Long-term success

We’ve spent months honing the golf course, now it’s time to carry out some essential maintenance to ensure it’s even better next season

Late summer and autumn are key times for greenkeepers as we look to carry out some of the more invasive and disruptive practices in our programme of greens maintenance.

This work is an essential part of the golf course’s annual 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. While I’ll discuss a few practices which we can use, it’s important to understand your greens and what is key to their long-term performance.

As grass is cut, material falls into the surface and slowly becomes organic matter, creating a layer of thatch over time. When levels become too high this can limit air and water movement, negatively affecting performance. These softer greens are more inconsistent or become unplayable, so greenkeepers step in.

A frequently used tool in the first instance are scarifying blades, which are set apart and go into the surface to rip thatch out of the ground. This can be intrusive, but is very useful when organic matter levels need to be reduced.

Thatch can also be removed by hollow-coring – removing cores and replacing them with sand or another desired material. This removes a lot more material than scarifying and works at a much greater depth, greatly impacting performance, but has the added benefit of relieving compaction caused by mechanical and foot traffic, helping to create space for air, water and roots to move.

There are lots more tools we can use when looking to reduce organic matter and relieve compaction. Verti-draining, the mechanical fracturing of the surface without removing material, is effective but disruptive and can be incredibly useful when carried in the right conditions. Air2G2 machines, which use compressed air to fracture the subsurface, achieve a similar effect with virtually no disruption – and can be used in conjunction with other techniques to produce desirable sub-surface conditions.

There are also modern techniques and practices, new machinery and ideas coming to the industry all the time. It’s essential greenkeepers stay up to date on these. At Ganton, we’re currently exploring the VGR Top Changer, which injects sand deep into the surface using high-pressure water, without causing any surface damage. This is very useful when you’re looking to improve firmness, reduce organic matter and/or improve surface drainage without removing material.

On top of these practices, top dressing with sand is essential. Golfers should be excited when they see sand on the greens as it’s key to producing surfaces which are truer, firmer, healthier and overall better to putt on.

Without these practices, chosen to suit each individual site and carried out at the correct time of year, you will not get the golf course you want. Greenkeepers know these practices get in the way of golf, but the long-term benefits far outweigh any short-term disruption.

Simon Olver
Course manager at Ganton Golf Club