Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Getting through the heatwave...

As the mercury on the temperature gauge has continued to rise over recent weeks allowing some Mediterranean style warmth & sunshine to be enjoyed it has presented some very challenging conditions on the golf course.
The recent conditions have put the turf on the surfaces under heat stress, this being lack of available moisture & high temperatures coupled with drying winds have meant some of the management of the surfaces shifted to more preservation than presentation. The main reason for this change in surface management is to ensure we don't start to lose coverage on the surfaces, getting them through periods of increased stress will allow more consistent surfaces to be presented and played on for longer through the year.
To try to counter the lack of moisture we can apply irrigation through the sprinkler system to the greens & tees, we also measure the actual moisture content in the soil, using a moisture meter, so we can target areas that are in deficit and also ensure we don't over water. One of the problems we encountered during the recent warm spell was high winds, this has meant some of our intended irrigation has quite literally been blown off course. To counter this we also carry out hand watering of areas, were irrigation is missing its target or high spots.
Other method's we use to reduce the stress on the surfaces is raising the height of cut on the mowers, this allows more leaf to remain which aids the photosynthesis of the grass plant. As growth slows down we also alternate between cutting & rolling, this again reduces the stresses of mowing but helps us maintain playability with the rolling carried out. Continued aeration, topdressing and nutrient input also aid the overall grass plant health and make it more resilient to stresses.
So with rainfall now forecast on the horizon our management techniques will shift again slightly as we will be able to push the surfaces on again, hopefully having got through the recent warm period. Until next time.....

Friday, 19 May 2017

The cold & dry Spring....

Traditionally April would have been a time when Greenkeepers would have been seeking out some help from 'upstairs' for a break in the rain as 2-3 months of wet weather left courses wet but with an increase in temperatures the grass would be growing 'behind the mowers'. This would often lead to constant mowing of the playing surfaces and little time to finish off any outstanding winter projects. This year was a little different as a relatively dry spell through February & March gave way to a very dry & cold April/early May. Now in some regards this proved beneficial as the course was much drier than it had been previously at this time of year but proved problematic as cold & dry doesn't equate to very good grass growing conditions so the recovery from a busy winter schedule on the course was slower. The cool night temperatures that held throughout this spell were also a factor in the lack of growth, this gave slow recovery to disease scars from the previous autumn. In terms of the putting surfaces we carried out some early season maintenance at the beginning of March so the recovery we had on the greens was decent. The continued addition of  sand topdressings to help with drainage & smoothness helps the surface performance but seed we put out was very slow too take.
We continued with some micro tine aeration across some of the playing surfaces to try and encourage some deeper rooting, this was carried out with smaller tines to minimalise disruption & also requires less recovery.Another factor of the cold spell was poor results from granular fertiliser that have been applied to tees, aprons & green surrounds. The result of such poor growth was to use liquid fertiliser that would give us some response but not trigger huge flushes of growth, ultimately at times like these we have to work with nature.
Irrigation was constantly applied to greens & tees were we aim to keep moisture levels to set levels. The amount of water we lose from both the soil surface & grass plant is collectively known as Evapotranspiration(ET). The rate of ET loss is a measure of how much water we have to apply to stop the turf going into drought stress. Another factor during this recent spell was the cold Northerly winds that were also drying out the surfaces quickly. This also affects how efficient the watering can be as windy conditions make targeting areas very difficult. In addition to using the automated sprinklers we also carried out a lot of hand watering. Although much more labour intensive it allows us to target specific dry spots or areas that we cant reach with the sprinklers.  
So all in all a challenging spring but as always the golf continues, hopefully now in slightly warmer conditions.....

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

New bunkers ready to go...

The recent bunker redevelopment work carried out on the greenside bunkers on the 7th 10th, 15th & 17th are now finished and the bunkers are open for play.
The shaping and construction was carried out to improve both the strategy & visual appearance of the bunkers and the way the bunkers played.
The design of the bunkers was kept in keeping with the parkland feel of Muswell Hill Golf Club, in that the bunkers size & position are designed to add to the strategy of playing the hole without totally dominating the hole. As the course is a parkland course, other features combine with the bunkers, that are a hazard, to offer thought about how to play each hole.
The position of the bunkers was kept very similar to the original positioning but the updated design and construction methods have given the golf course much more appealing features.
All the bunkers were installed with the Bunker Blinder layer that is a liner that allows water to drain through and reduces contamination from underlying soils. This will mean less work from a maintenance perspective, in terms of time spent de-stoning and pumping out water & having to fix washouts in bunkers after heavy rainfall.
The process of putting the sand in the bunkers was initially putting in a 2 inch layer of sand that is then compacted to give a stable base layer and then a further 2 inch layer added to the middle part of the bunker.
Over time with rainfall and general play the sand will firm up to give a good surface from which to play from.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Spring course maintenance

After a busy week on the course I'd like to give a quick recap on some of the work we carried out during the recent course maintenance week.
Firstly a thank you to the membership for the patience during the week whilst we carried out the works.
The opportunity to carry out some intensive works on the playing surfaces helps us repair damage caused by winter play and prepare for the forthcoming season.
To begin with works carried out on the greens focussed on reducing excessive organic matter content that had built up during the winter, increased organic matter is caused by the deposition of plant parts such as leaves, stems, and roots.
Excessive organic matter can restrict the infiltration of water and gas exchange between the atmosphere and the soil air space in pores, this can lead to softer playing surfaces that don't perform well during the season.
The way we tackled the organic matter build up was to double scarify the greens, a process that involves cutting a groove below the surface and removing material. Sand top dressing was then applied followed by solid tining to a depth of 7 inches. The addition of sand top dressing will aid the dilution of organic matter & aid surface drainage.

Once the dressings had been applied the sand was brushed into the surface. Further dressings were applied to improve surface smoothness. During the year we are aiming to put 100 tonnes of top dressings into the putting surfaces, to date we've managed to work just over 30 tonnes, so we're on our way but still have quite a way to go....

Granular fertilisers were added alongside overseeding to improve the grass sward density.

After the work on the greens had been completed the tees were hollow cored, this is were a core is removed and top dressing is added. This improves the soil profile & structure which helps improve drainage and sward health. The cores will be used around the course to fill in area that have worn over the winter. The tees were also over seeded.

Additional works will be carried out including top dressing & the application of granular fertilisers to help recovery &  stimulate growth.
These works will hopefully be less disruptive but are an important part of the maintenance program. 


Sunday, 26 February 2017

Clearing up after Doris....

Last Thursday we were subjected to a Storm named Doris, I'd just like to take you through some of the clean up operations that have & will be taking place to clear up the golf course.

I'm not sure if it's since the Met Office started naming storm's that were more aware of them, if that's possible, but we certainly seem to be getting more of them..

This is the first time we have lost a significant number of trees due to a storm in quite a while, after Thursday we lost poplars in between the 10th & 16th, alongside the 4th boundary line & the 6th boundary and a poplar on the 13th tee has also gone. Added to this a lot of debris, again mostly off poplars & silver birch.

The number of mature poplars we have on the course, and their height, means it is inevitable in strong winds some will suffer damage and ultimately fail. We have seen evidence of that on Thursday. That is why continuing with a woodland management program focusing on developing stable, mixed aged species of woodland will enable the continuation & growth of the woodland areas around the golf course.

So onto the clean up. In terms of time & manpower it takes about 5 men working 7 hour days each to clean up after 1 large tree. Bearing in mind we lost 6 tree's in the storm that means the focus for the forthcoming week will be mainly based around clearing debris.

Why does it take so long? The tree's have to be cut up and made safe & manageable before we can start the clear up. We then use our chipper to reduce the amount of volume we have to move across the golf course. The chippings will be used as a base for our dumping site & some will be incorporated into compost production. One average size tree will produce about 10 tonnes of chippings, quite a lot but much easier to move chippings around the course the more heavier bulk material. From an environmental impact it also reduces our reliance on burning material.

Once the debris has been cleared away the stump will need to ground out and the area will be over seeded or filled with cores.

Also to deal with is the amount of branches, limbs, twigs & leaves that have been deposited across the golf course. This will rely on old fashion methods of picking up with, namely Greenkeepers and their hand's... We will use blowers & some machinery but must will be picked up by hand.

Does this have an impact on what other works are carried out on the golf course? Obviously some things that were planned for this coming week will now be put back but clearing up & maintaining a level of presentation on the course is paramount. And when mother nature decides to blow, there's very little we can do.

Apart from wonder who gets to choose the storms names.......