Make the most of March to complete some remaining winter work such as trees, fences and other structures around the course.
You must employ specialist contractors to carry out tree surgery and/or operating a chainsaw, unless your staff are suitable qualified. With growth at the end of March it can be beneficial to complete tree and woodland work before they begin to flourish.
It’s possible high wins cause structure or tree damage, it’s then important to inspect, record and make the site safe. In the interest of public safety, make sure any debris that has fallen is fenced off or removed.
Try to continue brushing/switching greens and tees daily to stop the spread of disease, by removing moisture from the grass surface.
Depending on growth of the grass mowing frequencies will vary from daily to twice a week. Heights will also vary depending on type of course, sward type, local conditions and mower type. Below are guide mowing heights, but will vary as stated above, but remember not to remove more than 1/3 of total grass heigh in each cut. The less stress placed on the grass at this time the better, and will have an impact on the latter half of the season.
Greens - Mowing height kept around 6-8mm.
Tees - Mowing height kept around 10-15mm.
Banks - Mowing height kept at 22-30mm
Fairways - Mowing height kept around 15-25mm.
Rough, semi rough grass areas - Mow and tidy up these areas. Reduce build up of clippings by cutting little and often with a rotary or flail. Mowing height will depend on type of course and the standard of play required. Mowing height of cut during the winter between 50-100mm.
A number of factors should be taken into account when deciding how often to change the holes, such as green size, tournaments, amount of play and condition of the green. The hole will wear quicker during wet periods, resulting in a crowing affect, this is more apparent if the green has thatch problems. It’s no uncommon to look at changing the hole positions more than three times a week during wet periods.
When conditions allow, use a range of solid, hollow or slit aerators to aerate greens, tees and fairways. This is essential to maintain air and gas exchange, and to alleviate compaction. Soil temperatures will rise as near end of March nears, enabling grass plants to make use of the fertilisers being applied.
Aeration of greens, tees and fairways is ongoing when conditions allow. A wide range of solid, hollow or slit aerators are put to use on the playing surfaces. It is essential to keep the greens aerated to maintain air and gas exchange, and to alleviate compaction.
All major renovations should be complete, so the emphasis will now be on presentation and playability for the coming season. A start needs to be made on general trimming, edging and topping up of sand levels if not already underway. Additional sand should have sufficient time to 'bed down' before the new season, but if not then it can be watered and consolidated using a 'whacker plate' or roller.
The removal of excess sand is essential, as growth around bunkers is likely to be sparse. Fertilise weak areas, a sufficient length of grass can be left on the bank or bunker face, especially on south facing slopes. Where renovation has taken place earlier in the winter, such bunkers should almost be ready for being brought back into play.
After bunkers are edged and cleaned, the main work to greens, tees and surroundings are complete, paths are next in the list of priorities. Once any holes have been filled and any debris scraped clear or removed, then a light path dressing of the appropriate material should be applied, possibly via a belt dresser type hopper.
It’s good practice to treat and apply re-surfaced paths on a regular basis, as opposed to a full scale and costly renovation, as it enhances aesthetic appearance to the course. If path ends have become worn they should be treated and give protection from wear.
Any items such as flag pins, hole cups, bunker rakes and so on that need to be ordered should be done well in advance, as they are requirements. This will be the last month these can be cleaned, repaired or repainted in time for the start of the new season.
Before competitions get underway and visitor play increases you will want to perform some pre-season renovation work on the greens. Carrying out solid tining or coring work with 10mm tine sizes in March is becoming a preference for course managers, then following that with a micro-coring in April.
However, the downside is that it’s then more difficult to fill the smaller tine holes with sand, the larger 13mm coring operation can be left until August when conditions are ideal and a much faster recovery ensues.
If possible, avoid deep scarifying in March as it can become more trouble than it’s worth, as well as annoying golfers.
The green should be given a spring start-up feed or tonic, to encourage growth and recovery, before any light scarifying, coring or tining work.
Products containing around 3 to 4% Nitrogen and a higher amount of sulphate of Iron are often popular, especially if moss 'discouragement' is required. A main pre-season or base feed, usually with a granular product would then be applied in April.
Depending on the size of the green and weather or not core or deep tine holes need to be filled, as much as 1 ton per green of dressing will soon be the chosen cultural practice.
Until the current cold temperatures are out of the way over-seeding should be held back on.
The height of cut should remain at around 4.5 to 5mm for as long as possible, and the temptation to reduce should be left until the greens have settled down.
Teeing areas will need to be over-seeded, tined, dressed and fertilised.
Tee mowing heights, similar to greens, should remain at a higher height until growth commences. By doing this you give any over-seeding a better chance of success, if paired with a top dressing afterwards. If tees are showing high levels of moss, then treat with a product prior to scarifying, it usually takes two weeks for product to weaken the moss sufficiently.
There should be signs of recovery from winter wear, however, heavily used areas will be the last to recover. Such areas should be renovated similar to tees, this may require tining, top dressing and over-seeding small areas where grass cover is weak.
If conditions allow, green surrounds can be fertilised late in the month if required.
This is generally the last month that deep tining work can be carried out before the season gets underway.
You may find the moist surface and low light levels is leading to high levels of moss, mainly Bryum argenteum, Silver Thread-moss, a tufted acrocarpous moss. This is an indication that surfaces are compacted, but with no opportunity to get on the greens with a machine this is unlikely be resolved anytime soon. When ground conditions are unsuitable like this aerating will lead to smearing the sides of the tine holes meaning water is unable to percolate away from the hole.
Toadrush is also a problem as well as increased levels of thatch and black layer as anaerobic conditions continue to prevail.
As soon as conditions allow try to aerate as much as possible, and be vigilant for Microdochium Patch and treat at the very first symptoms.
Provide some good quality fertiliser to help the turf recover as conditions to continue to improve. In the long term, use biostimulants such as SeaAction liquid Seaweed and BioMass Sugar throughout the early part of the year to help the soil food web recover.
Grass roots will be desperate for air, as greens will be sodden, if not saturated, when they dry out try and do some aerating. Aeration is key to keeping the golf course open at the moment, especially on heavy soil courses. Aerating the green is important as it maintains air and gas exchange, improving drainage capabilities of the greens
As temperatures improve a slow release low nitrogen feed will be in order to nourish a hungry sward, also an iron feed wouldn’t go amiss.
Weeds, Pests & Diseases
Morning dews and wet weather increases the risk of fungal disease outbreaks. The typical types of diseases you may come across this time of year are:
pH levels, organic matter and your cultural practices need to be assessed if you find a problem with worm activity, worm treatments can be carried out. Carbendazim is now the only active ingredient available for controlling worms.
With pests such as rabbits and foxed, you need to identify the problem and control their activities, employing approved pest control services may be a solution.
Get the most you can out of March by finishing off any remaining winter works, including work on trees, fences and other structures around the course before the mowing season starts.
Qualified trained professionals must take on any tree works so if your staff are not suitably qualified in tree surgery and/or operating chainsaws, employ specialist contractors. It is best to get this work completed before trees and woodland start to really flourish and grow by the end of the month.
High winds may have caused damage to structures and trees. Inspect, record and make sure the site is safe. Anything that has fallen down or broken off could become a hazard so must be fenced off or removed - keeping the public safe is vital.
Keep brushing and switching greens and tees every day in order to remove moisture from the grass surface and stop the spread of disease. This will also give you a better quality of cut when the grass is dry.
You will now be mowing between once a day to twice a week depending on the local conditions, the type of course, course expectations, sward type and the mower you are using. The following mower heights are a guide and remember to never cut more than a third of total grass height in each cut. Place as little stress as you can on the grass at this time to reap the benefits later in the year.
Greens: Maintain a mowing height of 6-8mm
Tees: Maintain a mowing height of 10-15mm
Banks: Maintain a mowing height of 22-30mm
Fairways: Maintain a mowing height of 15-25mm
Rough, semi-rough and grass areas: Mow these areas and tidy them up. Keep build up of clippings down by cutting little and often with a rotary flail. Your height of cut will depend on the type of course and the standard of play required. Maintain a height of cut of between 50 and 100mm.
You should be changing holes regularly, but exactly how often you carry this out will depend on factors such as green size and construction, tournaments, how much play the course is getting, and green condition. If it is wet, expect the hole to wear more quickly which results in a crowning effect and surface wear. This wear will become even more apparent if any thatch problems are present. The hole will wear quickly and form a depression caused by the placement of golfers' feet. You might need to consider changing the holes more than thrice a week when it is wet.
Continue to aerate the greens, fairways and tees when conditions are favourable. Put a range of solid, hollow and slit tines to use on the playing surfaces and it is vital that you keep the greens aerated in order to both maintain air and gas exchange and ease compaction.
Expect the temperature of the soil to rise towards the end of the month, which means fertilisers you are applying will begin to take effect. Transpiration/respiration rates of the plant need to be active to get movement of soluble solutions from the soil into and through the plant's tissue going.
Bunkers and paths
Bunkers: You will now be thinking about presentation and playability for the new season as your renovation work will now be all but complete. If you haven't started general trimming, edging and topping up of sand levels, then you need to get on with this as soon as possible. Additional sand needs time to 'bed down' before the new season but it can be watered or consolidated using a 'whacker plate' or roller if required.
This helps prevent plugged lies and since growth around bunkers is likely to be sparse, remove any excess sand using a back pack blower. Fertilise any weak areas and you can leave a sufficient length of grass on the bank or bunker face, especially on south facing slopes. Where renovation has been carried out earlier in the winter, these bunkers should almost be ready for play.
Paths: Paths will be next on your list after greens, tees, surrounds and bunker work is complete. Once holes are filled in and debris removed, apply a light path dressing of the appropriate material - you can use a belt dresser type hopper for this.
If you have a freshly resurfaced path, it can make the course look good and it is recommended to treat and apply regularly rather than leave it and then rely on costly renovations. If path ends have become worn, treat them as you would green surrounds and protect them from wear as much as you can. If you need to re-turf, top dress heavily with a compost mix so the turf doesn't dry out.
Course Accessories: Now is the final month for these to be cleaned, repaired, re-painted and ready for changing in time for the new season. Order items like flag pins, bunker rakes in advance to prevent any delays. Hazard markers are often painted 'in situ', particularly if a course features several ditches or water hazards. Use any rainy days for internal painting and storing on some form of racking system.
March is the time for some pre-season renovation work on the greens and it can be done before competitions begin and visitor play increases.
The trend is for Course Managers to carry out solid tining or coring work with 10mm tine sizes in March and then follow-up with micro-coring in April.
There is a disadvantage to this, however, in that smaller tine holes are more difficult to fill with sand, and all the more so when ground conditions are damp. You can leave the larger 13mm coring operation until August when conditions should be ideal for this work and recovery will be faster.
Deep scarifiying in March to remove thatch is best avoided as it is fraught with pitfalls and you will likely upset golfers as well!
Before you do any light scarifying, coring or tining, give the greens a start-up feed or tonic - just enough to encourage growth and recovery.
The most popular products are those containing around 3-4 per cent Nitrogen and a higher amount of sulphate of Iron and especially if you need to 'discourage' moss growth. You would then be applying your main pre-season or base feed in April.
Depending on cultural practice, top dressing comes next with as much as one ton of dressing applied - depending on the size of the greens and whether or not core or deep tine holes need to be filled.
Hold back on over-seeding for a few weeks until it gets a bit warmer.
Also, don't be tempted to reduce the height of cut until the greens have settled down and you can clearly see they are starting to recover. Keep the height of cut to around 4 or 5mm for as long as you can.
Fertilise, tine, dress and over-seed tee areas. If you are using separate tees for winter play, then set aside time for these to be renovated when they are no longer in use, most likely in April.
Keep your height of cut for tees high until growth starts and new seedlings have been germinated. Any over-seeding will have a better chance of success if it is top dressed afterwards and the height of cut is kept high. If any unused tees are showing high levels of moss, treat with an appropriate product before scarifying late in the month. This can take two weeks for the product to start to take effect against the moss.
Surrounds: You should start to see signs of recovery from winter wear towards the end of March. Areas which have seen a lot of action will take the longest to recover and you will need to renovate these areas as you would tees. That could mean tining, top dressing and over-seeing small areas where there is weak grass cover.
Fertilise green surrounds late in the month if you need to, and if conditions allow you to. Ground conditions can often dry out quickly if winds come in from the east, so wait as long as you can until it is warmer and more moist.
Fairways: This is your last chance to carry out deep tining work on the fairways before the season begins.
Extreme waterlogging may have been problematic as a moist surface and low light allows moss to thrive, particularly Bryum argentuem, or Silver Thread-moss which is a tufted acrocarpous moss. This may indicate that surfaces are compacted but with opportunities to get onto the greens with a machine limited, don't think this will be resolved quickly. If you aerate when conditions are unsuitable, you will smear the sides of the tine hole - lateral compaction will stop the water percolating away from the hole.
Toadrush can also be a problem as can increased levels of thatch and black layer because anaerobic conditions are now prevailing.
The thing to do is to tough it out and aerate as much as you can, keeping in mind conditions, while being vigilant for Microdochium Patch and treating it as soon as you see any symptoms.
As conditions get better, some good old TLC and quality fertiliser will help turf recovery. Long-term, make use of biostimulants such as SeaAction liquid Seaweed and BioMass Sugar throughout this early part of the year.
Just like in February, greens may be sodden, and possibly saturated, and grass roots really need some air. When they dry out enough, try to aerate. Aeration is key to keeping the course open at the moment, especially where the soil is heavy. Continue with various aeration programmes when conditions allow and use a range of tines - solid, slit and hollow. Keep the greens aerated to maintain air and gas exchange in the soil profile, improving the drainage capability of your greens.
Temperatures are on the rise, so use a slow release nitrogen feed to nourish the hungry sward. To harden the plan, use an iron (ferrous sulphate) feed.
Weeds, pests and diseases
Early morning dews, warm and wet weather are the perfect combination (unfortunately) for an increase in fungal disease outbreaks. Weakened or susceptible plants are most at risk while moist, mild and wet weather exacerbates the problem.
Typical diseases you may come across at this time of year are Fusarium Patch, Red Thread and Dollar Spot.
Worm activity can still be a problem for many courses. Carry out worm treatments if required, but consider the reasons why worms are present in the first place. Your pH levels, organic matter and cultural practices may be factors to think about and assessed. Carbendazim is the only active ingredient now available for worm control.
Problems caused by rabbits, foxes and moles need to be identified and then their activities controlled. Use approved pest control services to keep them off site if you have to.
Machinery and equipment are among any golf course's biggest asset, so ensure they are well looked after, serviced and repaired on a regular basis. As spring is now arriving fast, your mowing machines are going to be pressed into heavy action, so make sure they are ready to go.
It is vital to invest in good storage and wash down facilities to keep machinery in good working order.
Keep records of hours of use for your machinery and take photographs of them for future reference.