or more usually a combination of all three. This is where our consistent aeration practices, terra-raking (see figure 1&2), over-seeding and top dressing can help re-establish the playing surfaces.
Our fairways are by far the biggest area of all the playing surfaces (total 12.81 HA); therefore this is an area which is expensive to maintain especially when a vigorous over-seeding plan is required. In the short term, we must do our very best to improve our fairways with the resource available. By physically removing moss from our fairways as the temperatures rise this creates space which, given the correct nutrition will be colonised by grass. In the coming years we hope to be in a position where we have a budget which will cover an over-seeding plan on our fairways until such times we will strive to produce the growing conditions conducive to encouraging fines grasses to re-colonise the space left behind by the moss.
Our tees and approaches total considerably less area (2.5 HA) therefore this allows us to effectively spot treat the worst affected areas which have bared out over the past few years. Our chosen method here is to pot seed (see figure 3). Our mechanic Sean fits 16mm tines onto our aerator; these tines though have a square end as opposed to a pointed end. This is to ensure the full 16mm hole is open resulting in more seed to soil contact. Seed to soil contact is imperative when over-seeding; by punching a hole just below the organic matter layer we create a bed where the seed has the best possible chance of germination.
Figure 3. Pot seed operation
The seed is then broadcast and brushed into the holes (see figure 4). Pot seeding is a simple way of improving the coverage of any playing surface, the main differences with lineal disc seeding is the potential for seed wastage and the time-consuming nature of pot seeding. Lineal disc seeding is a one-man job which effectively plants the seed at the preferred depth with no waste, pot-seeding is a two-man effort where we are relying on an element of luck for the seed to fall to the required depth. However, as I said before, doing nothing in these areas is simply not an option if we are to improve our playing surface in a timely fashion.
Figure 4. Dwarf-rye and fescue seed prior to being brushed into aeration holes
One other way we have been treating bared out areas especially on tees is with our in-house nail seeder (see figure 5 & 6). Sean designed and manufactured this handheld device which punches holes to a changeable depth depending on our choice seed and surface; this is a brilliant and effective way of treating localised areas on tees, approaches and even greens. As before this area is hand over-seeded, brushed in and then smoothed off with top-dressing.
I hope you can see from this month’s newsletter that we may not have the resource of St Andrews where they over-seed the heavy rough areas with the best of fescue; however this does not stop us from improvising to improve our product and maximising the resource available. Golf and the way people choose to pay for golf is changing, therefore we must continue to think out of the box where necessary and continue to be as sustainable as we possibly can.
Regards for now