Birr Golf Club – Course Blog July 2018

Contributed By: Eoghan Buckley, Head Greenkeeper

It’s been almost five months since I took over as Course Superintendent, moving from Charleville in Co. Cork to Birr in Co. Offaly. I’ve been attempting to write a blog for the past five years so with this new beginning I think it’s a perfect time.

My first week on the job in March was one filled with snow. This was an ideal time for me to spend some time with my full-time staff members as we decluttered the greenkeeping facility. It’s fair to say there was a lot of hoarding going on, no different to many sheds up and down the country. Sometimes you need a fresh look to tell you that it’s really junk and time for the skip.

A skip full of rubbish after two days in the job

Once we got the sheds and surrounds into a reasonable shape it was time to move out onto the course once the snow had cleared. I’m a firm believer that your sheds reflect what the course looks like, so it’s very important to try and keep on top of things there to try to ingrain that in the staff’s presentation out on the course.

Course

The condition of the golf course was fair when I started. Because the site is reasonably free draining it tends to allow golf traffic almost all year round. There are definitely some problem areas on fairways 4,5,10, Summer 1st and Winter 1st which are puddling in the winter. The hope is that we can possibly aerate these this coming September using a shockwave aerator on hire to try to open up drainage channels to remove surface water accumulation.

Summer 1st fairway showing water lodging in the springtime

There is a selection of golf greens out there with some very old soil greens and then some USGA sand based greens that are in the region of 8-10 years old. The sward on all is predominantly annual meadow grass with good populations of bentgrass with occasional fescue. The long-term goal at this stage is to try and develop a putting surface that is sustainable and affordable within the budget provided. This may involve introducing more disease tolerant species into the sward over the coming years. The general conversation in the turfgrass industry now suggests that a lot of the products we apply to keep annual meadow grass in good condition on greens will be withdrawn for use in the next 5-10 years. If this does happen, the addition of other more disease tolerant species will prove invaluable in the attempt to produce acceptable putting surfaces.

Irrigation management has been a huge challenge since I started, particularly as we are still in the longest drought period this country has seen since 1976. I have inherited a system that has had very little maintenance carried out on it since its install.

Irrigation Valve boxes in need of maintenance

We haven’t been able to water greens at night so have been relying heavily on the expert group of volunteers who come into water greens in the late evening, complimenting our daily hose work. We are in the process of replacing our faulty irrigation control panel so that will allow electrical control of the system again. However, there is huge upgrade work needed as a lot of the irrigation heads and valves on the course are operating poorly or not at all. We are hoping to progress a lot of this work over the winter months when mowing operations are at a minimum.

I’d like to thank my crew and all the volunteers who have helped to date on the course since I started. It’s always nice to be able to produce a good product as in the photo below and have fun at the same time doing it.  I hope you have enjoyed a brief insight into what we do on the course at Birr. I look forward to the next update where I will be discussing winter golf and how we manage for it.

Additional comment from Birr Chairman Cormac Moylan:

The feedback from club members who have commented on the improvement in overall playing conditions has been fantastic to date. This is a testament to the staff and volunteers who have put in such hard work over the past few months and we all thank them for their efforts. 

18 fairway presentation prior to the onset of drought