Greens Maintenance Week
Good progress has been made with all the greens being spiked to a depth of 200 mm using 19 mm width tine, followed by 50 tonnes of sand dressing to fill the holes.
Aeration is essential to keep playing surfaces healthy and in good condition.Primarily aeration helps to control organic matter "thatch", relieve compaction and to improve drainage.
Organic matter is decaying roots and grass stems in the top surface which left unchecked can inhibit root growth, reduces oxygen levels in the soil and encourage disease. Furthermore excessive organic matter creates soft surfaces creating slow soft conditions that is prone to foot printing.
Correct timing of aeration will ensure the fastest possible recovery and return the greens to good order in the shortest possible time.
The key to a quick recovery is to carry out renovations when the turf is healthy and actively growing, which is why we carry out this work in August.
It also helps that the course is less busy, with many members on holiday, which makes our work that much faster.
Repairing bare areas particularly around greens is ongoing with the 3rd, 5th and 8th collars being repaired last week. This work will be ongoing in the coming weeks so we should see a major improvement to these areas.
The short-game area is now open and has already been a popular place for members and guests to practice. I do ask any members to abide by some simple rules when using this facility so we can keep this area in tip top condition.
1.Repair your pitch marks.
2.Rake bunkers after use.
3.Use the mat only when practicing on the tee.
Thank you for returning your surveys, your feedback is important so we can direct our attentions to your greatest needs.
What was encouraging was the positive response to the greens, tees and approaches and humbling that 97% of those surveyed felt the green staff are doing a good/excellent job.
However certain aspects still need strengthening namely bunkers although an improvement to last year's survey was noted.
Those who read my blog would be familiar with the problems we face with very aging bunkers, so I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate our plight and how we could improve standards.
Quality of sand
Currently we use a bunker sand called Red Hill 35 which is a high grade bunker sand, which is used by many North London courses, including Woburn.
This sand is no longer available so we have trialed a sand called Buckbrick that is more grainier and used at Sunningdale, South Herts and Enfield to name a few. Further gathering of endorsements and trials will continue.
Contamination is probably our biggest problem that can occur in many forms.
Sand that washes away from bunker banks after heavy rain and foxes digging holes in the banks on a nightly basis are the biggest factors that affects our bunkers to how they play and look.
Both wash-down and animal damage heavily pollutes the sand with clay particles resulting in compaction and the bunker being littered with stones.
The picture to the left highlights the condition we find many of our bunkers every morning, note the presence the clay dis-colouring the sand. The clay will now mix within the sand encouraging compaction within in the base of the bunker.
To keep our 46 bunkers consistent is an impossible task for many reasons, but the more common that reflect our bunkers I would like to highlight.
The bunkers on the course are a mixture of many different designs, styles and ages, many have a mixture of many different types of sand due to being topped up over many decades.
Bunkers with sand faces will lose vast quantities of sand from the face after heavy rain contaminating the sand below, compared to a grass face which only has sand in the base resulting in far less contamination.
Some of our newer bunkers have drainage installed compared to the many older bunkers with no drainage that turn can hard and compacted during the winter.
Animal damage and the destruction this causes I have highlighted already.
How we rake a bunker is also very important and I have been proactive in demonstrating how to correctly rake a bunker.
The members' rakes we have in the bunkers are designed to be raked in a forward motion with two hands on the rake, which is not necessarily how they are being used.
We are witnessing more and more golfers repairing their footmarks by dragging the sand back with no thought of where they are raking the sand.
I always instruct the green staff to push the sand forward but we are fighting against players dragging it in the opposite direction moving sand from the centre of the bunker to the edges where the a build-up of sand is eroding the edges
This won't completely solve the problem but if we can all rake the sand forward it will help until a more permanent improvement can be made.
How to improve the bunkers
Just keep filling the bunkers with more sand after more sand is not the answer, and is only papering over the cracks. This mode of action as we have proved does not improve contamination, consistency or animals that want to dig holes.
We now have to take a fresh look on how to improve, and my recommendation would be the installation of liners into newly constructed bunkers of more modern designs, this will improve the cosmetics, playability and ease of maintenance.
The liners come in different forms but all work in the same way, the material is porous which removes water, sand sticks to the banks during rain and the liner in impregnable to digging foxes.
This product does come at a cost of around £1,300 a bunker, but this work could be carried out in-house which would keep costs down.
South Herts golf club have recently just completed all their bunkers in this style and talking to their course manager he stated that they are extremely pleased and highly recommends the product.
The big investment the club made to the irrigation system has made such a difference to the golf course, and I feel the further investment to the bunkers would have the same impact.
Although nothing has been finalised of yet, we are looking to improve the look of the 1st hole to give a better first impression.
Ideas that we are mulling over are two new bunkers at the 1st green in the "Durabunker" design that we have at the 16th hole, and new path from the 1st tee to the ridge removing the unsightly worn area.
Other ideas are planting of a Laurel hedge to frame the 1st tee and improving the practice nets.
I am in the process of gathering costings for all this work in which I will submit to the management committee for consideration.