It is that time of year again when we begin our greens maintenance for the spring. We often get asked what the reason behind this annual maintenance is and why it is so important, so here I’m going to explain a little more.
To account for fine turf that remains healthy throughout the year it is all about balance. Balancing nutrients, moisture, organic matter, oxygen and of course wear and tear. The latter, we can’t control too much of as golf courses are designed to be open all year round, but a simple changing of the hole position can spread the wear nicely.
With nutrients, these can be balanced by a well-planned fertilising schedule which is suited to the types of turf species on the course, and the growing conditions on each surface.
Arguably, the most important part of healthy turf is the oxygen and moisture levels, which is where the greens maintenance comes in as a very important part of our Greenkeepers’ calendar.
For a turfgrass to be strong and healthy, it needs the best growing conditions, which include:
- A free-draining surface to prevent disease, weed and moss growth;
- Sufficient moisture levels underneath the surface for continued growth;
- Enough oxygen within the root system to allow good cellular respiration.
This in a nutshell is the reason you will see golf courses punch thousands of holes in a golf green in the spring and autumn. To maintain good moisture and oxygen levels, while providing a free draining surface, we need to aerate the greens.
In our case at Burstwick, from this season onwards we are increasing the aeration programme as we have a little too much thatch for perfect growing conditions. The great news is that our USGA greens have the best construction which means that past the thatch level the growing system is basically perfect, so all we have to do is take care of the top three inches or so.
This spring we are hollow-coring our greens (basically taking small tubes of thatch out of the surface) with 10mm diameter hollow tines, and refilling these holes with pure sand, and we will be doing exactly the same in autumn too. This will take about 3-4 weeks for the surface to recover and be back to the smooth greens that Burstwick is known for.
By introducing extra sand to the surface we are helping the top drainage, and allowing oxygen to enter the root system. This allows the roots to grow deeper into the USGA rootzone later, promoting a strong and healthy plant. On a good green the roots can be over five inches deep, despite the actual leaf of the grass being less than a centimetre!
So there you have it. The reason golf courses hollow core (or slice, spike, sand inject, etc) their greens is to improve the growing conditions for the root to create a better surface! If you would like to know a bit more come and see me in the clubhouse and I will gladly give you a more in depth explanation!