Greenkeeper Simon Olver on tackling the early arrival of winter conditions
The long, dry summer of 2018 seems a distant memory, doesn’t it? Heat and sunshine were replaced by rain, and lots of it, in the summer of 2019 – placing pressure on greenkeeping teams and testing our ability to prepare courses to the highest level. The next five months could be very tough if the wet weather continues. Course closures, restrictions and performance issues may become more common, but greenkeepers everywhere will be delivering courses in the best condition possible.
One of the biggest changes for golfers during wet weather is the quality of putting surfaces. The grass is longer, speeds drop and the surfaces are bumpier. During the winter months, we raise mowing heights to protect plants from mechanical damage (mowing and golf traffic) and minimise environmental stress (weather). As ground conditions become softer and daylight hours are reduced, we also want grass plants to have more leaf area, which gives them a greater ability to generate energy through photosynthesis. This helps maintain a strong plant, which is better protected from damage and outbreaks of turf disease.
There are a few things golfers can do to help greenkeepers during these wetter months. Firstly, carrying your clubs is a big help as it reduces wear and damage around greens, tees and high pressure areas. Repairing pitchmarks is an essential year-round task, but when growth stops it’s vital any damage is repaired immediately. Adhering to any rules and restrictions is also important to protect the course and yourself – that shortcut will cause damage that will last throughout the winter. Where they are used, fairway mats can make a huge difference come April, particularly in high traffic areas, and can take a big chunk out of the annual budget for divoting! Please remember to use them.
Lastly, remember it’s winter. Greens running firm and fast, bunkers raked daily and full tees are simply not achievable for the majority of courses in the UK during the winter. Now is the time to enjoy meeting with friends and getting some fresh air under our bobble hats while allowing the greenkeepers to complete winter projects and maintenance so the course is at its very best once again next season.