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Spring Renovations: Why are they so important?

This week the greenkeeping team at Drax Golf Club are planning to carry out an important treatment to the greens aimed to improve the health and playability. This work can sometimes be seen as an inconvenience but we thought if we took the time to explain the benefits we hope to achieve it might help to understand why we do it. The reason we have chosen this week to do the treatment is because we want to take advantage of this window of good weather to get this job done. The weather recently has been so unpredictable and we don’t know weather is in store so we must take this opportunity while we can.

Spring renovations are absolutely vital to maintain healthy grass plants and also the soil beneath our greens. This winter has been incredible wet and regrettably we have had a lot of problems with closures.

Our aims are to:

  • Improve the way water moves through the surface of the greens

  • Remove an undesirable built up of organic matter from the soil.

  • Carefully propagate some new grass seeds onto our greens so that we can have nice smooth greens with a dense sword.

How does hollow core aeration benefit the greens?

At the moment the soil beneath the greens is a layer of thick clay soil. Clay is not a very free draining soil and we have problems with water getting down into the ash drainage pan. We want to create channels of sand through this layer using a treatment known as ‘Hollow core aerate’. The sand will start to disperse through the soil profile and if we carry this out every year we start to see improvements with the drainage of the greens.

Hollow core aeration is a treatment involving the removal of tiny cylindrical plugs from the surface of the greens using tines on a specialist machine (See image 1). Through winter our greens get compacted with foot traffic and machinery traveling across the surfaces so by doing this treatment we will be able to relieve compaction and provide the grass plants with sand channels to send roots down in search of water. This will help the grass absorb water, nutrients and gasses - all essential for the health of the plant.

A great way to explain how hollow coring and top dressing improve the drainage of the greens is to imagine filling a hole on one of the greens with golf balls. If you were to pour a glass of water down this hole then you would find the water would drain extremely quickly through the spacing. We hope to achieve the same result as this but on a smaller scale over the entire surface of the greens.

The benefit after this treatment should come when we get high levels of water because it will drain away faster into the drainage system using sand channels created as transport. This will result in dryer greens that are much more playable through the winter.

By doing this treatment we will gain the following benefits:

  • Firstly, it removes thousands of tiny plugs from the top surface of the green. These are removed and replaced with round sand, which improves drainage and dilutes thatch.

  • Secondly, removing a percentage of the top layer will remove a material known as ‘Thatch’ from the greens’ surface. This material is spongy, affecting the playability of the green, acting as an environment for disease, and retains water.

After hollow coring the greens we are going to top-dressing them with high quality golf course sand. This will improve drainage and make them much more true because the sand will smooth out any unevenness caused by winter play and disease scaring. The winter can have a big impact on the quality of the greens and can leave them looking weak and patchy in some areas. Following the top dressing we also plan to apply a specially selected seed to the greens. This will fill in any weak areas and will ensure the greens are dominated with the species of grasses that have better playability. The holes created in the green will be perfect to give the new seed a safe place to germinate so that we get the most successful germination rates.

Over Seeding

This year we want to change the dominant species of grass on our greens by adding the variety that is most suited to grow successfully on our site at Drax. The advantages of adding new seed to the greens is that we can add seeds to our greens with all the latest technological benefits, including:

  • Better disease resistance

  • Faster ball roll

  • Drought resistance

  • Wear tolerance

  • More competitive against moss and weeds

We have carefully chosen the seed mixture below because these species are the best suited for our greens:

  • 80% Fescue grass (Festuca Rubra)

  • 20% Bentgrass (Agrostis Tenuis).

These are high quality grasses that have been selected because have great playability, which will affect how the ball rolls when we putt. At the moment we have identified large quantities of Annual Meadow-grass on our greens, which is commonly known as a weed grass. It produces a lot of seed heads in the spring and summer, which makes the green bobbly and uneven. It is also extremely susceptible to diseases in the autumn and winter so we get left with patches where it dies off. By adding species that are more resistant to disease we will get greens with better playability through the winter

Our plan is to manage the greens with a more long-term strategy so that we improve every year and we end up with greens that are dryer through the winter but are also more responsive in summer.

Thank you for taking the time to read this newsletter and please feel free to ask any further questions to the greenkeeping team.

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