Feeling the heat

As temperatures rise and the season reaches its height, Simon Olver – course manager at Ganton – discusses the impact of weather and fast growing conditions

Those who tend a lawn will have noticed it’s growing incredibly quickly right now. A combination of warmer nights, sunny days and plenty of rain has provided ideal growing condition for grass plants – and our golf courses have come on quickly.

We’ve had tropical conditions lately, with 8-12mm of rain on many nights and temperatures rising. This has got our courses looking their absolute best as growth speeds up, but it can also present challenges.

As the temperatures continue to rise, we must keep a careful watch on moisture levels, ensuring the correct applications of wetting agents and appropriate levels of irrigation to keep the grass plants healthy while utilising resources efficiently.

At this time of year, it can be difficult to stay on top of regular maintenance on the golf course, particularly mowing, and especially with small teams on large sites. Managing mowing heights and using techniques like vert-cutting while using growth regulation products effectively is incredibly important. Good management of all these areas helps bring the workload into a manageable range, though we understand long hours and overtime are required right now to stay on top of everything.

At Ganton, we continue to work hard daily to keep the greens at consistent speeds across the day’s play and have utilised a number of techniques to ensure consistency – including cutting each morning and evening to get a dry cut after play before following it up with another one early in the morning.

Communication is key to managing golfers’ expectations and ensuring any changes to expected green speeds are shared with members regularly is vital. The R&A is helping with this communication and has worked hard to explain how green speeds differ at events like The Open Championship – where greens speeds are expected to be 9.5ft – across a day’s play and depending on conditions. While many clubs look to set a speed standard, it’s important we take a holistic approach to create a healthy plant and environment before forcing green speeds up and stressing the plant.

It’s also important to be adaptable at this time of year. Our team has become more flexible in recent weeks, working more evenings and overtime to ensure we’re working at the most effective times – from cutting greens in the evening when they’re driest to coming in at night to spray wetting agents in the rain to utilise free irrigation time.

Being adaptable, studying the weather forecasts closely, and understanding your course are vital skills for all greenkeepers. We can no longer rely on weather patterns – we have to look at what’s happening on the golf course, study the soil analysis closely, and react appropriately. Gone are the days of working from calendars – modern greenkeeping relies on analysis of agronomic conditions and collecting detailed data to inform the decisions you make on everything from mowing schedules to product application.

While it’s a busy time of year, it’s also the time to appreciate your work. We’re just starting to see the first movement into the yellower colours of summer, the rough is providing fantastic definition, and our courses are really at their best.