Around one year ago we prepared a Greenkeeper's Report which talked all about the problems we had faced with the course in 2017, and how we weren't happy with it's progress. Below we have made comparisons to last year's report in order to evaluate what has changed in 2018 and how we hope to move forward next year.
Operation #CloverKill was a success
In 2017's report we talked about the fact that clover had all but overtaken the course last year and how we wanted to increase the herbicide budget by a factor of two to combat the problem in 2018. We are very please to say that this year we were determined to absolutely wipe out the problem by spraying every single fairway and 80% of the rough areas to completely get rid of clover for the year.
We actually didn't double the herbicide budget to do this, we more than tripled it! We had to do this to show the members we were serious about improving the course.
This doesn't mean that the problem will go away for good, and we're not naive enough to think that. In 2019 we will need to more than likely spend a very similar amount to keep the clover at bay, and we aim to do just that.
Last year our words were that the greens weren't "where we wanted them to be". This was because the thatch level of the greens had grown too deep, meaning the surface was holding too much moisture and the grass roots became much shallower which was a haven for disease, weeds and everything else you don't want on your greens.
As part of an ongoing process we promised to begin working hard on remedying this by putting in place a more aggressive aeration programme which would take away more thatch and introduce more sand into the surface to get them back to how they used to be. In Spring we cored with 10mm diameter tines instead of the 8mm tines we used previously (which also go about 30% deeper), and this has had a noticeable effect over the summer, with our greens being slightly firmer and better draining than last year. This is not an overnight remedy though, we will be coring again in a month's time to further progress the greens.
Another change we have made is the introduction of a Wetting Agent programme in 2018, to help the roots have access to water deeper into the profile of the rootzone, promoting healthier growth in drier times.
Over the course of 18 months to 2 years we should see a vast improvement to the firmness and drainage of the surface, aiding better gaseous exchange for the roots which will lengthen them, and the greens will then become more resistant to disease and be a much better, year-round putting surface.
As many will notice we are still suffering with disease on some of the greens (mainly 6, 8, 11), but we will be monitoring this in the coming days and spraying with fungicide if it worsens. As the greens get better due to our new aeration regime this should become less of a problem each year.
When we core the greens in September we will be hiring a Sweep & Fill machine, which will disperse the sand into the cores much more evenly then our previous methods, and get rid of any excess sand on the surface, meaning the recovery time from the aeration will be MUCH quicker and the greens will be back to normal a lot sooner.
Over the past month we have been receiving a lot of compliments about the difference in the bunkers since we topped up around 40 of them in June. We have opted to begin topping them up on a little & often basis, rather than our old method of waiting for a full renovation when a bunker gets too bad.
Previously we felt that full renovation of the worst bunkers each winter would lead to eventually having a full set of 70 bunkers that are better than the year before, but in actual fact this hasn't happened. Instead of chasing the "perfect" bunker by taking out the old contaminated sand and renewing the drainage before adding new, we are instead now going to keep the old sand in and continue to top up with new sand on a more frequent basis.
While this means that the contaminated sand will still be in there so the bunker may not look as white as it would with 100% new sand, but the levels should be more consistent and there should be a nice firm base of sand with an inch of 'fluffy' sand at the top where your ball will sit. This method should be a much easier way of maintaining consistent sand levels because it's much less labour intensive.
Overall, our bunkers right now are the best they have been in the last two years due to the much better sand levels particularly in the greenside bunkers. We have paid more attention to the bunker edges this year too and they are a lot better presented than in 2017.
There are a couple out there that at the moment have a little too much sand in and these should bed in once we get some rain. This coming winter, we aim to get all of the bunkers topped up that we didn't get done in June, so around another 30 bunkers will receive various amounts of sand.
As discussed in the News Blog a few weeks ago, we have doubled the amount of new balls for the driving range in 2018, from 6,000 to 12,000. We have also invested in four new Truestrike mats which are a much more realistic surface to practice from, reacting like a fairway to your swing and strike. We have also added new flags to the range and introduced a map in each bay to detail the yardage of the targets. All these little additions help you get the most from your practice.
Our fairways have been very brown this summer due to the huge lack of rain since May, and while they don't look as pretty without the stripes, they have still played well this year. As we begin to get more rain in the back end of the season the fairways should green up nicely going into winter. Going into 2019 we aim to give them a feed to get the turf more full and lush, something we have to do because they are built on ex-farmland and do not have enough natural nutrients in the soil.
We have conducted quite a few irrigation repairs (three replaced sprinklers, 7 replaced decoders, one replaced valve) this summer to get the system back up to spec, we still have a few small lefts from seals on sprinkler heads which we hope to get to within the next month or two.
2017 was a big learning curve for the greenkeepers and management of the club. Lessons were learned with regards to keeping the course moving forward, and hopefully members will see that money has been put where the proverbial mouth is in regards to killing weeds, and improving greens and bunkers. We still have some way to go but hopefully members and visitors alike will agree that we have made inroads in 2018.