Contributed By: Dave Edmondson BSc (Hons), Head Greenkeeper
The months of December and January have remained relatively mild from a weather standpoint. Throughout this period, we have had only four frost events with daylong course closures being apparent on only 2 days.
The Christmas week was challenging from a turfgrass perspective with prolonged periods of dew, humidity and temperatures remaining high through all parts of the day for a period of about a week. Since then, temperatures have dipped slightly and wind speeds have risen.
The below tables highlight what we have experienced in January extremely well and it is clear to see that growth has been apparent in small quantities throughout this period. It is interesting to note, rainfall figures have been very low recently with Just 14mm of rain falling in the year, to date.
With the sun very low in the sky through these winter months, surprisingly we do suffer from shade issues here on the links. This has a tendency to lead to lower surface temperatures on holes that have dunes to their East. The mentioned holes would be 4, 5, 7, 8 and 9 on the front 9 of the links and holes 11 and 15 of the back 9. The Island itself has many microclimates within the site and should not be compared to neighbouring links courses that are of differing orientations and possess totally different topography. When frost is apparent, the mentioned greens do take longer to thaw, due to their lack of sunlight and extended low surface temperatures.
Below is an example of the sunlight hours on the 11th green for the 19th of January in comparison to the 26th of June. Information gained from the Sunseeker app available on iTunes.
Experiencing higher temperatures through the months of December and January has led to small amounts of growth. To coincide with this, we have probably carried out more mowing than normal for the time of the year, in order to keep presentation levels good. It has also been excellent to continue with turfgrass recovery from the dry weather that we experienced last year.
Greens have been mowed at 6mm up to two times per week depending on growth rates. Matching growth rates has meant that topdressing, albeit lightly, has continued and we aim to put out about 5 tons every fortnight. As part of the surface management program, a light application of liquid fertiliser was applied to putting surfaces, a penetrant wetting agent product applied and an application of Seaweed, Phosphite, Iron and Silicon to harden the plants and to reduce the possibility of any disease.
Tees have been mowed weekly and have received a verti drain operation as part of our agronomic program. An application of topdressing (10 tons) has been applied through early January.
Aprons and surrounds have been mowed on a weekly basis and have received similar inputs to the putting surfaces. A 10mm solid tine operation has taken place with topdressing due to be scheduled next week.
Fairways have been mowed on an “as and when need be” basis lately. We have managed to get a few applications of topdressing out to promote drier, firmer surfaces and an application of wetting agent has been applied to enhance infiltration, soil water holding capacity and to reduce hydrophobic conditions, that can still occur through dry periods of the winter. As these type of products are broken down by soil microbes, longevity is increased through the cooler months, so application intervals can be lengthened.
Winter program work that commenced in October has continued in tandem with course maintenance. The main objectives of this year’s winter program were to continue to work on links presentation for the year ahead. To date, the team have completed 11 revetted bunkers and carried out various turfing projects. With the list getting shorter the team have been busy of late repairing any rabbit holes around the links in conjunction with path work. All paths are being topped with Grade D path sand, edged and tidied.
Over the next few weeks, DAR are due back on site and will be flailing several areas of Gorse and seabuckthorn that needs attention. The greenside path on hole 8 is due to be resurfaced, the drainage issue on path 9 is due to be addressed and the small car park at the range tee is due to be modified.
Meetings have taken place with Robin Hulme associates and also Richard Langford who is a top Hydrogeologist from Limerick. Having faced a tough summer last year, we are always looking for ideas to improve our available water quantities and flow. This is currently being investigated.
Each year in the latter parts of January sees the hosting of the British Turf Managers Exhibition (BTME) in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. 3 of us from the club attended the show and carried out various educational seminars throughout the week. These were as follows: 2-day course on Irrigation design and management with Adrian Mottram, The links Forum, The deputies conference and a conference called Stop telling your team, start transforming your team with Frank Newbury. It is important that the team continues to grow professionally and all found the various conferences enjoyable and provided us with some valuable food for thought.
During the few days attending the conference, it was great to meet up with old contacts and meet some new ones also. In our industry, it is amazing just how many guys are facing similar occurrences with regards to managing their sites. Hence why I believe, it’s so beneficial to shoot the breeze and bounce ideas off one another, as we all strive to improve our courses further.