Wednesday, 16 September 2015

No pain no gain!

Hello and welcome back to our blog. 
I have finally presented my Greens Presentation Evening (Phew) along with Graham Hastie (our Deputy) so this will give me a chance to blog some more information about what's been going on within the Greenkeeping department. 

Course Maintenance week has been and gone. A lot of work was carried out to the greens for reasons I will explain. 
The Greenkeeping team worked tirelessly during a very hard, long week with most days being over 12 hours just to get the work completed. Well done guys, superb effort (if your reading this). 

Now before I start telling you all about the different works we carried out, let's me explain a few things first. 

Why are we doing all this work on the greens? 

Our greens may look good on the surface but there are some underlying issues. These are:- 

•High Organic matter (or Thatch as it's known to most) 
•Poor soil structure 
•Clay base 

If you look at the photo above you can see the thatch layer in the top inch of the soil sample. 

Thatch is a layer of grass stems, roots, 
clippings, and debris that settle on the 
ground and accumulate over time. 

This basically looks like shredded wheat and acts like a sponge. 
During the summer it doesn't allow moisture through to the root system causing them to be very shallow and run along the top inch or so, this is called bridging (as that what it does and looks like). The photo above was taken in August after two days of rain! (Not much moisture in that profile, the results are a poorer soil structure than we want). 
This also makes the greens suffer in the heat as they are not strong enough to cope with it. 
Above shows some of the damage caused during heat stress. (Note: You can see the irrigation was only hitting the corners due to a fault with the pump but the green showed signs of stress in one night. This is something we will eradicate now we have started out aeration program). 

During the winter months this thatch becomes soaking and acts like a sponge holding the moisture meaning the surfaces are wetter, softer than they should be. This can cause:-
•surface damage
•Increased diseases
•Water logging = Less golf being played 

How do we monitor the thatch levels ? 

Soil analysis and tests a carried twice a year. Other data is collected in house using many other methods including core samples or using an infiltration meter. Below is a copy of the STRI (sports turf research Institute) OM testing results from Stoneham GC in the top 20mm since 2008- 2014 
As you can see OM (thatch) levels have never hit the target zone yet but it shows some works have been carried in the past to reduce this. We will continue to improve these results. 

Okay, don't panic! It's not all doom and gloom and loads of golf clubs are tackling the same issues or have other issues. The thatch issue I have spoken about in this blog can be resolved with some good old fashioned greenkeeping, good diary planning and a bit of patience on certain days from the membership. 

Things will improve more and more each time and disturbance will be kept to a minimum. To show we mean this, the Management Commitee have backed the greens department and we recently have purchased a new Pro core which gives a great aeration finish. We have also purchased our own Sweep and fill brush which dresses the top dressing in very quickly, filling all the holes and lastly we purchased a Turf Iron or roller as some say. Not only does this help with speed and smoothness during tournaments but it's great for getting the surfaces back from aeration works quicker. 

The reason I have tried to explain about some of the issues we face is I felt it was important to inform you of where we are starting from and why we are making decisions or doing different works to areas on the course.  

Our main aim as a team is to reduce the Organic Matter and finally hit our target zone, doing this will give us great greens and help extend the golf season! 

So what are we been doing about it ? 

In one word... Aeration!

What is aeration I here you asking? 

"Regular aeration has become one of the major exercises on any busy golf course to keep healthy aerobic conditions. The level and frequency is dictated by the level of play and the make up of the growing medium"

A simple statement from one of the great greenkeepers Jack Mcmillan. Simply saying, air is the key to life, the more you compacted them, the more you aerate them and you will still have good greens! 

What aeration do we do to the  
Greens during the year?

•Almost weekly passes with Sarrel rollers (very small tine, just opens up the surface)
•Solid tinning at various depths (depending on the requirements and diary as to size and depth)
•Regular hollow Tining at various sizes (depending on thatch 
•Deep scarification at least once a year (ripping out nothing but thatch) 
•Verti-cut the greens ‘little and often’.
•Slit tinning of greens in the winter months (a slit tine is a dagger shaped tine that aerates the soil but doesn't leave a hole, more of a slit funny enough!
This reduces the amount of water getting into the soil profile during periods of high rain as to much can make the greens unstable). 

Carrying out all these aeration types during the year will not only improve the drainage and reduce the thatch but it will improve the soil structure immensely.

Quick recap- thatch...check, aeration...check, the Whys...check. Now on to the how's... 

Okay I hope this is making sense to you all. A bit of a greenkeeping crash course. If not feel free to ask me when you see me and I will try to explain. 

So here's where I can start talking about course maintenance week...

We started course maintenance week off using the sand filler machine. This is basically a deep scarification machine that rips out thatch to about -20mm in the ground.

As you can see from the pictures above once the scarified line has removed the thatch it then fills with sand behind. This helps to dilute the remaining thatch and acts as a way for moisture to pass by the layer to improve the infiltration rate by linking it with other works. 

This machine works a lot like the Graden used last year but it is a lot quicker. All greens were completed in one day. With the Graden it took three day plus a lot more work was required to clean the surfaces. 

The sand filler collects the debris (ripped out thatch), this is then emptied (see above) ever time the other section is topped up with sand. 

It's also topped up with sand using a trailer rather than men with buckets! 

Once day one was completed we had added 30 tons of kiln dried sand (our selected top dressing put through a kiln) and the same amount of thatch nearly removed.

On day two we targeted two other layers in the soil profile. 
We can check the layers by using a soil penetrometer.  

This is a diagnostic tool to measure the extent and depth of subsurface compaction (It's design is to act like a plant root and highlight when the pressure is to great for penetration). This then highlights our layer and shows what depth we need to tine to. If you simply tine as deep as each machine went these areas would become compacted and cause layers. This is why we vary depths. 

We wanted to get air down deep to allow the roots to develop deeper to help with drought and  OM management at depth. This works by encouraging the bacteria and fungi to work harder to break down any layers deep down (it's to deep to hollow tine). Our target area was 8-9 inches. 

For this we used the verti- drain. This is aerates using an almost garden fork like action to aerate. (Tine widths can be changed and heave depending where you are and the required out come). 

This was immediately followed by the pro core with Hollow tines. We hollow cored to 3 inches (again removing the thatch from our target area and deeper). 

Below are cores. You can still see the high thatch layer in them. This is why remove it and exchange the soil for a better growing medium.
This then left millions of votes to be collected! Unfortunately due to my late arrival in the season I could not book a core collector or harvester for collecting these off the greens due to the whole of the UK also doing there maintenance to there greens that week too (I have since hired one for other areas). This is something we will plan into future dates from now on. 
So back to our week...with no hire machinery available we had to resort to the good old method of pushing them off and shovelling up. This is VERY labour intensive and generally hard work but the guys got it finished. 

The lifted cores were then taken to the right of the second where they will be used to build a turf nursery for greens turf. I will right a hole blog on this idea in the future! 

Then we added ALOT of sand top dressings. Another 50 tons to be precise!  This was painstakingly slow due to some of the traditional machinery but the results will be worth it. 

We then used our new sweep and fill brush to fill all the holes back up. This also helps smooth the surface and keeps waste to a minimum and more importantly gets the sand off the greens quicker than other methods.

We managed to complete both nines on Tuesday/ Wednesday. 

We then ran the Air2g2 machine across the greens. 

This machine blows compressed air down three rods fracturing the soil surface to around 10-12inches. This is a great machine that really proves drainage and just helps unlock the soil profile and enhances soil structure. If you can blow air to areas that never get air, things will start to come alive and preform better.  
This machine is becoming another great tool used everywhere from Real Madrid to ascot race track.
(Thank you Campey for the demo). 

Following all that work the greens were fertilised to aid recovery (this does give us a flush of growth (meaning green speeds change and green speeds drop as they grow during the day) especially with the levels of rain we experienced but it is necessary to get the greens back to there best ASAP.

We also over seeded them with brown top bent using our sisis over seeder. 
Other areas

We have also been carrying out work to:- 

Surrounds- we have started to hollow core surrounds from now on. We have also started to spray for weeds, implement a fertiliser program and with our new semi rough mower we will start to see these areas improve.  

Aprons have been hollow cored again and top dressed as we look to make these more like greens by extending the practices on greens out. Be aware we will be asking you not to take your trolleys over these very soon (just like you do with greens). 

Tees have been verti drained and hollow coring has now started. These will be heavily topdressed and over seeded again. These too have been sprayed for weeds. 
Our daily divotting has paid dividends this year during the playing season. Obviously the rate of recovery will slow during the winter. 

Why are course maintenance weeks in August? 

Another question I am asked a lot his why is course maintenance week in August just when the greens are good? 

The reason is recovery. August is traditionally the quietest months on the golf course with a lot of holidays being taken then. It's also has perfect soil temperatures to aid recovery. Greens are puttable within days and back to normal within a couple of weeks (weather dependant). If we carried this out later in the year and the weather changes we could be waiting months for recovery. Do it to early and the greens get to compacted going into the winter months. 


So following a successful course maintenance week were we managed to remove tons of thatch and got 80 tons of sand back in to the greens this will improve soil porosity and create a good soil exchange. I was very pleased. 
(I wasn't with the wet the week after but you can't have everything). 
This is something we will have to continue to do during the maintenance weeks until we hit our target. Then we will reasses our plan and do what we need to in order to maintain the target. 
The old saying no pain no gain is true but with each treatment the greens performance will improve not just for the agronomic side of things but for you the membership. 

Okay, that's enough from me today. I hope this made sense to you all. It was a good blog to show some of the talking points from the greens presentation. More to come in coming blogs I m sure!

 Happy golfing! 


1 comment:

  1. Hi Matt, loving your blogs....really good to see what you and the team are up to. Keep 'em coming!