Water, water everywhere…

…and there’s no end in sight – so let’s join Ganton course manager Simon Olver to look at what this will mean for many golf courses in the early part of the season

Rain, and the amount of it we’ve endured in the last six months, is not the most interesting topic for greenkeepers. To be honest, we’re all sick of talking about it! However, with the season just beginning, it’s the most important thing to talk about in this edition in order to temper golfers’ expectations and ask you all to think about what it means for courses and greenkeeping teams.

If your greenkeeping team has managed to do any work on their turf in the last six months, they’ve got out in small windows whenever they possibly could and they’ve been lucky. For many, it has simply been too wet to get machinery onto the course without creating a mudbath.

When we see Augusta National on TV in April, it’s easy to get our expectations up. But, have a little walk on your lawn before heading to the golf course and remember England Golf has already extended the preferred lies period to the end of May, which indicates what courses may be like for some time yet.

This is far from a normal year and it’s certainly the most prolonged rainfall I’ve experienced in more than 26 years of greenkeeping. The rainfall stats from the Met Office are also unprecedented. Combine these with mild temperatures, and the moment greenkeepers can get mowers onto the course there’s a lot of catching up to do.

With extremely wet conditions, limited access to the turf, and warmer temperatures also comes perfect conditions for disease and weeds to get a foothold. Couple this with possible budget restrictions due to a lack of green fee income in the last six months, and it may take some time for teams to get the playing surfaces back to where you – and they – want them to be.

A wet March has also set maintenance back for most. It’s impossible to core greens or drive a machine on them when they’re too wet, so you may see essential maintenance being carried out if it cannot be postponed to the autumn. Where it is postponed, surfaces will take time to reach their peak because they simply have not had the aeration and inputs they require to be at their best.

I hope this sheds a little light on just some of the things you’re very likely to see on the golf course in the next few weeks. Rest assured, greenkeepers are just as frustrated as you are that it has been so wet for so long.

Finally, think about the toll the weather has had on greenkeeping teams. It’s hard work getting soaked every day while trying your best to improve a product which grows, get saturated, and can feel like it’s fighting against you. No greenkeeper worth their salt has sat idly by these past six months, they’ve grafted on what they can – some even cutting massive areas with Flymos and digging hundreds of metres of drainage by hand to get work done. They’re itching to get the course in the best possible condition, so please give them time to do that and enjoy being out on the course.