From David Taylor, Courses Manager: “We are finally being blessed with some rain’’. Words I never thought I would be saying this early in the year. As I write this the heavens are finally opening over the course. The last significant rain we received before today (April 28th) dated back to March 12th when we received more than 21mm. Since then, we have barely had more than 9mm.
Many places around the course are looking very “summer 2018” with drought areas appearing. The cold, frosty mornings of late and then the clear, sunshine heat of the afternoon has added quite a bit of stress to grassed areas around the course.
Ironically, we have just finished the refurbishment of our irrigation system, which has been out of action due to a system-wide electric wiring failure. As is always the way, the day before we get the rain, the system became fully operational and will not be needed for a while. In the coming summer months, however, this upgrade will pay dividends, with more control over the whole course and individual irrigation head control.
Further improvements on the Academy greens have been going on. All the greens are receiving a full set of new irrigation heads, which will take the place of the original heads installed more than 20 years ago. They had a good innings but, like all things, have had their day.
After carrying out audits over the course, 12 of the 18 heads on the greens either did not work or were inefficient in operation. We also have the reinstalled and fired up the tee irrigation system. In the past, this was never used and meant the tees would often be burnt out within a few months of the playing season.
Now up and running, we can continue to improve the tees, and make them into a full-use grass tee. This will eventually culminate with the removal of the mats out there.
The mixed bag of cold nights, frosty morning and hot afternoons has had a detrimental effect on the greens waking up from winter dormancy.
At present, the sand-based greens are at around 5-6 degrees, while we want to be around 10 degrees for the plant to start natural temperate growth. In general, we are relatively pleased with how they are performing despite the low night temperature and lack of moisture.
Of course, we still have work to carry out with eliminating the ever-present bobble on the greens while putting. Once we get the right temperatures, the annual meadow grasses will fill out the weak areas and we can begin our top-dressing programme. This will help smooth the surface out and, at the same time, continue the progression of thatch dilution under the surface, creating and firmer, quicker surfaces for playability.
We will also be continuing with our over-seeding work on the Academy greens. These greens have a long way to go to return to their former glory and will require a huge amount of work, but you can be sure all necessary actions are in place for this. This is why we are working hard on the irrigation system first, as once the seed is sowed, we will require a more efficient water system to help the germination and establishment of the grasses.
Back on the main course, we have been able to focus on the aesthetics of the course, without the onset of heavy growth chasing us. Areas such as the rough are already at their summer-season heights and this means we can thin the grasses out with weekly cuts before it has the chance to thicken and become bushy.
I have received some incredibly positive feedback from players regarding the inclusion of new approaches on the 2nd, 6th, 14th and, finally, 18th. Before the rain, all these areas, along with existing approaches, have been fertilised. Once they start to thicken out, we will be incorporating finer grass to help with the shorter heights of cut, encouraging the use of putters for more control.