By the end of May, the aim is to reduce mowing heights to around 3.5-6mm, with weather permitting and mowing operations being in full swing. Grooming and vert-cutting units to remove unwanted thatch and side shoot growths will also complement this work.
Depending on the growth of the grass and standards set, mowing frequencies can vary from daily to twice weekly. Local conditions, type of course, course expactations, sward type and mower type will all affect mowing heights.
The less stress that is placed on the grass at this vital time, the better the results further on into the season.
Changing of hole positions will depend on a few factors but should be carried out regularly. During wet periods the hole will wear quicker, resulting in a crowning affect and surface wear. As a rule of thumb, you should aim to change your hole at least three times a week.
Little and often should be the ideal practise for light topdressings of sand/rootzones. Using a mix of micro, needle or star tines, aeration should also be continued. Sarrel rollers are another alternative; the main objectives being to 'vent' the rootzone and to allow water to move quickly from the surface and into the rootzone, thus encouraging the turf to root deeper.
Bunkers / Daily: Inspect, weed and rake bunkers.
Course Inspection / Daily: Inspect greens, tees, flags and hole positions for damage or vandalism.
Ponds, lakes and streams / Weekly: Inspect all water features on course, cleaning out any unwanted debris and litter.
Seed bare and worn areas / When conditions allow: Greens, Tees and Fairways. Over seeding of sparse or bare areas can be continued, the rise in temperature will help germination. Use germination sheets to aid this process but remove the sheets regularly to check for diseases. Remember that without good seed to soil contact the operation is useless. Ensure you use new seed as old material may not give you the required germination rates. Remember, bents and fescue grasses require higher soil temperatures for successful germination.
Tee boxes, pegs / As required: All tee boxes, tee pegs and competition markers should be inspected daily, cleaned and moved to new positions as required.
Top dressing / As required: Greens and Tees. Ensure you have enough top dressing material for any renovation works that may still be carried out in May.
Wetting agents / As required: If wetting agents are being used, they are generally applied monthly throughout the season.
Woodland and conservation areas / As required: High and strong winds can damage trees on golf courses. Inspect and repair or remove damaged trees. It is important to inspect trees regularly (heath & safety) to reduce the likelihood of a golfer being struck by tree debris.
Machinery (Repairs & Maintenance)/ Daily: Inspect and clean machinery after use, service and repair damaged machinery.
Marking out / Weekly: Mark out trolley areas, out of bound site areas and range markings.
Materials/ Monthly: Estimate and order seed, loams and fertilisers, fuels and other consumables.
A key skill that should be adopted by all groundsmen is monitoring the performance of your playing surface, which has been made easier with modern technologies.
With modern technologies we can now measure all manner of aspects of the pitch/golf green or artificial pitch such as sward height, composition of grass species, soil temperature, weed content, levels over a 3m level, hardness and infiltration rates (porosity) of the soil rootzone.
For many years, the turf industry has promoted the use of Performance Quality Standards PQS to ascertain the standard of sport pitch maintenance.
The development of GPS mapping has allowed the measuring of chlorophyll, moiseture content and deviation in levels. Soil tests will also help determine soil type, nutrient status of the soil, organic matter content, CEC capacity and soil pH.
To have a better understanding of what is going on within your playing surface, and able to make better decisions when it comes to maintenance, keeping a record of these parameters will prove important.
If your pitch requires an injection of growth, after cold night-time temperatures, a nitrogen source such as nitrate or ammonium will be readily available to the plant. Something such as Advanced Generate 12-3-9 +2Mg +2Fe has the benefit of the whole 12% nitrogen source being ammonium which is readily available to the plant in cooler conditions. It also contains a big hit of sulphate at 34% which is an essential element for plant metabolism and amino acid production in the spring. On top of that it also contains magnesium and iron, which will increase chlorophyll production to maximise the efficiency of photosynthesis as well as harden the leaf cell walls against disease and cold weather stress.
For the higher end facilities looking to have more control, then soluble fertilisers such as Maxwell SolControl 24-8-12 and 26-0-26 or liquids such as Green Solutions 15-06 and 18-9-9 allow finer control of application rates and frequency. The SolControls both contain nitrate which is very plant available when things are cooler.
Weeds, Pests & Diseases
Merit can still be applied, as leather jackets and chafers are fairly prevalent, but it can be tricky to get a good kill when the grubs are at this stage of development.
There may be some symptoms of plant parasitic nematode activity, as soils warm up. There are two different types of nematode which infect grass plants; Endoparasitic which enter the roots tissue and feed on the plants or Ectoparasitic which migrate along the outside of the roots and feed on root cells.
Be on the look-out for the following symptoms:
You can assist in returning some balance to the soil with Biomass Sugar, which will reduce plant stress associated with parasitic nematode attack.
If the warmth occurs in conjunction with humidity and moisture on the leaf for prolonged periods Microdochium patch may also pop up as temperatures increase. If grass is growing well the disease may well just bubble under the surface and the grass will outgrow it.