A Period of Transition

Most of us greenkeepers love the autumn shoulder months, when the monotony that sets in after months of setting up – and then frantically trying to implement – grass mowing programs is gradually replaced with the more peaceful and thought-provoking pastime of winter construction work. While we do have a few weeks of the main golf season left and we still have to prepare the course for the Autumn Pairs, half our minds are already on the projects that we look forward to getting stuck into once this tournament has passed. Watch this space!

We Felt The Need…The Need For Seed!

I outlined our autumn renovations plans in last month’s  update, and I’m delighted to report that things have gone absolutely to plan for us. We spiked the greens with 13mm tines on the 28th and 29th August in order to create a bed to brush garlic granules into. This work was planned to coincide with the first wave of attacks from crane flies hoping to lay leatherjacket eggs into the greens, and from what we saw, the application was timed very well. The work was carried out in dry weather, which allowed us to maximise the number of granules that we could brush under the surface where our mowers could not lift them straight back off again. Time will tell whether or not this process yields satisfactory results, but we feel that we have given the product every chance to work.

Our second wave of renovation work was planned for the start of the week of 18th/19th September because we wanted to wait until after the club championship, while also maximising our chances of having the greens back in good condition before the Autumn Pairs. The weather played right into our hands, with bright sunshine on the Monday and Tuesday.  This allowed us to complete the work with the absolute minimum amount of mess and disruption. The rain that followed on Wednesday washed in everything we had applied. Perfect!!

We started our mission by verticutting the greens, removing some of the organic matter that has built up around the crown of the plants, and opened up the surface to accept the materials that were to follow.

Verticutting
Gus deep in concentration as he verticuts the 12th green.

Once the greens mower had cleared up the debris left behind by the verticutters, we applied a relatively heavy application of our usual 80/20 sand/soil topdressing and spiked the greens with our Procore fitted with 19mm solid tines.

Chris creating a seedbed using the Toro Procore fitted with 19mm solid tines. A fine day for a walk with an aerator!
Chris creating a seedbed using the Toro Procore fitted with 19mm solid tines. A fine day for a walk with an aerator!

These are the biggest diameter tines we have for the machine, but we managed to limit disruption by using part-worn tines and keeping the depth set to a minimum. After the greens had been spiked, we broadcast half a bag of quality fescue grass seed onto each one with a fertiliser spreader and brushed the seed and sand into the holes with the brush that we drag behind our triple mower.

tractor
The tractor and Propass topdresser await their next mission as I pull all the sand and seed into the holes using the triple-mounted brush.

The surface was switched to tidy it up before we moved the whole operation onto the next green.

You can see how much seed and sand has fallen into the holes here. By the time I had switched the green and Craig had rolled it, there wasn’t much material left on the surface.
You can see how much seed and sand has fallen into the holes here. By the time I had switched the green and Craig had rolled it, there wasn’t much material left on the surface.

As always, the fine details are the keys to success in implementing a program such as this, and it takes a lot of thought to complete the job with maximum efficiency and minimal impact on play.

Overseeding links greens is not easy because fescue seed is huge and is spiked at both ends – it just does not want to fall down a hole! This is why we feel the need to use 19mm tines, but we offset the potentially negative effects of using these in two ways:

  • by wearing the points of them in first (we spike a couple of tees with them before we take them anywhere near a green)
  • by not setting them too deep

In effect, we are not actually focussing on aeration during this exercise (although an increase in air circulation near the surface is a useful by-product of the operation), but we are instead more concerned with making a seedbed capable of housing the large seed and some high quality, well-aerated growing material that can help it thrive through its early weeks of life. Seeding depth is critical when germinating new grass plants, so the Procore is set at the optimum depth to suit the seed rather than to break up any compaction under the green surface. There is plenty of time to revisit aeration later in the autumn and throughout the winter, when we can use thinner diameter tines set to spike deeper into the soil profile.

Because I absolutely hate the thought of making a mess, we always topdress before we spike the greens with the Procore, and this has two benefits during the seeding operation. Firstly, we avoid rutting the green, because we run the tractor and the hopper full of sand over the green whilst it is still compacted, rather than when it has just been aerated (and therefore softened). Secondly, we avoid closing the holes that we have just made by running over them before we seed into them, maximising the potential of getting seeds down into every single one of them.

The last thing we do during this operation in an attempt to get the greens back into play as quickly as we can is roll the greens with our Tru-Turf roller immediately after we have brushed the sand and seed into the holes. On a good drying afternoon like we had on the Monday and Tuesday of this operation, it is possible to pull even more sand and seed into the holes using the vibratory action of the roller, so it was great to be able to get the full benefit out of rolling without removing any of the materials that we had just applied. All we have to do now is look after the greens for the next couple of weeks, hope for a good mixture of weather conditions, and watch the new grass come up through the holes. If only that were true! In reality, we haven`t had the time to admire our handiwork yet because we moved this whole operation straight onto the tees. There is no time in renovation season for sitting about being smug. Every wasted day is a wasted opportunity!

Our goal was to have these greens back in good condition before the Autumn Pairs on October 7th. Due to the optimum weather conditions that we have experienced during and after this renovation work, this has been achieved with relative ease.
Our goal was to have these greens back in good condition before the Autumn Pairs on October 7th. Due to the optimum weather conditions that we have experienced during and after this renovation work, this has been achieved with relative ease.

A New Champion for Machrihanish Dunes

Golf Club Secretary Lynn Wilson presents the Handicap Championship trophy to John Nutt before handing over the Scratch Championship trophy to our 2017 Champion, Gary Sheppard.
Golf Club Secretary Lynn Wilson presents the Handicap Championship trophy to John Nutt, before handing over the Scratch Championship trophy to our 2017 Champion Gary Sheppard.

As I mentioned earlier, the Club Championship was held over the last two weekends and this was won for the first time by Gary Sheppard, who stormed round in 71 on the second Saturday to narrowly defeat Steven Gilmour and 3rd place finisher Crawford Kilpatrick. Lindsay Mathie won the ladies championship and John Nutt added the handicap championship to the huge haul of competitions he has won recently. The 2nd round was followed with the annual members evening in The Ugadale Hotel, with an awards ceremony and some fantastic food followed by a darts competition and a quiz. A good time was had by all who attended, and we look forward to running a similar event for members at the end of next season.

The only major competition we have left to play is the Autumn Pairs, and this year’s event is due to be played on Saturday, October 7th. The tee sheet is filling up fast for this, so if you have not yet entered, give Lorna or Peter a call on 01586810058 for more information or to book a time. Although the main competition season will end with the Autumn Pairs, the Winter League will start almost immediately after. We hope to be able to produce good playing conditions for you right through the winter months, so we look forward to seeing you out on the course in October and beyond.

Enjoy your golf!

Comments

  1. Dale McArthur says

    Absolutely love this blog! fascinating to read what all goes into keeping the greens in A1 condition. Kudos!

  2. Iain Logan says

    Thank you Simon for yet another fascinating and detailed article on the techniques, equipment and hard work that go into keeping the course in such excellent condition. Your photographs also greatly assisted in showing your readers what was involved in the different processes. We are indeed very privileged to have a head greenkeeper who keeps the members so well informed as to the work that you and your staff carry out to ensure that our golfing experience of the course is optimised. We are also very privileged to have a head greenkeeper who writes so eloquently.
    Many grateful thanks to you and your team for all of your hard work throughout the year.