Managing Wear - Know Your Limitations
article is by A J Beggs BSc Honns, Stri Manager / R&A Agronomist
explosive popularity of the game of golf initially fuelled by Ryder Cup rivalries
in the 1980's and 1990's and more recently by "Woods mania" does mean
that our British golf courses are now exposed to more wear and tear than ever
is not unusual for modern courses to experience 34-40,000 rounds of golf per year
and where it is possible to keep the playing surfaces dry many of these rounds
are now encountered in the winter months. Indeed, I was recently at one of our
premier UK Open Venues and was told that the course had received 3,300 rounds
in March of this year alone! There is no doubt that soil and turf destruction
by golfers, cosseted in expensive rain-gear and waterproof shoes is more severe
during the winter months but unless we manage these twin evils effectively our
golf courses will be all the poorer in the future.
effective management can begin it is important to be aware of the limitations
of the site and what they mean for you. Factors such as soil type, relief, annual
rainfall and available space will all influence performance before management
inputs are even considered. Unfortunately, most of our older inland courses are,
located on heavy soils and are anything but flat, receive annual rainfall in excess
of 30 inches (sorry, 750 mm!) and are shoehorned into 100 acres or less! Those
blessed with sandier free draining sites rarely realise the sensitivity of the
environment and the innate reluctance of the turf to recover from damage. "Fertiliser"
is the cry but those that try and artificially accelerate the recovery process,
are probably well on the way to agronomic oblivion and they will find that they
have little turf left after the next drought, which will inexorably arrive.
we have a problem and the issue is particularly relevant at the moment following
last winter when some golf course fairways have only been navigable by boat! Whilst
it is impossible to make a "silk purse out of a sow's ears" there are
thing that can be done to improve the wear tolerance of turf. Few of these ideas
are new - most are common sense.
accept that most of the damage is done during the winter when soils are wet and
vulnerable to compaction. Vertidrain them early - the heavier the soil the earlier
one should vertidrain. There is no sense at all in vertidraining a bog in December
- it will not achieve the objectives of improved winter drainage and will probably
make more of a mess than there was before.
in out of play areas create pathways through very wet or congested sections of
the course. There are many different types of path, including turf ones (which
are often the best) and it is always to cheaper to put in a good path than 1000
linear metres of pipe drainage which may be unnecessary. Be sure to create pathways
that golfers will use and if an artificial material is chosen, make sure that
it is compatible with soft spikes.
where possible create separate winter tees and integrate these with your new pathways.
Be creative and look to all points of the compass to change favoured routes, exit
points from the greens and landing zones on the fairways.
do not be adverse to resting. Fairways can be partially rested in landing zone
areas in particular by introducing winter drop zones and confining play to semi-rough
areas. Alternatively, fairways can be rested completely by initiating the use
of portable mats or by insisting on teeing up. These mechanisms are now widely
used by some of the best courses in the land - if they can implement them, everyone
can. Changing the behaviourial culture of the membership in the first year is
the key here, and communication and education are vital elements.
short term solutions that lead to longer term misery. The application of fertiliser
and the use of perennial ryegrass both fall into this category. Both are counter-productive
and although the latter is tolerable in some situations, it should continue to
be avoided, particularly with the arrival of bent / fescue / smooth stalked meadow
grass turf which wears just as well but plays and looks considerably better. If
the club is fortunate enough to have its own source of indigenous turf this often
provides the best long-term solution. A mature mixed turf free from perennial
rye grass can be grown relatively cheaply and easily, provided there is the space
use modern technology to your advantage. Crumb rubber is potentially helpful if
out of play areas if you can overcome an initial abhorrence of feeding turf with
shredded wagon tyres! Make two or three light applications to growing turf in
the spring in an effort to build up a 5-10mm depth to protect the crown of the
plant. Some readers with very small tees and no room to expand them may wish to
experiment with the idea of replacing divots on part 3 tees. I know we have been
taught for years never to do this but if they are anchored with biodegradable
turf ties or Mcdivots then the old problem of slipping is overcome. A considerable
improvement in turf cover and surface levels can be expected.
conclude by saying that those of you who identify your limitations and manage
them will prosper. To do so having the strength of your own convictions is essential
because there will be many that pour scorn and derision on your proposals. Golf
is now a year round sport but it will not be for long if these issues are ignored.
Winter compromises are essential if we are to get the most from our courses in