November – April
By Robin Little
We have had an exceptionally dry winter which has allowed us to complete a massive amount of work on the course. The down side to the dry weather has been that that the course has had no rest period at all. Even when the course is soaking wet, if it is closed the turf has time to rest and recover. Over 8000 rounds of golf were played between November and March – this is due to a number of things, firstly a dry winter, secondly the drainage work that has been completed and lastly the investment in a new Verti – Drain which allows us to decompact the ground at a much deeper level. The dry weather continued into the spring and together with it being fairly cold, it has caused a very slow start to grass growth. The elevation of Penrith Golf Club will always mean that many other clubs in the county will be ahead of us in terms of growth at the start of the season.
We also had a very windy autumn and winter – 6 big conifers on the 15th came down, plus many big branches, sticks and twigs which were spread all over the course. There has been some comments from members regarding the wind-blown debris on the course. Whilst we agree that this looks untidy and needs to be cleaned up, we have to prioritise what is most important. Anyone who has played golf over the winter will know that a lot of drainage work has been carried out, finishing work such as this in the spring has to take priority over twigs. The effort from the group of members who volunteered to help with clean up was very much appreciated.
Projects and Winter Work.
- The 15th Green has had a full herringbone drainage system installed. This seems to be working very well, there is no standing water after rain and any puddles that appear following irrigation disappear quickly. The back left hand corner of the green which was always the wettest area is becoming firmer each week.
- A drain has been installed to dry out the path from the 16th winter tee to the fairway. This has also created a much more reliable outlet for the 3rd Fairway drainage going forward.
- 1st Green has had a herringbone drain installed plus a new drain behind and to the left of the green which were both notoriously wet areas. This was an easy project and completed in less than 2 weeks.
- 8th Green drain. The plan was a full Herringbone drain with the outlet connected into a nearby manhole. When we started digging it was apparent that there had been 4 previous attempts to drain the green, clearly none of which had been successful, some pipework didn’t even appear to be connected to an outlet. Different types and colour of pipes were found going in all different directions which made the green very unstable when we started work and unfortunately this caused some of the green to collapse and make the whole project take a lot longer to complete than expected. This was unfortunate but there was no choice but to just get on with it and install drainage to the whole green as planned. Turf was lost so we had to buy some fresh which was laid in the back left hand corner to keep it well away from most pin positions. The team worked exceptionally hard and I would like to thank them all for their efforts to get the work completed as quickly as possible. We were finishing the turfing late one night in the snow! Regular top dressing will be carried out until the green has fully recovered.
- New Irrigation valve sets at greens 8 and 15 have been installed. The originals were built up using metal pipework, they were rotten and full of leaks. New plastic sets were built up and installed in house. The 17th green and 18th tee valve sets are also to be dealt with in the same fashion, work is currently underway.
- Ditches on the 14th hole and down the right-hand side of the first have been cleaned out to allow better water flow from drains. It is still in our plans to install a bridge / crossing half way down the ditch on the 1st. Other issues on the course have had to take priority but we still aim to complete this asap.
- Steps at 5th tee are rotten underneath the Astroturf and will be re-built using brand new sleepers. This was planned winter work but as the drainage work took longer than expected we still have it to complete, we will do asap.
Greens & Aprons
We continue to spray the greens with our programme of soluble fertiliser, bio stimulant and wetting agent which gives us a good level of control of the growth. We have had very little disease since October and there has no need to spray a fungicide. This is a very good indicator that we are doing the right things. Growth on the greens is always slow in April due to low soil temperatures, but we expect to see some movement by mid May.
Regular aeration has been carried out through the winter, with our new verti-drain going 15” deep. We always leave tine holes open through the winter in order to get as much water moving down as quickly as possible which keeps the main greens in play more of the time. Regular verti-draining is the best way to keep surfaces dry, in play and to give them the best start in the spring, if we were to fill the holes each time with sand the cost would become prohibitive and it would take time away from other winter work.
Greens 1, 8, and 15 will have settlement on the drain lines this is to expected to a degree. To get the greens back to where they were before the work, the drain lines are being top dressed every week where possible.
A spray of Iron and Nitrogen was applied in March to promote early season growth and blacken any moss prior to scarifying. 2 weeks later all tees were scarified and cut at 10mm. This was followed by an application of 12 – 0 – 9 fertiliser and a good soak. Tees have been growing well since early April and have started to recover from the cold weather very well. Weekly divoting is carried out now that main tees are back in play.
Fairways were lightly scarified early April using our Terra Rake prior to their first cut. Growth is very slow as ever due to cold temperatures but we expect fairways to be growing well by mid-May.
Winter servicing of machinery was carried out in February with no issues. Normally this work is completed before Christmas due to the amount of wet days during November and December – a testament to how dry the course has been. Our new tractor which was purchased in November has had plenty of use and is proving to be a great asset to the fleet. We have also purchased a new small tipping trailer to speed up projects and reduce the amount of manual labour when doing jobs like topping up bunkers with sand.