Contributed By: Eoghan Buckley, Head Greenkeeper
I’m sure I will speak for a lot of greenkeepers out there when I say that the summer of 2018 was one of the toughest for managing turf. When it comes to the weather we are never happy but enduring the longest drought in over 40 years made it tough going to produce good quality playing surfaces daily. Even though most of the golf clubs in the country have irrigation to at least greens, its sometimes the last of the capital infrastructure that gets serviced and maintained to an adequate level. Simply put, we generally can get away with running water now and again in a typical summer without too much stress on the system. But this summer was an exception, with such little rainfall and high temperatures creating massive drought stress on turf. So prolonged irrigation cycles showed up the weaknesses, which I’m sure plenty of greenkeepers will be looking to address in this winter’s projects and budget projections for 2019.
At the start of July, we lost all power in our maintenance sheds. Unfortunately, a joiner failed on the main power supply line coming from the clubhouse which is located directly under the 10-year-old putting green. Having established the connection either side of the putting green to be good, it was decided to install a new power cable around the green rather than try to find the break. So, two days of excavation and backfilling and six weeks after losing power we finally got electricity back into our facility.
August is traditionally a very busy time for golf in Birr as they host most of their big club events along with some significant corporate events. So, maintenance on the course was really focused on keeping on top of general mowing, with extra detail been given to improving smoothness and ball roll on greens. We carried out a light topdressing on greens at the start of August to help with smoothness. We increased our rolling to 3 times a week where possible with double cutting of greens every Friday.
We carried out Aeration of green surfaces the second week of September. We decided to remove a 13mm core following some initial sampling. It was skipped in the spring and with little sand going out this summer due to extreme turf stress and no available loader, we felt it necessary to be aggressive this time around. Its hoped over time we can reduce the need to core once we get these thatch levels reduced. A combination of solid tine aeration with sanding and scarifying should maintain our thatch levels at an acceptable level and help alleviate any compaction issues we may be suffering from.
In preparation for winter golf, we have targeted aeration on some wet areas on fairways and roughs. We had a contractor on site using a Shockwave machine in late September. This machine is a linear decompactor which will hopefully help to move surface water further down in the profile through the year. We have also utilised a piece of kit we own ourselves called an Aerway on all fairways. This is a heavy-duty slitter that goes 150 mm into the ground. Again, the intention is to help playability throughout the year, but particularly in the winter months.
In my next post, I will be discussing our winter projects and how we are progressing with them. Hopefully, the weather cooperates over the next few months and allows us a good run at what we have planned. Enjoy the golfing season through Autumn!!!