Dear Season ticket holders
June brought us 89mm of rain and as the downpours continue we are left wondering where our summer has gone! This time last year we were praying for the wet stuff now we are praying it will stop. Despite the sometimes torrential deluge our courses have remained perfectly playable and relatively firm due in large part to the aeration and top-dressing practices taking place on a regular basis. At the risk of (again) sounding like a broken record I really can’t stress enough the importance of these practices, with our seemingly ever-changing climate predicting harsher winters and wetter summers, our year-round game would seriously be at risk if we did not act now. Approximately 100 players competed in our annual open week and the course was very well received with particular praise reserved for our greens, despite the inclement weather. The more we reduce our organic matter the less we are relying on mechanical implements such as the speed roller to maintain pace. This is one of our objectives and by continuing on this path we will become more and more consistent year-round.
This month I would like to keep it very simple and focus on how the greenkeepers and STH can both work together to improve our golf courses.
We are now into the peak golf season and our greens are growing strong, the poa has (eventually) stopped seeding and the newly sown bentgrass has already started to improve the consistency of the ball roll, complementing our greens perfectly. Unfortunately these true and consistent putting conditions are at risk due to the sheer amount of badly repaired or ignored pitchmarks (see figure 1) Greenstaff in the morning can easily spend valuable time mending up to 30 pitchmarks on a single green. I know there is a long-standing attitude which still exists amongst some golfers that it is not the job of the golfer but the job of the greenkeeper to fix pitchmarks. Needless to say this is not a view which I share but rather than give a list of what better we can do with our time, maybe I could explain why by taking the time to fix the pitchmark will contribute to improving our surfaces.
Figure 1. Not difficult to see why your putt would be affected by this badly repaired pitchmark
- Disturbance. The ball striking the green surface, especially in this adverse weather, creates a void in the grass sward. Poa annua – the grass species we are trying to reduce in order to improve our putting surfaces will very quickly fill the void as this grass plant is the classic opportunist. Poa seed which has existed in the greens thatch layer for years at a time takes this opportunity to fill the space left in the grass sward. This is a classic example of why it is almost impossible to completely eradicate the poa from golf greens. However the quicker we repair the pitchmark reducing space in the grass sward, the less opportunity the poa will have to invade. A study by the USGA some time ago told us that a pitchmark repaired in the correct manner within 5 minutes will fully heal within 24 hours, any more than 10 minutes and this can take more than two weeks to heal.
- Aesthetics. An ill-repaired pitchmark is an eyesore on our greens surface. These areas die out very quickly due to the root-break caused when the pitchmark is pushed upwards as opposed to inwards.
- Playability. Pitchmarks, whether not repaired or not repaired in the correct fashion, will seriously affect ball roll on any golf green. We simply cannot expect to have smooth and true greens if we don’t pull together and work as a team both STH and greenstaff alike. There will always be a case of pitchmarks being missed through bad eyesight or in the case of our older STH some simply may not be able to bend down continuously, this is very understandable. On the whole however if we all pay due diligence to our responsibility of repairing PM in a timely fashion our greens will continue to improve – only at a faster rate.
Figure 2. The correct method of repair shown above
Pin in hole rule change
As I am sure we are all aware, a new rule change came into force this year from both USGA and R&A which allows the golfer to leave the pin in the hole while putting. Whether this is an advantage or indeed speeds up play as was the intention is still up for debate. What is not up for debate though, it is affecting the way we present the golf courses on a day to day basis. Most golfers instinctively reach into the hole squeezing between the turf edge and the pin to retrieve the ball. This creates a concave, where the hole used to be flush, the surrounding area becomes ragged, unsightly and in extreme cases loses its shape completely which of course could be detrimental to the putt (see figure 3). What I would ask is that STH please remove the pin before carefully retrieving the ball. This way the course is presented in the best possible shape and we spend less time trimming and replacing unnecessary pin positions.
Figure 3. Damage after only 24 hours
Finally, I would like to give a quick example of why we promote fine grasses on our golf courses (see figure 4). Here we can see the grass in the centre fescue totally unaffected by disease while the poa annua on the outside is killed off. By reducing the more disease susceptible grass species such as poa annua then we increase our chances of producing firm greens will a full coverage which putt smooth and true on a consistent basis.
Figure 4. Pitchmark repairer pointing to a population of fescue unaffected by disease
That’s all for this month
Regards for now