Maintaining a better golf course
At Burstwick we do our upmost to keep the course in the best condition possible, but sometimes there may be work that is carried out where the benefits aren't obvious to the average golfer. That's why we have created this FAQ to explain the purpose of some of our maintenance processes, so that you can better understand the actions along with the desired outcomes.
Q. Why do we Hollow Tine the greens so heavily, and what is the purpose of the sand on the greens?
Weather dependent, we try to Hollow Tine the greens and apply rootzone and seed to the surface, to be worked into the holes. This may seem very drastic and disruptive, but it is actually one of the big reasons our greens remain fantastic all year round. Here's why we do it:
Over time, a natural layer of thatch (dead and decomposing matter) builds up under the green's surface and this needs to be controlled. The optimal depth of this thatch layer is 12-15mm, and this helps retain a small amount of moisture at the surface, as well as providing nutrients for the turf. If the thatch layer becomes too deep, the surface becomes compacted and retains too much water, never drying out.
Because of this excessive moisture, it is the perfect breeding ground for disease and weeds, as well as Annual Meadow Grass (a poor quality, shallow rooted species of grass prone to uneven growth and disease). The way to treat this is to hollow tine (also known as hollow coring) the surface, taking cores approximately 50-80mm deep out of the surface with each core. We then spread a layer of Rootzone (80% sand, 20% soil, which matches the construction of the green) over the green, mixed with our Fescue/Bent green seed, which is worked into the surface with a drag-mat and brushes. This fills the holes, smoothes the surface and over a few weeks new grass generates.
By doing this process once or twice a year (usually Spring and Autumn), our greens remain consistent and in great condition all year round.
Q. Why are our greens slower at some times of the year and faster at others?
There are several reasons, one being that our turf is a mixture of Fescue and Bent grass, these two species support each other well and make for a fantastic putting surface as they are very resistant to disease, especially in the winter months. Some golf clubs mow their greens extremely low (less than 3mm in some cases) which puts lots of stress on the turf because too much of the leaf is removed for effective photosynthesis, this promotes disease within the turf, and the grass dies back. We never mow our grass below 4mm (6mm in winter), so that it remains strong and resistance to disease, with a dense sward.
To increase the speed of our greens we use a process called Verti-cutting which slices down into the turf, cutting any grass that is laid down. By doing this it slightly thins the sward out, making the greens faster and truer, but it is a gradual process that takes weeks (unlike shaving the greens which makes them instantly faster, but prone to an uneven and bumpy surface). By using this method, we can get our greens to 9.5-10ft on the Stimpmeter, yet retain enough leaf on the grass to promote consistent growth and resistance to disease and weeds.
Q. Why are temporary greens used when it is frosty?
Playing on a frosty surface can damage fine turf, making it weak and vulnerable to disease. As the frost starts to thaw from the top the underneath remains frozen. Feet walking over the surface under these conditions will cause the roots to be sheared off causing severe damage. What also has to be remembered is the fact that not all of the course will thaw out at the same rate, so we wait until the every green has thawed out before changing to normal greens. If there is a competition, we will only change back the holes which have not already been played on.
Q. How often are the pin positions changed?
We usually change the pins twice a week in Summer and once a week in winter unless there is an unusual tournament or event which requires an additional change.
Q. Who decides where the pin positions are?
The Head Greenkeeper dictates which zone (front, middle or back) on each green, but the Greenkeeper who changes the pins that day decides which area of that zone.
Q. How often are the greens irrigated?
In summer the greens and tees are irrigated every night via an computer-controlled system. Due to our USGA green construction they can quickly become dry so in a barren spell of weather we can use up to 70,000 litres in one night.
Q. Why is it that sometimes not all of the White Tee beds are used?
If we feel that a white tee bed is suffering from concentrated wear we will move the tee box back to the yellow tee bed to give the turf a rest for a week. This is usually done in a rotation so that only half of the back tees are rested at once.
Q. Why are some bunkers worse than others, and have different sand in them?
Believe it or not, all of our bunkers have the same sand in them. This is a golf-specific bunker sand which is finely graded for a consistent surface. However, where our bunkers struggle is from sand contamination (which discolours the sand and makes it darker) from soil, clay and gravel. Soil and clay come into the sand from the edges as it breaks away in frosty or dry conditions. Gravel comes through the sand from the drainage, over time. We are going to slowly replace this drainage with a new (but costly) form of drainage which doesn't use gravel, we have trialed the bunker in front of the 10th green and so far it has been successful, so we shall begin doing more this winter.
Bunkers require constant maintenance which we are always trying to improve and as we renovate more bunkers with the new drainage and renew the sand, players should see an improvement over the coming months and years.