Putting surfaces are very pleasing for the time of year. Testing has been carried out early this week on firmness, moisture and smoothness. The greens are 15% firmer than this time last year. This is due to the sand applications last season.
Moisture content in the surface inch has been reduced considerably and this contributes to healthy turf, especially in winter months as the crown of the turf remains dry.
Moisture content of the top 3″ has been reduced slightly but this will improve in time as we build a sand layer and integrate more sand into the existing rootzone.
All of the bunkers have been re-built on the short game area. The bunkers around the chipping green will also be re-constructed as well as new bunkers on holes 1,2,4,5,7,9,12,13. This work will begin next week and be on going through March.
The greens staff have taken advantage of the dry weather this week, hollow coring the new Dunluce greens and surrounds.
Hollow coring has begun on Dunluce fairways and semi-roughs. This work will continue for the next few weeks and will be followed by sanding and seeding. This will be beneficial in drying and firming surfaces while introducing more fescue into the sward.
The greens are wintering well in spite of the very wet weather. The sward density is much improved on last winter and this is down to a number of subtle treatments which we have implemented.
The mowing regime was reduced last November and some additional rolling was done when weather permitted. This reduced mowing means less damage to grass leaf and also less damage to surrounds of greens where the mowers turn. This reduced damage allows the turf to thrive in a stress free environment and this eases disease pressures and also prevents thinning of the sward.
We have applied large volumes of sand over the course of last season and have been able to ease off that programme a little for the winter. We applied our first dressing of the year (6tons of sand per hectare) this week and will make a similar application in 2 weeks time.
The greens are smoother than this time last year also as they have been deep tine aerated but with a less disruptive smaller tine. This operation was carried out twice and surfaces remained relatively smooth throughout. Mowing has been done almost exclusively with hand mowers during this time to prevent any wheel marking which make surfaces uneven.
Pitch marking is I believe less apparent than last year but still an issue and we would encourage players to repair one or two per green.
With the recent frost and really the first prolonged spell of cool weather the turf has become dormant and cutting heights can be raised further to protect the desirable fine leafed fescues. We currently mow at 5.5mm but will be increasing this to 6mm. This will not effect ball roll as our turf iron will be used on dry days to maintain playing quality.
The new greens are settling down well now and we’re all top dressed by hand this week. Dry weather will allow more of this to be done. Once roots establish shallow spiking and rolling will improve smoothness before overseeding in the spring.
The team have been busy re-building bunkers and building new ones. The bunker short of the first green was started today and should be finished tomorrow. The practice bunkers were also started and we will endeavour to have them done for the weekend.
After such relentless rainfall the water table is effecting play on the Valley course. We have been pumping water from the sump and have now moved almost 10,000m3 which to put in perspective is the equivalent of 18 times the large irrigation tank at the 2nd. More days like today will be more than welcome.
The new greens are improving week on week and received some hand topdressing yesterday to improve smoothness. When the turf begins to root they will be spiked to 10mm with a blunt tine and over seeded. Topdressing of all new areas will be done whenever weather and growth allows.
Work continues this week removing sea buckthorn from the large dune on the course. Great to see the buckthorn cleared and some fescue and maraam grass still present. All of the roots have been treated to allow grass to re-establish on the dune.