Monday, 9 May 2022

Maintaining good greens

Hi All,

Another blog, thought I would share with you what’s been happening on the course and mainly why!

One thing I will say is the Bluebell stands and gorse look particularly good this year and Cow Parsley & Campion will soon be joining them along with the Foxgloves.

Like I mentioned in the last blog, April had been a problem month for growing grass and one of the reasons was high E.T days. This was caused by the wind and not like the summer months which are mainly due to heat.

Now as we head into May things are starting to warm up naturally but we will still have those cold mornings when you grab and jumper or cardigan before leaving the house but things are warming up especially this weekend. Normally consistent temperatures night and say kick off (pardon the pun) from around the FA Cup Final It’s almost like the weather knows the winter sports are finishing and the summer sports are just starting…


May is the time of year when the Poa is now switching into seedhead mode, it is diverting most of its carbohydrate reserves to seed production rather than root development and shoot growth. Again, this can cause us issues on smoothness but we have now lowered the heights of cut on all surfaces to summer heights. The impact this has on the greens is it reduces the difference between the Bent grasses and the seeding Poa. We have started to brush greens daily to give a smoother cut, regular Topdressing will take place throughout this period as it does wonders for smoothing out the surface and adds to our yearly total.

Topdressing greens behind over-seeding 

I think now might be a good time to talk about Topdressing and why we do it. Every year following our soils and Organic Matter (OM) lab tests we set our targets for applications throughout the year. This year we are aiming to apply a minimum of 150 tonnes. A similar figure to last year but way behind out 2015 -2018 figures of 250/300 tonnes per year.


This is because we are now fine tuning our OM levels and control of this within the surfaces. We currently around 4-5% OM on the greens in the top 20mm and all on target in the other areas (20-40mm, 40-60mm, 60-80mm) and are around 2-4%. These are now within the target guide lines.

What’s Topdressing and OM got to do with each other?

Well, we need Organic Matter on all the surfaces, our soils need this to survive and continue the biological circle within the soil life (more on that soon). If we don’t have OM or thatch as some know it on the surface’s we would be left with soils bursting through the surfaces all the time or the ball  would react like it’s hitting concrete on the greens in the summer and bouncy yards away.

Too much OM and the greens become soft and spongy. Diluting the OM with sand so it becomes more friable rather than compact and tough helps water movement and seed development within it. When it’s compact, aeration, seeding and playing golf all become an issue. It’s all about balance and we are always lab testing this to help us make better decisions and gives us hard data.

Back to our OM targets and where we started this journey back in 2015 (@14%) we were miles away and the performance of the greens was poorer all year round. This was a knock-on effect of, a lack of aeration and topdressing due to a common but misguided approach not to do any maintenance to the greens as this would upset the golfers.

 Yes, it does, but what we all need to realise it is a necessary evil. We don’t like it but it’s got to be done. Like going to the gym or visiting the in-laws…

Thinking about it from the greenkeepers perspective for a minute but putting into your life. Would you want to do something that made your job dramatically harder for days and maybe even weeks at a time, If you felt it wasn’t doing anything? I think the answer would be No. Nor do we but it does make our lives harder, it’s stressful and hard work but we know the benefits.

Now we have worked hard for years to get into this ‘maintain’ stage rather than ‘renovate’ stage, we need to keep up the little and often approach. That way recovery is quick almost the same day rather than weeks on end.

I am not saying it’s always going to be in the ‘Maintain stage’ either. We could have a long, wet winter and OM levels get away from us as the natural thatch break down wouldn’t happen and we would need to be a bit more aggressive again but for now we are in a good place. 51 tons YTD (99 tons remaining before October). Today we applied our first over-seed of the year now temperatures and getting more consistent.

Again, this is so important and as we go into the season to get full coverage back and give us new seed coming through ahead of the competition season. Giving us better greens.

We will be seeding a creeping bent grass. This will help with the blend of the Poa and Bent mixes and creeping bent likes you to be aggressive with it. Like summer heights if cut and brushing… this is then finished with a topdress and brush.

I have a had a couple of comments about us doing maintenance work to the greens at the moment but I am hoping this had made sense and you can see why we need to do the work.

The course is now busier than it has ever been. Working habits have changed during lock downs and Covid. Many working from home and able to play week days plus more competitions than ever. There is no doubt this is great for golf but we are having to work differently and having to do work when maybe others wouldn’t have noticed before but we have to do the work and keeping the greens healthy is one of our main objectives.

Sometimes we will do a little aeration to help with compaction in the soils to help root development, drainage and soil life. Next, Topdressing for OM dilution and smoothness. Then over-seeding to establish new grasses and build a better mix meaning we won’t need to be as aggressive and we will have grasses that are more disease and water tolerant in the future. This along with a good soils feed and fertiliser program plus an Intergrated Pest Management (IPM) program are the bases for a good green’s strategy.


What else has been going on?

The new look 15th as we push the apron out now we have irrigation to this area

Course starting to get its summer look

The season is now on us and this has meant an increase in all mowing areas. This maybe a standard cut or reverse cut to tighten up the swards. Regular fertilisers, growth regulators and wetters being applied along with Humics, Aminos and Carbs to help the soils and the plant health.  

The greens have had another micro aeration and top-dress last Monday. This being the only day with a competition for over a week at the time. This is all part of our monthly works as set out above.

Hollow tining the drain lines on 9

Roll after clear to help lower

Finished ahead of any golf

Hollow coring of the drains on the newly drained greens on 9,10 and 11 took place last Wednesday morning. These have been hollow cored three times now and that seems to be the ‘magic’ number for getting the surfaces level. You will notice we haven’t top-dressed the holes afterwards. This is done to encourage the drain lines on the greens to drop down, making the surface level. If we were to fill it with sand this would change the levels. They would in fact raise. When cutting at heights of 3mm, getting the surfaces level is a must. We are hoping that’s all we need to do now on those greens along with some over-seeding to fill the last of the lines up to blend this in.


What’s been happening to the putting green?


Over seeding greens 

As discussed last month, The putting green has suffered from the winters compaction and lots of putting drills in the frost and wet. This is something we are going to have to manage in the future as the scars from December/ January are still visible.

 I said in a previous blog, the PG underwent some renovations to alleviate some of the problems. We may need more works and to micro manage this going forward but it was essential to get tackle the issues straight away.

Putting Green 

What you will notice is the drain lines in areas are still showing up. This had us questioning why this was happening. Had the rope drains moved. Had they pulled up? After some investigation work and discussions with our Agronomist we have realised the rope hasn’t moved and the actual problem is caused by the level of compaction. When we are trying to decrease this compaction with aeration it in fact is moving the compaction around and it’s breaking at the weakest seam. This being the drain line that are back filled with sand. Unfortunately, this for us means short term pain for long term gain as the aeration works are needed to open up the pore spaces and allow roots to grow in the soil so we may in fact get more heave before it gets better.

I now know we need to protect these areas more in the winter. I wanted everyone to be happy to finally be back playing golf this winter and maybe I should have, looking back with hindsight, could have shut the green for a certain periods to rest it. Maybe we should alternate between the Putting green and Short game green in the depths of winter. This would give each green a needed rest and allow for some recovery and would still give us somewhere to putt before going out. Again these just ideas to help get over the issues.

We live and learn. Learning from our past and reflecting helps make us better. Not only individually but as a club and before I hear the mob starting to gather outside my office, let’s remember we all look back with hindsight sometimes and wish we had done things slightly differently. For those of you that say ‘that’s not true’. Remember I watch you playing golf daily and see some of the shots;-)


Going forward


Well for the putting green we have been plugging the worst areas and over seeding by hand to help this and our plan is to seed, seed, seed and feed.

On the course you may have noticed the new signage made by John Bolwell one of our amazing members. These look so much better than the old rotten ones. These will now weather over time to be more like the finger posts around the course. Thank you John, for all the hard work.

Next on our hit list is the 150 posts and setting these in a metal bracket like the signage in a hole these are replaced after being taken out for shots and left level in the future. Big thanks to Adie our Handyman for making the brackets.

The weeds have popped into life and will be next on our list of jobs to do along with detail works and lots of flymoing and Strimming on the course.

That’s enough from me today. Hopefully this has given you an insight to why we do works to greens. What we are doing on the course and what’s happening in the coming days.

I will do a blog soon about the odd week we have just had as I’ve ran out of time Don’t worry it won’t be as long as this!


Happy golfing