It’s time for maintenance

Simon Olver, course manager at Ganton, on greens maintenance and why it’s an essential part of the season

Imagine you’ve spent the last six months honing your work, refining it and presenting a finished product which earns praise from your customers and colleagues… it feels good doesn’t it? 

Now imagine punching holes in it, forcing compressed air or water beneath it, or slicing it open and pouring sand into the cavities, and then copping complaints after your work… not quite as good, is it?

Greens maintenance is an essential part of a golf course’s cycle. While essential, the level of maintenance carried out is affected by many factors and there is a balance to strike between playing conditions, finances and agronomy.

Carrying out maintenance is an opportunity to relieve the stresses and strains of golfers’ footsteps and greenkeeping traffic on fine turf areas.

Our first aim is to reintroduce space in the subsurface so that roots can delve deep into the soil, grow stronger and be less suspectable to disease as temperatures fall and moisture increases. It is also a chance to create space for air and water to move among the plants. 

However, it’s important to remember fine grasses like stability and minimal invasion, so we need to aim to establish the right environment then maintain it with as few invasive practices as possible.

The ways clubs can carry out this work have become more varied. While many still use hollow coring and tining, more are investing in techniques such as the DryJect high pressure water injection system, Air2G2 compressed air injection, and Graden contour sand injection.

Modern techniques are more expensive, often requiring machinery hire, but do have their place when disruption must be limited. At Ganton, use of the Air2G2 machine has also been important as we move away from opening surfaces as much as possible as this allows pests such as leatherjackets in, which we can no longer spray for. 

For golfers, seeing such invasive work being carried out can be hard to understand as we’re in the height of the season. However, for greenkeepers, we’re looking ahead. In the ideal scenario, maintenance would be carried out at the peak of the growing season, when moisture and temperature levels ensure the fastest recovery. In practice, a balance must be struck between playing conditions and agronomy. 

In recent years, this has become more and more difficult to plan for. The traditional early season window has moved enormously and unpredictably with dry and cold weather or long wet spells, while long-lasting summer heat has been combined with limited rainfall.

The timing of work must suit your course, and greenkeepers need to look at their own course and study it visually while utilising independent soil sampling, if possible. Greenkeeping is not done on a calendar or in a textbook. Greenkeepers must study what’s happening in the ground and with the weather, and use their skill and knowledge alongside data to choose the best techniques annually.

Ultimately, we hope to select techniques and a time which are the best compromise. Communication on the timing and importance of maintenance and its long-term goals is key to ensuring golfers are aware of the benefits and accept it is in their best interest.

Please remember, greenkeepers really don’t like having to undo months of hard work, but we’ll all be much happier for it.