Home Blog Greg’s Greenkeeping Blog October 2017

October has seen the start of our winter program of course improvements.

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Greens Renovations

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The first instalment came with renovations to the putting greens on the Morgan’s course. In this month’s update I thought I would give a more detailed explanation as to the reasoning behind our maintenance philosophy.¬†

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So why are we renovating?

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Over the last few years we have been working on improving the species composition, which effectively means changing the grass species within the turf. This years renovations have been carried out to introduce more fescue species into the greens through overseeding.

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But why change the species of grass?

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The reason for this is to produce firmer, drier and smoother greens all year round, reducing maintenance requirements and lessening the impact on the environment.

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So what was the situation before and was it really that bad?

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The greens previously contained a large percentage of annual meadowgrass (poa annua) and this species is notorious for producing excessive amounts of dead plant material which creates something known as thatch. Thatch builds up when the dead material is created faster than it can naturally break down. The thatch then retains moisture at the surface making it increasingly difficult to produce good surfaces as they become gradually wetter and softer.

This then requires more resources, more aggressive maintenance and creates an environment that only poa annua can tolerate, culminating in a vicious circle.

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We hear a lot about Poa annua greens when watching golf on TV though?

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It’s not impossible to produce greens with it and some courses produce excellent greens this way.

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So why is it not OK for Hunley?

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As mentioned previously, to do so requires a large amount of work and use of resources.  Regular mechanical removal of thatch, large inputs of sand top dressing and very low cutting heights are necessary in order to produce an acceptable standard of putting green.

Even then performance testing has shown that the fine grasses still offer a smoother, truer putting surface.

We want to offer the best greens possible, but we also have a responsibility to do so in a way that is more sustainable for the future of the club and also to be kinder on the environment.

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But now we have mostly fine grasses, why do more work?

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So far our success has been borne out of improving the environment for which the turf is growing, which is the first stage when changing grass species.

Creating firm, free draining surfaces, has seen the poa annua recede dramatically at Hunley, with the fine perennial grasses of bent and fescue filling the gaps and now dominating the turf.

Despite this, maintenance is still required just far less frequently.

Most recently we have hollow cored to remove some excess dead material, however this is for the first time in 4 years as thatch has only increased by around 1% in that time.

As the slow growing fine grasses need far less fertiliser and water, they accumulate thatch at a far slower rate. The thatch is also of a different type to that produced by poa annua, which remains firmer and doesn’t become soft and spongy in the same way.

Overseeding with fescue by working seed into the holes along with top dressing, a technique known as pot planting, will further increase the fine fescues in the greens and further improve upon the species composition.

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So has the work been worth it?

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So far the work has been a great success with fescue seedlings emerging from almost all the holes made on the greens.

Our work is far from done though, as helping those seedlings survive and then establish is the hard part. We will need to be very delicate with the greens to give the new seedlings the best possible start, however early signs are very positive.

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How will they be looked after now?

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We have raised the height of cut up to 6 mm to prevent putting the new seedlings under too much stress and we have also applied an organic fertiliser that contains a variety of elements to provide the needed nutrition for the new seedlings to establish within the turf.

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The real secret to our success though isn’t just down to the knowledge and hard work of the greenkeeping team, but from a real unity within the club from management down, making almost anything possible.

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Metcalfe’s Ace

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The next step of the winter program has been to build new tees on the par 3 Metcalfe’s Ace.

Metcalfe’s has always been a tremendously difficult hole, playing 241 yards into the prevailing wind from the competition tee. This makes it impossible for the vast majority of golfers to reach the green, even with a driver.

Some may say that is how the hole was intended, but we firmly believe that although the course should be a challenge, it should also be enjoyable.  Therefore we have shortened the hole, building a new tee for the yellow markers playing 195 yards and a separate tee for the white competition markers playing 210 yards.

This will still be a very challenging hole but will at least give players a chance of being rewarded for a good stroke.

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Elsewhere we have continued with mowing to all areas as the weather has remained very warm and ideal for growth. Despite a very wet end to summer, the course is holding up very well and still in excellent condition for this time of year.

Nothing much will change in November, as we will continue with planned course improvements on our winter schedule highlighted in last months update.

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