Irrigating the Golf Course

FullSizeRender(10)The use of water is a critical and vital element in managing the golf course. With an increasing pressure on resources and sustainability the use of water has never been more important.

Here at East Berkshire there is irrigation to the greens, approaches and tees.

The amount of water applied is measured in mm’s rather than minutes. The advantage of this is the computer system will ensure the correct amount of water is delivered to each green. This is dependant on a number of variables: the green size, number of irrigation heads around each green, distance between heads and nozzle size and spacing.

The irrigation system is capable of running different cycles and amounts of water dependant on conditions. As an exampe the system will deliver the specified irrigation over two applications, or ‘run times’ through the night. Running 2mm twice rather than 4mm once avoids excessive puddling, wash outs and surface run off.

In general it is better to soak the greens heavily once or twice a week rather than apply water each night as this encourages a strong root development. The result of this is a healthier stronger plant that requires less water not more.

moisture meterTo enable us to manage the amount of water applied to the golf course accurately we use a moisture meter. Readings are taken from individual greens each morning and recorded. This data along with the days E.T. (evapotranspiration rate) is then collated and used to form the basis for the irrigation program/cycle.

Evapotranspiration (ET) is a term used to describe the sum of evaporation and plant transpiration from the ground to the atmosphere. Transpiration accounts for the movement of water within a plant and the subsequent loss of water as vapor through stomata (small openings that allow for oxygen and water exchange between the plant and the atmosphere) in its leaves.

We will hand water localised ‘hot spots’ on each green to compliment the main irrigation. This allows a targeted amount of water to be used in specific areas identified by the moisture readings. Importantly this means little water is wasted and what is used is targeted effectively in relieving stress.

For competitions we aim to maintain the greens at around 20% moisture. This is the optimum moisture content for the soil profile we have here without stressing the plant and sward unnecessarily. There is a fine balance between maintaining adequate moisture in the soil profile and providing firm dry quick surfaces. The  use of the irrigation is complimented by a comprehensive aeration and wetting agent application program.

Utilizing the moisture meter allows the greens can be managed and fine tuned far more effectively which saves resources and money and produces better consistent playing surfaces.


Long Rough to the Rescue


Long rough areas 13th Hole

The long rough areas around the course have had an application of Rescue applied. This is a selective herbicide which targets the thicker more aggressive grasses leaving the finer desirable fescues and native wild flowers. Opening up the sward helps easier ball location while retaining attractive course design and hole definition.


Coarse grasses dying back after application of Rescue

Conventional rough management practises involve many years of repeated cutting and removal of growth to reduce the impact of coarse grasses. The use of Rescue significantly reduces the time taken to achieve the same results. Towards the end of summer these areas will be cut, scarified and collected as part of an annual programme of managing the roughs. This helps to reduce fertility and aid the establishment of the finer wispy grasses and native wild flowers. Following this a further application of Rescue will be applied in early Autumn to control any remaining grasses as Winter approaches.

Finer fescue roughs mean: Faster ball location, better playability, attractive visual appearance, easier management and ecological and environmental benefit.

See the following link which details the environmental project/work set up by Syngenta and the STRI


Heather establishment bewteen 8th and 10th holes

The heather area between the 8th and 10th holes continue to establish well. The plugs of heather have taken root and are growing and thickening. Encouragingly heather is starting to fill in between the plugs from the seed bank that was exposed by removing the leaf litter, which had built up over many years. At this stage the heather shoots are small and immature and need time to grow into established plants. There remains a percentage of grasses which will be managed and reduced by the application of a herbicide spray, however there is also a native natural mixes of wild flowers within the stands of heather. Indeed this mix, mosaic of heather and fauna mimics that found up on The Ridges and Swinley Forest.

The area to the left of the 3rd carry in front of the tee which was stripped has now regenerated from seed left over from the heather. The key factor in establishing and managing heather is TIME. Similar practises and establishment policies at courses such as Walton Heath and Sunningdale have been successful. Adopting similar methods and practises the heather regeneration areas continue to grow and mature and are where we expected them to be and look at this stage.

Plant Nutrition


Plant nutrition plays a key role in maintaining a healthy plant and producing  quality playing surfaces. In order to achieve this we apply a folia feed every 14 days to the greens and surrounds. This consists of a specific tailored mix of micro nutrients and potassium with  a small amount of nitrogen added to each application. This little and often approach known as ‘spoon feeding’ maintains an even growth habit and avoids excessive flushes of growth. The plant becomes stronger, healthier and less susceptible to disease.

Following extensive trials in the US and impressive results from Course Managers and clubs, this year we have added the use of a turf growth regulator – Primo Maxx into our fortnightly programme.

Turf Growth Regulators are designed to regulate vertical leaf growth and promote a higher quality, dense sward of healthier turf for better playing conditions. The use of PGR’s (plant growth regulators) on turf plants encourages continued grow, just in a different way. Energy and resources normally used for vertical leaf growth are diverted to side shoots, stolons and the root system. Continually treated turf therefore has a bigger and healthier root system which helps the plant resist the effects of drought, stress and wear. Due to less leaf growth there are fewer clippings and a noticeably cleaner cut.

The added benefit we have seen this Spring is a more uniform growth pattern  across the greens. Normally the mix of grasses within the sward begin growing at differing rates which has an adverse affect on ball roll, however the use of Primo Maxx has evened out this growth improving playability.

The challenge to produce good consistent playing surfaces as early into the season as possible has been enhanced by the use of a balanced nutrition program aided by the use of the PGR. As a result the greens have responded well and are ahead of where they were last season.

Spring Maintenance Week

A week after our spring maintenance and the course is starting to recover very well. We applied more sand to the greens and approaches in the week than ever before and we are already seeing the benefits, the surfaces have firmed up nicely and the greens in particular and playing very well considering the work carried out.

We applied in total approximately 70 tonnes of sand (of which around 50 went on the greens). All greens were Verti-drained and a select few wetter greens were also hollowcored – 11,12 & 14. The greens staff put a fantastic video together of day 1 of maintenance week – click here for a great behind the scenes  look at what went on.

spring m weekThis work will put us in good shape for the start of the golfing season. The putting surfaces are looking very strong with no bare areas and importantly for us no sign of disease pressure. We are now a little reliant on the good old British weather to give us a little help to warm things up and kick start the growing season. Fingers crossed we get a little of that Mediterranean heat promised to us over the Easter period.

Happy Easter and enjoy your golf………







A Welcome Return!


Following a busy Winter we are back! We will be posting various blogs throughout the coming year detailing the work on the golf course here at East Berkshire. The aim being to provide a useful insight into the management of the course and give an understanding of what goes on behind the scenes. If there are any specific areas or subjects people would like to know more about then please let us know!

Heather regeneration update

Heather regeneration 2:

Heather Regeneration Video Update

Click link to our first Video Blog. Giving an update on the Heather Regeneration work