Monthly Archives: March 2011

Spring Up Date

Over seeding tees

It seems Spring is well and truly underway with temps hitting 18 degrees last week. In contrast to February rainfall has been minimal (18mm March compared to 41mm Feb) which has had a marked effect on the golf course . Despite the warm weather we have been delayed each morning by frost. This week all bunkers and tee banks have been  flymoed and trimmed and the fairways and approaches mown. The fairways have been sprayed with a folia feed which will help growth and enhance the sward in the run up to Maintenance Week. The coverage and composition of the fairways has improved greatly following the hollow coring and over seeding last year. They are in better shape coming out of winter compared to last year and will improve again as the season progresses. The tees have been successfully over seeded and with a decent forecast the seed should germinate and ‘pop’ within a couple of weeks. The tees will be sprayed with a folia feed and growth suppressent – Primo-Maxx. Extensive reasearch in the USA shows that applying Primo-Maxx allows the new seedlings to complete against the existing grass and aids establishment. The folia feed allows the Primo-Maxx to be taken up by the plant more efficiently and helps thicken the sward.

The main objective this week is to apply a further top-dressing or ‘dusting’ to the greens towards the start of the week which will help maintain a decent surface. With the verti draining now complete our attention has focused on clearing leaves from the ditches around the course. There have been several comments from members regarding leaves. As stated before leaves play an important part in suppressing weed growth and contributing to the health and ecology of woodlands. We recently attended a seminar at Burhill Golf Club run by the Sports Turf Reasearch Institute (S.T.R.I.) which discussed the importance of sustainability, management and ecology of golf courses. It was interesting to note that the S.T.R.I. advise not removing all wood, branches and leaves from the floor of woodlands, indeed dead and decaying wood is as beneficial and important as living trees: an area devoid of leaves in a woodland is un-natural. At Burhill they have a policy of clearing an area of 2 metres into the woodland around each hole. There has to be a compromise, with the playability of the golf course an important consideration. Here at East Berkshire we aim for a balance between the two: with leaves cleared from ditches and areas around the course while leaves remain confined to wooded areas. The weather looks set to stay warm with some rain forecast for the middle of the week. This will be ideal for the seed and heather turf while easing the need to hand water and irrigate!.

Course Up Date

New fairway bunker 7th
New fairway bunker 7th

It is vital to get the greens off to a good start following winter. The greens here at East Berkshire are over 100 years old and built from clay, which is slow to warm up compared to a sand based U.S.G.A spec green. At this time of year the differing grass species begin growing at different stages which can be seen from the slightly molted appearance. The greens have been verti cut and top dressed, this operation removed around a 1-2 box loads of material from each green and really tidied up the surface nicely, with many positive comments having been received about the condition of the green thus far. The plan will be to repeat this work in a fortnight’s time and continue throughout the summer. Regular scarifying, top-dressing and aeration are key in reducing thatch levels and providing smooth consistent playing surfaces.  A soil folia feed was sprayed on Friday which will help even out the growth as temps increase throughout the coming weeks. All sprinklers have now been trimmed and the irrigation system successfully turned on and primed with just one sprinkler needing attention. Another important job has been clearing the back of the 7th green complex. What was an untidy area of gorse, holly and undergrowth less than 6 metres from the green, has been transformed improving the playability of the hole. Wood felled from the winter tree work has been utilised with a new fence erected along the path. This is natural and in-keeping with the environment of the course and compliments the bark chip path  (as demonstrated on the 9th hole).  This week the  tees will be over seeded with a new variety of seed which is able to germinate at much lower temps than conventional seed. The over-seeder is mounted on the back of a tractor and drills the seed directly into the soil creating a vital soil/seed contact which is critical for germination.

It is important to remember that the work carried out now ensures the golf course is in good shape throughout the summer, equally we are seeing the benefits of work at the end of last summer and through the winter. It is often said that we are ‘growing tomorrows turf today’. The forecast looks set to remain largely dry with little if any rain expected and a chance of frost at night. Over the last couple of years we have seen winter followed by a dry, warm spell with little in the way of ‘spring’ growth or April showers.  It is possible we may need to use the irrigation to encourage growth!

Spring arrives at East Berkshire

Re-modelled 7th Green Complex

Following a decent spell of warm dry weather the golf course  is taking shape. Work continues in preparing for the season ahead, an increase in temps has seen growth kick in. Approaches and fairways have received their first cut of the year helping shape and define each hole. Work in removing and thinning selected areas of gorse continues which will promote new growth.  If the weather forecast remains favourable the greens will be top dressed with a ‘dusting’ of sand. This light application of material will help to restore smooth surfaces. An important but time-consuming job is verti draining the fairways. This is essential in relieving compaction caused through the winter, promoting root growth and aiding drainage. To date six holes have been completed and work will continue this week. Members are asked to give priority to the tractor and exercise caution when playing a hole where verti draining is being carried out. Incidents of  golfers hitting shots behind and in line of the tractor have occurred.  This work is slow and takes time to complete, it is simply not practical to stop for each group of golfers. The alternative is to close the hole whist this operation is completed. The other main task this week is turning on the irrigation system, checking for leaks and carrying out a full inspection of sprinkler arcs. It is vital that the sprinklers hit the correct areas of greens, approaches and tees minimising wastage and preventing areas drying out. A film crew from Croatia will be arriving on Wednesday. They are looking at how successful golf is here in the UK and what can be learned with a view to growing the game in Europe. As the forecast looks set to remain dry it seems Spring has arrived and we can all look forward to a decent golfing season!


Typical example of worm casts

Worm casts cause problems for golfers and turf managers a like. Earthworms are considered a pest and the annoyance they cause is understandable.  Worms do however, play an important role in recycling nutrients and breaking down organic material. The burrowing action of earthworms brings the subsoil to the surface (castings) allowing gaseous exchange to occur and aerating the soil below the surface. Following a wet winter (228mm rain Oct-Feb) worm activity has been increased and the problem highlighted. With a change in European legislation there are currently no products that control worms effectively. Previously chemicals worked by skin contact and were effective in eradicating worms in one application. The presence of these chemicals stayed in the soil for a considerable tine and were harmful to micro organisms and wildlife. As we became more environmentally aware these products were banned. In Germany and Denmark legislation restricts any use of chemicals while certain ‘pests’ such as moles are a protected species. Trials funded by the R&A have been set up using alternatives ranging from curry powder to mustard. These products act as an irritant and do not kill worms, but merely drive them further down into the soil profile.  Here at East Berkshire we have trialed a natural product derived from garlic, after assessing the results it would seem to have had little impact. The recent wet weather has compounded the problem with other Course Managers reporting similar problems. The underlying profile here is clay. It is important to consider the course and our greens were constructed over 100 years ago, and  as a result do not benefit from the drainage and performance characteristics of modern golf courses. (It is worth noting the site and nature of soil when comparing different courses). Good cultural practises can reduce the impact of damage caused by earthworms and with an improvement in the forecast for the next week or so, as ground conditions allow the fairways and rough will be verti drained and drag matted. This will aid drainage, remove the worm casts from the surface and improve the playing conditions.