Contributed By: Tom Carew, Course Superintendent
Over the next few months, this blog will explain in some way what goes on in Craddockstown Golf Club. Weather patterns throughout the year certainly have a massive impact in what happens on the course. We do have weekly, and monthly plans but the weather can change this structure very quickly. This has indeed been true for the months of June and July in 2018.
Including myself, we have five full-time staff on the course. One of these five Noel spends half of his time in the shed maintaining machinery and carrying out repairs which is essential. Then I have an assistant Kevin plus Andrew and Ross who have plenty of experience and training to carry out their jobs and highlight any issues. We also employ some summer staff from May to September. These staff look after bunkers, bins, flymoing, divoting, hand blowing etc. The summer staff usually do twenty-five hours per week. They work five hours per day. We also have some volunteer members who help out; they look after hazard lines, GUR, and small shrub beds.
Currently, in Craddockstown we are thinking about the future, the implications regarding the restriction in pesticides, water usage, water quality, and there will probably be a restriction in the amount of fertiliser that a golf course can apply per year heading in our direction. So as a club we are being proactive, and over the last two and half years, we are starting to introduce the finer grasses that require less pesticides, water and fertiliser. But they also produce very good putting surfaces that drain very well throughout the year. We have plenty of poa and Bent grasses. The greens were built in 1993 and sown with fescue and bent. In 2004 two new greens were built and seeded with creeping bentgrass Penn A4. Over time due to low cutting heights, high rates of fertiliser the fescue grasses disappeared. The poa annua (annual meadow grass) thrived, and the greens became dependent on lots of water, fertiliser and pesticides.
Over the last two years, I have overseeded with Fescue, increased the height of cut, reduced my fertiliser applications and changed some of our cultural practices. This process is not easy and is very challenging. But then again my previous regime was also very tough. Thankfully we are making progress, some greens are further ahead than others, the dry weather has been challenging but the fescue grasses prospered in this weather. I have reduced our pesticide application on greens by 70% and also dropped our nitrogen applications significantly.
Over the last two months, the weather changed our plans drastically as we went into drought come the end of June! Usually grass growth in these months would be very aggressive, but as you are well aware the heat reduced that. See our rainfall figures below!
|2018||15mm||16mm||10mm (up to 25th of July)|
- Cut on a daily basis
- Sprayed with seaweed, fulvic and humic acids plus Chelated iron
- Double brushed and groomed on two occasions to thin out the bent grasses
- Greens rolled three times a week or on major events
- Cut three times a week
- Sprayed once a month with some magnesium nitrogen and iron
- Cut two/three times a week as growth allowed
- Sprayed on a monthly basis same as tees
Towards the end of June into July growth reduced dramatically so basically it was about getting water onto areas that were in drought.
- Cut six days a week
- Wetting agent applied
- Seaweed, iron fulvic and humic acids applied on two occasions
- Cutting frequency was reduced by half on tees, approaches, surrounds, rough etc
- We had three people watering on a daily basis early morning and late at night when required.
- Raked three to four times a week
- Flymo bi-weekly
- Sand was added to various bunkers where required
- It was very difficult to keep sand on steep slopes in the dry weather it was like dust
- Towards the end of July, bunkers became compacted these need to be loosened up where possible
- We have 59 bunkers, so this work is ongoing
Our current irrigation system has been struggling for a number of years now. And when you get a drought like the last two months, it can be tough to keep grass alive. Our main electrical cable that runs right around the golf course is continually breaking down. So any sprinklers we have must be turned on manually. Most of the piping under the ground is PVC so it will burst when it comes under pressure. So staff had to come in at night when it is much cooler to water greens. It got so warm watering needed to be carried out both in the morning and at night.
We have two wells feeding our storage tank. One well has gone dry. So three weeks ago we actually ran out of water. The club acted quickly and we now have pump in the lake on the 11th hole which can fill our tank when needed. This will only be used in emergency cases.
The club also hired a slurry tanker to water tees and approaches as these areas were really starting to dry out. This certainly helped to keep most of the grass alive on these areas. The drain lines really dried out as expected on our approaches and fairways.
Hand watering was also carried out on a daily basis mainly on the high spots of the greens and drier tees. Sometimes hand watering is more prudent as you can just water areas that need it more. Turning on sprinklers onto large sloppy greens sees typically the water flow to the lower points.
As a club, we were very glad to see the rain arrive over the last few days! Hopefully, the next two months will not be as stressful!