Aesthetic appeal is important to a golf course. It takes a lot of work to make the grounds look neat yet natural. The smallest details such as trimming around all signs, trees and even the ball washers show that you take pride in your golf turf maintenance program. Don’t overlook cart paths and side walks. Edge all flowerbeds in the spring and fill with fresh mulch.
The greens are the most critical part of the golf course. If the putting greens are in bad shape, golfers may not return to play at your facility. They are also the most labor intensive and the most expensive to maintain. Golf course superintendents and golf turf maintenance companies know the importance of trimming the green properly.
A parade of professional mowers might not be in your budget like the large PGA courses, but every golf course can have handsome, healthy greens by avoiding these common mistakes.
- Untrained Staff
An improperly trained staff can lead to disaster. Superintendents must take the time to train the golf turf maintenance crews. Proper education will save costly equipment repairs and workman’s compensation claims. All greenskeepers must adhere to safety rules and be trained on how to properly use each piece of equipment. Basic maintenance training could spot potential equipment failure.
- Mowing Schedule
Daily mowing is critical for proper golf turf maintenance. Professionals recommend cutting greens first thing in the morning every day. The end of the day mowing of roughs and fairways will disrupt fewer golfers.
- Putting Green Inspections
Before starting the mower, groundskeepers must walk the area and pick up rocks, trash and anything else that could cause damage to the mower or turf. Unnoticed rocks or debris could damage the mower blades or propel and hit an unsuspecting golfer.
- Mowing Pattern
It is not necessary to cut a fancy pattern or checkerboard the greens like a baseball diamond. However, there is a logical reason your golf turf maintenance crews should alternate mowing patterns. It provides a smooth, more even green. Grass has a tendency to lay in the direction it is cut. If the turf is constantly cut in the same direction, it will tend to grow horizontally resulting in grain. Ruts and uneven compaction could also result from cutting in the same direction repeatedly.
- Clean up
High quality mowers do a pretty good job of collecting the grass clippings. It may be necessary to do one or two clean up laps around the perimeter of the putting green to pick up the clippings left behind where the mower made its turns. A lower throttle setting when cutting the fringe will produce a clean frame around the putting green. Double check the green for clumps of clippings that may have missed the bag. Break them down so they do not affect ball play.
There is more to golf turf maintenance than just cutting grass. Minor maintenance is the responsibility of everyone on your team. To extend the life of your greens mower, be sure to clean it after every use. Compressed air will take care of dry grass and dust. Wash the rest of the machine with exception of the motor with a garden hose. Tilt the machine back to access the tines. Warning: be sure to disconnect the spark plug before turning the blades for cleaning. Check the oil level and fill with gas so it is ready for the next day. The course mechanics should check air and oil filters often and clean or replace them as needed.
Come visit CS Trading at Booth 1007 at the Carolina Golf Course Superintendents Show in Myrtle Beach during November 2011 and at the Golf Industry Show in Las Vegas at Booth 2510 during February 2012.
A reasonable layer of thatch provides the carpet-like effect that is great for golf ball action. It is a natural protector for turf grasses with high traffic. Too much thatch on your golf course will act like a sponge providing the perfect environment for turf disease and pest infestation. Commercial dethatchers are a must for proper turf maintenance.
- What is thatch?
Thatch is an organic layer of living and dormant matter consisting of roots and stems that are resistant to decomposition. Commercial dethatchers designed for the golf industry assist in the compacted and high traffic areas. These areas are prone to excessive thatch build up because natural microorganisms and earth worm activity are not present due to the fact they cannot survive in dense soil conditions.
A thick layer of thatch results in short roots and weak turf.
- How can you tell thatch is the problem?
You may notice dry, brown areas as you inspect your golf course. That could be a sign that you have a thatch problem. Cut out a small portion of turf several inches deep. The soft spongy area above the soil and below the grass is thatch. When the thatch is too thick and moist, fungus and disease are eminent. If the thatch dries out, it is very difficult for moisture and air to get to the roots.
- What is the best way to deal with unwanted thatch?
Using a commercial dethatcher will remove the unwanted build up, but you must identify the cause of the thatch to prevent future problems.
Improper soil conditions may be the culprit. Over fertilizing, pesticide use and excessive watering could be contributing to the extreme layer of thatch accumulation. Soil tests should be conducted regularly and evaluated for PH conditions and bacteria presence.
Compacted soil caused by heavy traffic is the number one cause of turf distress on many golf courses. Commercial aerators will provide relief to the grass roots by introducing holes for exposure of air, water and nutrients to the root system.
Removing very thick thatch buildup with a commercial dethatcher should be done in several applications to prevent the major shock to the healthy turf. The combination of aeration and dethatching will encourage growth of healthy, happy turf and decomposition of unwanted thatch.
There are many types of commercial dethatching machines.
Basic tractor mounted tow behind units have rake like tines that comb the thatch and bring it to the surface. This is not as effective as a powered commercial dethatcher. The pulling and dragging process disturbs the ground and can cause an uneven surface. This technique may be acceptable for the rough areas but not fairways and putting greens.
Scarifiers are heavy duty commercial dethatchers that scrape the top layer of the earth. Using them will aid in water and oxygen absorption by skimming or slicing into the turf with adjustable settings. Seed hopper attachments can provide a dual purpose by applying seed and top dressing at the same time.
Commercial dethatchers with interchangeable blades can double as vertical mowers when equipped with sharp knife-like angle blades. They can pull the thatch up while making a neat slit to allow aerification. Slicing vertically also deters undesirable broadleaf grasses.
Remember that some thatch is necessary for healthy grass; it protects the sensitive roots from heat and assists in moisture retention.
Turf management does not end when the course closes for the season. Golf course maintenance crews must continue working year round to insure the course will be ready for golfers in the spring. Although the staff will be reduced during the winter months, there is still much to do in the off season.
- Aerate and remove thatch from the turf
Pre-winter fertilizing is most effective when applied after thorough core aeration and thatching of the greens. This allows proper venting and allows oxygen, water and nutrients to feed the root system. Turf management professionals use a good extended release nitrogen fertilizer. Do not let your golf course enter the winter months in a dry state. Give it one last good soaking before blowing out the water lines.
- Top Dressings and Fungicides
Vertical mowing and over-seeding in the fall is sure to produce the perfect playing surface in the spring. Prevent snow mold by applying a quality fungicide that will prevent pink (Microdochium patch) and gray (Typhula blight) snow mold.
Soil samples taken in the winter months are the signs of good turf management. It not only lets the superintendent know the conditions of the soil, but the turf as well. Preventive maintenance before the season starts could save downtime later.
- Irrigation and Drainage
Before the frost enters the ground, inspect the irrigation and sprinkler systems. Look for leaks and damaged sprinkler heads, repair and replace if required. Be sure to blow the water lines with compressed air to prevent broken pipes from freezing in the winter.
Proper drainage is constantly an issue for turf management teams. Watch for water collection and freezing on the fairways and putting greens. Retrench ditches for proper water dispersal. Major damage will occur if ice is left for more than 30 days. Break ice if necessary to prevent turf suffocation.
Inspect all of the sand traps on the course as you rake and drag them one last time. Remove standing water and re-grade them if needed. The average life of a bunker is only 5-7 years. Off season is the time turf management pros will restructure the course and repositioning the bunkers is often part of the winter plan. Covering the bunkers will keep the sand from blowing and spreading into the playing area.
- Tree Maintenance & Landscaping
Keeping up with the falling leaves will keep the turf management crews busy for a few weeks. Removing dead trees and re-sculpting flower beds now will save time in the spring. Ponds and water hazards need to be checked for algae and treated. Make sure the water levels are appropriate for the winter.
- Machine Maintenance
After a busy season it is time to give each piece of equipment a complete inspection. Sharpen blades on all cutting machines. Check hydraulic hoses for wear, replacing them if they look questionable now could save serious repair time when you need the equipment the most. Now is the time to consider the retirement of older machines and requesting purchase authority for replacements.
Follow the cue of the major golf course maintenance crews to keep your turf the healthiest it can be. Aeration is the secret for green, healthy grass. Commercial aerators are a standard equipment purchase for any large golf course. Aeration is usually done twice a year to fight compaction.
Compaction affects the growth and appearance of your turf. Without the proper air, moisture and nutrients your grass can appear burned out or the opposite, the dreaded black layer. Black layer is the build up of soil bacteria caused by poor drainage, too much nitrogen fertilizer or thatch build up. Aerating will vent the layers of soil and allow the sulfide gasses to escape. This process also improves the oxygen and water balance to prevent black layer from taking over your course.
Commercial aerators have come a long way over the past 50 years. There are several features to compare if you are considering purchasing new or upgrading your aerating units.
- Walk behind or Towable Commercial Aerators, What model is best?
This mainly depends on your budget and how hard you want to work your crew. Pedestrian aeration machines offer more control while tractor mounted units cover a wider area and will get the job done faster saving labor costs.
- What are the most effective methods of aeration?
- Core aeration is the removal of plugs. This is effective for the roughs and fairways. The plugs of dirt lying on top of the grass take a few days to disintegrate and could result in a few unhappy golfers.
- Slit aerators actually slice into the grass allowing some relief and minimal stress.
- Solid tine commercial aerators poke holes into the ground without the mess. For best results, this should be done in early spring when the ground is moist.
- What depth is recommended to achieve the best results?
All commercial aerators have adjustable settings for the depth of their tines. The bottom of the aerating tine should go a little deeper than the current root layer. Quality units have interchangeable tines for different applications and some even allow variable tine spacing. This will allow using one machine for several applications; core tines for rough areas, solid tines for fairways and pencil or needle tines for putting greens.
- What is the difference between standard and reciprocating tine actions?
The tines on aeration machines may be installed on a drum or wheel that rotates as the aerator moves along. This can cause stress near each hole when the tine pulls out of the hole. The tines punch straight into the ground with a reciprocating commercial aerating machine, thus causing minimal surface disturbance.
- Injection Aerification
The new revolutionary, air injection commercial aerators have been proven most effective and are used by major golf courses in the world. Combined with a compatible air compressor, it will blast just the right amount into the ground, reducing the amount of fertilizers and pesticides needed.
Compare all options from each commercial aerator manufacturer. When making your final decision, choose a reputable company that specializes in turf care. Support is very important; make sure you can contact a live person when you have questions or concerns.
Golfers often complain after aerating but they must understand without this process, they might not be golfing at all.