Friday, 29 April 2016

The long road to recovery

Spring is the time of year when it is summer in the sun and winter in the shade.

As I sit here writing this blog, I can't believe May is just around the corner. I have the heating on, slippers on and hot cup of tea to keep me warm. This week we had rain, sun, hail and SNOW on the course.

Low over night tempratures and early morning frosts are giving us the 'long road to recovery' following our maintenance week and a tough wet winter. 

I believe the 'norm' for seasons has shifted like I mentioned in prevoius blogs and this in turn might be something we as an industry (golf) need to look at as we plan for the future. We now have almost summer like conditions in October and are cutting right up to Christmas. 

(Graph shows the daily growth during April, you can see how it rises slightly then back to nothing)

The trouble is April is meant to be the start of everything for the new season but we are averaging double the amount of frosts during April than we have had in all the previous winter months put together!
So it makes sense to move the golfing calendar back and extend it into October... Anyway, just an idea looking at facts and figures. 

It's not all doom and gloom I promise, the reduced amount of cutting has meant the machines are out less, meaning less fuel usage for example, less break downs and has given us time to do other tasks from our never ending lists. 

Firstly let's talk about the greens recovery following maintenance week. 
To say it's been a long road is an understatement. 
We are tracking almost the same spring as last year (the cold spring 2015) but just slightly colder now. In order for us to get some recovery we need soil temperatures to be over 8* but for real recovery we need them to be around 14*! 

Our soil tempratures during the day have only been around 7* then it drops away a bit due to the cold overnight temperatures. It's these night temperatures that are holding us back not the days. 
What does all this mean? 
It means that we are not getting any real growth, which is what will grow over the holes and smooth out the surfaces. In a good Spring we could see recovery in 10 days but this year we are closer to 30 days. 

(The above graph shows how many good growth days we have year to date. Anything over the red line)

We have been carrying out what works we can to improve the surfaces and aid recovery. These have included:

 Verti cutting
Doing this helps to disturb the surface by its cutting action, slicing the holes up and moving them. 

Liquid fertilising 

Regular applications of liquid fertiliser have been getting applied. Our nitrogen source has been selected as it works in 
low temperatures to help aid recovery. I am happy with this approach as it gives us more control. 

I must admit I could have gone again with a granular fertiliser like we did a month ago (prevoius blogs) but I have held back because if the temperatures turn and increase our growth will go through the roof and greens speeds will be very slow. However, I might have to make a decision on this soon if the long range forecasts stay cold. This is my daily debate in my head but I must try and be patient... I must...summer will come...won't it!


Lots of greens ironing has been carried out to improve greens smoothness. We have been doing this between two and three times a week and it has helped. Especially with low growth it's great to just get the surfaces better. 

Lots and lots of topdressing has been carried out. We have been applying every week at 10 tons an application. This is helping to smooth the surfaces back out.

Micro tining greens 

Again a bit like the verti cutting this helps to move through surface pulling and pushing the turf surface to help close up the holes. It also adds some extra air to the root system to aid growth (especially when the temperatures rise). 

Before all the works

After all the works

I am relatively happy with the way the greens are going and I know all this work is paying off. Sometimes I would like the results quicker but I have learnt you can not beat Mother Nature, only work with her. 

Is all this work paying off? 

Below is a picture that I think helps to show how far we have come already. 

The top picture was taken April 29th 2015 of the greens. 

The picture below was taken April 29th 2016 of the greens. 

Other works 

It has been a busy period again not just on the greens. The new welfare block for the greenstaff is nearly ready, you may have noticed we are currently basing ourselves out of the clubhouse. This was due to the current facility's finally giving up and were not fit for purpose. Meaning we were homeless for a few weeks but the timing was almost perfect. 
Thanks to Richard and Jayne for sorting out room for us in the short term and to Carly and Simon for allowing us to overtake your staff area and the meeting room. We and our stuff will be out soon. 

Lots of work out on the course and behind the scenes not only with the mess room issue. 

You may have noticed us out scarifying fairways. This is part of our 'extending out' our maintenance procedures to other playing surfaces 
It's amazing how much it rips out and also allows us to get a better cut of the grasses as it brings them up horizontal. This is a slow process especially the clearing up but will be worth it as time goes on. 

Fairways being blown to clear debris following Scarifing. 

The tees have now been overseeded and topdressed to aid recovery.

This will not only improve grass coverage but help us to improve the tees drainage in winter. 

Worn areas around the course have been getting some sanding. This has been done slightly differently to the normal way. When cutting areas after heavy topdressing you always pick up some of the residue. It's this excess stuff we have recycled and used in the wear areas. 

Flailing of the long Roughs and around some of the Heather areas has been going on too. 
Opening up the areas to allow the light in but removing the clippings will improve the Roughs and Heather. 

We had a demo of the new tractor mounted rake last week which we used to get the moss out of the Heather areas and allows them some more light and air. It did an an amazing job with piles of moss being collected in.

The bunkers have started to get an overhaul. The edges have been trimmed back using both strimmers and edging irons. This is a very labour intensive task with four guys doing this for three days. 
Half edged 

Finished article 

The steps also have been weeded and edged. These are something I'm desperate along with pathways to improve. 

The newly refurbished 150 posts are now back out and the old ones have been taken in for refurbishment. 

This month a lot of Forestry work has been getting done in many ways. 

We took advantage of the fallen Oaks during storm Katie. 

 These were cut up into correct sizes, moved by digger so Charlie could then 'rip' them (split in two with a massive saw)

John then milled them up with an even BIGGER saw!
And made Oak sleepers out of them

This is an amazing sustainable way for us to be working and the Oak stays on site after all these years. The cost to buy this Oak would be over £1000 (according to Google) 
These will be used in our new Heather bed near the clubhouse (coming soon). 

The trees right of the second have been cut back to allow a better shot into the green rather than a fade only (not for me I promise:-) 

The Tuesday crew have been out collecting debris from all over the course and doing a great job of getting rid of it. 
Some like not to be seen and travel in camouflage as above

And some need time to rest in between loads! 

Thanks must go to John, Niall and the team for helping with our forestry work in different ways but both essential. 
Also to Paul and Charlie who have been on chainsaw duty! 


Lastly our normal cutting duties have started and things are starting to look more like a golf course! 

I hope this has been useful for you to see some of the work your greens team are doing. 

I am off now to put the heating up! 

See you soon and wrap on the course. 


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